Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Expat Experiences: France - Cynthia Caughey

Who are you?

I’m a 51-year old American expat living in Chambery in the French Alps.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved here in 2008 to marry my fiancé, now husband, who is a French citizen. We met when I was vacationing in Provence on a train to Avignon. After a 2.5 year long distance relationship between Chambery and Los Angeles, I moved to France at the age of 49.

Cynthia Caughey
It was a very difficult decision since I left behind a city I loved and lived in for 26 years, dear friends, a thriving consulting business, a lovely home, and a six-figure income. Additionally, I never had an interest in France or spent any time there so I didn’t understand the culture. I had lived in Italy for three years and vacationed there for 20 years so I was oriented towards the Italian culture. Surprisingly, these two cultures are almost the opposite of each other so I had more culture shock than I expected to have.

What challenges did you face during the move?

They have been numerous. Since my industry (nonprofit fundraising and consulting) doesn’t exist in France, I’ve been struggling to find a way to recreate myself professionally. I have a French Alps Tour business (www.french-alps-tours.com), a photo blog (www.france-and-beyond-photoblog.com) and a video diary of my observations and travels at www.american-in-france.com. These are still start-ups without income but you have to start somewhere! Since I work 50 hour weeks, take care of and cook for a family of four, travel to the US for business and personal reasons three times a year, and live in a small city with no affordable French classes, finding the time to find community, to learn French, and to have a social life has been extremely challenging. I have also been amazed at the huge cultural differences between France and America, which are not apparent until you live here. They have added to an interesting marriage as well...

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