I was recently invited to write a guest post on a fellow blogger’s website, and as I was answering her questions I realized that I’d never shared much of this information on my own blog. I’ve decided to post it here, exactly as it will appear on her blog, and I’ll share the link once she publishes it.
Question #1: A little about yourself, where you are living now, what you do now, children etc..
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jennifer, and I’m a mother of three and wife of one. I’m originally from Louisiana, way down south in Cajun Country. My whole family still lives there. My parents have told me on numerous occasions that they don’t know how I turned out the way I did because I’m so different than my brother and sister. So far I’m the only one to have been bitten by the travel bug, but that may change because we have decided to uproot the family and move to France one month from now. My sister and cousin from Texas used to tell me I was adopted, and that was why there were no pictures of me as a baby at my Granny’s house, but I know they were teasing and I have my mom’s skinny legs and freckles to prove it.
Question #2: Where are you from originally?
I’ve been living in St. Louis, Missouri ever since I came up here seventeen years ago for graduate school to study French literature. It was only a year and a half later that I met my Parisian husband, François-René. People love to ask me if we met while I was studying in Paris, but I never studied there! We met by chance in a 1997-style Internet chat room, way before the days of Match.com. I was there to practice my French, and he was there to practice his English. One year, many transatlantic flights, and many dollars spent on long distance phone calls later, we were married and off to live in France for a year while waiting on his Green Card to come through.
At that time, back in 1998, we decided that even though he was from Paris we would settle down in the South of France. We moved to Béziers in the Languedoc-Roussillon region where his sister and her family were living. We stayed there for one year, and decided to move back to St. Louis so that I could finish up my MA in French. We told ourselves that we would move back when I’d completed my degree. Now here we are 14 years later, still in St. Louis. I’ve been teaching high school French all this time, and to an amazing bunch of young men!
François started out in the corporate world since he’d studied business administration, but after ten years of that he decided to make a career change. He went to work as a teacher in a French immersion school in the city. We have enjoyed every minute of living here, and it’s a wonderful place to raise a family, but that’s no reason for us to feel stuck. And a year and a half ago we started to feel stuck. That’s when we decided to sell the house and move back to France.
Question #3: When are you moving to France and with whom?
Before we had come to a complete decision, we did ask our children how they would feel about it. At this point it is important for me to say that being teachers, we’ve been able to spend two months in France every summer for the last 14 years. Our children are all completely bilingual with no trace of an accent, because we’ve only spoken French with them since they were born. Compared to our American friends, we lead a very “French” lifestyle already in terms of every day family life. We have three children, but only two still at home. Our eldest is now 22, and though he plans to eventually come to France to study the culinary arts, he will stay here for now. We also have a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. They are very excited about moving to France, and naturally a bit sad to leave behind their school and little friends. We will be moving back to Béziers, where François-René’s sister and her family still live. The kids will go to the same school where our older son went when he was in first grade. We will live fifteen minutes from the Mediterranean coast and one hour from the Spanish border and the Pyrenees.
Question #4: Where are you going to move? Why did you choose that area?
While considering where to move in France, at least for now, there are only two real options. There’s Paris, where Grandma and Tante Guénaëlle still live, and then there’s Béziers. We want to be near the family (a luxury we’ve never known), and honestly, choosing between hectic city life and the good weather and serenity of the South, it’s not a difficult decision to make. All said and done, it took us a year to get our house on the market and sell it. For now, we are planning to rent in Béziers. I’m kind of hoping for an affordable little house, or “villa” as they call them, but we’ll see what we can find. We won’t be in a huge rush to find something because it will take our container up to two months to arrive. In the meantime we can stay with the family in July, and in August they’re going on vacation so we will house sit. We usually stay with them for about six weeks every summer anyway. Plus they live in a house surrounded by vineyards with horses and a swimming pool. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and all the more so because they are 100% adorable and we don’t seem to get on their nerves too much.
Question #5: Why are you moving to France?
We have not decided to move to France for an awesome job offer, nor have we decided to move there because we’re independently wealthy people. Why have we decided to move to France? We are schoolteachers. We work hard and want to enjoy our lives as much as possible. We want the very best for our children. I’m sure that turning 40 had a lot to do with our decision to move to France, and why not? I don’t want to wait until I’m retired to live the good life. St. Louis has been great, and so will be France. I’m looking forward to the temperate summers and winters. I know it gets hot there in the summer, but you don’t know hot until you’ve lived in hot and humid Louisiana and St. Louis. I’m also looking forward to learning how to slow down. Relax. Take a load off. Enjoy life.
I’m looking forward to summers at the beach and winters in the mountains without having to spend an absolute fortune like we would have to here in the States. I’m looking forward to not having to worry about the cost of health care. And what about the food, the wine, and yes…the French people! I’ve found the people we’ve met in the South of France to be very genuine and caring people. I’m also very much looking forward to raising our children with a strong sense of “politesse” that is becoming harder and harder to find in the US. We’re doing our best, and they’re very polite and sweet, but I can remember how much easier it was (when my eldest was a little boy in France) when it wasn’t considered an abnormality for children to be polite. It was the norm.
Question #6: What will you do when you arrive in France?
Upon arriving in France, I will be working for 5 weeks in Montpellier as Summer Program Dean for Oxbridge’s Académie de France. It’s a summer French immersion program for teenagers from around the world. Though I’ll be living on campus during that time, it’s only about a half an hour away from Béziers, and that’s where my husband and kids will be. They can come to see me, and I also will have one day off every week. I’m very excited about this position, as I usually spend a month every summer traveling around Europe with my students from St. Louis. I am also hoping to make some good connections.
After that first month I will return to Béziers with my family, and we will await our container while searching for a house or apartment to rent. From that point on, all we will need is a strong Internet connection, a willingness to work hard, and a bit of good luck to launch our online language academy. I’ve been working very hard for the last nine months or so to get it up and going. I will teach English and French via Skype (I’ve already started), together we will create podcasts, videos, free French and English lessons, we’ll maintain several language related blogs, websites, and Facebook pages, and continue to expand my YouTube channel while attempting to make a living from it all. Aside from that, we’ll be spending our time living out a dream.
Question #7: Have you a blog? Facebook “Like” pages?
I have a personal blog, C’est la Vie! and it’s all about our original plan to move to France and the steps we’ve been taking to get there. Once we’re in France, I plan to blog about daily life in the Languedoc. I also have a blog to help people learn to speak French, Learn French With Jennifer, and one to help French speakers learn to speak English, Apprendre l’Anglais Avec Jennifer. In addition, I have a commercial website that I’m working on (it’s not 100% complete) to promote the Skype lessons that I mentioned, and it’s called Love Learning Languages. Anyone who is interested can easily access my Facebook pages, Living in Languedoc , Love Learning French , and Love Learning English. In case that’s not enough, I also have a YouTube channel to which I upload videos to learn French on a daily basis.
Thank you so much for inviting me to write a guest post on your blog. I wish you all the best in your return to Ireland, and hope that you will keep nothing but fond memories of your 11 years spent in France. I dream to one day go to Ireland, the homeland of my ancestors.