Tag Archives: expats

My first baby steps as an ‘expat’ living in France

I think the word ‘expat’ is a funny word. It literally means  ‘to voluntarily be absent from home and country’. In that case I am a third degree expat as I have now left 3 countries before I arrived in France.

A bit crazy, don’t you think so? Does that mean I can’t find my way anywhere or am I just very adaptable and make a home wherever I land?

My ‘expat’ history

expat

Growing up in the Netherlands but always with a hunger for foreign adventure.

From The Netherlands, to UK, then Australia – even a short stint in Switzerland, and now France. Officially I belong to this group of expats however I really don’t like the name . I always saw myself as a resident in Australia. While I was living in London I never even thought about what I was. And now in France the likes of us are apparently called ‘expats’.

Why don’t I like it?  Well, what comes straight to mind is Brits who live abroad but only want English things. Just think of the film ‘Shirley Valentine’. Good old Pauline Collins succeeds in making tourists extremely happy by offering them a full English breakfast. Right there in a Greek taverna on a pebbly beach, they want the full works. It made me laugh but also cringe…

There is this  Facebook group ‘Nederlanders (Dutch) in Australia’ who chose to live on the other side of the world. And you know what they do? They spent precious time on dreaming about Dutch fast food and discussing where to get it Down Under.

I am guilty of never thinking about Dutch food. 25 years in Australia and not one ‘patatje, kroket or frikandel went through my mind and mouth. Actually I made one little slip when my visiting second cousin wanted a ‘broodje kroket’ and off course she found a supplier in Brisbane!

expat, life style, Dutch food, broodje kroket

The one and only time I had this Dutch concoction was after 25 years living in Australia

And you know what? I think the food in Australia is nice, fresh and diverse albeit a wee bit expensive. Occasionally I may have had a fleeting thought about Dutch cheese but the imported stuff we get Down Under is just not the real thing. I just made do with what Australia offers. By the way NOT the plastic bricks that Australia dares to call cheddar.

expat, lifestyle, Dutch cheese

Dutch cheese – the variety is overwhelming!

Now back to the expat thing. When I was looking for a house in 2014 I saw villages that were overrun by expats. Some so bad that the French locals avoided certain times and places in their own town. Sad but true. A pity as these towns had appeal, hence all the expats who live there!

What kind of ‘expat’ do I want to be?

I like France for what it offers in many aspects. I like to meet all kinds of people – French, English speaking and other Europeans. ‘They’ say it is hard to integrate in French villages. I can tell you it would be just as hard hard in Dutch villages. You will be tolerated and accepted but you are never going to be one of them. That is the same all over the world, even in true ocker Australia. And to be honest, does that matter?

expat, lifestyle, life in france

One that considers himself true Aussie!

Since we own our house I have met and befriended several French people. According to some they are all from other areas in France than Limoux and surroundings. Well, again does that matter? They are also French after all.

I am sure my authentic Limoux French neighbours in opposite, next door and around the corner of our house have nothing against me living there. They greet me, some help me tremendously and even have keys to our house. I will never be one of them and I am not trying to be either. I am just friendly, make effort to speak and learn better French and live the way they live in Limoux.

expat, life style, Limoux, life in France

Eglise St Martin in Limoux – just a stone throw away from the central Place de la République

My first steps as an expat

During the last week I have joined a couple of expats groups and I have met some lovely people from a variety of countries. I like that but I will make sure that is not going to be my only network in France. And I am sure they don’t do that either. One of the things I have noticed in this area is that most imported people have made the effort to learn and speak French. Many of them had kids that grew up here and are french kids.

You would do yourself short by not being able to speak the local language. Still I have seen people complaining on forums about the life as an expat in France. It is not rare that they barely speak French after years of living in this country. Still they dare to complain that they could not integrate. Don’t make me laugh!

So to sum it up, here in France I am an expat because I have expatriated my home country voluntarily. For the rest I am a new resident of France who has come here to become part of the French lifestyle and enjoy this beautiful country. Anybody who crosses my path, from whatever background, will be part of that experience.

expats, lifestyle, life in France, Limoux, river Aude

The beautiful River Aude – every day and every light make it look different and fantastic for a good picture.

It is an adventure and I am looking forward to it a lot!

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Feel free to sign up or spill something about your own experiences below!

Love to you all!

There is more to Languedoc!

Historical centre of Limoux with church St. Martin

Historical centre of Limoux with church St. Martin

Although my adventure is France is already behind me, I am back in Australia and we have made an offer on a house in Limoux, I like to complete my online diary and describe the Minervois where I spent at least another 2 weeks. When I left Limoux and felt that I had potentially found a house that would fit the bill, I had only done half of my trip – in time and in area. I therefore wanted to continue going, keep an open mind and explore further.

Leaving Limoux for Minervois

My first stop after leaving Limoux was a town called Montreal. Not immediate on my wish list but two agents had houses for sale there and I took their word for it to have potential.
One of the things I had decided to do while doing this trip was to be flexible and go wherever people tipped me to go. I had the time and had no problem in changing directions.

Montreal was a nice enough town and the houses were okay however I knew straight away that it wasn’t my cup of tea. The town has some nice features and is very close to Carcassonne and airport, but there is not one little terrace to sit and enjoy a drink. So not an option for me who likes to sip Rose while watching the world go by!

Driving away from Montreal I headed north of Carcassonne towards an area called Minervois. The scenery was slowly changing. It seemed less rugged and offered a more sweeping and open view. Some of the villages I passed were very pretty but it was obvious that they were very touristy. I was particularly taken by Villeneuve Minervois but a chat with a local cured me from that ‘coup de foudre’ when I was told that it was absolutely dead off season. Considering that the high season is only 2 months I imagined long and bleak winter months.

Canal du Midi at La Redorte

Canal du Midi at La Redorte

Nevertheless I passed through some nice villages and had my first encounter with the Canal du Midi at La Redorte. Before I go any further you have to realise that I originally come from The Netherlands where we have a large number of canals in many, many towns and cities. I don’t know what I expected but my first impression of the ‘Canal’ was really nothing more than ‘so what’!

Finding out about the history and the level of technical ability of the Canal du Midi made me more interested however I could equally try to get you interested in the Dutch engineering skills when it comes to water management. La Redorte was a pleasant enough place to stop, have a coffee and watch the many boats with sun bathing tourists go by.

Beaufort and Minerve

My next stop for the night would be Beaufort which is actually not in Aude but in the department of Herault. They are both in Languedoc where in total there are 5 departments. So far my trip had taken me to the Pyrenees Orientales and Aude.

Vineyards at Beaufort, Minervois

Vineyards at Beaufort, Minervois

Beaufort is very small and has only one rather expensive restaurant but lots of vineyards and gorgeous views over the hills. From there it is only a stone throw to Minerve, another beau village and Cathar stronghold. Minerve is very pretty, although touristy but it is definitely worth a visit.

Minerve

Minerve, a Cathar stronghold

Beaufort is close to Olonzac, a town that had a strong appeal to me and that is supposed to have a brilliant weekly market. I even saw a house that was very cute but something was weird in Olonzac and I found out what it was very soon. There is a very ‘close knit’ expat community there and you could sense that just by sitting on a terrace and having a coffee. Apparently there are so many Brits that on market day the French can’t find a chair to sit on as all are occupied by the expats – much to the ‘chagrin’ of the French. Somehow I could really sense their presence and consequently judgement and I decided against Olonzac.

St Chinian

I stayed three nights in Beaufort and had not been able to find interesting accommodation for the coming weekend. The owners of the Chambre d’Hote in Beaufort had the solution and organised a room in St Chinian in another Chambre d’hote. I don’t know how I could have missed that one but I did. I ended up staying with Pascal and Michel, a French/Belgium couple who had moved to St Chinian to get out of the Ghent rat race.

003St Chinian is lovely and has a great Sunday market that attracts many interesting stall holders and visitors. I did see a couple of nice houses in the village but realised soon that it was a major thorough fare for trucks from Toulouse to Beziers and Narbonne. Unfortunately but nothing could change that. Nevertheless a very pleasant village with a nice vibe.

Cessenon sur Orbe

023My next stop was Cessenon sur Orbe. For some reason I had high expectations from this village. The owners from the Chambre d’Hote in Beaufort would have liked to buy something there. It was indeed a wonderful historical village with a beautiful river and beach. It is a relative small town, only 1000 people and that worried me a bit with the view on being able to make a living there.

I saw two nice houses there: one town house in good condition and a large mansion totally out of my budget but with enormous potential to renovate. It was an 18th century merchant house with stables, huge deck and garden. A great project if we would be living there but not from a distance as far as Australia.

River at Roquebrun, 'un des plus beaux villages'

River at Roquebrun, ‘un des plus beaux villages’

I stayed 3 days in Cessenon and explored the area. There are some very pretty villages such as Roquebrun and Olarques both part of the list of ‘beau villages’. The scenery is very pretty and quite different from the Aude. People in this area claim that they have the best weather in Languedoc. I have heard this now a couple of times. There are strangely enough three places in Languedoc Roussillon that have the most hours of sunshine…..

This was more or less the end of my solo trip as my next move would be to go to Beziers and get the TGV to Paris to meet the family. From there we returned to the South, had some time together and showed Keith my findings.

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