Expat Voices: David Giorgi on living in Annecy

Expat Voices: David Giorgi on living in Annecy

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Having grew up in French-speaking Switzerland, David loves local treats and has no major problems with the language. He does find it challenging to make new friends as the French in Annecy are less likely to 'open up'.

Name: David Giorgi
Nationality: Italian / Australian
City of residence: Annecy
Date of birth: 4 May 1967
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Web designer / developer
Reason for moving to France: To allow our children to grow up bilingual, improve my French and get back in the ski slopes :)
Lived in France since: May 2007

What was your first impression of France?
My first impressions date back to the seventies as I grew up in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. France always seemed so close yet so far away. Now that I live in France it somehow feels like the right place to be, culturally and geographically.

What do you think of the food?
We love our tartiflette, fondue and raclette as we live in the French Alps. I find the French cheeses such as Beaufort and Comté incredible especially when eaten with pear or apple.

What do you think of the shopping in France?
We live in a medieval town centre and having the markets next door three times a week means we are rather spoiled :)


What do you appreciate about living in France?
The main reason we moved back to Europe from Australia was to work on our languages. We find life in Europe more accountable as people are expected to be more responsible for their actions. There are deep historical connections that provide a connection with time and place.

What do you find most frustrating about living in France?
In this part of France people are a little less likely to "open up" and share their personal feelings. This can be quite challenging when trying to make new friends.

What puzzles you about France and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
skiing-la-clusazHaving lived in the French part of Switzerland as a child, I speak French fluently so there was no real language barrier. But coming from a very open society such as Australia, it is sometimes puzzling that it takes considerable time to be able to open up and speak about personal subjects with people you consider as close friends. I am sure this depends on the region - we are in Annecy, close to Switzerland so I think people here are a little more reserved.

I miss the laissez-faire approach of Australians and the entrepreneurial aspect of business of Anglo-Saxon countries. Hey aren't these French words!? :)

How does the quality of life in France compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I guess everybody's definition of quality of life is different, if you look at it from a purely materialistic viewpoint then France is lacking. I think one has to look at the big picture. I think the cultural heritage and values that are prevalent here are very important, so overall I find our family's quality of life is enriched culturally.

If you could change anything about France, what would it be?
Let me paraphrase Nicolas Sarkosy‘s "La France, aimez la ou quittez la" - a humorous quote indeed. But seriously, living in a foreign country with a different language is no picnic and you have to make an effort.

Generally I think we all need challenges in life and that often includes things we find unpleasant. We have to lift, jump over or walk around challenges thrown in our path. So I will answer this question with another question: If there is something about yourself you would like to change to help you adapt in your adoptive country, what would it be?

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
My advice (especially to a non- European) would be to stay open minded and to go with the flow. I meet many people who set unrealistic goals and line themselves up for disappointment.

Life is insanely short; live each day to the fullest. 99.99 percent of people will never leave their own country to live somewhere else so what you are doing is an incredible adventure. Your life will be enriched  tremendously and learning languages other than your own will open up your spirit.

Lake Annecy
Lake Annecy

As a tourist you can laugh off your poor language skills, but as a resident you need a tough skin. And remember, if somebody is frowning while listening to you put together basic sentences, they are usually paying close attention to what you are trying to say.

Would you like to add anything?
Many of the puzzling cultural differences are deeply set in history and motivating yourself to read a little about the past can clarify quite a few things. French was the language of diplomacy in Europe from the 17th century until its recent replacement by English in the early 20th century. French was also the lingua franca of European literature in the 18th century. So historically speaking until recently, French was the number one language.


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1 Comment To This Article

  • Anna posted:

    on 3rd February 2010, 17:52:08 - Reply

    As an American living for the past 7 years in Burgundy, I can relate to many of your observations and comparisons. Like you, I miss the openness and entrepreneurial spirit of countries like Australia and America, but that's small potatoes compared to what I love about this country. Your advice to newcomers and your response to the question, what would you change about France, were spot on! Your recommendation to read French history is a good one. After 7 years of doing just that, I find that I've become the "French history expert" in my circle of French friends, which we all find amusing, but I also understand them and their country a lot more as a result.
    I've been fortunate enough to find in Burgundy some friends who are indeed open and willing to share their personal thoughts, feelings and lives with me and because they place great value on deep, long lasting friendships, these friendships are actually more enriching than my American ones.
    Thanks for an excellent article.