We have always wanted to live in France. Who doesn’t? You see all these beautiful photos of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, those exotic ski resorts almost at our doorstep in Grenoble, and the ever so gorgeous lavender fields in Provence to name a few.
We got the opportunity to move to Grenoble, France in July 2017. We were so excited for a new season. We sold all our belongings as we felt that it would not be worth it to pay for storage for almost 2 years or more. If we ever moved back to South Africa we would start again. We put our newly renovated house on the market, and packed our bags with a few belongings. As a family we were ready for this new adventure that we were going to embark on. We knew that as long as we were together, we could handle the good and the not so good of this move.
When we arrived in Grenoble it was well into the summer. I have never experience such heat in my life. We were met at the Lyon airport. The kids were extremely tired from traveling, and everything felt different. But they definitely traveled much better this time, compared to when we flew to Japan for the first time in 2016. I remember the manager from the Rugby club told Francois he would drive the kids and I to Grenoble and Francois can drive in the other Van with the bags. But the kids were having none of that. So my fearlessly, confident husband jumped behind the wheel on the left hand side of the car and started driving on the right hand side of the road (both opposite to what we are used to in South Africa.)
It was hilarious, every time he wanted to reach for the gears he would bump his hand into the door. But eventually we arrived in Grenoble.
For 5 days we stayed in a beautiful hotel. Francois had to do heaps of admin when we just arrived, so we spent most of the day in the hotel. I tried to entertain the kids with the lego that we packed and the little bit of toys we brought with. When Francois was done he would come back and we would get in the car and go explore our new town.
Everyone has a story of “their first time when…” they arrived in Japan or Wales or Thailand or where ever, but one thing that I believe is universal to travelers are these following points that I have learned to worked really well for us. Moving is hard for anyone, but moving to a different country comes with a bucket load of challenges that builds character, makes us stronger, bolder and more confident as a person at the end of the day.
To thrive in Grenoble, France you need:
1. A vision, a purpose, a why?
We moved because we felt it was a new season for us. We lived in Bloemfontein for 8 years and we were ready to explore the world. We believe that being together through all the change is better than if I were to live in South Africa with the kids and Francois in France. These are the things that kept us going in the tough times.
2. Be prepared
When I found out we were moving to Grenoble I started surfing the internet like crazy. Trying to learn all I could about our new home. There are great websites out there. There is a Facebook group called Grenoble Life, and a website www.internations.org. I started looking at the different areas that we could live in, I used maps to find different shops around me and I even searched for things to do in and around Grenoble, to help me get more excited (if that was even possible). I also asked some of my friends who had been living in France for some advice.
3. Find the Shops
This sounds hilarious (and definitely something most woman would say) but its true. There is nothing that makes you feel more out of place than not knowing where you can buy the basics. In South Africa we know Pick & Pay, Woolworths, Spar, Checkers they are all grocery stores, so no matter where in South Africa you travel to, you will be able to find those shops and you will be able to get the necessities for breakfast lunch or dinner.
In Grenoble I have found a huge shop similar to a Macro or Pick & Pay Hyper called E.Leclerc, and then a smaller shop, Lidl, similar to a Spar. And then for everything else when you just move to a new place is Amazon. You can find anything and everything there and then if you are a prime member you even get your goods shipped for free and delivered sooner too. Amazon has been my go to more than once in these last few months, especially when it is snowing or stuck indoors with sick kids.
4. Learn the language as soon as possible.
This is so important. We are blessed that Grenoble has many expats and there are quite a few places where the people will help you in English, but I think it is crucial to learn the language, especially with the kids in school, to be able to communicate with their teachers. Try to find a tutor, or learn French on YouTube. We found “Learn French with Alexa” helped as well as the Duolingo app. Or buy a book.
5. Make your house a home.
When we were living in Japan we knew it would only be a temporary home. We were there for only 6 months and we literally had the basics. The place we lived in was super tiny, we had a kitchen that was 2m x 2m and the only real oven was actually a grill. Needless to say, I did not make any cakes or casseroles; I was forced to be creative with what I had. But knowing that it was only a temporary home, we didn’t decorate or make the home feel homey. So when we moved to France, we knew we would be here at least for 2 years, and this would be our sanctuary, our safe place, our resting place that we come home to everyday.
So I started slowly putting a few of my own personal touches to the place. And you won’t believe the difference a tiny bit of paint, some fresh or faux flowers and a welcome sign can make.
This is a series that I am still working on, so check in often to see updates on this topic. And if you ever visit Grenoble, at least you will know where to get your basic shopping done.