Lessons learnt from life as an expat
Living life as an expat in the UK was something that changed Géraldine Lepère’s life. The author spent two years in Leeds, a vibrant city in West Yorkshire. The French author says she had a great time, describing the experience as “awesome”.
All in all, the people were warm and friendly: “I was surprised by how attentive people were. Always helping me, answering my questions about Britain, how to improve my English. What to watch and visit.”
Even though people were more than helpful in any queries Géraldine had, she sensed that something was lacking, and she still felt like a bit of a stranger in a foreign land. Integration into British society was thus incomplete. Not too detrimental mind you, but still, it felt liek something was missing.
“I could not grasp most of the cultural jokes and it took me more than a year to understand behaviours and society,” she explains. “So it was sad sometimes because I was – and still am – in love with this country but could not go beyond the tourist role on my own.”
It’s what led to her to set up Comme une Francaise, a company that offers advice to women about how best to adjust to life in France so that they feel comfortable, part of the fabric of the country and fluent in its unique characteristics.
The funny thing about living abroad for a concentrated amount of time, Géraldine adds, is that when you move back home, you end up feeling like a foreigner. This isn’t such a bad thing; it is rather enlightening in fact: “It will give you a new eye on your own culture.”
While she advises female expats to access her unique service for a comprehensive introduction to all the distinct characteristics of France, she does have some initial advice for those considering international relocation.
Prepare, basically, with a close friend and bag yourself a good guide. This will give you a decent overview. And be confident, trust yourself that it isn’t as scary as one might think – others have done it over the years, so why can’t you?
“British people have a very good image in France,” Géraldine comments. “And your accent is super cute in French. Be patient, it takes time to integrate. Celebrate your small victories.”