3 January 2018

Emma Calin - Expat in France

Emma Calin - Expat in France

We’ve had the chance to talk to Emma Calin, 55, a British expat who has moved to France with her partner. Mrs Calin, who has been living there for seven years, now works as an author. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?
A: England


Q: What made you move out of UK?
A: Love of France and to some extent climate


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


Q: How long have you been living in France?
A: Seven years


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: Living with my partner and with holidaying family members.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: Occasionally I miss something about the UK, but it would only be something trivial like a saveloy sausage.


Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: They are our friends and neighbours. We will always be "foreign" because of grammar errors or odd hours of eating lunch etc. The French are very proud of their Frenchness, and we do not try to diminish their sense of uniqueness by "stealing their image". They regard us with a bemused curiosity yet treat us very much as friends.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in France? How did you manage to find a social circle there?
A: It was easy to make friends by just going for it. We invited the neighbourhood to a curry party. The French are a bit like the English in the sense that they often do not know their neighbours that well. They have etiquettes that control their contacts and level of familiarity. As foreigners, we just bulldoze the barriers, and to some extent, we are the common meeting ground of a community that otherwise would not have known each other. We hold various fests to showcase British cheeses or Christmas desserts and sherry. There are ex pats in the area, and we invite them to things but do not join any ex pat groups. I think "ex-patting" can be a very negative step if you want to gain the most from the community.


Q: How does the cost of living in France compare to your home?

Q: How much is a cup of coffee?
A: 2 Euros

Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: 15 Euros

Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?
A: 35 Euros plus wine etc.

Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?
A: In a supermarket, a very acceptable wine is 3 Euros, but one can pay an infinity if one has such tastes. I do not smoke, but I think cigarettes are enormously expensive – about 10 Euros


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in France?
A: I have no general experience but used Credit Agricole Britline.https://www.britline.com/ They operate in English and French and were very helpful. They have always provided a good efficient service.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: France is far more bureaucratic and "paper" driven than the UK. I've always found it helpful to get to see the officials in the flesh. Visas and work permits may apply if Brexit goes bad!


Q: Would you say that healthcare in France is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: Brilliant healthcare. The hospital at Saintes, Charente Maritime is world class.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in UK or France? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?
A: I'm no expert. It depends on your general health and age.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to France? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?
A: We moved ourselves over a long period. I bought a big trailer and then sold it in France. I remember it is hard exhausting work!


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: I've not had problems, to be honest. We had the house before we moved and had made friends in the area. Both of us were already fluent French speakers and had worked in France. The French are difficult to know at first, and not everyone likes foreigners. Our town voted Front National, yet we have friends who share that enthusiasm but show us no antagonism.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in France?
A: The biggest positive is climate and environment. When I come back to the UK, it seems like an impatient crowded scramble with choked roads.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A: The river Charente is beautiful. Charente is agricultural and definitely not touristique. We cycle on country roads and make long kayak trips on the river. My advice is to love calm and genuine French life.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: Not as such. Let's see how Brexit leaves us......


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?
A: Learn some French and engage with the natives. Once they know you, they will become good friends. They will tell you that France is the most wonderful nation with the most wonderful language. Do not seek conversations about Napoleon.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about France?
A: No.