Who are you?
My Name is Aga and I am a Pole. I think my passion for travelling but mostly for discovering new cultures and exploring different lifestyles started at the university. I have been actively spending any free time in the international environment and enjoyed it a lot. I worked part time abroad, I took part in the student exchange programme and I did my internship abroad. So logically after my studies I moved and worked abroad. I spend over 6 years in the UK.I have always been fortunate to be surrendered by good people so my stays abroad were very good. I could adapt quickly and I get a lot of help from people I met. After this period of time I came back to Poland for a couple of years and I had an opportunity to live and work in the amazing place which is Cracow. Now I have started my adventure with France!
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I have moved to a beautiful French city – Lyon at the beginning of this year. I have visited it before just 2 times and I completely felt in love with it…but I felt in love not only with the place…so I found my New Home! As they say…Your Home is Where Your Heart is …and my heart is definitely in Lyon!
What challenges did you face during the move?
Well, from one hand it was pretty easy for me to come over. Because Poland is a part of the EU, I don’t have any problems moving around and settling in the other EU countries. Another good thing is that France seem to be quite welcoming nowadays and I got loads of help from my French boyfriend and his family. On the other hand, coming over to France – the country I knew very little about has been very interesting experience. The most difficult thing for me is the language as I have never learned it before. So now I have just started attending the French course as if I want to live and work here I need to speak French. So it’s a quite difficult situation for me as for the first time English is not enough for me to be able to work where I would like.
How did you find somewhere to live?
As I mentioned I have received a lot of help from my boyfriend so so far I didn’t have to look for a new property to rent. But I know that within Lyon there are many good estate agents which will help you out with the accommodation. And what is more, some of them are totally dedicated to the foreigners. So if you struggle with French, you will get help and get a very good service.
Are there many other expats in your area?
I was nicely surprised by the fact that actually there are a lot of expats in the area! There are expats organizations which actively organize expats events in Lyon and to which you can sign up very easily. There are smaller MeetsUp groups of expats who organize café/pub/walk/cinema/dinner and so on meetings in a smaller groups. In this way you can find a group which is close to your interests and meet new people.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I find Lyonnais people really nice and approachable. They are pretty chatty, it’s a shame I still don’t get everything what they say to me! I have been warned that French people are very formal, rude, they don’t hug and they want you to call them by Ms/Mr rather then by first name. So I was very careful at the beginning not to make a ‘gaffe’. But so far, whoever I meet, they are very nice and helpful, interested about Poland and Polish culture… the only thing is again the language which limit my contacts with locals for now.
What do you like about life where you are?
J’adore Lyon! Firstly, I love people I am with who make my life here wonderful! Secondly, there is a city of Lyon which is stunning, amazing, and magical and I have already started to express on how much I love it and why and I have already tried to show what is the best in Lyon on my Jadore Lyon by Shopaholicfromhome blog. I love the fact that I didn’t really know anything about the France and French lifestyle so I am exploring this from the very beginning! I love French attitude to life! They are very open, direct and funny! They can enjoy life, food and they appreciate good quality! They like making fun of themselves (I love watching their TV shows full of funny episodes and people running with a naked bottom – this is very common here!). I love their ‘pain’ and the way they talk about food and wine. I love the blue sky in Lyon and the wonderful flowers and plants which are different to the Polish ones. I love the way French people spend their free time, actively outside in the art galleries, parks, with friends and family. And there is the whole Lyonnais Cuisine with its good/bad/interesting elements!
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I think the most difficult for any expat but especially for me it is and only the fact that I really miss my family and friends! There are so moments that I would love to visit my parents for a lunch or have a coffee with my sister and I cannot do it spontaneously but I would need to plan in advance to book plane tickets! Other then that, there are few culture differences which I needed to adapt to when coming over. But I don’t complain (well, not that much anyway!)
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
There are few cultural differences but nothing is a big problem as I try to be tolerant and I try to respect other nations’ lifestyle. I think when I move to other country I need to adapt to show the respect for the other country, Its also a very good experience for me. So I try to do it…but whenever I only have an opportunity I will share a bit of Poland with others. So even when I adapt, I do keep my Polish roots in many areas.
But coming back to the differences! So firstly, the food! It is very different, the type of food we eat and especially the times of the meals!
This is really hard for me as in Poland we eat more often and we finish dinner before 7pm. In France you have the main meal after 7pm and It is usually very heavy with all the courses of bread, cheese and wine.
Another thing is that French people don’t snack, wait for the main meals and then can eat well. They also eat so long! In Poland, we eat very quickly when everything is still hot. Another thing is that they can drive after couple of glasses of wine and I think they drink a lot. But on the other hand, I don’t know if we should count wine as an alcohol as for the French people wine is more like a part of their lifestyle. They don’t get drunk with wine. Another thing which is also different, I would say is that Polish people are more introverted and serious whereas French people can easily make fun of themselves. And I am sure there are few more differences for me to discover…
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
It differs a lot! Firstly, France is very expensive! There are less shops where you can get cheaper alternatives. The main places you shop at are supermarkets and local outdoors food markets. So all of them will sell very good quality of products but don’t count on discounts or offers. If there are deals in the supermarkets but they are mostly so little or so complicated that you need to buy 4 items of the same thing to benefit. It’s ridiculous. So it is really difficult to buy on a budget here. On the other hand, you really get very tasty and top quality of products. The clothes are similarly expensive in Poland and France. I would say UK is the best for clothes shopping! Food is cheaper in Poland but exotic fruits are very cheap here in comparison to Poland so I do enjoy that a lot!
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
It is very interesting! I haven’t realized that French people love food so much! Before coming here I thought that French people would only eat cheese and drink wine, that they have only sweet breakfasts and they roast maroons. So I was surprised to find out that they eat a lot of meat, all types of meat, and also sea fruits! So far I have tried snails, frog legs, rabbits, steaks, saucisson, grilled andouillette just to name the main adventurous meals I have. On top of that there is the typical Lyonnais Cuisine which is well known in the whole country. So Lyon has a reputation of the Capital of the Gastronomy. Here I love quenelles, praline brioches and Jocteur bannettes, Sausage in Brioche and Saint-Marcellin fromage! I don’t like all types of sausages (especially andouillette) and the smell of saucisson and some cheeses put me off. I am not a big fan of foie gras and tart praline is a bit too sweet for me.
Other then that all is good!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Be open to new things, appreciate French food and the most importantly… learn some French! On another note, I would say that the expats forums and blog helped me out a lot to settle in and don’t feel too lonely so I would recommend reading them. Also I would like to invite you to check out my J’adore Lyon by Shopaholicfromhome website and my Facebook and Twitter. I would love any comments, questions and feedback you want to share with me. I hope you can also find it useful and funny sometimes when I continue discovering France and French lifestyle here in Lyon!
What are your plans for the future?
Well, we shall see…for sure I would love to be able to speak French and try to find job here in my beloved Lyon!