Well how those 3 years have flown by. We have moved 3 times! As self employed expats, we are not in the fortunate position to purchase just yet, but for the time being we are more than happy to rent. We have seen from our own rental experiences and from home owners that we know how expensive reparation can be. Expenses that could cripple start up businesses.
What has been important is the internet. We have gone from slow download speed to as much as 16meg and our current abode enjoys just half that. Which is still pretty good. I am online all day so it is important that the internet is fast and reliable. Our service provider is orange.fr who have a helpful English speaking customer line – phew!! We know of people who live in remote rural areas that even dial up is not an option.
The challenges of being self employed in France has never ceased to amaze us. It all seemed relatively easy back in 2012 and there have been a number of changes to what was the simple set up for Auto Entrepreneurs. Even the name has changed – micro entrepreneur. A number of factors have called for change, some would agree for the right reasons, others may not. Either way, every avenue that we need to frequent is in French. There is no help for not being able to communicate in French, no translation service provided by them. So as a self employed expat you have to jump in feet first and learn to swim very fast or get pulled in by the reeds of frustration. As well as knowing how to run a business and do business, you need to be able to understand the nuances of doing it in another country.
Emotionally we were ready for change back in July 2012, months of planning, disassociating oneself from the UK, reading as much about France as possible. That boarding the ferry with a one way ticket was like standing on the edge of a cliff with no real understanding of what we were letting ourselves in for. Although Paul, my husband, had moved to another country as a child, I had no experience of leaving a country for good. I had moved to another county in my early twenties, but the familiar was still within an hours reach: family, your roots. It was all in, get on with it, make it work, no room for failure type of approach for me. I have learned over the last 3 years that we deal with change on a daily basis, it is around us, in us, of us. As humans, we sometimes do not allow for change to catch up in our hearts and souls. We need time and the opportunity to allow reality and fact to seep in to heart and soul, before we can truly accept and acknowledge change. There have been numerous stumbling blocks, and at times it would have been so easy to return to 'home'. But home is France. And I dare say there will be more stumbling blocks, we will just have to get on with it.
We have been fortunate enough to have continuous work. We understand the cyclical patterns of our jobs. People tend to think that you are on one long holiday. This couldn't be further from the truth. Summer is the busiest time for my husband, customers with holiday homes want work done during these months. To recharge our batteries we take long weekends before and after the summer months and travel to different places. Over the last 3 years we have visited the Verdon Gorge, Perpignan, Spain, Paris a couple of times. There is so much to see and do, we would need the rest of our lifetimes to see what we want.
No, we are not fluent in speaking the language, no where near it. We are a working couple who work with English speaking communities offline and online. We have a community of friends who are English speaking. That is not to say we do not have French friends, we do, but they want to speak English. We learn a lot from the letters we receive in the post, we learn a lot from our French friends and learn a lot from our day to day experiences of French life. We are aware of the importance of integrating with our local neighbours and every time we see our neighbours we try out some new sentences, thanks to the help of our local French teacher.
We recently celebrated being in France for 3 years by hosting Commune Wealth Games with friends, family and great customers. Our lovely neighbour who is a French farmer agreed that we could use a plot of space for our guests to park their cars. All in French, and I explained that we had been in France for 3 years. To which he replied you can spend the next 3 years improving your French!
I couldn't agree more! Here's to the next 3 years!