Living in foreign lands [2/3]

Four weeks ago, François, Nicolas, Camille, Samuel, Solène and Alexis told you their tales of living abroad and how this experience changed their lives. Well the French are without doubt a bunch of travelers because here are 6 more who answered my call: Emmanuel, Camille (another one), Cyril, Guillaume, Clémence and Adrien. They’ve respectively lived in Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the US, the UK and Brazil! Did they miss France?

 

  • Emmanuel, Inside Sales France
  • Lived in Montreal and Dublin
  • Spent 3 years abroad

I’m from Nantes, born and bred! I don’t think Nantes needs introducing ;-) I lived here from 0 to 22 years old before I left to live in Toulouse, Dublin, Montreal and Paris.

In 2011 I decided to leave France again after an Erasmus stay in Dublin a few years previously. This time, I was on my way to Quebec and the town of Montreal. What attracted me there originally was its great reputation of having an amazing quality of life and how easy it was supposed to be to find a job. At the time, when you were French, people would say “you’ll find a job within a month”. So I gave it a go and voilà ! I arrived mid February 2011 in Montreal with a few CVs and no contacts. By the end of March, I was starting my new job, in the sector I was originally worked in (sports sponsoring) at the Montreal Impact FC, the town’s professional soccer club!

I have to admit that I didn’t miss much. Montreal is a mix between the States and Europe, all in one town. You can find everything you get in France. A part from one thing. Quebeckers don’t eat ‘charcuterie’! Now that was an issue… Otherwise, more seriously, I did miss my family. Not seeing my nephews and nieces growing up for 3 years was a bit hard.

What most impressed me was their “savoir-vivre“, the quality of life in the town. During the 3 years I was there, I never got bothered. I was also astonished by the night life in Montreal, it’s -25°C outside but everyone is out in the bars and nightclubs, crazy! I was also taken aback by the importance of Ice Hockey in their culture. It’s basically a religion! The Marseille football fans are not much next to them. The town just stops when Montreal’s playing a  play off match in the NHL… That’s also what made working in football challenging, it was all new for them because Hockey takes up so much room!

Montreal is only 1 jour from the US border. The cultural difference is huge. But what I really noticed was the quality of life, the fact that you can go out with no worry whatsoever, the welcoming nature and kindness of the Montreal inhabitants whether English or French speaking. And also from a professional perspective, they really do give everyone a chance, no matter where you come from. Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to sell something, they always take the time to listen. Then they decide. Much more pragmatic in everyday life.

On a professional level, the biggest advantage was my English. 50% of my clients were English speakers so I made real progress in this area during 3 years. I learnt to be more pragmatic at work, to get straight to the point and stop treading too carefully all the time when speaking to a client. This means that today, as a salesman, I’m able to focus on the accounts that are most likely to sign. There are many things learnt over there that I’m grateful for today.

 

  • Camille, On-boarding Success Manager
  • Lived in New Zealand
  • Spent 10 months abroad

I grew up in Compiègne, a small town in Picardie, a French region one hour away from Paris. I think my best memory was searching for stags in the forest. We would get up at the break of dawn and set out for an adventure with my parents, brothers and sisters, hoping that we would hear the stag’s bellow, hoping to seduce a female deer. It was both magical and scary because we didn’t know how close we were! But thankfully, because we were true adventurers, we had made spears out of branches to defend ourselves.

I went to New Zealand after my studies. Why so far away? The idea of going to the other side of the world was a key factor, definitely! I wanted to go to some place far way, spontaneously, to discover another country, its countryside and inhabitants before I found a job there. I didn’t know for how long I was going, I went there for fun and came back 10 months later.

I missed my family and friends. The time difference with France is quite difficult to manage. During their summer, there’s 12 hours difference. Not easy to plan Skype calls with such a difference! I sometimes felt like I was living in a different dimension. I also missed good cheese, charcuterie and the real French baguette from the baker down the road ;-)

What I remember most is the incredible kindness of the kiwis. As you maybe know, this is the nick name we give the inhabitants of New Zealand. The kiwi bird is their mascot. In addition to this kindness, they are really relaxed. They have an ideal balance between work and family life. They start their day quite early at 8am, they have lunch quite quickly at midday and everyone’s left the office by 5pm. People meet up at the pub but also do a lot of sport after their working day is over.

Even if our occidental cultures are quite similar on the whole, what really is different is their amazing hospitality and the way they’re always ready to help each other out. It’s completely normal to welcome travelers in for the night, even when we’d only just met. A coupe of friends of ours had had their camping van stolen with all their things inside. They were in the local headlines. The entire town contributed to getting them new things to replace what they had lost. This story really illustrate their generosity and kindness.

Thanks to this experience, I’m now more confident and completely fine about speaking English. At the beginning, I was a bit worried about making mistakes, afraid that people wouldn’t understand me but then people starting asking if I was from South Africa which was really flattering!

 

  • Cyril, Key Account Manager, Germany
  • Still lives in Germany!
  • 13 years abroad

I come from a small village in Normandie between Le Havre and Rouen. I went to university in Clermont-Ferrand. My friends did not envy me and despite this, I have great memories of living and studying there. In my final year, we had a exchange programme with foreign universities. Some went to Barcelona, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Colorado… I chose the exchange with the German university … Bochum. For those who don’t know it, it’s an old mining city :-) But forget the clichés! I had a great time during this Erasmus year. It was in 2004, a long time ago!

I’m still abroad and have been living in Germany for the past 13 years. I guess I do still miss my mother’s cooking ;-) But more seriously, living abroad is sometimes like living in two parallel universes. So when I come back to France, I get my fill, literally. I empty the local supermarket taking everything I cannot get back in Germany. I also miss the “apéro” and the idea of actually taking your time to eat.  It’s so obvious in France and utterly unknown in Germany, well least amongst the Germans I know.

I hate clichés, but generally there is always some truth in them. For me, the biggest cultural difference is not the fact that the Germans wear socks and sandals together. No, it’s rather their factual side. Whereas the French say things carefully to avoid offending the people they’re speaking to, the Germans are direct, straight to the point. They leave their feelings aside. It’s all about finding a solution to the problem and not about taking everyone’s sensitivities into account.

When you live abroad, you’re always on an adventure, whether it’s at work or in your private life. It’s a challenge because you need to meet the same standards as the locals but it’s also a great opportunity because you a unique profile on the employment market.

 

  • Guillaume, Customer Success Manager
  • Lived in Miami
  • 1 year abroad

I lived in Miami on several occasions when I was interning at Cartier. To be honest I didn’t miss much about France, just my friends, my parents and mostly my sisters. I had the sea, the sun, the palm trees, food, wine, cheese and shooting ranges :)

I had no real surprises from a cultural perspective because my cousins are American, but I did discover their way of life and the way they consume.

I was impressed by their open-minded approach, their “everything is possible” and “just do it” state of mind, but mostly their pragmatism. Everything I did had to have a specific goal and a clear strategy to reach that goal.

I learnt how to be more confident in my work to convince people and lead them more easily. And I also gained 20kg ! A great experience all in all.

 

  • Clémence, Customer Success Manager
  • Lived in London
  • 13 years abroad

I come from Vendée. I lived in a very small village in the countryside for 18 years. That was amazing and I have a lot of childhood memories. We then moved to La Roche Sur Yon, still in Vendée where I completed a Bachelor degree in business School before carrying on my studies in Nantes.

My first international experience was for an internship. It was in Spain where I lived for 6 months.
This first experience made me understand how important it is to travel!
Back in France, I worked in advertising agencies for 5 years. Then, I decided I really wanted to change the direction my carrier was taking. For that to happen, I needed to improve my level in English. This is the reason why I decided to move to London :-).

What did I miss most about France? The wine and cheese… definitely… and all the other good food.

What really impressed me most, the people! London is so eclectic and I met a lot of people from abroad, different nationalities. Honestly it was amazing. I think French people have this “latin” side that the English do not have. And I think they are more rigorous than us. Otherwise, I found the way of working quite similar.

It’s not easy to start working in a different country. You need to be brave to find a job without being that confident in English. You have to get out there and start talking to people! From this experience I think I learnt about how I was able to challenge myself and test my limits ;-)

 

  • Adrien, Field Sales, France
  • Lived in Brazil
  • 13 years abroad

I’m from Nantes. During my first year at university in Nantes, I met quite a few Brazilians. They invited me to Rio de Janeiro and I went out there, planning to stay for a month. I came back 3 months later, the maximum amount of time I could with a tourist visa. It was the beginning of the Lula Da Silva years. The country was booming, full of energy and promises.

When I got back, I planned my studies so that I could start my career there. I went to Toulouse business school so I could do my exchange in São Paulo, the biggest town in the southern hemisphere (16 times bigger than Paris). I went back there for my internship at ACCOR Hospitality and then got a contract with a SAAS company. I spent 30% of my long life in Sao Paulo, that’s 11 years. I came back to France two years ago.

What I missed most? My family. You miss out on a lot. It was €1000 for a return flight and with only 4 weeks of holiday, you just can’t make it back that often.

Whether you want to or not, you always end up by taking on the local rules and habits. It ends up being part of who you are, a mix of two cultures.

I would continue complaining about the public services, drinking caipirinhas at their amazing barbecues (for info, we do not know how to do barbecues here in France ;-) )
Music is everywhere, all the time.

Brazilians are always thinking about an alternative way to do things. They’re much more entrepreneurial than the French. They’ve decided to stop complaining because nothing changes and they no longer expect politicians to improve their lives. Unlike France, Brazil is a country where social inequalities are everywhere. Their resilience and creativity were very inspiring to me.

Miranda is in charge of internal communications at iAdvize, where she started working 3 years ago, originally as communications officer for the UK market. She has a BA from UCL in languages and a masters degree in translation and communication from the ISIT school in Paris. Although her passport is British, she feels at home on the continent ;-) Intrigued by all things cross-cultural, disruptive and customer service-related.

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