Friday, 4 January 2019
I was late to social media and was following instructions when I hit publish on my first blog (picture above), started a Facebook account and learnt about Instagram. Sceptical, I figured that it was worth a shot as marketing was really the name of the game.
"Look here. How beautiful."
"Wow, that's a big project."
"Oh, I miss the snow."
"Ha! This pig has character."
What? I was interacting ... on social media, and not in a 'flick, click and onto the next' sort of way. I was genuinely interested in the stories that I was looking at. It occurred to me that I knew these people in the photos. I was not a friend, nor was I attempting to become that, but I was connected all around the world.
Curious, I looked back at my own Instagram photos. As far as quality goes; some are ok, some are very average, but the little waves of hello (likes) and the occasional comment always happen. It seems that it actually isn't about the quality anymore, and I like that. Of course, when I post classically beautiful scenes of France, I can count on more interaction from the other side of the screen, but mostly from people that I have never heard from.
The French word for an acquaintance is une connaissance from the verb connaître (to know). That was what sent me to sleep last night; reflecting on the pleasure that I get from knowing my worldly connaissances and receiving frequent snap-shots, updates if you like, of what is happening in their worlds.
Friends, in an old-fashioned pen-pal sort of way. So nice.
For more of our French story - Kindle or print - click here But you are in France, Madame
Friday, 7 December 2018
I had a lot of fun doing this interview with Lise. Most of my work these days is in English, but Lise (Let's Speak French) teaches French and so we decided to do the interview in French as an extra bit of practice for her students. If you have the time, I'd love you to have a listen. For those who are just starting out learning French, there is also a transcript of our conversation to use as a guide.
Tuesday, 4 December 2018
A bit of publicity...If you are in Melbourne and thinking of heading to the Alliance Française Christmas market (51 Grey St, St Kilda) on Saturday 15 Dec, I will be in the basement at 14h30 giving a talk on our French life, which led to the writing of my book and the purchase of our French home. Perhaps you are thinking of something similar? Maybe I will see you there? I will leave plenty of time for questions.
It is a free talk, but you do need to book. Link here.
PS Copies will be available for sale on the day, but if you would like to purchase beforehand, hop over to Amazon, where ‘But you are in France, Madame’ can be purchased as Kindle or print options. Perhaps one for a Francophile friend, one for you?
Sunday, 25 November 2018
She had long blond hair, skied black slopes, spoke French (well, she was French) and wore a light purple lipstick, which coordinated rather well with her lavender Peugeot. I, on the other hand, had short hair, an increasingly ordinary figure as my first unrestrained months of French eating stretched out along with my waistline, spoke enough French to get myself into linguistic trouble and was a complete novice on the ski fields. The tag-along. She was good about including me, even though I had been foisted on her by her teacher step-father who had had no ready accommodation solution for an overwhelmed Australian English-teaching assistant, so sent me to live with her.
Not unkindly, I think, and when her newest conquest was not around, she referred to me as her concubine. She smoked like a chimney, partied hard, changed jobs like I changed travellers’ cheques (frequently and until there were no more) and courted trouble. Her apartment was in the grounds of the school where I was teaching in Grenoble, so when she suggested that I accompany her and some friends down the road to Lyon for the night-to the ‘Fête des Illuminations’, she told me-I agreed.
Night fell quickly at that time of the year and, for early December, it was cold but there was no snow. My pre-departure preparations included reaching for my insufficiently warm and nondescript jacket and checking that I had a few survival francs on me. Theirs, was to fill the boot with bags of cheap glow sticks that, presumably, they had bought earlier in the afternoon. This was decades before Instagram, mobile phones and Facebook, so there was no starter selfie to be shared, liked and commented upon, although the event itself would have been excellent fodder for such platforms. Lyon was prettily done-up with strings of lights, windowsills jammed with candles, a few simple light projections on a couple of public buildings and a jovial, festive atmosphere.
I had been briefed on the forward journey. We were there to make money; to sell our sticks to the highest bidder as we infiltrated the street crowds, and we garnered attention by wearing them ourselves in our hair, around our neck and on our wrists. Unsurprisingly, with my sexy purple-parka-clad flatmate in the lead, we were most successful.
I have not been back since. To Lyon, yes, but not for the light festival. It has become a bit of a monster and, from what I understand, requires an excess of patience and a lack of claustrophobia as one becomes one with the masses surging through the streets, experiencing the light. I’d like to go but wonder if I would be downcast at the differences, both in me and my experience.
It is, though, the season to be jolly, so waving away such errant thoughts, I will share a list of all the possible Christmas magic in my region as compiled by Taste of Savoie.
Two for three francs anyone?
PS If you hop over to Amazon, copies of ‘But you are in France, Madame’ can be purchased as Kindle or print options. Perhaps one for a Francophile friend, one for you? It sure would help light up my Christmas :)
Sunday, 18 November 2018
So far, in my 'Australians in France' series, we have met Jodie, who lived for six months in our old village of Menthon; Tahnee who told us about her family's year in Paris; Meredith, who spent several years in Aix-en-Provence with her husband and boys, and most recently Fiona and family who are still living in Annecy. Today, it is Annette's turn to tell you about her France.
Once again, ours is an 'Internet dating' success story! Through social media, we have discovered our mutual French interest and, due to the proximity of our Australian homes, we have been able to catch up and chat in person. Coincidentally, Annette's three children are almost the exact ages of mine and so, when we divert from our French stories, there is no chance of us running out of things to say.
Before I hand over to Annette, let me answer 'why'? Why am I so keen to share these 'Australians in France' stories? After publishing 'But you are in France, Madame', I was contacted frequently by people who were testing out the idea/voicing their dreams of spending some time in France and wanted to use me as a sounding board. As a result, it made sense to share as many stories as I could: to demonstrate that there is no 'right' way to do it, that it IS possible and to give some practical hints on the steps to take. If you would like to share your story, or ask questions, please don't hesitate to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org). And now, over to Annette...
Thanks so much for chatting with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about your family and your fascination with France.
My family is made up of three children (now aged 14, 19 and 21), my husband and I, and we live in Newcastle, Australia. My fascination for France is hard to describe actually. I did not learn French at school or had never set foot in France, but somehow knew that I would feel complete and at my most happiest buying a house and living in France – even if only part-time.
Reading books of others who had moved to France and magazines that featured life in France fueled my passion to buy and move there. My children have become fascinated with France, but at the beginning in 2009 it was really not on their radar and they gave it no thought. Their ages at the time of our home purchase were 6, 11 and 13 so they just enjoyed their holiday trips whilst absorbing the culture and experiences as kids do so well.
You ended up buying a house in France. What prompted this decision and why did you choose ‘your’ area in France?
Buying a house in France made perfect sense to me. How else can you live like a local experiencing the day-to-day and do this regularly if you don’t buy a home? The hardest thing about buying a house in France I believe is having faith in your ability to tackle the purchase process ie believing it could be done; and not listening to others who might want to ‘protect’ you from the unknown and prevent you from making a regrettable decision.
We chose our area because of a number of reasons. Briefly, its proximity to Paris and the UK together with cross channel ferries, the rugged coastline with its beaches and the lush countryside and its famous seafood and rich dairy products. As far as choosing our specific village, we looked for a thriving school, albeit a small primary one and a nearby tabac to supply essentials like baguettes, ham, wine and cheese. We knew a typical tabac is also a hub for communal activities.
Can you briefly outline how one goes about purchasing a property in France?
Buying a property overseas is a big undertaking so once you are sure you want to follow that path I would suggest research, more research, and then a methodical approach.
Basically, the steps involved in purchasing in France are similar to elsewhere. These steps involve viewing the property, making all necessary enquiries, putting forward an offer, possible negotiation on price and hopefully agreement on the sale price, inclusions and any other conditions. Further legal enquiries are then made, an interim understanding is entered into and finance arrangements settled in readiness for the settlement date of the property when keys are handed over.
Buying in France may involve an international mortgage, so you will need the assistance of mortgage brokers, have to open an account with a French financial institution and work with a currency trader. You will need the services of a Notaire who will act as your legal representative and if you do not speak fluent French and understand legal jargon then an interpreter will be essential.
What would you say to other Australian families who dream of buying their own special place in France?
For me, it was an easy decision to make. I knew deep in my heart it was the right thing to do for us (this made all the challenges easier to work through) and that I never wanted to regret not taking the chance on living my life to its fullest. I was prepared to accept whatever the decision threw at us along the way.
If you feel the same way, then I say go full steam ahead … it has been one of the best decisions of my life and I cannot imagine living any other way.
|Looking across the farms towards the village of Guingamp|
How have you adapted to your village life and the village life to you?
We have experienced warm friendship from our neighbours and farmers from further afield, however due to our lack of French have come unstuck when trying to participate in village activities. We’ve got the date or venue wrong and ended up missing out on the activity.
We know we’re often described as ‘those crazy Australians’ because we do things differently, like cook on our BBQ under an umbrella while it snows. All in all, the villagers are glad we are part of their community and love their country enough to travel all the way from ‘Down Under’ to be a part of their lives.
Has the language been an issue for you all?
No, the huge lack of language has not prevented us from renovating the attic, preparing a concrete slab, building a garage, getting our chimney repaired after it caught fire nor getting urgent medical help when we needed it.
I try to communicate with the minimal words I know, gesticulate or draw pictures. In the end it works, mostly!
When you are not in France, you try to keep up with all things French in Australia. Can you tell us about this?
Being a serious Francophile, my life in Australia naturally revolves around attending French festivals like Bastille Day, the French Film Festival, the Paris to Provence festival, and eating at French cafes and bistros around Australia.
I also read a lot of memoirs set in France, cook French cuisine at home, and stay connected with other Francophiles both on social media and at events. Book launches, public speaking and now, my French lessons keep me busy.
I also love sharing my story and writing about France on my blog A French Collection which keeps my passion fully fueled until I jump on a plane again heading to ‘my happy place’.
Annette, the creator and editor of A French Collection, lives with her family between their homes in France and Australia. She has been featured in French Property News magazine and on ACB National Radio. You’ll often find her reading and enjoying one too many croissants and strong French cheese. Find her on and