It’s been a while since my last post and in fact, it’s long whiles between posts now. The reason for this is that I prefer to be too busy writing, than to write blog posts. Is that wrong? To be completely honest, I’m exhausted powering through all that needs to be learned and all that is required for the launch of my novel and actually, given the choice, I’d prefer to grab my notebooks and sit under a tree somewhere, or find a quiet beach. Or maybe just sleep. For two months.
I’m still reeling a bit from our first anniversary in France having come and gone, it seems, like a snap of the fingers! While many probably think, how nice it must be to be able to live in this country, truth is that coming here has been as much a shock to the system as it has been wonderful, even for a girl who grew up in Europe.
The desire to live in France isn’t difficult to fathom, I think. You have to be a severe Francophobe to dislike it and yes, I have met a few, however these views seem mostly rooted in stereotypical opinion which is quite sad, because the land that is France with its preservation of history, its building styles, life attitude and love for nature is quite something to admire and truthfully, to respect.
And yet the root of the ‘French’ culture shock–for many a migrant–lies in the very same reasons, from the mundane things like shop opening hours and 2-hour lunch breaks, to the mountain of paperwork that is required to become a part of this society, to the way in which ancient dwellings stand empty and neglected in otherwise beautiful villages.
The French are a little combative when it comes to foreigners sweeping work and properties right from under their noses but, yet they are very much into building modern homes. Many young people move away, probably to find work. It makes gorgeous properties quite affordable outside of the cities and there are towns that are paved with foreigners, mainly Brits, who see the potential in ancient homes and spend quite a bit of time, imagination, and money turning something that is falling down, into either a beautiful home, or a profitable business or as is often the case, both.
The biggest thorn in everybody’s side is bureaucracy. From getting our driver’s licenses to figuring out how in the heck to change our address for the business side of things, to becoming integrated into the French social/tax regime… Native or foreigner, they make you work for it. With my background in administration, and having a character type that thrives on efficiency improvement, I can see how very broken the system is. There is layer, upon layer, upon layer of paperwork at every level. It’s a stroke of luck to find someone who can explain anything beyond what they themselves are required to know. After 12 months of living here and trying to comprehend all of the things we have to do to integrate, I get it. Too much information becomes a hindrance.
Once I understood that life’s biggest mystery of what comes first, the chicken or the egg is very much palpable in this society. I began to relax. I mean, it’s not like I have the answer!
So despite bureaucratic issues, which will all be fixed at the French pace, in French time, there is nothing we don’t love about living here. We’re surrounded by castles, live in an environment that thrives on beauty and health. We live better, and eat better. Fast food arrives in the form of food trucks that make their way around the villages. The pizza trucks work with wood burning ovens and all fresh ingredients! On Friday nights we enjoy fish and chips, cooked to perfection by a Scott whose takeaway sometimes comes with sweet little messages. We are making friends among expats and locals. It’s lovely to ride around on the scooter, with people waving and saying hello from the streets, to the grocery store. I’ve been invited to a school to teach conversational English to children who were taking a school trip to Amsterdam.
We haven’t yet reached a point, and won’t for a long time, that we can enjoy the French 35-hour workweek. The Walking the Talk travel blog, having not had a driver’s license from July 2015 through mid-May 2016, proved to be more of a hindrance than a means to an end. I decided that rather than blogging for a living, it was high time to see my novel into the world and shifted focus completely on editing and fine-tuning. Now I’m on to research and writing, and as a medium for my books, I built an author website. I should have cut my losses sooner, but… live and learn!
It is my fiercest hope that you’ll grab the free chapters of my novels, and grab the non-fiction giveaways as they are released in the future. I’ll still journal occasionally, about life in France, the beauty around us, where we go and how we suffer through bureaucratic integration. I hope that you’ll stop by, maybe a couple of times a month for a few minutes. There will be the occasional travel itinerary when I think of something interesting. Definitely, I’ll show you how to have an awesome time in France, without breaking the bank. And I’ll open the door to my kitchen, so that every once in a while, you can put your digital feet under the table.
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