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.

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.