Yvonne writes: “Why in the world did you move away from the United States?” is a question that I’m asked quite often. People automatically assume that the reason my family is living abroad is that my husband is serving in the American military, but he’s not… in fact, he’s not even an American citizen. My husband and I had our own personal reasons for moving abroad, so I thought I’d share them here with our readers so that you’d understand why we decided to go for it.
1. To learn a foreign language
In the United States, learning a foreign language is not a priority. It is something you might start to do in high school; some people even wait to do so until they are forced to while attending college! My husband and I have always enjoyed learning foreign languages and we wanted our children to start experiencing life in a foreign language while they were young enough to gain native or near-native accents. We also wanted to improve our own language skills. Living in France has provided us these opportunities – our children attend school taught in French during the day, and we have ample opportunities to practice speaking French while out and about in public.
2. To learn about different cultures
As with learning foreign languages, my husband and I also love learning about different cultures and their histories. We wanted our children to grow up understanding about more than a single culture so that they would have open minds and see how different things can be depending on where in the world you’re located.
3. To experience change
Often, while living in the United States, I felt that while I was living life, I wasn’t truly living life. A year would pass, and then another year would pass… and I was starting to feel that I wasn’t living my life to its fullest. I needed to mix things up a bit in order to get out of the rut I was in! Don’t get me wrong, I realize that many people love and rely on stability… but I personally like a little chaos in my life (albeit not too much chaos)!
4. To slow down life
Life in the USA isn’t as speedy as it can be in some countries, but it is definitely more fast-paced than where we live now, in the French countryside. A lot of “keeping up with the Joneses” goes on in the States, and I was starting to get tired of that. I feel that when you pick up and move you have an opportunity to start things afresh. True, you can recharge your life no matter where you are, but I find it easier to do when you relocate to a new place, with a new house, new friends… and yes, new food!
5. For a love of Europe
I’ve always loved Europe! As far back as I can remember, I recall dreaming about wearing wooden shoes and gazing at windmills in Holland, eating crusty baguettes in France, and climbing tall mountains in Switzerland. I was lucky enough to travel Europe quite often during my twenties and I even lived and taught English as a foreign language in Hungary for a year. As a family during the mid-2000s we lived in Clermont-Ferrand, France for six months and in Dublin, Ireland for eight… but this time, I wanted to commit to something more permanent.
Finally, after constantly saying, “one day we will move back to Europe!” We actually did! We moved to France in January of 2011 and have since embraced the lifestyle changes we have experienced. Moving abroad is not for the faint of heart as life abroad is not nearly as convienent as it is in the USA or in Canada, but there are so many experiences that life abroad can offer. My children are now near-fluent in French and our life has slowed down considerably. We get to travel around Europe during French school holidays, and once again I am embracing life the way I did in my twenties!
That is so awesome! My grandmother immigrated from France to the US in 1964, so I still have a lot of family over there. I’ve been to Europe three times, and I totally understand why you would love it so much. Congrats to you for having the courage to pick up and move!! =)
Thanks so much for your comment Heather. That is neat that you still have family here in France. My great-grandmother emigrated from here, but I have no idea where our family is located.
I have to admit it was a bit difficult at first, but after adapting to the changes (like stores closing at 7:30pm and no stores being open on Sundays), we really do love it here!
I would LOVE to do this for the same reasons! But how did you do it?? What are the first steps? I’ve looked into it a lot and it seems pretty complex…
Hi Kristie, thanks for asking!
The hardest part, in my opinion, is figuring out what sort of work you will do when you are there, and who will hire you. As such, if you have a range of different places you’d consider moving to (France, Spain, Germany, etc.) you can search for jobs in those different areas. In my experience the easiest way to get a job abroad is to seek a position at a company based where you are from (so for example, if you’re American, you might look for employment at an American company located in another country).
Once you’ve got that done, you pretty much “wing it” until you’re there! Figuring out what to do with all the stuff you’ve accumulated at home (we know how this is, believe us), figuring out where your kids are going to go to school (and I recommend putting them in a school with the locals, so they can really broaden their minds), and figuring out where you’re going to live (this is tough to figure out when abroad – we found ourselves a temporary place in Versailles so that while we were living there we could look for a place to live for the long term in Paris).
I’ll send you an email to see if you have any further questions. I do think it is a great opportunity for your family. Good luck!
Hey! I know this is an older post, so hopefully you will still see this! I’m so inspired by your story. I lived in France during college and haven’t been back for years. I miss Europe so much and keep thinking I will move back but it just hasn’t happened yet–the process feels so daunting! I have 2 small children now and really want them to learn French which is so hard here in the US. I wanted to ask, how do you feel living in France with all the threats of terrorism? Also, would it be much harder to move to France now given all the immigration from the Middle East? My heart goes out to the French and all the other countries dealing with all the upheaval… Just wanted to get your thoughts. Thanks!
Thank you so much Grace – I really appreciate your commenting! It sounds like you had a wonderful time living in France during your college years.
Having our children learn French was one of our principal reasons for going to France. And it really worked – having them attend a French public school was a great decision. Once you return to North America, the language does tend to fade over time, but if they were to become immersed in it again, I have heard that it would come right back.
Regarding the threats of terrorism, that is a hard one. Even in the United States there is always the chance that you will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is tough to decide what the right path is – I wish I had a good answer for that one.
Meanwhile, I was able to live in France due to having a British passport, so I do not know how difficult it would be for someone without European citizenship to move to France. I would recommend asking at your local Alliance Française chapter. The people there might have information about living and working in France. You might also try the French embassy?
I hope this helps – best of luck to you – I really do think that moving your family abroad is a terrific experience.