My name is Erica; I am an American citizen living in France.
I am married to a French citizen. His name is Eric, and he lived in the US for over 20 years. I am an original cowgirl and poet from Cody, Wyoming and he is an outstanding jazz guitarist and guitar instructor educated in France with live music experience in the US and France. He is also a music gear specialist and an excellent salesman and manager!
I have lived in 5 different US states including, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, New Hampshire and Oregon. Most recently, I worked at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), in Portland, Oregon as Assistant Academic Advisor and International Studies Programmer.I am also a Marketing Consultant for my parents business in Powell, Wyoming, Running Horse Realty, (www.runninghorserealty.com) (Saddle up – Run with the Best!)
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
The first time we moved to France was in May of 2003 from Eugene, Oregon in order to be closer to Eric’s family. We were married in France and stayed until October 2003 and then returned to the states because we could not find employment in France. We had a beautiful, storybook, countryside ceremony near La Cote St Andre (central, east side) with both of our families and spent much needed time with Eric’s family during our stay in France. However, It was a difficult political time for Americans as May 2003 was just after the start of the Iraq war.
When we boarded the plane to come to France it was nearing the end of the SARS outbreak. The dollar had lost its value and we in turn lost a lot of money moving our funds to Euro. It was also the summer of the largest heat wave on record in Europe where over 14,000 people died just in France. I remember that farmers were feeding trees to their livestock because there was no feed due to the drought. There were also a lot of very large bugs finding their way into our apartment.
It did not seem to be the right time for us to be in France so we returned to the US.
First, we landed on the east coast of America in New Hampshire and worked and lived there for 6 months near my sister’s family. Then, we bought a mini-van, packed up what we had left and traveled across the US, making a stop in Wyoming to spend time with my parents and enjoy the Wild West. Then we traveled to Portland, Oregon to live. We lived in Portland for 6 years and really enjoyed the people and our time there.
We decided to make a transition back to France for lifestyle and family reasons again in 2010. This time we did things a little differently and it seems to be working! We sold our house in 2009 in order to have the money to move. Eric went to France before me in January to secure a job, a living space and move through culture shock before I arrived – which he accomplished completely. I stayed in Portland through May, spent a month in Wyoming after traveling with my oldest friend toting a UHaul trailer attached to a Subaru Forrester through 5 states (OR, ID, UT, CO, WY, MT).
I visited friends and family along the way who also helped me get to where I was going. During the time Eric and I had apart we used video chat, e-mail, snail mail and phone calls to curb our loneliness and connect. At the end of June, I traveled to France with a few bags and a certificate in hand from a French class I took at Berlitz this past spring. It was our biggest move yet with a plethora of details, which I will save for my book. I am currently very aware of my surroundings and doing my best to know where I am at in the culture shock process. We are definitely missing our friends, family and jobs from the states, but have had some good family time in France.
What challenges did you face during the move?
I believe the logistics and the emotions of going through all the changes have been the biggest challenges. In 2003, we shipped everything via post. This time we shipped 28 boxes via ship, hauled most of my belongings to CO and WY, and then I shipped 11 boxes via post of what I had left – mostly essentials and some decor. There was so much planning to do with so many people, finances to consider, funds to transfer (again loosing a lot with the $) and a timeline to follow. Not to mention, leaving behind so many people that we love as well as secure employment. We also had to leave our cat with friends, which is good for our cat, wonderful of our friends and hard for us.
How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property? what was the buying/renting process like?)
In 2003, Eric’s mom and sister did all the groundwork for the apartment we rented in La Cote St Andre from a local farmer. This time, Eric looked in the local paper and found an apartment. Then, he went on-line to view it and sent me the link via e-mail. The apartment was rented through an agency so we had to pay 200 Euro in order to look at it and rent it through the agency. There are 45 stairs to the top of the apartment, which is a great work out each day!
Are there many other expats in your area?
In 2003, I didn’t meet any expats. There are only a few expats that I am aware of in La Cote St Andre at this time. I met an English woman recently who has been here for 17 years and knows all the ins-and-outs of life in France and finding work. She is extremely helpful and fun to talk to. I have heard of a couple of other Americans living here, but I have not met them yet.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I did not have any relationship with the locals in 2003. Eric took care of everything then, as my French language at the time was slim to none. I have established a relationship with a local woman who owns a new boulangerie in town. She moved to La Cote St Andre from Lyon so understands being new. She is very nice and even wears western shirts so we have fun talking in little bits about France and the wild west as I wear my cowgirl boots into her shop. Otherwise, I just smile as I walk by people. There are some ruffians who live nearby our apartment that have created a stir so I steer clear of them as they seem dangerous. It is a small community so for the most part I feel safe. Eric’s sister is well known in the community as she is on some local town committees. She is lovely and dresses very well so I think that the town’s people are aware of whom I am associated with when we go shopping together.
What do you like about life where you are?
It is so beautiful in the countryside with the French Alps in view, castles in the surrounding hills, big beautiful sky and quaint French houses. I enjoy being in the country and taking special trips to the city to buy French fashions. I am able to acclimate in the countryside and do the shopping without any kind of transportation. Walking is important and gives me some exercise. Eric and his family here are wonderful, very helpful and engaging. The food and drink is excellent and mostly inexpensive. The baked goods even better – the dark chocolate to die for! The pace of life is much slower than America, which I am remembering from before and still getting used too. People in France do take the time to stop and listen.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I like to be active and it seems hard to be to active at the moment due to some language and paperwork barriers so it is somewhat isolating; not having easy access to items I am used to buying; business closures at lunch time, Mondays and early evenings; most everyone in France going on vacation in August which leaves the rest of France mostly in a lurch; holding it forever because it is hard to find a clean public toilet; the time change between America and France; not being able to work yet; staying forever at the dinner table (over 2 hours); the banking and business systems are nauseating; most of all missing my friends and family; and overall, it just seems to take forever to get anything done here! You can tell that I am American and am used to things going fast!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
It is impossible to think of everything in preparation and knowing beforehand the effects of moving abroad. I would say that one must have a very strong support system from the country they are moving from to the country they are moving to before even thinking of making such a move. Do your research. Make solid plans. Think through your preparations. Keep a list of to do’s in order to cross things off the list and feel like you are accomplishing something. Read about other people’s experiences that have moved abroad. Have enough funds to allow time to acclimate and adjust in your new situation. Read inspirational writings everyday. Keep in touch as much as possible with friends and family from your home country. Find similarities and things you like in the new country. Pray a lot. Take vitamins. Exercise. Get health insurance. Get some rest. Get out everyday and participate. Volunteer. Keep up with the news and be aware of your surroundings. And, remember that the move is cross-cultural, you are bringing new insight to your new country and the people in it are sharing their insight with you. Oh, and keep your passport and/or visa current. Good luck!
What are your plans for the future?
Future plans, that is a good one! Right now, I want to succeed in France. I am trusting that life will show me how to get through the transition and make the best of it. Things I would like to accomplish in the future include finding a well-paid job in my field, write and publish a book and my poetry, have my own business or co-own a business, buy a cabin in the woods with a porch swing and get a goat to munch on the patch of cloverleaves I have planted in the front yard. I want to be the best all-around person I can be and spend a lot of time with friends and family, eat dark chocolate everyday, have animals, ride horses, write, create, publish, travel and watch beautiful skies and sunsets.
This is a poem Erica wrote about crossing cultures.
Shifting – over
Crossing cultures and date lines
is very tricky for the mind.
Shifting – over
cultivates a poignant present state
and circulates a deep need to relate.
Most likely, some objects
in the viewing corner of your eye
will present a brand new vision
or appear as shapes you have seen before
-distant or familiar- faces and places
you calculate and contemplate
in your core.
What’s more, the reality is not a bore
for your retina to ignore-
because sight really becomes
the only function
you hold onto and grasp for
when overriding the fear of accepting
what is before you
or returning to a stage
you have discovered