Living abroad : the good and the bad.

It’s been a couple of years that I left France to live in other countries. A lot of people find it inspiring, other quite boring (it’s a trendy thing in our generation), other don’t imagine living their hometown.

Since I am living this experience, I have had so many conversations about preparing your trip, how to adapt yourself in another country, how to speak a language that is not yours, make new friends, build your career… But I think I never listed clearly out loud the positive and negative aspects of it. I spoke a bit about it on my podcast (it’s in this blog if you want to listen to it and are a French speaker).

People have dreamy visions of being abroad. I think it’s a beautiful capacity of our brain and our imagination. We fantasize a lot, creating beautiful boards in our heads about how is it going to be, how we will feel, what we are going to accomplish. It is an amazing process because I think for most of us, it help us make the jump. Actually not only about living abroad but also take a trip on our own, move on from a job, a relationship or try a new hobby.

My entourage really was amazed by my moving to Canada (I was too) and they got even more excited about Miami (USA my life dream become reality). I have been here for a year and I really feel the need to be clear and explicit about what it is to live here. I don’t mean to be pessimistic and discourage people who want to try. I just want to be really honest so the ones of you reading me can have realistic expectations.

Miami is a vibrant city, with a lot of sun, beautiful settings and a big mix of cultures. It is also a city that never stops working, who is very expensive, with bad customer service in almost everything. Miami is unique and I wouldn’t live it. I love my new home and I am proud, me the little girl from Normandy, to have fulfilled my dream to live here before I am 30. Being clear: being here on holidays is not the same as living here. I am not clubbing a lot, going to yacht parties and tanning my ass on the beach every day. What you see on TV and the postal cards are for the tourists. It’s not the reality for the locals. It’s generally 60 hours of work a week and a few times a month to cool down. But I make it work my way and it’s even harder for a lot of other people . Oh and the food is shit and it cost you 400$ to see a doctor when you don’t have a good insurance.

Every city has it specificities, you have to find what suits you. No matter where you go, you will always experience the same things:

The negative sides:

  • Being far away from family and friends. You are going to miss weddings, babies, parties and the daily life pleasures and little comments. Some times are harder than others (holidays, birthdays…) but it also helps to see who are your real friends and which family members you can really count on. I am gone since more than 2 years and I am still talking to friends and family on a daily/weekly basis. It helps cherish the moments you spend with them when you go home.
  • Food : I will be quick here because there is no need to go into details. French food/American food… do I need to say more ?
  • Your culture : sometimes I really miss being understood for my French weird sens of humour, the references to my shows/favorite artists/movies… My culture and my knowledge of it is really something I miss sharing because it can only be understood by my own…or partially by my auditors here… It takes away a bit of the pleasure of sharing it.
  • You can really kill your budget quickly. Be smart on your savings and work as fast as you can to get back on your feet. It’s stressing enough to be abroad, with no money the nightmare can take a whole new dimension.

The positive sides :

  • This is the biggest and more important one to me : you will grow and learn every day about your strength. Because it takes balls to leave everything behind you for something new and completely unknown. You challenge your comfort zone, your relationships, your financial security. It scary as shit. And yet you did it. And you keep doing it and working it. I used to be really anxious about little things. I don’t anymore. Because I look at what I accomplished and I think “hell yeah I moved by myself to 4 countries with almost no money…I can deal with this little shit easily”. You will be even stronger with time, more flexible and resilient. Fucking badass.
  • You will challenge yourself on your professional side: make international contacts, work on projects you would have never done home. If you stay in the country where you immigrate, it will be a good asset to show you know the local culture and you can bring your own vibe. If you come home, you will have even more leveraged on your competitors.
  • You will create a whole new family : your boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, coworkers, your hobbies buddies… You can create the same deep meaningful relationships then when you were home. It takes time and patience to do so because you are not in your familiar place but trust me you can. Surround yourself with people from your tribe, quantity over quality.

I used to have a lot of “fixed” ideas, now I am more open minded. I know I can be home anywhere, I know what matters is to be at peace with myself, have a good health and quality relationships in my life.

The lessons I have learned, I wouldn’t have learned them staying in my home town, with my family around. Because I wouldn’t have met all of the people I met, did my jobs and faced these challenges.

So hell yeah, if you can, move abroad, for 6 months or 6 years. But be aware it is not going to be only a wonderful adventure full of laughs, unicorns and bills floating around. If you just want to have fun abroad and you are not sure about what you want to do, just go on vacation.

If you really move abroad for more than a holiday, be prepared but have fun along the way.

Away abroad

Since I have been traveling and living abroad for a couple of years now, I get asked quiet often this question “don’t you miss being with your family”.

I understand why people ask it and I find hard to answer it because it’s a mix of yes and no.

I don’t want to look like a monster but to be honest, I don’t have a family with easy and positive relationships (I know it’s the case for a lot of us) so going away has been a relief for me.

It can sound weird or cruel. I have friends that can’t live more than 5 miles away from their parents or not talk to their mom on the phone every day.
It didn’t happen for me and my brother and sister.

After my parents split the atmosphere at home became really heavy, it never became light and fresh again, we still have old tensions in the air that are 10 years old. My parents and us we have different characters and ways to communicate. It seems that when we spend too much time together, we just hurt each other.

Yes, we should have family therapy but that’s another conversation.  

So no, it doesn’t really hurt me to be that far away. Yes, I miss my family and my close friends. But it never came to the point where I felt “I need to come home to be with them”. Being in my hometown would be the death of my soul, there is nothing there for me to grow and feel fulfilled.

The ones that are close to my heart know it and they really saw me get better being away.

Thanks to technology we can still be in touch on a daily basis anyway. Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, emails.. you name it, there are several ways to reach out and we are having fun with it. Even my grandparents learned how to use their smartphone to facetime with me (even if I see more they hair or their nose than their faces but still).

I miss big events like weddings of friends or new babies but in a way, I am also paying more attention.

Because I am far, I am trying to take care of them, I send them pictures, videos, voicenotes and I am working harder to maintain our connection. I can’t do it with everybody because it would be very time consuming so, time has made me do some selection. But I think I kept the best relationships on track and I am spending several hours every week to reach out to every person that I care.

It can sound selfish but let’s be honest, a day only has 24 hours, you work, you eat, you sleep, maybe work out and read a little, you can’t maintain deep relationships with 100 persons, especially if there are living on another time zone.

The hardest part is to make others understand my point of view. Even good friends sometimes tell me “I don’t get why you stay there, it’s hard, expensive, food is not good, you are far from us, what’s the point”. But it can be difficult to have others understand you no matter in you live in your town or in another country.

We are all unique, what works for me doesn’t for others and vice versa. It’s valid for any aspect of your life.

To conclude, yes, I miss moments with my families and friends, not being in environment with them but it’s also making me a better person so I think it’s worth it. And they think the same.

Food in the US

In July it will be two years that I left France. I knew I would grow and learn a lot coming to North America. But one thing for sure, I knew I would never find the same quality of food. And even if I prepared myself as much as I could to deal with it, it’s still hard to accept it.

It’s a little bit like when you are going to do a hard workout session, you know it, you think “I will just push myself through it”… but when you are in the middle of it you think “noooope it’s too much, I think I could, but I can’t”.

I hear you, yes, if I am not happy I should just shup up and go home. But it’s only fair to be comparing everything from your home country when you live abroad.
North America has a lot of good things, but the quality of the food is not one of them.

After a year in Québec and now almost a year in Miami, here is my perspective:

  • Yes, you can eat organic food and there is plenty of it. And it is as expensive as it is in France. On this, both our countries suck. You want to eat healthy fresh non-GMO foods? You have to triple your food budget. It’s a hard choice for me (I buy some food organic some not), I can’t imagine the struggle for families with children.
  • The diversity is not there yet. I don’t know if it’s a specific parameter from Florida because it’s a very sunny tropical weather, but here we have the same food all year long. In France we have specific vegetables and fruits for each season, which makes the cooking fun and you never get bored. Since I am in Miami, no matter what, it’s always the same products season after season.
  • The size of certain packages of food is huge. It’s not usual to see 3 liters sodas bottles or “family size” bags of breads or chips. American people have the same physiology than European but the sizes of the products are way bigger. I guess it’s part of the obesity problem.
  • The fresh markets where you can find local products from your area are not so common. It’s surprising because Miami is the door to Latin America so I thought it would be easier to find products from America and the south of the continent. But I also learned that is not really in American culture to cook all the time. You buy food that is already prepared or you eat outside. So there is no real need or demand for fresh local market products.
  • In Montreal in particular, the vegetarian and vegan communities are huge and still growing. They offer a wide range of products and restaurants but I haven’t seen that in Miami a lot. The main culture here is Latina and they aren’t big fan of vegetarian foods. I like it because it gives me more options to eat something different. But it’s the same issue than with organic food, to me the prices are sometimes (and I insist sometimes) ridiculous. Charge people 7 $ for a vegan muffin is outrageous, sorry. With these 7 $ I buy the ingredients and I make 6 vegan muffins. So no, I am not falling for that.
  • The absence of cheese. This is a hard one for me French lady. I love my cheese on a good bread and in America they just make weird block of gouda cheese-thing. All the others are imported products (most of them from France and Italy) that off course cost a fortune. Once again I get it, if it’s importation it’s normal that is more expensive, but still ridiculous to pay 8 $ for 60g of brie. My family and friends thought that living in America I would get fat, the truth is I am losing weight because I eat less cheese.
  • The least but not less important: what’s with the chocolate with stuff inside? In France you have dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. The ones you eat just like that and the ones you use to cook pastries. You have some brands that offer chocolate with pieces of fruit or nuts inside but it’s not the majority of the offer. But here, even in Wholefoods the majority of the chocolates have stuff inside! Whyyyyyyyy ? I am ordering my Milka online.. thank you Amazon.

To be fair the situation is not as bad as we paint it in Europe. But it’s true that the products contain way more chemical products, especially sugar. You add that to bigger sizes packages and a lack of cuisine knowledge … people eat too much fat, too much outside and have bigger health problems.

I know French people we can be pretty arrogant with our food and our cuisine. But I have to say that in the defense of American people, the organic food is so expensive here that it’s affordable for a small part of the population. I can’t eat organic 100% of the time and I don’t have a lot of expenses, so for a whole family, it’s impossible.

I think we will solve a lot of health issues and will start to cook more when the basic healthy products will be available at reasonable prices.

Miami Project

Recently I had a fight with people I tought were my friends. I tought we were on the same page on a lot of topics, especially my journey to travel and come to live in Miami.

I am a very stubborn person, once I have an idea in my mind, I rarely stop before I accomplished what I wanted.

Being in this country on my own and having worked to get here makes me extremly proud and happy. I am also annoyed when I hear people saying me that I am lucky.

This is going to be a hot minute. I am not lucky. Luck didn’t get me here. My work, my persistence, my discipline, my stubborn head and my vision got me here. Lot of hours working, lot of money spend, lot of stress and selft doubts. But I knew this was good for me and it would be a matter of time.

Today I live in Miami because I worked hard for that. I know why I am here and what I want to do. I accomplished one of my goals and I am working on now to reach others. But living here doesn’t come without a price. It’s not only about glitter, glamour and the beach.

As any place, any job, any circumstance in life, you have good things and you bad things. Miami is a place of contrasts, you have extremely wealthy people and extremely poor people. It’s an expensive city, you have to work a lot to sustain to your basic needs, a lot of people at 2 or 3 jobs at the same time. Having interesting relationships is work, men seems to be here only to show off their money and women just looking for the richest guy.

For me it has good sides because it’s a dynamic city in construction, with a lot of different cultures and various ways to spend your free time. I like to have sun and light, the beach, being outdoors when I want. But it comes with sacrifice.

That’s the point I wanted to clarify today. Yes I live in Miami, yes I chose it, yes I am happy. But it doesn’t mean my life is a dream, I don’t spend every night in clubs, the days shopping and eating in fancy restaurants. I can’t because I have to work and it’s also not a goal in my life.

I just wanted to remind myself and to every person that will read this article that in life, nothing is just easy, and given. You can be rich with possessions, but you will have to sacrifice a lot of time. You can be less rich and have more time, but maybe you will pay it with discomfort in your life. Nothing is free, there is always a price to pay.

I choose to come to Miami because I felt this was right for me and it is. But it’s work, sometimes it’s hard. I am out of my confort zone in many ways but I am enthousiast for being here and trying it. But don’t let yourself fool by what you see on social media or on TV. No place is paradise on earth. There is a paradise just when you feel happy in your heart whith yourself.

Living abroad

The moments I have spent abroad taught me a lot of things on every level.

I have learnt to be independent, adapt myself to every situation, appreciate moments on my own, take initiatives and organize myself.

Let’s also be honest, I am not going to pretend I have not been scared and did mistakes. I did a lot. I felt stupid a lot of times, I lost myself in many occasions and I have spent money on stupid ways. But that’s the purpose, you do a mistake, so you can learn from it.

You have to take care of everything and every shit that happens, it’s on you. And believe me, shit always happens. But you can’t do anything to plan every second of every day. There are always good and bad surprises that’s life. So, you learn to breath, calm down and accept that a lot of things that you can’t control are going to happen and you will have to accept iT.

Living in another country on my own has taught me to go with the flow and be patient. Generally, when you have problem with a reservation, your rental, your phone or your papers, nothing get solved in a couple of minutes.

Here is a little review of my trips outside of France:

  • After I graduated my Licence degree, I packed a suitcase and a bag and left to discover London in England. It’s because of this trip that I achieved my actual English level. During this year I lived in a small house in a not-really-good but safe neighbourhood with other young people trying to improve their English skills. I have been working as a waitress in a pub, really cliche, with the regulars every night asking for the same amount of beers. I also worked in a clothes shop and since then, I have admiration for people working in this area. There is nothing more annoying than spending 20 minutes folding a pile of clothes and then having a client destroying it in 10 seconds.

Last but not least, I have been a barista in Starbucks and I can honestly say it has been one the toughest jobs I had in my life.

London is an expensive but very nice city to live. There is always a lot of different things to do and once you passed the typical touristic spots, there are amazing little places hidden in every neighbourhood.

What I liked the most is how British people don’t care about the way you are dressed and clothed. People have very different styles and they aren’t scared to do what they want.

A spirit I never found in France. I can’t speak and generalize an entire population but from my experience, English people are very much less judgmental and it’s a release.

  • After this year in a rainy environment (still better than my native Normandy), I chose to go to Spain to also improve my second language. As I have Spanish origins in my family and went to Spain every summer since I was a baby, that was kind of an obvious choice.

I went to the Alicante University, in the province of Valencia and studied in one year my Communication Master’s degree. The classes were really interesting, modern and collaborative. I was the only French, all the classes were in Spanish and we were a very mixed group of students. A part of the class was coming from the city but the majority from different parts of Spain and various countries of South America and East Europe.

It has been very interesting to learn from so many various cultures. Also, Spanish people know how to work hard but also, they know how to party hard, especially in Alicante where you have sun all year around.

What was better than England and very similar to France, was the food. Spain has incredible fresh foods and each province has its own recipes and treats.

I keep as a souvenir a population suffering from the civil war and fighting numerous economic and political problems, but with a ferocious willing to enjoy life.

  • After my master’s degree I stayed in France for two years and a half. During this period, I travelled for short weekends and holidays. I celebrated one of my birthdays in Amsterdam, two New Years in London and I went back to Spain during the summers.

I made two road trips that made me fall in love with North America.

One in Canada for a month by myself: I went to Quebec, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

One to California with friends: LA, San Francisco, Vegas and a lot of small towns in between.

It took me a long time to get there but every time I was in Canada or United States I thought, “I will be back to live here someday’. Which led me in 2017 to my next move in Montreal.

  • May I say the obvious: it has been the coldest year of my life. No one can complain to me about cold except for people who lived in Canada or any country from the North.

I have to endure the all freezing winter but what a human experience. By far Canadian people, Quebecois for the least, are so welcoming, warm and easy to live with.

It stuck in my mind and I repeat all the time now, it’s a cold country but full of warm people.

I have had crazy work experiences and I made friends for life. You have to make tight relationships to endure this type of cold for months (and a lot of alcohol, it helps stay warms, we use the same excuse in Normandy).

Montreal is a really special place because there is a huge mix of different cultures. The city also has two faces, one for the winter that you wouldn’t recognize during the summer. It seems like another planet, everybody is outside all the time and the city teems of activities.

From the beginning I knew this place was going to be temporary for me because my ultimate goal was to go to America. But I am really grateful for the year I spend there and the people that crossed my path.

  • My most recent move is to Miami. As a former Normande who spend a lot of time on rainy and snowy places, I wanted my spot in the sun. I took several trips to Miami during my year in Montreal, I liked the energy and made it my new destination goal.

As I am living here only since a couple of weeks, I will give you guys a feedback in a couple of months. For now, I still feel like a tourist in an adaptation mode, looking all the time for the landmarks I have lost.

To conclude, to each and every one of you that fears to go abroad for a week or a year, just go. Jump and go. It doesn’t matter if it goes how you were expecting it or not. You will learn tons of stuff and you will grow as a person. Of course, to do so, you will have to try and don’t give up when the difficulties are coming to you.

When I was in London, I had a lot of roommates that left after only a couple of weeks because they found it too hard to work with a low English level. I get it. But if you give up and go home where you can speak only French and stay in your comfort zone, how do you expect to improve your language skills?

Believe me, I watch shows in English and Spanish and I read books and articles in those languages. It helps, but it won’t make all the work and won’t make you bilingual. There is nothing more efficient than living in a country to improve your language because you doesn’t give you the choice. You are forced to adapt yourself and get better because you don’t want to feel uncomfortable and stupid all the time.

If you guys want more details or advices about one of the trips I did, just tell me and I will develop more.