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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dear all,

I've joined this forum today as we are planning to move to France this year, will find out beginning of March if our two children have gained a place at a school in Geneva for September. We are looking to settle in Annecy or surrounding areas.

For those expats who moved to France thinking it'd be forever, is this still the case? or are you thinking of relocating again? Do you feel content? I'm asking as a couple of my friends who have moved to Australia and New Zealand, are so so happy and never want to return lol. I wonder if this is the case for people who have moved to France as well.

I have lived in London for 10 years +, however I originate from a tiny island in the Caribbean, met and married my French love in London (this is the reason of me being in London all this time). I have always known England would not be our final destination and am very happy to leave (although we have a very nice life over here). I'm slightly anxious and thinking what it will be like to live in a place where I hardly speak the language, everything is different from what I'm used to. I have visited my in-laws many times (near Paris), been to Aix-en-Provence and Alsace but that's it! Schooling is another worry, especially the long hours, how do children cope? and the lack of learning another language (English) in primary school.

A bit of a ramble.....
Thanks, Merc
 
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In total coming up to 21 years now, not including the past 3 years when I kept my home in France but spent much of the time in Thailand.

I have never regretted leaving the UK, and I can't imagine any (voluntary) circumstances under which I would return. France isn't Utopia by any means, but for me it has the edge over the UK in the areas that matter - weather, countryside, family life, not necessarily in that order. Although a tiny island in the Caribbean sounds nice!

But I do feel that in certain respects France is being dragged somewhat reluctantly down the Anglo-Saxon path - towards a fast-food, fast living culture, promoting greed and selfishness. So yes - if circumstances permit I would like to relocate again when my kids finish their schooling - back to Thailand. There's a country that still retains some of the values that are a fading memory in the West.

I like Annecy. It's a bit exclusive, but a great place to raise kids, especially if you're a sports-loving family. I think English is taught at most primary schools from 7/8 years old (CE1), and children are introduced to a foreign language as early as 6/7 years old (CP) at some. Never really thought about the hours. My kids seem to have coped ok, but then it's all they've ever known...
 

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I'm coming up on 15 years of living in France. And I'll be the first to admit that the first 7 years or so were pretty tough. I had immigration problems and adjustment problems. I had already learned the language, but hadn't used it for years so had to kind of struggle back to a point I could actually use it.

Like you, I'm married to a French person. And for me, what's kept me going through the rough times is knowing that he'd probably be more miserable elsewhere than I was in France. The good news is that things turned around once I found my own friends and activities and started to develop the kind of life here I knew I couldn't duplicate elsewhere - but that's what took 7 years.

These days I wouldn't consider living elsewhere. France isn't perfect, but it's a darned sight better than things seem to be back where I come from - and like frogblogger says, there are some anglo-saxon aspects starting to creep in that threaten to mess up a good thing. But I don't think anything is the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago, and in some ways that's probably a good thing.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you Pete, it's good to hear your feedback and also the bit on raising children in Annecy is comforting. Yes, the country I come from is bliss! At some stage, we will have a home there too.

I shall continue my research on schooling in Annecy, in case the one in Geneva falls through.

Will keep you posted how our journey pans out...

Merc
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi Bev,

That's exactly it, having to start all over with the friendship thing, it is exhausting lol. I am not surprised it took you 7 years to feel okay, it is long though :( it has taken a long time for me too over here as the culture is quite closed. Come to think of it, I have more French friends than English friends therefore I hope I'll be okay when it comes to forming friendships in France. I won't have the immigration problems as I am an EU national (am from the Dutch West Indies) but sure am going to encounter adjustment issues. I am taking French lessons, hopefully I'll be a lot better in 6 months time so that I can at least understand and follow what's going on around me. Would love to find employment in Geneva, but might be tricky as I have been a SAHM for the past 5 years and unsure how that's looked upon in this region. I have a master's degree obtained in the US and speak several languages (but not French haha).

Thank you for your reply,
Merc
 

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As far as the friendship thing is concerned, try and find an AVF or other group with "Accueil" in the name. The big thing in France is that people tend to socialize primarily with their families - brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Not having family in France is a distinct disadvantage - and it's what AVF and other Accueil groups are set up to help with.

The other big thing in France (or anywhere else) is having a reason to stay and stick it out. For me, that was my husband. For a while, my mantra was "I love my husband more than I hate France." But at a certain point, I just decided that I was going to stay here and make the best of it. It's amazing how much of my misery I was creating for myself.

But I understand when people up and move to a "foreign" country (in all sense of that word) and when they find they have no overwhelming reason to stay, either move on or move back home.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Hi Merc/Palmtree - no shortage of English classes for primary school children in the schools near us. And British expats in many villages organise free classes for their French neighbours.

I have given longer comments about education in other posts - school days are longish, but for primary school children it is only 4 days a week. Education is considered by some correspondents to be old-fashioned compared to the UK but it is taken seriously. It is quite a sight in late August to see parents and children in supermarkets with a list of necessities provided by the school for the start of the new term. And it is that this time that the annual debate about the weight of children's school bags restarts.

Re being here forever - yes - if you have a clear idea of what you want in/from France and you find a location and lifestyle that provides these things, you will stay, unless there are significant changes. Many people move to France, Spain, OZ, NZ, etc for a "better life" - listing the factors that would constitute a "better life" for you and your family will help you make the right choice.

After a hard day's tutoring (5 hours - including someone hoping to be a beginner, 2 five-year old girls, a teenager studying for his bac, and a young female studying advanced English for her bac) the first thing my wife said an hour ago was "I really want to stay here always". Not making this up, honestly. We find the people in SW France friendly and welcoming, and again, as I have said elsewhere, when some Irish rugby fans were in town a year ago they were saying how lovely the locals were - no higher praise, I think.

We live in a town - one which does not attract too many Brits, so most of our friends are French - friends we have made during our tutoring work. We have not sought to avoid other expats - just never gone to seek them out. But we were happy when one French friend said "you are not like the others", and another said she was "overwhelmed" by our friendship.

Many expats settle fairly easily without speaking - or even trying to learn - French - but as other have said elsewhere - always start a conversation in French - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

So we are settled, generally welcomed, and very happy - all in less than 2 years.
 
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Would love to find employment in Geneva, but might be tricky as I have been a SAHM for the past 5 years and unsure how that's looked upon in this region. I have a master's degree obtained in the US and speak several languages (but not French haha).
Well rather you than me, I wouldn't fancy the 40 minute drive into Geneva every day, my days of commuting to work are a distant memory! I've got stuck in some enormous traffic jams heading out of Geneva at the wrong hour, having dropped off/collected people at the airport...

As for finding work, it's pretty tough everywhere these days, but if you have some languages and a useful degree, anything's possible - especially living in a prosperous French town, and with Geneva within easy(ish) reach.

There's a big Anglo community in Annecy, which even if it's not a huge town, is a really lively place. They've applied to host the 2018 winter Olympics - although the competition is fierce.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Bev, I understand what you are saying.

I never really understood people's fascination with France (insert embarrassing icon) as since being with Dh coming up to 9 years, the only part of France we always ever visited is a sleepy suburb near Paris (where my in-laws live) and I did not see the attraction of it at all so was always saying "no way" am I living in France.

We have since visited 2 other areas and Yes, I absolutely loved those places, was in awe and finally the penny dropped, to my husband's delight. He however has no intention whatsoever to ever work in France, it simply isn't his desire hence the option of working in Geneva, and living in France.

As for family, I'm happy not to live on my MIL's doorstep, it will be easier for them to come and visit us. Hopefully we can find a good sized house so that whoever comes to stay, it works. I am sensing we will be a bit of a "hotel", will cross that bridge when we get there.

Contentedscot - I like your username!
Thank you for your feedback. As a tutor yourself, could you tell me which is the best way to go about finding an English tutor prior to getting to France? where would English tutors advertise? is there a special site? I am not happy to send my children to a French speaking school as 1) I won't be able to help them with their homework and I gather the school children get lots of homework 2) In no time they'll be speaking French only and forget the English language which isn't good as they have an international background and involves a lot of travel visiting family members all over who don't speak French, am also thinking long term 3) I'm not sure my 6 year old son would "fit" in necessarily, the schooling sounds so strict and he needs a softer approach, he's very bright but he needs to have a "kind" environment as he's very sensitive, not sure if that makes sense? I'm not worried about my daugther as she is his exact opposite in terms of character, a tougher cookie.

Pete - When someone can manage life in London and do the commute (over an hour long), tubes/trains/buses not working on many occassions, a 40 minute commute by car sounds so easy! hmmmm, better rethink that one though. My husband's office is located opposite Geneva's airport.
If you know of areas further away from Annecy enroute to Geneva, please let me know!!!!!

Merci beaucoup..
 

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I'm coming up on 15 years of living in France. And I'll be the first to admit that the first 7 years or so were pretty tough. I had immigration problems and adjustment problems. I had already learned the language, but hadn't used it for years so had to kind of struggle back to a point I could actually use it.

Like you, I'm married to a French person. And for me, what's kept me going through the rough times is knowing that he'd probably be more miserable elsewhere than I was in France. The good news is that things turned around once I found my own friends and activities and started to develop the kind of life here I knew I couldn't duplicate elsewhere - but that's what took 7 years.

These days I wouldn't consider living elsewhere. France isn't perfect, but it's a darned sight better than things seem to be back where I come from - and like frogblogger says, there are some anglo-saxon aspects starting to creep in that threaten to mess up a good thing. But I don't think anything is the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago, and in some ways that's probably a good thing.
Cheers,
Bev
Hi your blog has made me think of my sister, she lives in Geneva, she went there in 1974 and is still there!!. Just like you I remember her coming home and not wanting to go back, she had O level French, there was no english TV in those days, no sky ect: she lived in an apartment with an 18 month old and pregnant. Her husband who works in Cern invloved in the "Big Bang" was working all hours, so she was very much on her own. I honestly did'nt think she would settle, now all these years, she loves it, Geneva is now her home, her kids and grandkids are Swiss, she would never come home. Like you it took years, but when the kids went to school she got a job with W.H.O met friends, joined her golf club and is totally settled with her own circle of friends and bi-lingual. Never thought I'd see the day but it did come. Just goes to show everything takes time:::)
 

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Good morning Palmtree - I am certainly a contented Scot, but I am (was) not a Scottish Nationalist, (despite the fact that the "British" national anthem sings about English being encouraged to kill Scots). I don't flaunt any Scottishness down here - though our St Andrews Day party was well attended - we had some bagpipes but fortunately no-one to play them.

I wouldn't worry too much about sensitive children - teachers are not demons - but there are teachers and teachers.

Your children will pick up French quickly - but if you have a policy of speaking English in the home then they will retain that language. Your level of French will improve too.

It is easy to find tutors - my wife works for 2 agencies - Acadomia and Laureat - you can google these words or "soutien scolaire". Many teachers also work for these agencies in their spare time.

Local free "newspapers" like Contact have small ads where university students, teachers and native English speakers offer tuition. This way will probably be cheaper - it's just a case of finding a person your children get on with. You can advertise in them if necessary.

There are local free contact websites where tutors advertise - try kijiji. Again - you can place a tutor wanted ad.

Good luck
 

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I've been living in Alsace for almost five years now...

I would say the first year or two were difficult because of the languages (French, German, Swiss German, and occasionally Alsatian) but after I got used to that everything has been great!

In my village, almost everyone works in Basel so we have friends and coworkers in France and Switzerland. There's also a huge English speaking population in Basel which is nice while you are still learning the languages.

Personally I don't want to leave. I suppose some really great opportunity could present itself in the future, but as things are now I would choose to stay right where I am! :)
 
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Suzele - only the languages? I couldn't handle the food there! Distinct memories of a stout, unsmiling Germanic lady in a hostellerie we stayed in for a while, serving up huge portions of choucroute, mounds of dumplings, and standing watch over us while we attempted to force it down. Attempting to compress it into smaller heaps left on the edge of the plate didn't work. I couldn't eat anything other than fruit for days after leaving the Alsace!
 

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the "British" national anthem sings about English being encouraged to kill Scots).
Well you learn something every day.. I had to google to find the words to all six verses of GSTQ.. and there it was - tucked away in verse 6. Bizarre.

I'm in no hurry to seek out other expats for social reasons either but I'm happy to give the odd word of advice or encouragement to those seeking to come here. I take people as I find them.

We've been here for two and a half years now (retired no kids) and living here for us is the start of a new chapter and both my wife (French) and I are actively entering into the local community. It's the best thing we've ever done and we've absolutely no regrets. I no longer identify with the prevailing culture in the UK and its values seem far from those of the country I knew as a child.

Languages.. here in the Pays Basque you'll hear French, Basque & Spanish spoken before you'll hear any English - so it would be a good idea to have a working knowledge of one of those.
 

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Frogblogger your memories of Alsace don't sound like anything I've ever experienced...

Ok...I don't like Choucroute either but I don't like cabbage...how could I possibly like Choucroute?

BUT Coq au Riesling....Fleischschnacka...Spaetzle....Baeckeoffe....Schieffele...Asparagus with Three Sauces every Spring...Tarte à l'Oignon...I could go on ; ) Just some of my favorites...

I live 5 minutes away from an incredibly good starred Michelin Guide restaurant...not to mention there are about 28 of them in Alsace.

And Alsace is a major manufacturer (and consumer) of Foie Gras...

If you're interested, I have an entire web page deciphering traditional Alsatian food at getalsaced.com...not to mention a few other pages about Alsace...it's a hobby : )
 
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That was a ski club visit staying at a hostellerie where the meal was served up, no choice involved, by a fearsome-looking large Alsacienne who obviously considered us to be too skinny for our own good. Mealtime was torture. A single portion could have fed an entire Somalian village for a week.

On the whole the cuisine on this and other visits to the Alsace was too heavy and rich for me, but that's just a matter of personal preference. Just as when I lived in the Savoie it was hard to avoid all the stodgy, cheese-based dishes. Perhaps it's a climate thing! Coq au Riesling sounds good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
dgjamison - interesting read re. your sister....

Hi Contentedscot - thank you for your tips!. I shall certainly google the GSTQ (verse 6) to see that for myself...schocking!!! English isn't the language we speak at home, hence my concerns.

suzele - Alsace was great, we were in Colmar during the summer and some small town not far away, my husband lived there for a year prior to coming to London.

piperade - I speak fluent Spanish, shame we aren't going that way...

Au revoir, Merc
 

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That was a ski club visit staying at a hostellerie where the meal was served up, no choice involved, by a fearsome-looking large Alsacienne who obviously considered us to be too skinny for our own good. Mealtime was torture. A single portion could have fed an entire Somalian village for a week.

On the whole the cuisine on this and other visits to the Alsace was too heavy and rich for me, but that's just a matter of personal preference. Just as when I lived in the Savoie it was hard to avoid all the stodgy, cheese-based dishes. Perhaps it's a climate thing! Coq au Riesling sounds good.
Funny - I lived just over the border in Schwaben for a few years and during that time it was such a huge treat to make an excursion over to Alsace for "French food" (especially in the grocery stores!).

The German food tended to be on the heavy side, but there were lighter options once you got familiar with the Speisekarte. What I loved about shopping in France, though, was the availability of seafood (even that far inland) and "real garlic." Turns out the Germans aren't that fond of garlic, so the type they sell in Germany is a very weak flavored variety. In France I could get big bulbs of purple garlic that tasted like the real thing! So once a month or so, I'd make the trip over to Colmar or Mulhouse or Strasbourg to hit the Cora or Carrefour to stock up on French food.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Well rather you than me, I wouldn't fancy the 40 minute drive into Geneva every day, my days of commuting to work are a distant memory! I've got stuck in some enormous traffic jams heading out of Geneva at the wrong hour, having dropped off/collected people at the airport...

As for finding work, it's pretty tough everywhere these days, but if you have some languages and a useful degree, anything's possible - especially living in a prosperous French town, and with Geneva within easy(ish) reach.

There's a big Anglo community in Annecy, which even if it's not a huge town, is a really lively place. They've applied to host the 2018 winter Olympics - although the competition is fierce.

Good luck!
Hi,

I read what you wrote about the commute into Geneva. Do you know of any good shortcuts from the airport and out towards Evian ? I know that I can take the motorway out of Geneva but that takes us out towards Annemasse. Have you ever been over any of the other bridges apart from the Mt Blanc bridge or are they all congested? We normally get stuck in traffic going down Chantepoulet street and past the fountain in the lake.
Someone suggested that I drive down the Quai Wilson but I still have to go over the Mt Blanc bridge and sit in traffic up to Geneve Plage.

Thanks
 
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