When I was in junior high, I studied two years of beginner french. What I remembered was a useful vocabulary of nouns, some verbs, and the ability to produce a french “r”! During our vacation circle tour of France in May 1998, knowing some french came in handy and the french people were delighted if you tried to speak in their language.
Over the years, several of the European countries we visited percolated to the top of my favorites list with France and Scotland becoming the contenders. (The also rans included England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain.) I was charmed by France’s medieval cities and roman ruins, castles and châteaux, vineyards and rivers, pastoral countryside, art and architecture, and Provence to Paris. It’s impossible not to be influenced also by Monet’s Giverny, Normandy’s and Verdun’s wartime pasts, and the specialty regional cuisines, whether sauces or cassoulets. Essentially, there wasn’t a setting I didn’t like during our own tour de France, and, I had a very small grasp of the language.
When it became important to research the reality of being an expat, I considered France my ultimate choice but included less expensive options in Central and South America. I looked carefully at Cuenca Ecuador, Montevideo Uruguay, and I visited San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. I discovered I would not be comfortable living in established expat destinations which are surrounded by local poverty and substandard infrastructure. France became the only choice and I was determined to make it work!
Further research confirmed that France was and is one of the world leaders in quality of life, healthcare, commitment to arts and history, world heritage sites, varying climates, affordable housing, and importance of family and leisure. All systems go.
As part of the comprehensive plan, I moved from Wisconsin to Florida in January 2013. Miami has a French embassy and applications for a visa must be done in person. I lived in Florida for six months making plans and deciding whether an expat future was the destiny I wanted before applying for and receiving my visa in July. A quick return to Wisconsin to say good-bye to family and friends and settle some final business ended with my flight from Chicago O’Hare to Paris Charles de Gaulle, arriving on August 26, 2013 with my life contained in eight suitcases. The adventure began.