The last decade has seen an increasingly large number of UK residents crossing the English Channel to start a new life living and working in France where there are a plethora of attractive leisure and business opportunities. Finding a former farm or a typical Southern French house is actually fairly easy, but most expatriates forget that living the “French dream” is completely different than going on holiday in France.
Living and working in France requires a high level of cultural awareness and language skills to successfully cope with the potential culture shock they may experience as a result of the many cross cultural and linguistic challenges awaiting them. Without the right cultural awareness, many expatriates living in France risk seeing their dream turn into a nightmare.
Such was the case of expatriates Robert and Joanne Hall who tried to live the “French Dream” in Brittany and recently made news headlines all over the world. After ten years of living in an old French farmhouse in the countryside and trying to make their French dream come to life, their expatriation ended in the most tragic way when Joanne was found dead. Questioned by the French police, Robert Hall explained he had a drunken argument with Joanne during which she accidently fell and hit her head. According to people who knew the Hall family, they were “lost” and suffered a lot as a result of many failed attempts to make their expatriation and dreams work.
Most expatriations don’t end as badly as in the case of Robert and Joanne Hall, but many statistics show that couples will often divorce or have problems when living and working abroad. This phenomenon is largely due to the difficulties expatriates can have adapting to the new cultural environment and coping with the effects of culture shock. If culture shock and cultural differences are not effectively managed, expatriates living and working in France can suffer severe financial, health or relationship problems that can end in divorce or worse scenarios.
Many couples who move to France to start a new life find themselves spending more time than they ever have with their partner as they work on a project such as renovating the house together and they soon realise that do not like each other. Others who go to France may become distanced because one partner spends all their time at work while the other is left at home to manage the kids or household.
Cultural understanding and French language skills can help expatriates deal with challenges such as this as it can help them to meet people and bridge the gap between French and British culture. This can in turn give them some place to go for support or the opportunity to create some distance from their partner once in a while, allowing them to feel less isolated and more connected with their new life in France.
Understanding French cultural values, attitudes, communication styles and the language can be enormously helpful for any expatriates living and working in France. Being able to understand and communicate with local government officials, builders, shopkeepers and neighbours can help streamline any dream project and prevent delays, problems or frustrations which can further add to the challenges of adapting to a new cultural environment. Being able to speak the French language and show an appreciation for French culture can also help expatriates to build relationships and create a positive impression of what they are trying to do in France.
Living and working in France can be an amazing experience for British expatriates, but the real French dream will only truly be achieved with the right cultural and linguistic skills that will help them to anticipate and cope with the cross cultural differences they may encounter along the journey. Taking French language training or a cultural awareness training course such as Living and Working in France is the first step towards making any French dream come to life.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011