From Texas to Montpellier: Conjugating Irregular Verbs
Aidan Larson, Texan, currently living in Montpellier, France
1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband, Paul and I always dreamed of living abroad, specifically the South of France, since our honeymoon there in 1998. He works at a multi-national company that has thankfully made it possible for us to do just that. We first came to Europe via Ireland and spent five life changing, baby having, years there. I loved every bit of it, except the weather. We came to Montpellier in February of 2010.
2. How do you make a living?
I don’t work here but as I said, Paul’s job has allowed us to have this experience.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I speak to my mother and sister at least once a week. Skype and Apple’s FaceTime have made all the difference. They can see the kids, I can see my niece and it all feels less distant. My mother even got up in the middle of the night one Christmas to ‘be there’ via Skype while the kids opened their presents.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in France?
The best thing about being an expat in France….there isn’t just one. I love France; the language, food, people and lifestyle. And, the south beats Paris, hands down. Don’t tell anyone though.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in France?
The worst thing about being an expat in France is the red tape and having to conduct so much of the intricate maneuvers that are necessary to get things done in French. I’m getting better at the language but that’s the only time it gets frustrating. I don’t have a strong vocabulary around health insurance and green cards.
6. What do you miss most?
Let’s see, what do I miss the most… It’s weird because that changes. Usually, it’s food. And that sounds odd because of how much I love French food and their attitudes toward it. But I miss variety. Sometimes I miss Tex-Mex, other times it’s the Texas version of Chinese food I’m used to, and I always wish there were more peanut butter. Like big, red-lidded jars of it that last for more than one week and don’t cost a fortune. Seriously, peanut butter here is like unicorn horns. It costs nearly 5 euros for a miniscule jar!
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
To meet people and integrate I took private French lessons, talked all the time (surprise!) and looked for a handful of fellow expats to keep from being too lonely. It can be lonely sometimes, not fully understanding the language, feeling stifled in your expression, and wanting to show your true self when you’re limited by 2nd grade French.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
They are super quiet. No one hollers across the produce aisle to their husband to get a bunch of bananas while they’re standing by the onions. It just doesn’t happen.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That everyone is skinny. Most are not obese. But not everyone is stylish, thin and Parisienne.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
We lived in Ireland at the height of the boom, 2005, and left as things were going tits up so that’s a hard one to answer. Ireland was very expensive; things like cars and houses were out of this world. In France, it is a bit less expensive but the taxes are a whopper. I do feel like we get a lot for that money in return though. Have you heard me go on and on about the school lunches?
11. What advice would you give other expats?
The advice I always give anyone moving to another country is simple: be nice, be open, try to speak the language and become a part of your community. You didn’t move abroad to surround yourself in a home bubble, did you?
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my first blog in 2009, during our last year in Ireland. I loved living there so much and truly believe that it was the making of me and my little family. When I knew we were finally coming to France, I wanted to document our time in Ireland. Then, when friends liked it and I got over my initial fear of writing and having it actually read by real people, it sort of became a part of me. When we moved to France I naturally kept it up. My blog has introduced me to some of the most wonderful, inspiring and talented people and has given me the confidence to keep writing. I am working on a novel at the moment and couldn’t imagine living a life without writing. There are so many stories out there.
Aidan's blog, Conjugating Irregular Verbs
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Super interview, Aidan. Being a wife and mother may not be paid work, but I doubt you spend your days with your feet up reading magazines and wearing fluffy slippers, fag in mouth...
Good luck with the novel, if it's anything like your blog, it should be a very interesting read.Sarah 21 Feb 2013, 14:53