Background information, such as how and why you became an expat
I had already lived an expat life as a child and could never quite shake off the urge to travel and experience life in another country and culture. I also loved studying languages at school, French in particular and wanted to pursue my passion for the language by moving to France.
It wasn’t until later as an adult whilst working and living in London that I decided with my partner to up and leave on a new adventure. I had taken French classes at my work place and the teacher advised me to move to Toulouse, although I knew nothing of the city. We actually moved to Paris for a couple of months, only to return a little disappointed as it was very similar to the London lifestyle we were trying to escape.
It was then a couple of years later and after a couple of holidays to the area that we decided to move to Toulouse.
The transition between countries
I did as much research as I could on Toulouse before moving here and we came for a short visit to find an apartment ahead of our move. We were lucky to find something fairly quickly and easily, although that’s not always the case. We also joined a local organisation who helps newcomers to the city, called AVF. We attended a few of their events, but we really went out and explored the city and met lots of people this way. The transition wasn’t too difficult and really I have some of my fondest memories from that period.
What do you miss most?
At first I didn’t really miss anything back in the UK. I was happy to have fantastic weather, great food, new places to explore and a more relaxed lifestyle. However, after a fairly long honeymoon period I started to miss family and old friends a lot more. I even started to miss food that I wasn’t even bothered about before like bacon, peanut butter or fresh cream doughnuts! Not being fluent in the language was also an obstacle to overcome in the beginning, although I’ve met plenty of French people who do speak English, if only a little. I started organising a French/English language exchange, so I could improve my French conversation skills and help others who want to improve their English, which has really helped and has been a great way to make new friends too.
How things are different from your original country?
The first differences that I really noticed were you couldn’t get things done as quickly or as easily as I was used to in London. I was also used to a timetable where lunch at 2pm or a trip to the shops on a Sunday was normal. Here, you’ll find it hard to find a table for lunch after 1:30pm and the only places open on Sunday are the food markets and only a handful of restaurants. It becomes the norm after a while and actually I prefer it this way.
The lifestyle here is a lot more laid back and the pace is slower. Even though Toulouse is a big city it feels more like a big village. The Toulousains are very welcoming, which has made it easier to integrate and there is a big international community here, so there’s many interesting people to meet and connect with.
Would you ever return back to your original country?
I’m quite happy to stay put here for now. I got married here and had my two children here, so I feel fairly settled.