We have reached the end of our first year. It is a time to take stock of what we have experienced. It has gone extremely quickly and when I look back at the things we have gone through I am really impressed at my family’s approach and determination. Those early days were hugely difficult, especially for the children, yet they took every day as it came and faced each new one with courage and determination! If I had known the hoops we would jump through and the length of time it would take for the children to learn the language, would I do it again? Probably not! I feel their pain keenly! However when I watch Rory today with a friend round for the day, chatting in french, explaining the wii controls, and later mucking around at the swimming pool, I feel hugely proud of his achievement. He has opened up future prospects for himself in this competative world. For the others, they are only a few months away. We are getting closer and closer to ditching Amazon.fr english section books, and starting to read french novels. It can only get easier!
The horrible truth is that, from originally being the best french speaker (with the exception of Harry) I am sliding down the scale; Rory is better than me with a great accent and Anabel closing in on me – and demonstrating her ability only yesterday by correcting my translation of the optician on a recent visit. Soon they’ll have left me all behind!
My regrets for the year are that I didn’t have a better level of french at the outset, and that I didn’t make more effort to immerse myself by watching french tv instead of english; Whilst I can chat more than the kids, they can understand far more than me – the real result of total immersion in class (or in the office for Harry). However getting a job, no matter how inferior was definitely the right move for me as it forced me, not that I really needed forcing, out into society and into all sorts of unplanned conversations! My other regrets are not having been able to have the traditional “maison ancienne” and vegetable patch; let alone the time to discover the markets and brocantes of the region.
We have benefitted hugely from being able to lunch en-famille, and the school/work/home proximity. But the children would have benefitted from lunching at school. Our biggest restriction has been finance. We underestimated the cost of living and it would have been impossible to have paid for school lunches daily for the children at 23 euros/day. Paying rent in France and the mortgage in the UK for 6 months nearly wiped us out.
The french community have been excellent, inclusive and welcoming, and also hugely supportive of our attitude to total immersion. We are a rarity here, and have met only two english speaking families in the year; The second family only in the last week. This has opened up oportunities for teaching English, which I will look at as next term starts.
The French attitude to life is more complex than most British would probably believe. The gaullic shrug is less prevelent than one might think, especially when you have just lit a bonfire in the garden on a saturday afternoon! It will not be long before a neighbour has called out the police to put you straight. Shops are closed on sundays, which takes some remembering after 10 years of buying milk on a sunday afternoon ready for the new week! Planning and preparation are essential; and after a year I am still not used to being unable to get “cash-back” at the supermarket till. However, as irritating as it can be at times, it is preferable to the “open all day” attitude of the British, and great personally not to be the “brakes” on my teenage daughters spending habits. There’s nothing better than to be able to point out that she will have to argue with the french politicians if she wants it any other way!
Missions for the coming year are to find an architectural job, start my own vegetable garden, improve my french and entertain more. If I can find an ancient, more centrally located house, closer to school and the chic quarter I will!
A bientot – à la prochaine année!