15 September 2016

Muriel Demarcus - Expat in London, England

Muriel Demarcus - Expat in London, England

We’ve had the chance to talk to Muriel Demarcus, 43, a French- British expat who has moved to London with her family. Mrs. Demarcus who has been living there for 14 years, is now a business owner.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.

 

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I grew up in Saint Tropez, in Provence. I had never really travelled before moving to London.

 

Q: What made you move out of France?

A: I used to live in Paris and, when my husband found a job in London, I had two options: change husband or change job. I chose the latter, and the whole family moved to London as a result.

 

Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: We are living in Kensington, in London. We wanted to live as close as possible to where we were working to avoid spending too much time commuting.

 

Q: How long have you been living in England?

A: It’s been 14 years now, and all the family has become British.

 

Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my husband and two children. One was born in Paris, and the other in London. The first few months were difficult for my elder daughter as she couldn’t speak English (she was three years old), but after a few months at her British nursery, she was completely fine.

 

Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I don’t miss home at all, except maybe for small things like la galette des rois (epiphany cake) or other French specialties.

 

Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Well, I am still struggling to understand the British, which is the topic of my blog, FrenchYummyMummy.com, and my book (Le Guide Officiel To Being British)

 

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in England? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: Making friends is easy, especially when you have children, as you will have to get to know other parents to organise play dates etc…It is also common practice to have a few drinks down the pub after a day of work, and making friends is really easy.

 

Q: How does the cost of living in England compared to your home?

A: The main cost is housing in London. Apart from the rents, the cost of living is similar to France. Education doesn’t come cheap if you decide to send your kids to private schools

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: A posh cup of coffee costs £2.35 at Starbucks. It doesn’t come cheap, right?

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: You can get a decent meal for £10

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: In London, the sky is the limit, especially if you order good wines. I would say up to £500 a head.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: For wine, it all depends on the quality you want…I would say that you can get a decent bottle for £7 or £8. As for cigarettes. I have no idea, I might be French but I don’t smoke. Never have, never will.

 

Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in England?

A: Get a recommendation from your boss or your company. It will make the process so much easier!

 

Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Everything can be done online over here, there is no need to queue, which is great. That said, I sometimes worry that important documents might get lost in the post…

 

Q: Would you say that healthcare in England is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Once again, it’s all about knowing where to go. Before you choose a practice or a clinic, ask around.

 

Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or England? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A:  I was lucky to secure an additional health insurance. It was really good because it covered dental too, which can be expensive in London.

 

Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to England? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: As we didn’t know whether we were going to stay a few months or a few years, we put things into storage and got them back little by little. It wasn’t the most effective way!

 

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: It took me some time to find good bread over here. I don’t do slices bread. That said, once you know where to go it gets easier

 

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in England?

A: Where do I start? OK, here we go:

THE BEST:

  1. The coffee culture. There is nothing like the cappuccinos and lattes here, and my first sip in the morning is probably the best time of the day;
  2. The permanent Turner exhibition at the Tate Britain. Guess what: it is completely free! You can turn up whenever you like. Being French, I was taught about the Impressionists, but never about Turner. What a mistake! Turner is a precursor, a genius. For an exhibition like this in Paris, the queue would be one mile long. I used to go every day when we moved here until I realised that I was falling for a dead painter. I am trying to go once a month now. I am still in recovery. He is simply great;
  3. The parks. The list is endless, and you can spend a day in London walking in different parks without taking the Tube or a cab. St James Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Holland Park..;
  4. The fact that I feel thin here (but not in Paris);
  5. The chocolate croissants. Especially when the chocolate is melting inside…;
  6. “Show and tell” at school. My daughters have become very confident, and it is a pleasure to listen to them;
  7. The solidarity between Mums. One day, the school was closed because of a major leak. I had had three phone calls before 8 am to warn me, with babysitting offers. I was amazed. It had never happened in France;
  8. The streets between Smith Square and Westminster school. It feels like travelling back in time. The houses have not changed. You can see the signs showing the entrance of shelters used during WWII on Lord North Street. On Barton Street, the old houses are leaning towards the street, and some of the windows are not straight. I feel like I am going to see a carriage with two horses whenever I walk past it;
  9. Jogging along the Embankment;
  10. Spooks (The TV series). I think that I am addicted to it.

 THE WORST:

  1. Parking in London. It is so complicated that no one understands it. It is all about your resident permit. It can be completely different from one street to the next, and I am not sure whether you can park on a yellow line on Saturdays and Sundays. I am told that it depends (on what?). I have given up and have to pay the odd parking ticket from time to time (£60. What a rip-off! And in France it is just €15!!!);
  2. The sandwiches. It is almost impossible to have a lunch that doesn’t involve a sandwich or a salad here;
  3. The price of a decent education. OMG!
  4. London GPs. Especially when you are used to your family doctor in France. Here, they do you a favour when you finally book an appointment, and you are on your back foot from the start. Someone will have to explain to me of what use GPs exactly are;
  5. Being called darling, sweetie, honey or love by people you don’t know. Weird and not necessarily nice;
  6. The way people look at me when they hear me speak with a French accent. I can assure you that being French is not an illness. It is not contagious, and I don’t understand why apparently it is so sexy. I am here to work, not date;
  7. Porridge: can someone honestly tell me that they like it? Is it just a test that you have to take to become a British citizen? I never understood whether you put salt or sugar in it. That’s how bad it is. I think that it looks like solidified saliva;
  8. The white cream the Brits put in chocolate éclairs. Not nice;
  9. Custard. Not, it is not like Crème Anglaise. It is much worse.

 

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: The options are endless! I like walking in London because you never know what you will discover. London has many different layers; it is simply impossible to get bored here. For instance, if you go for some shopping in Brick Lane you will be amazed at the fantastic graffitis all over the facades. It is simply mind blowing. I ended up spending my whole time taking pictures of all the artworks and almost forgot to shop. Keep your eyes open when you are walking: suddenly, you see a pitted wall, because it was bombed during WW2, or a blue plaque explaining that someone you admire used to live here. Over here, it is all about keeping an open mind! London is also a maze. Wander through the street of Mayfair, and turn in a dark, narrow alley. You will find some of the oldest pubs in England. Relax, have some gin. The time has stopped, you just need to have fun…There is nothing quite like getting lost in London!

 

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: We might go to Australia.

 

Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Be flexible. It’s never going to be like home, but it might be a lot of fun!

 

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about England?

A: Time Out is a great website with all the activities and exhibitions. I use it a lot!