17 November 2016

Wendy Hollands - Expat in France

Wendy Hollands - Expat in France

We’ve had the chance to talk to Wendy Hollands, an Australian expat who has moved to France alone. Ms. Hollands who has been living there for ten years, now works as a writer.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I’m from Melbourne, Australia.


Q: What made you move out of Australia?

A: A variety of personal reasons with some wanderlust thrown in.


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

A: I’m in the French Alps, in a small village called Saint Jean de Sixt. I wanted to learn French and ski all the time, so I moved to France.


Q: How long have you been living in France?

A: Around ten years.


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

A: I moved here alone as a single person.


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

A: It’s difficult not to miss family and friends, but I’ve been lucky to rarely feel homesick. I’ve just always stayed in close contact with my loved ones and done my best to cope with the help of those around me during any difficult situations.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: They’re as varied as any neighbourhood, with friendly people, grumpy people, young people, old people and so on. I have made friends with many of them.


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: I don’t consider myself an ‘expat’ as much as an immigrant; I moved cities more than ten times in ten years, so I find it easy to make friends and meet new people. The trick is to smile and say hello to people (and to spend time outside of the house where you have the opportunity to meet new people regularly). I’ve become friends with people who have lived here all their lives and people who have moved here from somewhere else. I have a wide mix of friends.


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

A: It’s been 16 years since I lived in Australia, so I really can’t compare the two. The cost of living was never high on my agenda and I figured the finances would sort themselves out once I was fully settled in. 

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: It varies greatly from €1.50 for a French-style espresso to €3.70 for a white coffee. 

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

A: Around €10. 

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

A: Anywhere from €70 for the small, upcoming ones to €1000 for the Michelin-starred ones. 

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

A: For wine, also varies greatly, but it’s generally pretty cheap in France as there’s such an abundance and choice. The mid-range stuff costs between €7 and €15. I’ve never smoked so I couldn’t tell you the price of cigarettes.


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

A: Bring all documentation requested and expect the appointment to take at least half an hour in filling out the paperwork alone. Be patient!


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

A: Government paperwork in France is really slow. You have to be persistent if you have no news about whatever you’ve applied for: call daily if you have to, or it will never get done.


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

A: The healthcare is fantastic. If you don’t have a Carte Vitale (French healthcare card) it can be expensive, but once you’ve got that, prescriptions are free and plenty of the healthcare costs are reimbursed. Private healthcare is affordable and can be used to cover additional costs that the public system doesn’t cover. My advice is to get the Carte Vitale ASAP!


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

A: I had travel insurance when I moved here, which covered any emergency medical care temporarily. I was without health insurance for years, relying on the public health cover and paying anything extra until I was able to understand how the private system worked in more detail. I was able to secure private health insurance locally after that.


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: I took 10 bags of clothes to the charity shop in Cambridge, England, where I lived before I moved to France, then packed my remaining belongings into my little Golf and drove onto a ferry and into France. If it didn’t fit in, I didn’t take it: it’s much easier to travel light - no mover required, no extra cost, and no lost goodies!


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

A: The biggest challenge moving to France was learning the language, which took much longer than I had expected.


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

A: Positives: French bakeries, amazing snow in winter for skiing/snowboarding, mild summers, proximity to Europe.

Negatives: Shops closed on Sundays and too early in the evenings, little variety of cuisine at restaurants, French paperwork.


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

A: Snow sports and all mountain activities rule here. The only recommendation to anyone moving here is to expect to be active!


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

A: No, none at the moment.


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

A: I don’t really understand this question: tips about living here even though they already are? I guess it would be to be patient and to embrace the French shrug whenever things seem impossible. Things just happen here at a much slower pace.


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

A: Leboncoin.fr is an excellent website for anyone buying or selling goods: basic listings are free, and it’s very popular. I’ve bought and sold everything from teapots to cars. 

My own blog lefrancophoney.com.