Everyone makes assumptions and most of the time they’re harmless even if they are majorly off base. But you know what they say when you assume… Here are some things people have assumed about me over the years after moving abroad and I’m setting the record straight.
Assumptions people have made about me and others who live abroad
It’s only normal to assume things about people we come across in real life and online. We piece together the limited info we have about a person and then come to our own conclusions. We base these conclusions on our own biases and what they choose to show us about themselves. Most of the time it’s harmless, but are our assumptions on point or do we get it wrong?
Here are some of the things people have assumed about me over the years (and others like me who live abroad). They’ve either brought it up in conversation face to face, in blog or social media comments, or via email. These top 7 are the ones I’ve heard the most. And they’re wrong!
1. That I don’t work or that Oui In France is my job
I’ve always worked since moving to France and Oui In France and related endeavors have always been a hobby of mine, not a reliable source of income. I try to run my site professionally and post regularly. I do have advertising on my blog along with the occasional sponsored post and a shop, but that small amount of revenue is used to pay operating and equipment costs and doesn’t net me very much at the end of the day. I do this Oui In France thing in my spare time because I love it, plain and simple. I think that when your hobby becomes your job, the amount of pressure you put on yourself increases exponentially and the thing you used to love loses some of its luster. When your bills depend on it, hobbies get really serious and less fun and doing this as my full-time job is not a goal of mine.
Those I meet locally for sure don’t think I work… because they’ve told me as much. Sometimes my day job has me working quite early or late with those in the USA, so my neighbors have assumed I don’t work because I’m out walking the dog midday. Oui in France and my job don’t have any crossover so it’s not a focus of this site. People have assumed I don’t work because I don’t explicitly talk about it. But yes, I do work and try to maintain this site, my YouTube, etc. in my downtime. As long as it continues to push me and inspire me, I’ll keep at it, so thanks for sticking around over the years.
Above all, everyone needs to do what makes them feel whole, secure, and like they have a purpose. There’s no one right way to go about blogging or working or living abroad. For me, this is the balance that works: A job and a hobby I’m passionate about.
2. That I must be rich (or married rich) if I was able to move to France
No way! I admit that when I moved to France, I had several months’ worth of salary from my job back in NYC saved up so I’d be able to cover expenses as I got settled, but I’m not wealthy by any means. No trust fund here! I don’t think you need to have a ton of cash to move to France, but it depends on your lifestyle and visa requirements.
That said, a few things did work in my favor and I’m not going to gloss over them. One, I moved alone and didn’t have typical moving expenses like paying for a container on a ship because I came with just 2 suitcases. That’s all I needed and it was my choice to pack light and save money. Two, I moved into Tom’s apartment with him so I didn’t need to furnish or rent my own place and incur the costs that come along with that. And he’s not rich either, FYI. Tom’s a fonctionnaire. Three, as the spouse of a French citizen, I had the right to work from day 1.
France isn’t a cheap place to live, but certain aspects of life are more affordable. For example, healthcare costs are much more manageable so no one is going to go bankrupt from medical debt. And university tuition. And wine and cheese. You know, the important stuff.
3. That I speak French perfectly
As I explained in this post about how long it takes to learn French, language learning is a never-ending process. You don’t arrive with basic language skills and then all of a sudden wake up a year later and speak flawlessly without an accent. You have to work at it and I can’t stress that enough. I’ll always be learning French and will always have an accent. It’s cool. I’m OK with it. Mistakes are normal. Feeling like a fish out of water every now and again is normal. I speak French just fine but I don’t know every tense, conjugation, expression, and word under the sun. Far from it! My motivation to learn comes and goes. And it probably doesn’t help that Tom and I speak English at home. Old habits are hard to break and Charli’s post explains the English at home thing really well here.
4. That life is a constant vacation and adventure
There’s a difference between living permanently in France and coming to France for an extended vacation for a set period of time or retiring here. Many people think life abroad is a constant adventure of gallivanting to far-off lands and taking advantage of everything the country has to offer every single minute of every day. Maybe it is for people who come with the intention of traveling nonstop, but there are also people living a normal existence, albeit in a different language and culture.
Yes, I try to enjoy my life and go on vacation and see the country, but I also work, pay my mortgage, grocery shop and do all the other mundane things you do wherever you live. There’s a misconception that all of life’s problems disappear just because you live in France or that things are amazing all the time solely because of the fact you live abroad. That’s just not real life and things can get hard anywhere.
5. That I do “French” things all the time like go to the market daily, have 5-course dinners, etc.
Not all French people shop exclusively at the farmers’ market, eat 5-course meals made from scratch every night, buy cheese from the fromager, etc. The media portrays French people as being a uniform group of people but they’re quite diverse. Stereotypical French things don’t apply to everyone across the board. As a foreigner here, they don’t apply to me either. I buy a fresh baguette maybe a few times a month and do the majority of my grocery shopping at a supermarket. Of course I take advantage of all the wonderful aspects of French culture, and more specifically food culture, but I’m not living like someone in a movie in my everyday life.
(P.S. I always feel weird having to mention that I don’t live a fairy tale life, but I get emails weekly, or see comments on FB, from people romanticizing life in France and it’s just not real life for most people. Vacations are magical, yes, but I can’t say it enough — regular life in France is just regular life. With some tasty perks, interesting stories and experiences, and major positives that I’ll be forever grateful for, but let’s not confuse real life with vacation. ;-))
6. That I’m a French citizen
I’m a permanent resident and have the equivalent of a green card, so I can live and work in France indefinitely as the spouse of a French citizen. I’m not a French citizen and becoming one isn’t an automatic process. After 4 years of marriage, though, I got the right to apply for citizenship, but I just haven’t done the paperwork to move that forward and I probably won’t anytime soon. The only thing it would change for me in my day-to-day life is it would give me the right to vote and that’s not a huge priority for me at the moment. The citizenship process is long and expensive and it’s just not something I’m looking to pursue now. But I will at some point… because why not?
7. That I didn’t like living in the USA and that I’d never move back
I’m American and feel American, but my life is in France now (even if I don’t feel French). I always enjoy myself when I’m back visiting the USA, as does Tom, and I’m so fortunate I’m able to go back regularly. I love my country and my friends and family there (not the current administration, though!). America will always be home and I’ll never shut the door on moving back there, but it’s not the plan anytime soon. I’m not in France because I hate the USA. I’m in France because I married a French guy, because I wanted the challenge and the new experience, and quite simply, because it was easier for me to move here after we got married than for Tom to move to the USA…. and then I just stayed! So far so good. 😉
What do people get wrong about you and your life?