1 August 2016

Anna Orecka - Expat in France

Anna Orecka - Expat in France

Anna Orecka is a 29-year-old Software Quality Manager who currently lives in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, a small French village across the Swiss border. Originally from Poland, she moved to France after her husband received a work contract from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Although her husband works in Switzerland, they live in France as it is cheaper and closer to work. Presently, Mrs. Orecka and her husband and son have been living in France for two years, although she lived in France for a year in 2010. She has her own blog, which is a photoblog of her expat life.

Mrs. Orecka said that her most difficult experience as an expat involved learning the language. She said her year of living in France in 2010 helped her prepare for her relocation in 2013, but back then, she didn’t know how to speak French at all. “That was the most difficult thing about moving to new surroundings,” she said. “I was unable to communicate in public offices, shops, with service providers and landlords,” she recalls.

Like Mrs. Orecka, expatriates living in another country where anogher language is spoken may have a hard time handling everyday life. To make the adjustment process easier, expats may want to consider searching for language-learning opportunities available in their host country. There are a number of clubs and associations that can give expats the opportunity to practice the local language, as well as meet new people. Additionally, while Mrs. Orecka never had any negative experiences when dealing with the processing of work permits and health insurance documents, expats who may want some assistance when it comes to paperwork may want to consider availing of professional relocation services which can be a great help to expatriates in their relocation needs.

Find out more about Anna Orecka’s experiences in France in her full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I am from Poland.


Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: I moved with my family after my husband got a contract at world’s most known physics research centre – CERN, Geneva.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I am living now in a small French village called Saint Genis Pouilly just across the Swiss border. We decided to live in a neighbouring France instead of Switzerland, as it’s cheaper, closer to work, and in countryside which we prefer rather than hustle and bustle of Geneva.


Q: How long have you been living in your host country?

A: We’ve been living in France for almost two years now but I also was here for a year in 2010. That one year spent here earlier made me better prepared for our second move in 2013 as we knew what to expect.


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in your host country?

A: Also, when I came here in 2010 I didn’t know French at all. That was the most difficult thing about moving to new surroundings. I was unable to communicate in public offices, shops, with service providers and landlords. I didn’t have that problem in 2013 as I managed to learn French in the time between. 


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in your host country? What was your experience with these?

A: I have a pretty particular experience when it comes to visas, permits and insurance as we are connected to CERN which is a multinational organization and has rules for that of its own. I don’t have to worry about permits and health insurance as it’s all covered by the employee.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: In 2010 I was here alone and now I came with my husband and son. It was easier for me to adjust to an expat life as I already did it in 2010. However, now my husband feels more at ease living in France. He learned a bit of French and loves his work here. I guess it also helps that we both love mountains and coming here from the plains it’s like a paradise to us.


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

A: Actually it was pretty easy to meet new people here. I guess it’s a charm of Geneva that there are so many expats around, all looking for social events and other expats to meet. Geneva is home to United Nations and CERN, neighbouring Lausanne is the headquarters of the Olympic Committee and there are a couple of other international organizations around. Thanks to that loads of people travel to work here, stay at limited time contracts and look for friendships. There are many entities helping in that. Geneva Intern Association, MeetUp groups, Facebook groups, InterNations society... There are get together events every week so as long as you are an outgoing and open-minded person; it’s easy to meet other people here.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: It all depends on one’s interests. I’m not much into partying so I won’t have a lot to say about  that but obviously there are lots of clubbing possibilities in Geneva. For me the best thing to do here is to go out and benefit from mountains and nature. There’s hiking, climbing, mountaineering, paragliding and many others in summer. In winter on the other hand one can ski, go snowshoeing, sledging etc. For other adventure maniacs I recommend white water rafting as the rivers sourcing from mountains can be lots of fun. For real daredevils there’s the 007 Bungee Jump in Locarno at Verzasca dam. You wanna feel like James Bond in Goldeneye? If yes, then that 220m freefall jump is for you. I tried that and it gives a real thrill!


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

A: Cost of living in Switzerland is extremely high as compared to any country. Poland on the other hand is rather cheap for European standards so there’s a real gap between the two. For example coffee is around 4CHF (2CHF in Poland), meal in an inexpensive restaurant is around 40 CHF (15 CHF in Poland), I don’t really go to expensive restaurants in here but I  guess it may make you cry when you see the bill. Rent is by no means the heaviest expense! In Geneva you need to count between 1000-1500 CHF for a studio. In Poland in my city this would be no more than 300 CHF. I wish a teleportation device was discovered and I could live in Poland and work in Geneva!


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

A: When Roger Federer was asked about pros and cons of Switzerland he replied that flag was a big plus. Can’t argue with that but I see way more than that. There are the salaries that are considerably higher than in the rest of Europe. There is an outstanding country infrastructure making your life easier every day. There is a favourable climate and breath-taking nature around. And in the end...there is good wine, cheese and lots of chocolate! When it comes to downsides, it is pretty difficult to find work here.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: It’s a difficult question as I adapt pretty easily to new situations. I guess now the most difficult thing is the uncertainty about my future work situation. At the moment I am on a maternity leave but soon will have to go back to work which might be a challenge.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Of course I do, homesickness is inbuilt in expat life. Fortunately we live in digital times and Skype is a salvation at times. Other ways of bringing my home country closer are: looking for polish shops and cooking polish dishes, inviting polish friends and of course... flying to Poland. Fortunately, I have good flight connections and can visit my homeland frequently.


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

A: I am planning to go back to Poland someday; it’s only a matter of (longer or shorter) time.


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: Enjoy the time here and don’t save money too much!


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about your host country?

A: Yes, I do. I really like Geneva Family Diaries which is a website founded for expat families. It lists many interesting events, places to see, workshops and exhibitions to attend. Worth following if you are here.