10 Simple Things I Did To Beat Expat Boredom In France
I DON’T WANT TO STAY IN FRANCE A THIRD YEAR”
I was both shocked and embarrassed by my knee jerk reaction when my husband suggested we stay in France yet another year. Especially since it was my idea to move to France in the first place.
So why didn’t I want to stay in France? Why was I bored and how did I get out of my expat rut? Here is an honest look at what it’s been like living in France: long after the effects of culture shock, after you’ve settled into life abroad, mastered the language and made friends.
How Do You Get Bored Of Living France?
Getting bored in France kind of gradually happened just like it does no matter where you live. I guess you could call it a rut of some sorts.
First year in France- My first year in France was busy but a magical experience. Everything was new, fresh and interesting. Even boring day to day stuff seemed interesting. Going to the store, seeing all the different foods. Learning how to set up utilities, discovering new surrounding cities.
Second year in France –My second year in France, was more about settling into life. We had friends and the boring routines that once seemed interesting and brought me joy were now just a busy annoyance. Life began to take on more of a routine. In many ways, our life looked a lot like it used to look when we lived in California. I wondered if we had fallen into a kind of EXPAT RUT?
Wake Up -Get kids ready for school -Get baguettes -Go to the outdoor market -Do a little work on our computers -Pick up youngest child from school -cook diner etc etc Sound familiar?
At first I thought I MUST be going through some kind of culture shock-s a word used to describe the emotional and behavioural roller-coaster someone experiences when Living and or working in another culture. but after careful consideration, I ruled it out because I felt pretty well adjusted. Life was good. I had no language issues, nothing phased me anymore about the French cultural differences.
According to Paul Allen in his book titled The Truth about Moving Abroad and Whether It’s Right for You: Should I Stay or Should I Go?, nearly 10 million Americans and 50% of Brits dream of living abroad. Ironically 25% of those Brits who actually take the plunge end up returning home, presumably because the reality of living abroad (culture shock) wasn’t what they expected.
10 things I did to beat expat boredom while living in France
I have never been one to wallow in a less than optimal situation and I wasn’t about to start. Here are just 10 things which helped me overcome my expat boredom and rut. Here are a few things I (we) have done to break out of the rut and re-inject some of that excitement we first felt when we moved to France. I am happy to say that life in France is interesting again.
1. I took vacation: A much needed break from France:
You know how you look forward to that annual vacation from your life and work? Well, I needed a break from France. I could have gone to Italy, Spain, Ireland or anywhere else in Europe. After all, all those places are literally only a few hours away by car. Instead, I flew back to Montreal to see my family, explore the city and recharge my batteries.
This was the best thing I could have done because when I returned to France, It was like the fog was lifted. I could see more clearly and appreciate my life in France. You could say it recharged my batteries.
2. We bought A Car:
We bought a used Renault scenic for 2,500 Euros (That’s $3,400 ) and oh my what freedom. I literally jump for joy when I approach our car because relying on the buses and metros to get around for a year in town is fine but it limits what you can do. After 2 years without a car we finally had had enough. No more waiting in the rain or the blazing hot sun to catch the bus to go grocery shopping at Carrefour. ( A big grocery store chain that has everything and more you could possibly need). No more panicking about how we were going to get our daughter to a friends birthday party at a place that has no bus access. We explore the surrounding areas and cities. We take impromptu road trips. We still walk, we just do it when we want to not because we have to.
3. I Joined A Gym:
When we arrived in France, I decided not to join a gym. My reasoning was that I would get my exercise through walking. The reality was that the gym was far. I had to take 2 buses or walk 40 minutes partly on a road with no sidewalk to get there. After we got our car everything changed. Suddenly, I was motivated to join the gym and BOY am I glad I did.
Not only does it break up my days it feels good to be fit. (Bikini photos coming soon, Just kidding!)
4. Volunteer Or Teach A Class
If you have a special skill or talent why not use it to teach or volunteer. It’s very rewarding and can give you a chance to meet other people in your community. I volunteer at my daughters school but I also volunteer and teach English once a week at a local senior center. I have met some wonderful people who really appreciate what I do. I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel.
5. I Am Mastering The French Language
If you are planning to stay in France for an extended period of time, I highly recommend you improve your French no matter what your level of proficiency is. If you are already fluent or close to it, you can always read in French, watch t.v. in French and even try writing or keeping a journal in French. Language is a lifelong endeavour and learning is what makes life more interesting.
6. Write A Blog: Keep an online journal
There is something very satisfying about writing. A blog like this site is a great way to feed your soul while keeping friends and family back home informed about what you are up to. Surprisingly it’s pretty easy to start a blog (web journal).
7. Take Cooking Classes: I Self Teach
I am a big foodie so food is as important to me as visiting any museum or famous painting. Why not learn to cook some traditional French dishes? Every week I go to YouTube and find some French cooking instructions and then attempt to make the dish. I have learned to make ratatouille, coq au vin, moules et frites and many more recipes this way. It gives cooking a whole new purpose plus you and your whole family can enjoy your creations together and marvel at how great a cook you are.
8. Make Friends:
Needless to say, having friends in France has been a huge plus for us. We not only have fun with them but we learn more about the French culture through them than you could ever learn on your own or through a text book. Put yourself out there and meet locals.
9. We Travel And Explore Europe And We Went On A Cruise:
One of the best things about living in France is that you are so close to the rest of Europe. We are literally only a few hours train or drive from; Italy, Spain, Monaco, Germany… you get the picture. By setting some goals, creating a bucket list of places and things to do, you will make your stay in France much more interesting.
10. Do something life enriching: Freelance, Start A Business, write a book
If you are living in France and have no job, you could kick start your freelance career.
Think about it, you have all this free time now that you used to fill with work. Why not use this free time to strike out on your own and work for yourself. Not only is it financially beneficial but it’s also intellectually stimulating.
Life in France can get boring just like anywhere else you live.
The key is to adjust your expectations and be proactive. Once you start feeling the onset of boredom, do something about it.
It’s up to you to be creative and look for something new to do or try.