7 places in 10 years, it is a lot of moving ..! Yes indeed ; it is many different SIM cards, many different roommates, and many new favorite bars. I am going to tell you about my story and my different expatriations. In a way, they are all part of who I am today.
I am really proud about the place I come from : Brittany, on the West coast of France. It is a really beautiful place, where – they say – it is always rainy. I actually prefer to say that the weather gets nice several times a day. 🙂
I grew up in a small village of 2 000 inhabitants near Saint Malo. Since I am young, I’ve always been dreaming about living abroad, travelling, speaking different languages…
Back then, my dream was to be part of the SClub7 squad (any connoisseurs here ?). They are a group of hype Californians, who were dancing hip hop (the 90’s were lit !). So I was dreaming about living in LA, driving a cabrio, … and having straight hair. Yup.
Time to grow up !
Growing up nearby the sea in a natural wild but quiet place is a real luxury. I understood that only when I left my hometown. When the time came to make choices regarding my higher education, I chose to go to a business school, because it was the option that most probably allowed me to go to an university exchange program and to do internships abroad. (NB : 10 years ago, these university exchanges were not as developed as today, nor mandatory)
Got my high school diploma, my driving license, then I left my hometown and head to Lille, in the North of France. It was amazing to go and live in a new place, it was also the first time for me ! Even though I did not know anyone, I mostly thought it was an opportunity to make new friends. 🙂
Lille is a great city for students, with many universities. It is also known to be a great place for student parties, bar, etc… 🙂 The city center is very concentrated so you can go everywhere by foot. The city itself is really beautiful, cosmopolitan ; it is indeed really nice to live there.
Thereby, I enjoyed a lot my student life there, I had really fun parties, I started to love drinking beer, and I realized that the inhabitants of this region – whom we call Ch’tis – are really warm and nice people – that’s not a legend.
“Que bueno, que rico, que lindo, Paris – Latino !“
When the time for university exchanges came, finally my dream would come true. Beyond that, this experience did really impact my future choices and projects.
I had fallen in love with Latin America during a previous trip, so I decided to go to Chile for my exchange program. I left France for more than a year, with a 20kg bagpack. You might think that the weather is only tropical and caliente in Latin America. Well, let me tell you that when I landed in Santiago in mid-July, it was 0°C, the Andes mountains were fully snow-covered, and there was no heating in the house. Hey hey, bienvenida !
I lived in a house with 15 other people, and I was the only French person. It was so much fun ! During my stay, it made sense of not being with French speaking people, because I absolutely wanted to speak Spanish and progress in it. It was not easy because the Chilean accent is quite special. I made only foreign friends and I really loved it.
I have been travelling to unique places like the Atacama Desert and Easter Island – crazy ! Chile has a lot to offer, the landscapes are tremendous ! From the desert in the North, to the glaciers in the South… It’s a great destination for nature lovers !
Mexico lindo y querido
After one semester in Chile, I decided to do my internship in another country : Mexico. It might not seem like this, but it is really not next door : it’s a 9 hours flight to Guadalajara, on the west coast of Mexico. Vamos !
I lived for more than 8 months in Mexico, and I really loved it. Guadalajara is the second largest city (5 million inhabitants) after Mexico City. The weather is nice all year long, the traffic is intense (there is no metro) and you breathe a lot of contamination. It is a very cosmopolitan city with big universities and many foreigners who come to study there. The tapatios are very proud of their region – we have one thing in common 🙂 The culture and historical heritage of Mexico are very rich : traditions, beliefs, folklore, food … Living in Mexico was for me a real change of scenery. You have to know that culture and religion are really anchored there ; it is a conservative country, very latino. Sometimes it can be confusing. But it is also a country that is very focused on economic development, obviously inspired by the United States. It is true that there are many inequalities in Mexico, but the middle class is growing more and more.
Guadalajara is also the fiefdom of the narco-trafficant El Chapo. Drug trafficking in Mexico is real, you have to be careful not to end up in the wrong places and/or with the wrong people. I was myself very integrated with Mexicans, and I was careful where I was going. However, although this is one aspect of Mexico, do not focus on it, Mexico has so much to offer ! People are warm, generous, and cheerful, it feels really nice. I was really feeling home in Mexico, especially because people often say “mi casa es tu casa” (=”my home is yours”). As Europeans, we have a lot to learn from them. 🙂
The region of Jalisco is particularly known for tequila. It’s a bit like Champagne, if it’s not produced in the village of Tequila, it can not be called tequila, it’s mezcal.
Mexico is a country that I highly recommend to expatriate yourself ! Especially to learn Spanish : in my opinion, the mexican accent is pretty neutral, and they have many really mexican expressions that you won’t forget 🙂 No mames, que chido, wey!
After spending more than a year abroad, I was sad to leave but also happy to come home. It was a weird cocktail of emotions ! Some people sometimes talk about the “Erasmus blues post” … I did not necessarily have it, but it’s true that when I came back I was transformed, and I had te re-adapt myself a little bit. There is a reassuring aspect when you realize that “nothing has changed”, but it sometimes feels also a bit weird as you feel yourself changed and out of step.
Paris, the city of lights
On my return, after a semester back in Lille, I moved to Paris. Please do not worry, I am aware that Paris is not a country itself, however, I really experienced this move as an expatriation, that’s why I count it here. 🙂
For a Breton like me, although Paris is in France, this step was not easy. I actually found it easier to adapt myself in Latin America than in Paris.
Finding an apartment is a full-time job, I think I’ll never cope with Paris tube, neither with paying 6€ for a Coke in a bar… But, it is a gorgeous city – probably the most beautiful in the world – but living there can be a little hostile – especially in the beginning. But, in the end, it’s like everything, I got used to it. And I ended up enjoying living there : the city is amazing, it is an open-air museum, there are plenty of charming spots to discover, and it is true that from a cultural point of view, Paris is a very rich city. One advantage it also had is that it allowed me to often come back to my dear Brittany 🙂
I stayed 1 year there, before feeling the will to go for new adventures again.
London calling, baby !
It was cool to be back in France for a while, but my hunger for travel and adventure woke up again. So, in 2014, I packed my stuff again ; this time, to go to London, baby !
My main goal was to become fluent in English. My Spanish was fluent already, and I was feeling that my English needed to be improved, in order to be able to work in the language of Shakespeare.
So here I was, freshly arrived in this immense city, and again I had to adapt myself to a new culture, to another way of living. London is a great city, but far too big for me. It’s not like in Paris, where sometimes you get out of the tube 2 or 3 stations before your final stop, and you finish the trip walking. I did it once in London, I got surprised : there are not 5 min of walking between 2 tube stations but at least 20 min ! For someone like me who dislikes walking, I got a good lesson…
London is a very cosmopolitan city, all nationalities of the world are represented there. For sure, there are French on every street corner … it’s well known. But this huge melting pot is really organized, and it is very pleasant because as a foreigner there, you quickly feel at home.
I also love the London mentality, I think what is great is that everyone has a chance there. Your diploma does not really matter, you start at the bottom anyway, and you can quickly evolve. You have to work hard. I like the Anglo-Saxon mentality : it is pragmatic, functional and organized.
In the end, I did not stay very long in London. After 6 months, I was accepted for a Master that made me go back to Paris. This time, I stayed there for a year and a half, before going abroad – again and again. 🙂
Barcelona, “mi amor”
My last expatriation was in Barcelona. When you think about this city, you might picture the sun, the beach, the tapas, the fiesta … Well, it’s true, that’s Barcelona ; but not only.
It is a very dynamic city, the economic center for Catalonia and for Spain. Many companies in the technology sector are located here, and many start-ups are flourishing. I have to say, it is a great city to live in, life is good there :). The city suits me well because even if it is big, it is on a human scale, and you can walk to go everywhere (although I still do not like walking…).
Barcelona is an economically attractive city, and indeed, there are many expats in Barcelona. This makes it a very cosmopolitan city where you can hear all languages ! The main language is Catalan, but obviously everyone can speak Spanish, and thanks to tourism English is more and more spoken. People are warm, some even call you “guapa” (= “beautiful”), it’s pretty nice. 🙂 I have to admit that when the cashier calls me “mi amor” (= “my love”) it still feels a bit weird….
For me, the best thing is that it’s a city on the coast line, and I feel great living close to the sea. Barcelona is also surrounded by mountains, and it is easy to find lots of natural & magical places to escape and recharge your batteries.
With all this, life in Barcelona is very pleasant, peaceful, … and festive ! 😉
Why living abroad ?
You might have understood, I have a pretty big wanderlust. However, it is not a matter for me to move just to move, nor collecting various social security cards from different countries ; it is in the first place, because I love it.
In my experience, it is a great personal enrichment – and professional in some cases. Living abroad means discovering different cultures, new ways of living, it is also getting to know a city and country in its entirety, but mainly : meeting many different people, and making new friends.
Some people consider travelling is the school of life … and I agree by 300% ! By expatriating yourself, you become curious and adaptative. Whether it’s to do the paperwork, find a house, find your way, or understand how things work in your new city … for sure you’re becoming more proactive and resourceful. And if those are not great soft skills to put on your resume, I don’t know what they are 🙂
When you arrive in a new place – which you will soon call “HOME” – you live the excitement of the first moments. Everything is new, you are exhilarated, impressed, surprised… All your senses are awake, you are alive ! You discover lots of new places, and you meet new people. Personally, each time, I do have stars in my eyes. 🙂 I think that in order to live a full experience, the best is to integrate yourself as much as you can with local people. Goodbye comfort zone 😉
I do enjoy living abroad, being an expatriate, and being amazed by so many new things. And I must say, that I appreciate just as much coming back home, in Brittany. When you live abroad, you value more the place you are coming from and you appreciate it a lot when you come back. 10 years ago, I never thought that I would enjoy so much watching the tides going up and down in the bay of Saint Malo, living in a very small village, and eating bread with salted butter. <3
Living abroad, “are you sure ?“
I understand that this way of life – almost nomadic – does not appeal to everyone. Some might think it is “not stable”. It’s true and … not true. In my opinion, when you move in, you find stability, and I admit that it is very pleasant. However, I tend to get easily bored – especially when it gets comfortable. That’s why I like to jump in new adventures, build something new elsewhere, and get to stability … until next time 🙂 I like renewal, I like to be able to experiment, it is exciting ! With experience, every new move gets easier. In the end, I think that finding stability is like everything else : it can be learnt.
Starting from scratch is not easy. To adapt yourself each time to a new environment, to change apartment, to make new friends, I get that it can frighten some people. It is well known, going out of your comfort is challenging ; on the other hand, I find it really stimulating. And I think that going to live abroad does not necessarily mean “leaving everything”. I rather see it as adding a 2nd or 3rd address under the word “HOME”, I feel that I am expanding my comfort zone, and this perspective makes a huge difference. Try it 😉
Overall, it’s very motivating to have projects, to make them happen. If “starting from scratch” everytime can be annoying – I understand it – it is for me a way to reinvent myself. I feel like I live many lives in one. It’s also a great way to discover the world – and at the moment, that’s all I want. I’m pretty sure though that the day I’ll start a family, it will be different. But as Bernard – a wise man I know – would say : “there is a time for everything”.
“A recruiter will not really appreciate that you are always moving, he is going to trust you.” I understand. But on the other hand, I think that I do no really care about what others think…! A few years ago, I decided not to make life choices based on “what is good on a resume“, nor conventions. Whatever you do, there will always be some people who won’t like it ; and I sadly realized that the detractors are usually the ones who are jalous. 🙁
Never mind, it’s true, I love moving from place to place. I live the life I want, I do not bother anyone, and I will not makes my choices depending on what others think. I also realized that if someone does not hire me because “I move too much“, … well, it’s anyway someone for whom I don’t want to work. That’s not a match. Because after all, truth is : if I like my job, I won’t be looking a plane tickets to go away. *wink*
When you live abroad, you are far from your family, and you miss some special occasions. So far I have missed only one Christmas, when I was in Latin America.
Besides, that’s one of the reasons why I choose to live in Europe now. I enjoy the benefits and the pleasure of living abroad ; the administrative formalities are much simpler as an EU citizen (work, visas, taxes …) – it is quite a thing to consider. I also allows me to get home easily for various occasions, and therefore regularly meet my family & friends.
Many travelers will tell you, “you have to travel light“. You become quite minimalist when you often move, mainly because you have to put your life in a backpack. When you go abroad, and you can only bring 23kg with you, so you get to buy new stuff : some clothes that are adecuate for your new job, others that are more adapted to the local culture, a bit of decoration for your new house, maybe a pair of sheets … So you travel light indeed, but you end up buying stuff, again and again. Not ideal.
So, as much as possible, I get my things sent. There are today shipping services that are cheap (less than an extra luggage at least !) and efficient. Recently I have been using Ecoparcel : about 30 € for 30kg, arrived in 3 days. Great service. And some things, I give them away to my friends, who will make good use of them. On the other hand, when people leave the city, they also leave me things. It is quite common in the traveller mind to swap stuff. 🙂
To summarize, going abroad and live in many different places, is for me a real pleasure. I reinvent myself every time, I discover and I learn a lot.
When I leave, I feel like I’m out of my comfort zone, and finally when I’m there, my comfort zone expands. I end up feeling comfortable in more and more places and in different lifestyles & cultures. This is obviously an experience that I recommend to everyone.
That being said, I also understand that does not suit everyone – totally fine to me. Though, what I find a pity is if you are craving for living abroad yourself, but don’t dare it. I’ll be glad to actually help you with it soon. 🙂
My motto is : you are not in Mario Bros, you only have one life, so go for it : create your opportunities to realize your dreams !
I will be sharing a dedicated article soon about tips and advice to expat’ yourself. Please, do not hesitate to leave me your comments and questions, so that I can answer them => contact