See how successfully Betty and her family have adapted to the way of life in Aveyron, France

 

Betty Carlson

July 21 2006

-Where were you born?
Olympia, Washington, USA

-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my husband and two daughters, ages 13 and 15.

-In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Aveyron. It’s near Rodez, France.

-How long have you been living in France?
11 years in Rodez and 16 years total in France -- which does not seem possible!

-What is your age?
In France, it's impolite to ask a woman her age. This seems like a good time to point out that cultural tidbit.

-When did you come up with the idea of living in France?
It was a love story, like so many other expat stories. I met my French husband in the USA, and we decided, mainly for professional reasons, to settle in France. I already spoke the language, which made the transition much easier.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
I didn't have any problem because we were married, but I think it can be difficult in other circumstances.

-How do you make your living there? Do you have any type of income generated?
I had a teaching background, so the obvious choice was to continue teaching. I have had no problem finding English teaching jobs in the three cities I've lived in, but the fact of having experience and a college education was a big help. Teaching is my vocation, so things have worked out for me.

However, I know some English-speaking expats have trouble finding jobs other than teaching English, especially in smaller towns. And teaching obviously isn't for everybody.

-Do you speak French and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I did speak fluent French upon arrival, and I think it is very important to learn French if you want to fit in -- and function!

I live in a village and it's nice to get involved in local activities if you want to meet your neighbors. But I can't say it's essential.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course I miss my family. I envy my British friends and colleagues who can go back "home" several times a year. But I spend my summers in the USA -- which is one of the advantages of my teaching job.

-Do you have other plans for the future?
I am currently working on a part-time freelance writing career to complement my teaching.

I also hope to visit more of Europe. I love it when my American friends say things like "Oh, you must just go to Italy all the time! It's so close!" With working, raising a family and spending summers in the USA, I barely travel around France, let alone the rest of Europe!

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We have bought a home. Housing prices were reasonable in Aveyron a few years ago, but are steadily rising. Purchasing a home in most regions of France is still cheaper than certain other European countries, for example Great Britain and Switzerland.

-What is the cost of living in France?
I feel the cost of living, other than gasoline prices, is generally lower than in the USA. France seems to have held steady in that respect compared to other countries. When I moved there in 1990, I thought everything was very expensive, but now most items seem cheap or reasonable compared to American prices.

-What do you think about the French people?
In general, the French have been very friendly with me since the start, and I have made friends everywhere. But I also think I have made a lot of personal effort in that regard. I have dual nationality, and so can't really consider myself a foreigner anymore.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in France?
The positive aspects are legion, and well-known: a slower pace of life, high regard for the family, great food and wine, lots of beautiful sights and sites to see.

On the negative side, it can be hard for Americans -- and people from English-speaking cultures in general -- to deal with the subtle social and cultural barriers in French society. France remains quite hierarchical and, despite the image of philosophical discussions in French cafes, many subjects are taboo in certain situations. Sometimes it's hard to know what you can say to who when.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in France?
If you want to work, be sure to take a close look at the employment situation before taking the dive and moving. Unemployment is relatively high, salaries can be low compared to Great Britain and the USA, and there is some reluctance to hiring foreigners, especially outside of the big cities.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about France?
Undoubtedly the most complete site for expats all over France is Expatica (www.expatica.com). It's full of all the information you need to get settled plus includes news updates about France in English.

Personally, I write a blog about life in the French countryside, La France Profonde (http://franceprofonde.blogspot.com). And if you're interested in learning about everyday French cuisine, I can recommend my own Cuisine Quotidienne (http://www.cuisinequotidienne.blogspot.com) as well as Anne Cuisine (http://www.annecuisine.typepad.com) and French Family Cooking (http://french-family-cooking.blogspot.com).