Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have the foggiest where to start?
With such an array of choice from Europe to Indonesia and beyond, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. Whether immigration requirements and researching new job markets to making new friends and the cost of living, upping sticks can seem a real minefield. But it doesn’t have to be.
That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.
In a series of short interviews with UK guys and girls who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.
Over to you Jess…
Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?
I’m 31 years old. I moved to Milan (Italy) after Uni, then to Montpellier (France) the year after that in 2007, and have been here ever since.
I’ve been working as a fitness instructor since 2009 after having done a training course here in France and also teach English at the architecture university. I studied languages (French and Italian) at Birmingham University in the UK.
What Inspired You To Move Abroad?
My parents have always brought us on I holiday to the South of France (they are retired language teachers) and my elder sister has loved in Montpellier for about twice as much time as I have.
I started thinking about living in France when I was a child. I’d always seen myself living here, but can’t really explain why. Happy childhood holidays probably have a major part to play in it and I also love the idea of living somewhere where I am ‘different’. I also love speaking a foreign language and even though my French is now fluent, I still learn new things.
How Big Is Montpellier?
Montpellier is the 8th largest city in France and the fastest growing city there in the last 25 years. Located on the south coast on the Mediterranean sea, it’s the third-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and Nice, with a population of around 600,000 people.
How Did You Manage The Change?
The change seemed quite natural for me as I had always seen myself living in France or abroad. I already knew the south of France pretty well and already knew that I loved what it had to offer; the views, smells, tastes and activities…
What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?
In Montpellier I would have to say the weather is probably the best highlight. It’s a particularly sunny region. I also fell in love for the first time ever…
What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?
The break up of said love…
What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?
The amount of undeclared work that is available even in quite well-placed job positions (lawyers, pharmacists, dentistry…)
What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?
The language is gorgeous and once you begin to master it, it’s magical.
The French are very proud of their country and rightly so. Across the country there is such a huge and spectacular variation of landscapes and this aspect goes even further when we consider French territories such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, La Reunion and Corsica.
I also snowboard as the Alps are a mere 3 or 4 hours away and the Pyrenees more or less the same. However, as a snowboarder I definitely prefer the Alps. From Montpellier you can drive to Spain in about 2 and a half hours.
During summertime I have the choice of the beach or the river!
What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?
The French elitist attitude that for something to be good it has to be ‘made in France’. Maybe also the number of people who smoke, although this does seem to be decreasing.
What’s The Biggest Difference To The UK?
The mentality of the French is maybe a little less open-minded than in the UK. People can be quick to judge and be critical on appearance.
In the UK it is far too easy to buy junk food. I’m not saying junk food is hard to come by in France but it is much harder than in the UK. I definitely consider this a positive difference!
The social scene is also totally different. The French don’t drink in the same way as people in the UK and going out starts much later – around 9pm onwards depending on the event and time of year. Nightclubs only get busy from around midnight until 4 or 5 am.
How Did You Find Making New Friends?
I already had my sister here so knew some of her friends and then met the English speaking crowd of Montpellier.
After about a year of this group of people, I found that these people weren’t really ‘right’ for the lifestyle I wanted and I was sometimes ‘friends’ with people simply because we spoke the same language in a foreign country. After a while I realised that this wasn’t necessarily enough for me to base true friendships on and gradually broke away from that circle and made my own friends who are mainly all French.
I find that in Montpellier it can be quite difficult to find true friends. There are too many people who are here for a short time so just as you become great friends, he or she is off to another destination.
What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?
Montpellier in particular isn’t great for jobs. There are few well paid jobs and a lot of job seekers but Montpellier is one of the fastest growing cities in France. This means that while there are more people, the number of jobs hasn’t grown at the same rate. France also requires a lot of French qualifications and doesn’t always accept foreign diplomas or qualifications. The system is quite rigid which means that for foreigners, depending on the sector, it can be hard to find work.
As a fitness instructor I have 3 long term contracts and as an English teacher I have a long term contract which can be hard to come by. English teaching on a long term and well paid basis is hard to find here.
Do You Get Homesick?
Flying home to the UK (Southampton, in my case) is fairly easy with an airport in Montpellier with low cost flights to Gatwick and Stansted. Nimes and Marseille are other possibilities. Nimes is a 40 minute drive from Montpellier and Marseille is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. I’ve also flown from Beziers and Carcassone to Bournemouth on low cost flights. However these routes only operate during summer periods.
How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?
As a UK national, no visa is required to live in France.
What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?
What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?
Don’t be afraid of the language barrier. It’s something that can rapidly change over time and as English speakers it is rarely a major problem and can in fact often be an advantage. However if you are planning to move for a specific job, make sure your qualifications match up to the job you’re planning on moving for or that they are recognised in France. This includes university degrees.
What’s Next For You?
I think I will be staying in Montpellier for at least the next couple of years and probably in the same jobs. I hope to buy a place instead of renting but I have to work my way round the banks first!!
How Can We Contact You?
Via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Facebook (Jessica Cole).
What’s Your Favourite Quote?