Expat Voices: Sue Alouche on living in France
Independent consultant Sue Alouche arrived in France and it felt like coming home - and she recently discovered why...
Name: Sue Alouche
City of residence: Nantes
Date of birth: 12.10.1959
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Independent Consultant and Professor of Design and Marketing
Reason for moving to France: Felt like a life-change, change of pace…
Lived in France for: 4 and a half years
What was your first impression of France?
I felt like I had come home…then last year I did my family tree and realized why…ancestors on my mother’s side of the family all came from France
What do you think of the food?
I love the way people still shop in the local butchers, bakers, fishmongers and the local markets.
I really appreciate the quality of the fresh food, and the fact that ‘seasonal’ food is still highly valued.
What do you think of the shopping in France?
In Nantes, we are lucky that there are still so many independent shops where you can buy unusual, hand-crafted or hand-made products. Where you can get that more “personal” service. That’s the big difference between here and the UK. In the UK, every High Street has the same shops, or did have until the financial crisis.
What do you appreciate about living in France?
I value more the taxes and social charges I pay here as I believe that my family gets a lot back: a great health service, public transport, well-looked after neighbourhoods, lots of free cultural and family-orientated events etc.
What do you find most frustrating about living in France?
The language. I don’t feel like I will ever be fluent, or have a good enough accent to fool people that I am French.
I still can’t get used to the seriousness of people here and the strict hierarchies in the workplace. I am lucky that the places I work in are a little more relaxed and the people that I work with are very friendly and accommodating.
I also find the paperwork very frustrating…but having said that I just applied for Auto-Entrepreuner status and that was VERY simple.
What puzzles you about France and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Why everyone shuts themselves in at night with their shutters and are SO private about everything. Particularly money, work, etc.
The things I really miss are people. My family and friends. I don’t see them enough.
The National Education teaching style puzzles me, my children seem to have such an old-fashioned schooling system. However, I do like the fact that they can read, write and add-up properly.
How does the quality of life in France compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I have only lived in the UK and I would say that the quality of life here is far more balanced in terms of work and family. As a working woman, it is also far more easier for me to work here as I do not have prohibitive childcare costs and the schooling hours work alongside my working hours.
If you could change anything about France, what would it be?
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Join a local network and get out as much as possible.
Don’t be afraid of speaking bad French. Just speak!
If you live in the Nantes area, join Knowing Nantes and Knowing Nantes Business, two networks I set up since arriving here to help people get to know other people and to help people set up in business.
These are the two things that I found extremely difficult to do here.
Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
Web-sites like Expatica are a boon to newcomers in a new country. Expatica and others really helped me feel more at home when I first arrived here.
If you are feeling fed up with trying to learn the French language and feel like you are going no-where…persevere, you will experience plateaus and then start progressing again.
If you would like to share your perspective about life in Belgium and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to editorBE@expatica.com with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire' in the subject line.
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