Alooooha my friends!! Or should I say, Bonjour mes amis!! That is right, my little family and I have relocated from Hawaii to the South of France and I have so so much to share already! This is Coconuts and Cardamom’s 100th Post and to kick off our next 100 we are opening a new section dedicated to the in’s and out’s of France living, based off of my personal experience here.
I am going to touch on topics like, being pregnant in France, giving birth here, French health care system, why French woman are so chic and slim and their secrets, the food of course, where to visit, the local markets, having a child go to an all French school, French school lunch programs, cultural methods on raising children and newborns, Tama’s experience moving abroad, cultural differences and a whole lot more! Ask whatever you are curious about and I will do my best to respond.
I am going to start with a short journal entry of why we are here. Every week I will post something new. That is… unless I go into labor, then I may miss a weeks or so…
I have to say, there are some areas of what I am experiencing that have been completely contrary to some of the books I have read about French culture– such as Raising Bebe, French Woman Don’t Get Fat, French Kids Eat Everything and All You Need to Be Impossibly French.
These were some of my ‘tools’ for learning and preparing in the French culture before our move. A lot of the information in these books were super insightful and very true to my own experience, but some areas have been a completely different experience for me. I hope you enjoy this section and I would love to hear your questions, insights and thoughts throughout!
Why My Family Moved to France…
I can hardly believe it has been a full month since our arrival in Bordeaux, France. For those of you that do not know, we moved here for my husbands master’s program. He will be studying international business management and marketing at IAE Bordeaux. He jokes when people ask him, ‘why Bordeaux?’ and he replies, ‘because it is the only place that accepted me!’ The truth is, it is the only place he applied!
For whatever reason, one night I started looking at different masters programs, partly for Shem and also myself. It was one of those sleepless nights where you just get up and start browsing and reading random things on the Internet.
That night this particular school in Bordeaux stood out to me. I am not sure why, but I could not stop thinking about it. I mentioned it to Shem and he actually seemed interested, which was surprising because he has never had conscious intentions of attending any type of a masters program before.
I began to research it in more depth and the details seemed a little too good to be true, so I started to wonder if it did actually exist. The cost of tuition seemed much to low, and the benefits and subsidization’s of rent and costs of schooling from the French government seemed a little too generous. I really began to wonder if this place actually existed.
During this time ( a little over a year ago now) we were saving our pennies to take a trip to France and Italy. The year prior to that I did an internship in Albenga, Italy, teaching English during the summer and fell in love with practically every aspect of my experience, including my short visits to France. I knew it was a MUST to find a way to share this experience with Shem.
Lucky for us (and I say lucky because I am pretty sure it was pure luck that we were able to save enough to make our trip happen, paired with my parents being more than willing to watch our little boy for a couple of weeks) we had the experience of a life time and also made time to check out this wonder school in Bordeaux. We met with the Dean and she was more than helpful with information and showing us around. We felt so good about the whole thing that it seemed a little bazaar, all still very ‘fairy tale-ish’.
I am very close with my parents and mentioned to my dad the crazy idea of Shem getting his masters in France, and true to form he began to interrogate (which usually means he is interested but not ready to reveal his thoughts and opinions). Surprisingly enough, he brought it up a few more times and wanted to learn more of our future plans and goals. He said that he found himself feeling good about the opportunity as well and offered to help make it happen. (If you haven’t noticed, I am a person who driven by ‘feelings’ and make most of my decisions this way. Yes I research and look at every option but in the end the most important part is ‘the feeling’).
Very long story short, through a number of experiences and ‘signs’ that this was the road to travel, we have step by step made it on to an airplane and started a new life here in Bordeaux, France.
I believe it was the second day of our arrival here that both Shem and I began to feel a little overwhelmed. We were sitting at our new place that we will be living in for the duration of our stay and we both had this feeling like, “oh my gosh… this is totally out of our element,” and we were asking each other, “are we doing the right thing?” I guess moving a family to a new country, with a different language, away from everything you know, and for the first time living away from family and friends on top of being 6 months pregnant can make one feel a little worried!
My biggest concern was Tama’s adjustment. I could care less if it was lonely or difficult for me for the most part. A year is such a short time for an adult and I like to think I am a pretty independent person. But being a mother goose, the last thing you want is for your child to struggle in a situation that you chose for them.
In France children start school at a very young age, and being close to 4 years old Tama is expected to attend school here. Most kids here have been attending some sort of schooling, known as “l’Ecole Maternelle,” for a couple of years by this point. Four days a week from 8:30 – 4:30 p.m. would be his schedule. I have read so many differing experiences through books and blogs of parents who have put their child into a foreign language school and I knew that this could be a challenge…. First off, if you know Tama, you know that he is not one to follow someone off a cliff. He is and always has been a cautious and careful child when being exposed to anything new, and anything done on his part comes with much hesitation.
Moving to a new country, attending school (which is something he has never done before, no pre-school or anything) and doing it in another language was scary for me! Did I let Tama see that? No way… we talked up school and life in France so much that he was beyond excited be here. Would this excitement last once he experienced the realities? Who knows… only time will tell… but so far so good…
To my surprise Tama has been such a champ in every aspect. Traveling endless hours on planes, making the change from beach to city lifestyle, adjusting to a 12 hour time difference, being in a school that speaks only French, eating new foods and adapting an overall new life… he has made look easy! What a relief, what a blessing… We really couldn’t have asked for things to work out better for us thus far.
We are in a home that is beyond perfect for us; it is walking distance to everything we need (Shem and Tama’s school, the markets, the parks), my doctor who will be delivering our baby actually lives next door and happens to be one of the best OB/GYNs in Bordeaux, and our neighbors are beyond cool and have gone out of their way to make us feel welcomed and befriended. It is almost mind blowing how natural everyday life is beginning to feel for all of us, and how much we are enjoying our time here. I can only hope and dream that this ‘trend’ lasts! It seems a little too good to be true and I almost feel that it is only deserving that something becomes more challenging. Pray it is not anything to do with the pregnancy… and nothing to do with Tama and his fondness for school… anything but that… I know if only we could pick our trials too right.. but I am just saying…
Anyway, the people are really what make a place special and Bordeaux is a beautiful place for many reasons beyond its natural and architectural beauties. The people are so nice and the pace of life is slow (which is great coming from an Island) and people seem accepting of everything. It really is a special place and I feel so blessed to have this experience.
I can’t wait to share our everything about our time here, and as I mentioned at the top of the post, I plan on touching on subjects such as being pregnant in France, giving birth here, French health care system, why French woman are so chic and slim and their secrets, the food of course, where to visit, the local markets, having a child go to an all French school, French school lunch programs, cultural methods on raising children and newborns, Tama’s experience moving abroad, cultural differences and a whole lot more!
I think this will be very therapeutic for me and hope that you can find some joy or use out if the stories and information you will find in this section! Thanks to everyone out there that has been so supportive and excited for us! It has made this experience all the more wonderful!
Until next week,