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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Year in Provence, A Love Story


It's hard to believe that a year has passed since I moved to France, but viola, here we are at the beginning of February - a year & a few weeks to the day we hopped on a small, noisy plane from Rome to Marseille. A short hour away, but clearly altogether different from the joyful chaos that had been my life in Italy.


I thought long & hard about what to write for this post, but found it very difficult to put into words what the experience of moving to a new country is like. I even put a lot of time into the Ask an Expat series several months back, trying hard to work through what practical steps are needed to make such a large transition. But things like making sure your CV is in order & being put in touch with a wondrous creation called 501 French Verbs, while important, do little to prepare you for the roller-coaster ride that starting a new life abroad brings.


Really, the past year has been one of the most exhilarating, exhausting, fall-on-your-face & get back up again experiences I've ever had.  France is not an in-your-face, belly-laugh out-loud culture like Italy (or even the United States) There's definitely a subtilty to the French culture & the French people that requires a great deal of perseverance. In France, you need to be patient...or maybe more appropriately, stubborn.  A rich, multi-faceted world lies below all those air kisses, formal greetings, & haughty cafe-time glares, but it takes some time to get there.

And when you're there, or about half-way in my case, what a pay-off:  warm, caring people, elegant living, & time-honored traditions.  Oh, and of course, whole magazines that talk just about cheese. Provence, je t'amie.

*parade photos celebrating Jour des Rois (Kings Day) our 2nd weekend in France. Aix-en-Provence

16 comments:

  1. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to capture all the emotions, experiences, joys and difficulties of this adventure of yours. :-) Love these pictures and wish you much, much happiness in France. :-)

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  2. Oh I love this post! Such elegant words to explain how hard it is adjusting to France. Congratulations on your first year! Bisous!

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  3. Brenna has taken the words out of my mouth! Eloquently and perfectly put. The struggle can be so difficult but so far definitely worth it. Congratulations on surviving a year, it's been nice to 'meet you' and it's nice to know that you are only a couple of hundred km away going through the everyday 'tests' right along side of me (sorta) x

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  4. Love this - happy France-i-versary!

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  5. My husband always says it takes a long time to become friends with the French, but once you are, you're friends for life. I think that applies to France in general too - it's a lot to take in. (BTW, I've already picked Aix for my now 7 year old as his study-abroad city in college! Good thing he liked it there as much as I do!) Cheers to your Year in Provence :)

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  6. Very nice post! I'm planning to live in France and I'm learning French.This year I've lived in Paris with 2 wonderful French girls but at work was terrible for me to understand why arn't they friendly and I understood the difference between friendly and polite.
    At first I almost had a panic attack and I thought that it would be impossible for me to live in a country like that. but now I'm missing it so much... Hope my plans will fulfill.
    Thank you for your nice post!:)

    Kisses!

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  7. It's so nice to read your comments & thoughts on France - makes me very glad I shared my own sentiments.

    Krista, thanks so much for the well-wishes! I do hope to be happy in France for many years to come :)

    And a huge *merci* to fellow Franco & Italio expats Brenna, Sara, & Valerie - feel like I'm living this experience right along with you :) really appreciate the support!

    Green, Aix-en-Provence is a wonderful town, hope you get to come back before your young-one goes to college (& great choice, I totally get it!) Your husband sounds like a smart man, he's right on about that one :)

    Very happy to hear about your plans Alma, & thanks for the sweet comment. It can be pretty tough in the beginning, but if you have a long term goal, like it sounds like you do, it's all worth it in the end - especially if you're already studying French, you're for sure ahead of the game! keep us posted :)

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  8. Congratulations on your one year anniversary of life in France. Coming and going like we do I'm very sure we miss some of the cultural collisions that we might run into if we were there full time and can imagine the emotional ups and downs you encounter. Best wishes for many more anniversaries in France.

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  9. From Aidan's (conjugating irregular verbs) I hopped here, wondering about your Finnish name. And I think I'll read more!

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  10. Congratulations Tuula for getting thru the first year! I hear it only becomes easier from here out. I know about the rollercoaster ride it can be, elating moments to sunken ones, all part of the adventure. :)

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  11. I have a lot of respect for people who relocate an start a new life in a different country. It takes an open mind, resilience and courage. Congratulations on all your wonderful achievements :)

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  12. Tuula - My heart sank and lept for you while reading this. It also brought back memories of my first month of a two-year stay in Paris - knowing no one AND not speaking any French...it changed with time (well, I still don't know much French :-) Wishing you less "fall on your face moments" (although those are the ones that make the funniest stories) and many more "ahhh, I live here moments" in the future. Congratulations and Happy France-versary!

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  13. You are spot on with your description of requiring patience while living in France. And needing to be stubborn!
    Glad you've shared your first year with us and here's to many more!

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  14. I've just found your blog, and the only thing I can say is that it's amazing!!!
    :)

    Why did you leave Italy??? :)

    monsieurmauro.blogspot.com/

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  15. Thanks Mauro, very kind of you!
    Beh, sono partita per amore, penso che
    e sempre cosi, eh eh :) ma mi manca l'Italia!

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  16. I remember my first year in Germany, congrats on making it your first in France.

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