Expat Tales: 'I created an opportunity in my dream country'
Frances Harrison, originally from Christchurch, has built a new life in Ymeray, France.
What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?
My career was killed by unemployment created by the [Auckland] super city, so I found/created an opportunity in my dream country. My DNA (French colonists of Akaroa) had also been telling me it was time to go back to some of my roots.
What do you do there?
I was doing communications work specialising in sustainability, but now I teach English as a second language at tertiary level.
What are the greatest advantages to living there?
The choice in food and countries to visit, the rich culture and history, learning another language, and it's cheaper.
It's difficult to get work if you are not "in the system" from a young age, dealing with so many civil servants, never feeling competent enough in the language, the government that takes money from you on any pretext. Also, my current location is a bit of a cultural activities desert and it's hard to make friends.
How expensive is it compared to New Zealand? How much is a beer?
It's expensive but less so than NZ in terms of food and housing, and it's easier to manage medical costs.
What do you do in your spare time?
Write my blog, work in my potager and apply for jobs.
What's the local delicacy and would you recommend eating it?
There are so many of them but I'm currently perfecting my tarte aux mirabelles – a delicious fruit tart with small plums and the alcohol made from them.
Easiest way to get around?
Car, but trains and metro are great (if they are not on strike or broken down or under maintenance). NZ should be ashamed of itself for not having such basic systems.
What's the shopping like?
Groceries are always interesting, with so much choice and new things to discover. Clothes and everything else provide a lot more choice and sometimes better quality. Makeup is cheaper.
Best after-dark activity?
Watching the scenography on the historic cathedral and other buildings of Chartres during the summer months.
Best time of year to visit?
High season, of course, because winter is very long and miserable.
What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?
Historical visits, food and shopping for underwear (ladies).
Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?
Minor food items like Pineapple Lumps but really, get past the scenery and NZ has little to offer in its isolation.
How easy is it for you to get back to NZ?
I haven't been back since I arrived seven years ago as it's too far and expensive, but I'm hoping to get back to see my daughter for Christmas and her wedding.
For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?
No idea as it's very hard to find work being a non-EU citizen who is not in her 20s. I may be forced to go back to NZ and face unemployment again.
If you know an expat who wants to share inside knowledge of their home away from home, email firstname.lastname@example.org with Expat in the subject line.