Being raised in a mixed culture, Fiona grew up welcoming both France and England as her home. While Fiona lived in France during her childhood, she was still aware of her English background and culture through her mom.
When Fiona entered university, she decided to leave France and pursue her studies in the UK instead. Fiona felt more comfortable living in England than in France, but things startlingly shifted when she had kids.
With the social and political issues England faced, like racism and the Brexit vote, Fiona chose to leave the country and go back to France. This significant change was not easy to make, acknowledging their kids’ reaction and willingness to do so. Moreover, moving back to France was a choice that Fiona is so grateful for. Despite her doubts along the way, Fiona and her family got welcomed with positive outcomes and a more settled home that gave them security and satisfaction.
I’m Fiona. I’m in my late 30s, and I currently live in Western France with my husband and two children. Although I was born and mostly raised in France, I grew up in a multicultural family. Also, I attended an International school in Grenoble, France. At 18, I went to university in the UK and loved living in the UK. I really felt at home there. I went back to France on and off but mostly lived in the UK for the 16 years that followed. It wasn’t until 2017 that I started thinking about coming back to France. Between the Brexit vote, wanting to escape the rat race and give the children the chance to live abroad, many reasons made me want to do so. So we moved to France in March 2018. Although I grew up in France, it felt like a whole new country. We moved to an area we did not know, where we knew no one. I had left as a student but returned as a grown woman with my own family. I often find myself lost between my British and French self, not really knowing where home is.
In the UK, my husband and I were lawyers. Following career changes, I became an events florist, and my husband became a gardener and planting designer. Since being back in France, Barry’s business, @lejardincontemporain is growing.
I took up an office job to help set up with healthcare, but the dream is to be self-employed again. I have started a blog (@ emeraldandjadeloves ) focusing on Families Travelling and Moving Abroad and my online business Fiona Lafon Business (@ fionalafonbusiness ).
I also dream of writing a book on my family’s journeys, as many of my family members have emigrated all over the world.
“I think I thrive on change and being in new opportunities, which comes from how I’ve been brought up by my parents.”
Living in a city and its always like kids being snatched, and we just thought we didn't want to be those parents. But we had become those parents who wouldn't let our child out of sight and be really stressed and constantly asking them to be by your sides. Whereas here, they've got that freedom, which, like you say, is what we had when we were kids. And that's really what that was really important for us.
Daniel De Biasi 0:28
Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode number 45 of the Emigrant's Life podcast where we share stories of people left their country to chase a better life. And through these stories, you can find ideas, resources, a motivation to do the same. I'm Daniel De Biasi, and my guest this week, Fiona was born in France, spent many years in England, and a few years ago went back to France with her family. So I don't know if Fiona is technically an immigrant anymore. But her experience is very similar to what would you have when moving to a new country with a family. And I think her decision to move to France was quite smart. With the cost of living being very high in the UK, they sold the house and bought a new one in the countryside in the south of France, and they are now mortgage free. Almost at the same time as moving the family to the other side of the english channel, they made another big change in life. Both Fiona and her husband quit their corporate jobs to become self employed. Moving with a family was quite the journey for Fiona. Her older daughter did not want to live at home. She made it very clear. But as you just heard, she's now free to play outside without supervision and she loves it. Fiona now helps other family moving abroad through her blog, Emerald and Jade loves. You can find it at emeraldandjadeloves.com. If English is your second language, you can find the transcript of the full episode, our conversation, everything in the show notes at emigrantslife.com/episode45. And now without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Fiona.
Hi, Fiona. Thanks for being on the show.
Hi, Daniel. Thanks for having me.
Daniel De Biasi 2:01
One thing that I realized that because when I reached out to you and asked you to be on the show, I thought you were originally from the UK, but you're actually are originally from France.
Yeah. I always find that quite a tricky question to answer. Actually, when people ask you where you're from, I always find it really difficult to answer without giving everyone my whole background story. I guess technically, I'm French because I was born in France. And I lived there for a few years until we moved to Ireland for my dad's job, where we lived there for three years. And then we came back to France when I was six. And I lived there up until the age of 18. So I did all my primary school, secondary school in France, but my mum's also English. So I've got British nationality as well as French nationality. So I was brought up with both cultures in mind, I spent a lot of time in the UK seeing family. We did things- my mom was very British. Obviously, being British, we did a lot of things, maybe that British families would do growing up, but we always had a foot in both cultures. So I never felt fully French in France. And I never felt fully English in the UK. It was always always a bit in between not quite one or the other.
Daniel De Biasi 3:14
Okay, so I guess your dad is French right?
He is. Yeah, yeah.
Daniel De Biasi 3:18
He's French and a bit of Italian actually. I can't remember where from I need to check. Yeah.
Daniel De Biasi 3:23
Cause you were like a close to the border. You grew up like a close to the border with Italy, right?
Yes. Yes, in Grenoble. So between Grenoble and the Alps and the Italian border. So not far at all, we could drive there.
Daniel De Biasi 3:35
So if you will have to pick like a country your country originally from you feel like you're more French or are you more English?
I guess if it's just on the basis of where I'm from, I probably go with France, just because that's where I spend most of my childhood. So apart for those three years nylund up until the age of 18, I mainly grew up in France. But then when I went to university in England at 18, that was the first time I was living in England. And I just remember feeling completely at home in the UK. And I liked the people and how they spoke and how they interacted. And I liked how things were done. So I just felt more at home in the UK when I went there for university than I had, maybe in previous years in France. So and I'd spent the next 16 years on and off in the UK afterwards. I kind of split my time, up until then between England and France, very equally. It's always tricky, although I'd say I come from France, having now left the UK i still I felt very much at home in the UK. I felt like I fit in better.
Daniel De Biasi 4:37
So do you think like you fit in more with the culture with the English culture than the French culture?
Yeah. When I grew up, I always found France very formal. And in England, it felt very casual. It felt a lot friendlier because the lack of formality in a way. And also I guess when I moved to England, I was 18. So it was a fresh start. I'd finished school I was still in the whole process of trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted. And I really felt like that 18 going to university as I write, this is a fresh start, nobody knows so i can be me. And I fully embrace that and met friends for life and just had a really good time there. But I think the formality was a big one. I felt, there's a lot of things in France, I didn't understand, which has always puzzled me a bit because I grew up in France. And I always went to school in France, for example, city thing, but then one of the main things is, there's a very specific way to write your essays at school in France. And I just could not understand it. And I never got the grades, because if it was in English, I felt a bit better. So the education system, I seem to fit in better with the English way of educating than the French way. Yeah, so, I think there was a mix of things. But the main thing that struck me was that it seems more approachable and friendly when I go to the UK because of not being quite so formal as it can be in France,
Daniel De Biasi 5:57
I think it makes sense, at least for me, coming from Italy, I can see the English culture, even just the English language, the way you speak to people is more friendly and more open to interact with the other person. A silly thing like, How are you? Asking the question- sometimes No, even like a question just like a something to say hi to somebody not really expect something return. But that they don't say that in Italian probably don't say that in French, when you meet somebody or when you see somebody on an elevator or when you walk on the street or something like that, which is English is it's kind of the way you greet the person asking, how are you?
Exactly. And it is not a formality? Because you've got that in Italian haven't is it? Like with the bench you've got speaks French so like, the more casual one, when you're saying you, and then the formal one again, there isn't that in English like you say you did great, you know, the director or friends the same way because that's, that's just how you do it.
Daniel De Biasi 6:53
Yeah, no, exactly. Okay, just a little bit of explanation of what we just said. So in Italian and in French, we have two different ways to speak to people, we have more formal way when we talk to ordinary people or people we don't know, or I don't know, your boss, that kind of thing. And we have a different way of talking to our friends, people that we know the people that were more confident. And the language is kind of different. I mean, the way you approach with people is actually quite different the way you say, you, it's actually different from the formal way and a friendly way. So it's quite different. And and now that I've been living away from Italy for a few years now, I'm really struggling every time I go back to Italy, I really struggle with the formal way, just because it's quite different. So for people that are not familiar, that's what we're talking about here. And why did you decide to leave the UK and move back to France?
Yeah, that was quite a big decision. I mean, the whole time I was in the UK, I never saw myself coming back to France. I never said never. I thought that may be a bit later on, you know, probably will want to go back. But I think what changed what there was quite a few things was a Brexit vote. And I didn't like what I was seeing. And I didn't understand the Brexit vote and how that would work. It did change a lot of things in the UK, I think and especially having friends from lots of different cultural backgrounds and, you know, speaking different languages with their kids. And suddenly, people would, you know, say things to them in the street and tell them to go back to their home country that you know, it's just horrible racial things. And you just think I just saw things changing. I think, I don't really want to be part of this. And it just kind of from there started, I guess it got me thinking into, maybe if we were to move, that would be a good time to move to France. And we'd also had career changes with my husband, we both left legal careers to become self employed. The children were growing up, there was still little at the time. But I was thinking, well, if they want, if I do want them to be bilingual, it'd be better not to leave it too late. Because the younger they are, the easier will be for them to pick up the language as well. And I think the main thing that kind of did it as well, was just wanting to get out the rat race a bit, because in the UK, it was getting to a point, a house had taken on a lot of value when we bought it, which was great, but to buy the next house up. And we're looking at around 400,000 pounds. And having grown up in fancy homes thinking that's ridiculous, we can get a massive house. And we change careers, we wouldn't be able to get a mortgage for that price. It just felt like we kept having to work more and more and more just to spend more and more money. And we also lived in a city so the kids didn't have childhood that me and my husband had growing up in the country. So there was quite a few things that we just started to feel a bit stuck where we were. And we thought well, maybe now's the time to make a big change. We'd already made a big change by leaving our jobs and becoming self employed. So that was a little bit easier to contemplate a move. And then when we thought when we got the valuation for our house back seeing how much more value it has taken on over the years since we bought it and realizing become mortgage free in advance, depending on where we moved to, that was a big bonus as well.
Daniel De Biasi 10:08
And why not consider maybe moving to the countryside in England? Just because you wanted to leave England?
Well, we were we were living in Bristol at the time, which I absolutely loved. I have really, really fond memories of Bristol, I really do miss it. But the countryside was even more expensive.
Daniel De Biasi 10:24
Yeah, kind of, you can only live in the countryside if you've got lots of money, because you have to be able to just the value of it everybody's crammed to the city. So if you can afford a house, thought the outside the city and meet it. Yeah, it was just it wasn't. It's not like it is here. I mean, we live in very rural France. So the prices are very cheap. But where I grew up, the prices are expensive as well. But yeah, it wasn't really an option. And I think we just kind of took it on as a new adventure thinking, wow, okay, well, we might as well. We've talked about maybe moving to France, we got married in France a few years before that. So yeah, we just thought, maybe it's time for an adventure and just start afresh.
Daniel De Biasi 11:01
Did you consider any other country or France was the first option and the only option?
We considered well, my sister had moved to Australia a few years beforehand. So we did look a little bit into that, especially because we've been to see them for our honeymoon, we went there with the kids, they were quite little. And had well, we just had a really, really good time to grow up. They live on the Sunshine Coast. So it's really beautiful tropical by the beach, and everything. And we did talk about moving out there when we came back thinking that something maybe we could do and go and live near them. But I think it was a mix between the climate and the time, because my work my husband's a gardener and planting designers. He felt he wouldn't quite work for the kind of work that he was trying to do, because of a different climate very different. And so although we considered at the time we thought, well, maybe not now, while we're working. And then France was the obvious from a family heritage point of view, just wanting to get the kids speaking French. And have them grow up in France, at least for a bit.
Daniel De Biasi 11:34
And you've there for just over three years. Right?
Yeah, we left in March 2018. So it's just been over three years.
Daniel De Biasi 12:10
Are your kids picking up French really quickly?
Yeah, no, they're completely fluent. They, the first few months were hard, but they completely picked it up now. And it's really funny because it's still funny now hearing them sound very French, or pick up weighty French expressions. And, and what's quite funny as well is that they always forget that I'm French, and that I went to school when I was their age, I was already in school in France, because they're seven and 10 now, so they'll come home and they'll start singing a song and I'm like, Oh, I know that song and or like, they'll tell me a joke that I used to say when I was in school. And they're always amazed that I know the same thing. And I'm like I know, but this is, this is why we're here because I know those I know these things. But it's funny seeing it through their eyes. Yeah, no, they're completely adapt and they've got so much more space here. And they would have pets and go down out the hamlet without us having to worry about them too much. And they just got a lot more freedom, which is what we wanted by moving out.
Daniel De Biasi 13:07
Yeah. I know, I grew up pretty much in the countryside, then I love my childhood. Just like I would just disappear in the morning, come back at night. And it was just my mom didn't know where I was, like, at some wonderful time.
I know. All my friends just disappeared off?
Daniel De Biasi 13:24
Climbing trees, off on our bikes. But yeah, so that's kind of what they get here. And it there's like village events, they can just went around with all the kids for the village. And we don't like in the UK, we couldn't leave them out of our sight if you had a playground or even just going out the front door to get parcel from the neighbor. Living in a city, and it's always, like kids being snatched, and it was just all we didn't want to be those parents but we have become those parents who wouldn't let our child out of sight and be really stressed and constantly asking them to be by all sides. Whereas here, they've got that freedom, which, like you say is what we had when we were kids. And that's really what that was really important for us.
Daniel De Biasi 14:02
Because even be in a small community that you say like a small town. Right? Where you lived? Correct me if I'm wrong but, for me, like growing up in a small town. Everybody knows everybody.
Daniel De Biasi 14:12
And some people hate that, because everybody knows your personal stuff. But the same time for kids is it's almost like that, everybody's looking after the kids because yeah, they know the parents and so you're kind of like, safer that way because you can let them go and if they do something wrong, maybe some other parents will tell you or other adults will tell you or they tell them off or whatever. It's just-
Yeah, I think so. And they get to interact differently with people. I mean, we're all quite stretched out so we all there's that we're lucky there's a school in the village because a lot of villages around here the schools haven't stayed open but we've there's a tiny little village school so there's like 20 of them there's one teacher but it's great because it means I've got a lot more flexibility. They can just go for walks, the teacher brings her dogs in sometimes and they just take the dogs for a walk right by the village and but yeah, they get interact with the mayor, they get to interact with all the people that are involved in the community that taking care of the gardens and things like that. And all the staff. So yeah, it's nice when you're walking in when you're driving around with the kids that so and so you know, they drive the bus at school, or she does the school dinners or they do you get to know a lot of the people or the community. And then people know us because they know the kids. So that I guess this one's his mom, that yeah, it's nice. It's nice being able to relax a bit. And just to let them go off and explore and do the stuff that we used to do them. We couldn't have let them do with the UK.
Daniel De Biasi 15:31
And what was the challenges to move to a new country with, with a family, with the kids?
Well, I think the main challenges were before that, when I'd moved or if I'd traveled, I'd always it was only just me. So it was a lot easier for me to blend in or the risks, I guess weren't that great when it's just when it was just me as one person because I'll always go, What's the worst that can happen? Like, you know, worse comes to worse, I go back home for a bit, you know, stay with mum and dad for a few months, or I'm just going to take whatever job I need to get the pay, you know, to get through and then start again. But then when suddenly you've got like a whole family behind you. I find myself worrying about it a lot more just making sure were they be going to be okay, how are they going to settle in? Would they be okay with the language, especially for my husband, because for him, that was the biggest challenge. You know what didn't like it. So yeah, I did feel myself worrying about that a lot more having a family with me. And also when we decided to move, my daughter was I think she was six and then she was seven, by the time we actually made the move, that she did not want to go at all. So that was quite challenging. The little one didn't really know what was going on. He was quite happy going along with it. But she'd always she'd been to the same preschool, we lived on the same street as the school so she knew her friends. She knew everybody at school, she was like, you know, she was really confident, so comfortable and confident where she was. She's very vocal as well. So she did not want to move and she made it very clear every day, repeatedly. She'd be like kicking and screaming. And that's almost to the point that we moved before completing on our house, because we're just like, I can't take this anymore. Like we know, we have to make it happen. Because once we're there, she'll be fine. It's what we kept telling ourselves. And so in the end, it kind of made us leave, before we've actually sold the house thinking about hopefully the house will be sold in the next few weeks. But because every day where you know, she was fighting us and she was arguing and she was shouting and screaming. She wasn't going to go to France. It made it quite difficult emotionally because even though we knew this was a good thing for her, that once she would be there, she'd be fine, she'd pick up friends, she'd make new friends, she'll be all right. So yeah, I guess it's like our worst fears of her. By doing this is going to be you know, I think it'll be good for them. But what if it's not? What if it doesn't pay off? So that was probably the hardest, I think.
Daniel De Biasi 17:47
How long did it take care to be okay with moving to France?
Oh, since we got to the airport. I think it was more of I know it was just like months and months of build up. And she was really upset to saying goodbye to the house and going around every room and crying and it was it was really sad to see the parent thing Oh God, I hope this pays off because but then because then we got to stay at the air- at a hotel at the airport. So that was exciting. And then we flew out to my parents first in the Alps to pick up the car and then we could drive back Aberfan. So it was all a bit of an adventure and I was very much how we sold it to them. So it'd be an adventure and or how that could make a house and you can have a garden you can have some pets, and you can. So we've tried to make it fun. But I think it was just the lead up to it. That was the most stressful bit. But then once we got there she was signed, she didn't really mention it again. So we're quite pleased to actually just let him just got on with it. But yeah, it's a bit of a gamble.
Daniel De Biasi 18:43
Are you guys already ever pleased to go or you already have a house that you bought or?
Yeah, well, well, we stayed at my parents for one night. And then we drove over the following day. And we'd already made arrangements to have like a non term cottage like a sheet. So like a self catered cottage. So we'd already made arrangements. We're house hunting, or cash wise, we're hoping to buy an old go fairly quickly. So we have contracts that would go month by month with the holiday cottage, because we got there in March.
Daniel De Biasi 19:13
So okay, you moved there and then you start looking at the houses when you once you got there.
Daniel De Biasi 19:17
But you already knew the area, you know exactly rough, oh, no, just you move to France and uh-
Yeah, we moved to a completely different area. We did consider going back to where I grew up, where my my parents still live, but it's very, very expensive. So we wouldn't have gotten as much for our money. And I think also we just fancied a bit of an adventure. So we thought, Well, you know, if we're going to move to France, we might as well make it a completely new adventure somewhere. None of us back and that neither me or my husband knew and just start from scratch. And I don't really know how we ended up here. If I'm honest, I think we kind of started looking on websites at what we could afford with our budget. And we started off in the Alps. Then we kind of looked at Provence, and then we just kind of carried on on the map until we started climbing back up again, we wanted something fairly sunny and a bit south. And this is one of the sunniest areas of France. And it's cheap. It's really cheap. So we were able to get quite a lot of money compared to what we had in the UK. So yeah, it's a bit random. It's pretty much based on what we could afford. And also it's got good, we just wanted some way easy to get to. So like I said, although we quite rule in terms of where the house is located. We've got an airport, within 14 minutes. We've got quite a lot of train connections. We've got lots of different roads, they get that motorways, I get to it quite easily. Yeah. So it'd be easy to get go back to the UK if we wanted to other areas of France. I think that's pretty much it. So we kind of bit random, but we arrived here.
Daniel De Biasi 20:44
Because you guys move into like, and old farm, right?
Yes, it's an old like farmhouse.
Daniel De Biasi 20:50
There was a lot of renovation you guys had to do? Because usually-
No, that's the thing.
Daniel De Biasi 20:54
No, we didn't want a renovation project because we don't know what to do with DIY. By learning it as we go. But we the plan was always for Barry to come to France and get his business off the ground and focus on that. We wanted the kids to get settled in, we've got holiday cottages of our own as well now. And I was I took on a full time job when we arrived because it got us into the healthcare system. And just get set up with all the French paperwork a lot easier if you can get a full time job. Yeah, so we wanted to get on with those things, and not have to spend all our time renovating a house when we didn't know how to renovate the house either. So that's why it was quite specific. And our budget was quite limited, because being cash buyers, we couldn't go over the budget at all. So it took a long time to find what we're looking for. But when we did we got everything we wanted. And we were able to just move in and get on with it. That was good.
Daniel De Biasi 20:55
Okay, and for like a bit, you mentioned paperwork, did you have any paperwork to do to stay in, in France, because it's still like a part of Europe, you can just- you don't need any visa?
Because I'd been gone for so long, a lot of my files have actually been closed. So my social security number, lot of different things like that had been set up, when I was a student or in education bands, I had to reopen all my files and have it all started again. So obviously, it was quicker for me than it was for my husband who had never lived in France beforehand. So I still kind of had to go through the motions with all of that, to get it reset and get the children on my social security number and, and also because when I left the UK, I'd been living at home with my parents as a student. So a lot of things I fell, I was covered by my parent's insurance and things like that was I came back as a grown woman with my own family. So that was quite new. There's a lot of things I had to figure out for myself, but usually calling my mom saying, Mom, what does this mean? What do I do with this? So it wasn't too bad. It's been a little bit harder. I mean, I think the hardest thing for us here and the most frustrating thing has been setting up our businesses in France, because in the UK, it's very straightforward. You just declare, you're a sole trader, and you're going to run a business. And that's it, then you just declare your earnings every year. And that's it. But in France is not like that. Yeah, depending on what your job is, you have to register with different organization. And it's all paired department as well. It's not nationwide. And even for example, so Barry, when it's set up as a garden, and they say, Well, what kind of gardening are you doing? Because if you're doing this type of gardening, it'll be that organization. But if you do this will be that other organization. And you all have, it's all important because you pay different tax, depending who you're registered with. So it just makes no sense. And I was trying to help my husband set up his business. And I was like, I'm French and this makes no sense to me. I don't understand. It had been so simple in England. And it's not- yeah, they're like their paperwork. Not as bad as the Italians are here to do like, a lot of paperwork. And it's not nothing's direct or obvious. It's all a bit complicated.
Daniel De Biasi 24:04
And I heard that in France, most of the oldest paperwork has been like a, like a hard copy is not nothing is done over the internet. Is that right?
It's changing. Now a lot of it's done online now, at least for some things the first year you have to do it in paper, but then once you've done it once, after that you can do it online. It's getting better.
Daniel De Biasi 24:23
Okay, that's good.
Yeah, it's still a lot of paperwork. So and especially now with Brexit as well. So the kids have got French nationality through me as well as their British nationality. But we're not been married long enough my husband to find French nationality for me, so he has to apply for residency, fill in all his paperwork. So that's all a bit time consuming, but it's been done. And then little things that my French driving licence got stolen in the UK, so I had a British driving licence. Obviously with Brexit and everything I need a French driver's license again. So trying to apply to get my French driving license and say to them look, I'm and I've got a British license, but I passed my test in France. So I just want a copy of my French test, not my English test. That was complicated. And that was sent a few months ago now. And I'm still waiting. So it's getting bad. It's just yeah, and when you speak to a lot of country, but they're kind of like uhh.
Daniel De Biasi 24:24
Yeah, just just go with it. Don't think they worry about it. But I think for a lot of people, especially with a lot of like British people here and I see a lot of British people who work and friends and all that in this area they're so usedin England to things being quite simple and done a certain way. And that's it. It's very hard to explain to people just kind of like, it's fine. Just how it's done here. Don't worry about it.
Daniel De Biasi 25:44
Yeah. But that's the thing when you see when you've traveled in multiple countries, you see some stuff in other countries like why you guys don't do the same way? This is like it's so much simple. But if that's the only thing you you know, that's that's normal.
Yeah. And I think Yeah, people just worry about different things. Just go with it.
Daniel De Biasi 26:02
I like to talk about your family because even your family, your parents immigrated multiple times.
Yeah. So I think I think it goes further back than it is more towards my grandparents and my great grandparents, my parents, they, we moved in Ireland for a few years, we lived in Ireland for a few years for my dad's job, then we came back. So that was fun. And then the other opportunities, but in the end, we just came back to France, where they still are now. But I think I remember discovering in my teenage years that my grandparents had moved around a lot, because my granddad was born in America, because his dad had gone over there to try and seek fortune. And he travelled backwards and forwards a few times between America and at the Chicago area. And the north of England. So my granddad was actually born there and lived there for a few years before coming back to England. And then my grandma was from Malta. So although they were Scottish descent, she was born in Malta, and lived there for a few years got married. She worked there during the war, as well, helping with the war cause and then I think when she was, I'm looking all into this at the moment. I'd love to write it up and make it a bit more official, because I kind of know bits of stories, but I've asked my mom to give me more information so I can put it down to paper. But I think the story goes, she found out her first husband was cheating on her and she didn't like that. Her family wouldn't let her get a divorce. So she said, Well, that's it, then I'm off. I'm not gonna hang around for this. But she had three kids and I think one of them was a baby as well,she could only take one you can only take the baby because he needed to but the other two are staying here. So she just took herself back to England on her own with her youngest baby, and then just kind of redid her life, though. She just went to the passport office in London and then she fell ill for a few years had to go to a sanitarium trying to make sure her baby, the youngest wasn't taken away from her but going to a school nearby. Yeah, I mean, it's just all these stories about she just went off and did that. Just thinking especially back then like and also being from Malta, she had really dark skin dark hair, she went to North of England, which people did not look like that. Back then they weren't many immigrants or you know, they were she really stood out.
Daniel De Biasi 28:16
And a single mom too.
Yes, well, yeah, well, then she met my granddad. But that was it took a while for them to be able to get married because her first husband wouldn't let her get divorced. Instead, it turned out when she got married, she was of age to get married. So they were able to cancel the wedding on that was it's just that all these family history when you learn about and you're like, oh my god. And she was always immaculately dressed. So pencils skirts in high heels. And she's very proud, quite yet had a temper on her. But she kind of got her way. And she was she doesn't seem quite a woman like I just met this tiny little grandma who made me laugh and you know, would tell us off but jokingly and then you learn all this background of her thinking, Oh, my goodness, you just went on a boat by yourself with your baby back when? I mean, it's a big thing to do now.
Daniel De Biasi 28:58
Exactly. Back then it would be like some crazy.
Yeah, I'm definitely keen to find out if a bit more like a good character. So that's I want to find out a bit more about her time in Malta. And when she made in the past, she the she lived in Alexandria for a few years as well, which was newlyweds. And my granddad was he a lot of his family used to go in the mines in the north of England and he didn't want to go down the mine. So he lied about his age and went into the IAF. And so he was in the Middle East quite a long time with the army. So they just moved around a lot. Then I've got families moved to Australia. So my sisters met up with them. She's moved out there. Yeah, it's just about they did just move around quite a bit. I mean, like my mum said with my granddad's family, she said not only did my great granddad, go over to America, but then he came back, got married, then he went back on his own to America then my great grandma followed later on. I said, there's all these different things that we were talking about, you know, several months or it's not the same journeys as as bad enough spending 24 hours on a plane here. But back then, it would have been such a big change.
Daniel De Biasi 30:04
Oh, yeah. And even the cost of moving.
Well, yeah, exactly. I mean, then and I guess, a long time ago, especially, you know, you might do the journey once, but to do it several times, or to go backwards and forwards more than once or 2,3,4 times would have been quite a thing to do read a lot of than just me, right. Just do that journey once and then stay there forever. So yeah, it's definitely something I want to look into a bit more. Our parents have done all the family genealogy history search a bit. So I want to look into it a bit more from there and take it further and look at the the stories and what they did, because it seems to be within my genes. My family moved around quite a lot.
Daniel De Biasi 30:41
How did your parents met?
They met because my mom decided to come to France for a year to learn French. And she met my dad and that was pretty much it. They met at university in France and not so not actually that far where I think it's a couple of hours north for where we live now. Yeah, so that was a bit. I think story goes as she was always going to go and study to be a teacher. And then when it came to it, she decided not to want to do that. I'm just going to go off and learn French instead. And then she um, yeah, she settled down here, and she never went back. Other than holidays. But she stayed in France ever since. So yeah, we always joke she's she's still got her English accent and she speaks French my mom, but he's far more French than the rest of us. Even my brother and sister and I who grew up in France, she's the most French out of all of us, really.
Daniel De Biasi 31:29
And do you think that like the history of your family, like moving abroad, moving to multiple country is kind of the reason why you move to France or you're like, moved to another country more easily?
I think so I think it definitely stays with me. And it's, I don't think I'll stop here for us either. Like I'm already in my mind. Right? Where to next? But, yeah, as much as it goes, my husband, he's like, wait, we've only just settled here like, No, no, no, we got places to go. And, and I think that's why I've really enjoyed it. And with your podcast, and also with with my blog is just meeting families who have moved abroad for different reasons, with their children, because I guess that's always it's a very different dynamic moving with children. Oh, yeah. Before rather than just on your way. But yeah, I feel really inspired by families who travel all over the world with their kids, or whomever bored. And I keep thinking, yeah, there's more I want to do with my one. And I think it's quite nice. Knowing that is that heritage in my background, as well that my family have done it all before me in probably much more difficult circumstances as well, because it's so a lot easier now than it was, I think, I think it's quite comforting knowing that I've got it in my family. And yeah, just carrying on what they did, I suppose.
Daniel De Biasi 32:36
Yeah, because I think for some people, like moving even to another town can be almost like impossible. Like, I don't know, my family's from here. I grew up here and I'm not moving. I'm just like, there's not even like an option to move to another county. It's not an option.
Yes. And you go people say, Oh, I wish I could do what you did. And you're like, exactly. It's not difficult. But I think because, I mean, even when we lived in France, when I was in school, we moved houses a few times, and we moved villages. So there's always been that motion that that element of moving and change. So I don't get attached to a house. I can enjoy my time while I'm there. But then once I know I mean, I get excited about the next house and what's going to say what's gonna happen there and what's in store for me with the next moves out, I think I thrive on change and me being in new opportunities, which I think comes from how I was brought up and you know, my parents taking us traveling different places, and even about and not really questioning it, like it was never made into a big thing when I was a child. So now you know, I still see it as an adventure as a new opportunity. And I still get excited by it. I don't think of all the things that could go wrong, or what's going to be hard or know the negative side of things. I just I don't really think about that. I just focus on leaving forward and seeing the good things to it.
Daniel De Biasi 33:55
Yeah, even like you mentioned the house for some culture or even for me I grew up the house is your home is something that I don't know it's yours and even changing house moving to a new house can be emotional, it can be something a big step big change because I don't know that's you call your memory. That's maybe where you go your first child, where you're born. All of these kind of things that makes you feel like that's your home. It's something important. It's not just an object is more than just an object. But for me for you that you moved around so often don't get that attachment to the home is just an object. And I came to the same conclusion even now that I'm moving, my house is just an object is not home. is not i'm not attached emotionally. It's different.
No, yeah, I definitely don't say like that. I when we left the house we had in England was the first house that we had bought, that we hadn't been renting is a house where my daughter was six months old when we moved into it and then we had our son a few years later, we'd gotten married like we had all these memories. But again, like you say, we were being filmed by a TV show for when we moved to France. And the cameraman, he kept trying to get a reaction out of us. He's like, Oh, yeah, you really sad? Are you really emotional? Did it break your heart say goodbye to the house. No, that's fine. And I could just tend to disappointment. It was like, come on something. And I was just like, No, we got a new house to look forward to now this is, you know, somebody else's bought is going to be their home to make memories, especially once you take all the furniture out and everything that makes it home. Once you take it, when you see it empty. It's just like, the house. There was yeah, so yeah, it's definitely not I mean, yeah, I don't get attached. So if anything, I think it scares my husband is because although we've been in our home a couple of years now, I'm already starting to think about the next one and where that's going to be, and it's going to be like, he's just like, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, we're not moving. And I'm like, okay, not yet.
Daniel De Biasi 35:46
Do you have any plans? Do you have any county in particular, or any idea where you might move or you would like to move?
I don't know. Yeah, I think we've got quite I think, for now, the plan is stay here for us get the kids settled in with school, especially with COVID. And all the lockdowns we've had, we've been really grateful to actually be here in this house, because we saw so many houses before picking this one. And we know we have we've often talked about if we'd been back in the UK. And as we had a very nice house, but it was very small. And the very small garden was here in the garden box on two fields, we've got open us and we can just walk by the hamlet and not see anyone then we've just got so much more space that it's been, we've been really grateful to have all of this was locked down, they're actually locked down. It's been quite nice for us, because it's just meant more time spending in the garden and focusing on doing all the things we like without having to be anywhere else. But we're very conscious that we couldn't have done that necessarily somewhere else. Or in the other half. So yeah, it felt like the right place to be at this moment in time. not want to plan too far in advance. I think the planning, I just go with it. I go with the flow. So we'll see what happens if Yeah, I don't know, I'd like to do it'll be more adventurous. If not, even if we still live here, we definitely want to incorporate more travel. And that was another motivation to moving to France because it's on mainland Europe, we could drive to Italy, we can drive to Spain and drive to Germany or we can take a short plane ride, it's so much easier, it opens up a lot more doors for us and we want to with especially the children being a bit older, we want to explore in adults really wants to go to Germany, I wanted my daughter's called sienna. So I want to take her to sienna. And like all these places we want to go and discover with. So even everything that we saw come home here, at least we can move about a bit in the meantime, by traveling, okay, maybe to COVID.
Daniel De Biasi 37:38
And now with the family with the kids, what would be the reason to move somewhere else will be just to try something different or to give your kids I don't know, different opportunity or to access to different culture, what will be the main reason to move to somewhere else?
Yeah, I think I keep coming back to the word adventure. Like I just wait, you know, it's just realizing, I think about that pressure. When I was in school in France. I don't know what it was like in Italy. But you know, you had to do things a certain way. Like I did literary studies when I was 16, to 18. So I did a lot of philosophy, languages literature. But that wasn't considered as, because I did, I wasn't considered as smart as someone who did a scientific degree. And then I did law, but I didn't become a solicitor I became a fellow which is still a type of lawyer, but there's always kind of hierarchy and people telling you or you're not doing this the right way or that and I think what going to the international school did for me, it just allowed me to meet other people from all over the world with so many different backgrounds, and so many different family histories. And it was just as they had a lot more of an open mind to things like things didn't matter so much to them than to maybe some of the people and is I'd like to teach in our like, I hope the kids for everything we're doing with them and they're growing up that we can get them to see that there isn't just one way to be or to succeed. That actually the world is you know, is this big place you could be whoever you want. There's so many things you can do. Yeah, just open their minds really. And just to keep them curious, understanding other people and seeing all the differences in the world. But you know, not to be afraid of different cultures or just yeah, be adventurous and curious. Be the main one I think.
Daniel De Biasi 39:19
It makes it make sense.
Daniel De Biasi 39:21
Obviously I'm jealous of the kids that are moving abroad like at such a young age just to be able to speak multiple languages and pick them up like so easily. And I'm so jealous. I wish I had I mean, I had a pretty good childhood but I wish I had that different culture that different lived like multiple countries or fluent in multiple languages.
Yeah, I think it's just things are different now on that and I think it's a bit so I'm employed now with a dream is to be self employed again. And part of that is because then if we do decide to go traveling, nothing stops us from going here. We're gonna spend two months in Australia and you know, I can just work from there. And then we can see my sister and you know, make the most of it. I think The world, the world has opened up so much like so especially for our kids that, you know, opportunities are going to be really different for them than they were when we were kids or even is taking my parents a bit of us to get there getting used to it and understanding, I was a lawyer and I left that career path. Because I was just like, I don't want to, that's not my path. I don't want to be stuck into corporate and just work my way up. And I can't see myself doing that. But actually, there are different opportunities now that we can take. And I imagine if we can show if we can show that to the kids and you know, get them confident enough to do their own path. And they can do whatever they want them in from wherever they want. And if they want to travel with their money, then that's amazing. Like, yeah, I want to do that.
Daniel De Biasi 40:40
Now with the internet, you can do pretty much anything you want. There's people that are making money, following their passions, people just like to teach other people how to cook, because they're really into cooking. So with the internet, now you open up so many different career options that you didn't have before.
Daniel De Biasi 40:55
Yeah, even after you take into school is not a piece of paper from school is not as valuable as used to be. Before you had any any job you wanted you need to have a piece of paper.
I think so. And I think it's easier now to I think I always tried so hard to fit in a certain path. Whereas at school, in fact, France is very big on degrees that you have to have, you had to go to business school and do a degree and do that. So that was another reason I kind of escaped to the UK and break free from it. And I'm really glad I did. I don't know. It's just, I think things might be changing a little bit. But I just felt so again, formal and strict. When I was at school, and it didn't suit me, like I didn't suit my way of learning. And I really struggled and I was trying hard to fit in. But I didn't thrive in that environment. But when I set up my own business in the UK, that completely opened doors to me, I just think wow, this this whole world has just been no one ever talked to me about this when I was little. So yeah, I think part of moving about and traveling with kids, when they're young, helps them see lots of different options and meet different people. And yeah, hopefully gives them confidence or knowledge that they might not have, if they didn't do any of those things.
Daniel De Biasi 42:03
In different perspective as well. Because their day every culture is different. So you pick up a different different aspect for each culture and you just take what you like and leave what you don't.
Yeah, exactly, that you can find out what what fits. You know, that's the same with my brother and sister were very close to an age where you get on very well. But we've got very different personalities, we were very different in school were very different in work. So we've all had to find our different paths, and they will be different from one another. Yeah. So if you've got more tools or more experience to help you find that, I think that's a good thing.
Daniel De Biasi 42:37
Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned earlier, your blog, what are you trying to help other family moving abroad? What was your blog called how people can find it?
Yeah, I've started a blog called Emerald and Jade loves. I like Queen a lot. So we've got lots of different queens that come into the names, hence Emerald and Jade. And that was my flowers tree business in the UK, Emerald and Jade flowers. So I just, it's just a way of keeping it going. Because I just really like the name, but it's um, I've been blogging on and off for years. But I think it wasn't until recently, I realized that since we moved here in France, I love hearing people's stories and why they moved. And specifically because it relates directly to my journey, I guess, people moving with their children, because I know that's quite different in terms of schooling. And you're homeschooling, it's put them in school, they're learning the language, how to go through all of that. So it's still quite a new project. But I've had quite a few families take part in sharing their journey already. And I've got a few few more lined up. I'm constantly looking to add to it. So yeah, I just I get really inspired by it. And I know that helps me when I moved to France find other families who'd done it before even though I was I am. I am French, because there's a brand new area. And it was so well, we didn't know and it was hadn't moved anywhere with the kids. And even when we moved house in Seattle was a baby, we moved like just down the road. So it wasn't exactly the same thing. But speaking to other people, or their families who had done it kind of gave me the confidence go through with it. And I think I get really inspired reading with other people's journeys or farming. If I can inspire other people or help them answer any questions they might have, then I'll be really happy.
Daniel De Biasi 44:17
Yeah, that's exactly the same reason why I'm doing this just to motivate and inspire other people to do the same thing. Because as we know, it's not easy. It's not an easy decision to make. It's not easy once you get to the new country to keep going and get settled.
Yeah, and you get out state new law. If anything. I think my husband settled into France a lot quicker than I did. And my kids did because they just they had school and they made friends so they just went on with it. And my husband really liked the change of life and everything but I found it really hard at first I think and I think it goes back to not knowing where I call home because I came from France but I felt really at home in the UK and I'm not fully free In France Oh, and I'm not fully English either. I'm kind of in between. and I had a really hard time adapting to being back. So yeah, I think it just brings up so many questions and so many doubts if you can meet someone who's done it. And they might say, Oh, yeah, I thought like that after a year, and then I did this and it got better, or it just helps you like, as with everything, if you can relate to it and see someone who's been through it and got past it, it can help you.
Daniel De Biasi 45:27
Do you have any particular advice you would like to give to the listener their same a similar situation, they'll want to move abroad with the family?
I'd say definitely do it. Because what's the worst that can happen? And that's what we kept saying, before we move to France, we say what's the worst that can happen? We live in France for a year, hate it and come back, and then just pick up things where we left in the UK. So that was always an option. But I mean, I've not even been back to the UK since we left. It's been obviously with COVID. And everything has been a bit tricky. But yeah, I can't believe it's been three years already. And if anything, now I'm trying to figure out what our next adventure might be. So definitely do it. It'll be good, I think is what it may be helpful to have a few backup plans, because when we moved over to France, we were supposed to complete on our house within a matter of days. And then the months turned into months, and we lost our buyers. So we did have house didn't sell and had to go back on the market, which meant we had no money because we were going to be cash buyers for the sale of our house. So we were lucky that my parents took you know, my parents had come in late, come and live with us until you sell your house. So we stayed with them in the Alps and did some work there for a bit. But it helped us financially. But it did mean change in the kids school again. So they did like four schools that year. So in hindsight, we could have probably planned things a bit better. But at least we had a backup plan. And then the extreme backup plan was just to go back to the UK because we still had a house or things were in storage, but we could always get them out. It would have been expensive. But we had options in that respect. But we just don't want to go back. We just once we made the decision to do it. We just wanted to make it work and go forward with it. So yeah, have a backup plan.
Daniel De Biasi 47:05
Always, always, whenever you move to a new country, having always having a backup plan, even when you are in the country, especially you're on a visa I always try to avoid was a plan B because you never know.
Yeah, I think so. Well, I think like, my motto is always what's the worst that can happen because genuinely is never that bad. And if there is a big scary cloud, at least you can address it and say what Okay, what if it comes to that? This is what we'll do? Yep, definitely do it. Go for an adventure.
Daniel De Biasi 47:30
And I'm not a parent. I don't have kids. But I guess when you move into a new country with family, the main concern will be the kids. Did you have like any concern? I mean, I guess you were concerned about your kids, what was your concern? And how did you overcome them?
Well, I think that's part of the the main motivations for moving to any country, and especially fans with this case, for us, like I said, was to be able to offer the children more freedom similar to what we had, we were growing up. Same thing we just grew up on our bikes and note got memories of climbing trees and you know, village rates and just run around in a dark, your friends and have fun and not constantly have to be around your parents all the time. So I think we were so focused on all the positive sides of it. We didn't really think about things that could go wrong. I think in our case, the hardest was trying to convince my daughter that she'd be fine once we were there. And she would love it. And yes, you know, it was hard to say goodbye to find some house that she'd known and all of that. But we generally felt quite confident that the reasons why we were moving outweigh that. I'm quite optimist by nature. So I don't tend to dwell on the negatives, or what could go wrong things. My eldest did have a bit of a hard time settling in because she'd gone from a school that was 120 students, and she was a lot of kids. So you know, if she had a fight with a friend, she could go and play with someone else quite easily. But being in a tiny village school of 19 students with one teacher, she was a little bit bullied when she first got there, she's got quite a dominant character. So girls being girls, trying to figure out who's the boss and who's going to lead whom, and that didn't go down too well. So she had a bit of a tough time adjusting to that. And there wasn't anyone else for her to play with. I was just so we're gonna have to like find a way to get on with it. Because you can't just go and find someone else to play with. Because that's all there. It's like it's and it's, I think that was the hardest thing trying to figure out how to help them settle. Or we could have put them in a different school. But then that's not to say it would have been any better. It's kind of nice skills, I think in terms of teaching them how to cope with negativity and that respect, but she's she's fine. Now. It's just a bit of a tough start. But I think those are things that we experience when we arrived, rather than things we are worried about before moving over, if that makes sense. So we didn't really think about all of that beforehand. We just overall felt it would be good for them.
Daniel De Biasi 49:39
That was a great approach. I mean, to have any big concern. It was just like to just focusing on the upside.
I think so yeah. just focusing on all the reasons. I mean, it's not like we had a bad life in the UK. We had like a nice house and had jobs and you know, we had really nice group of friends. Everything we had was good. We just wanted something different and we just wanted to say especially while they were little I had good memories of me traveling and weaving a board. And I want I think I felt it was important for the kids to discover that and to be able to, if anything, I think that's part of what was important for them to learn is to arrive in a new country to adapt. And if things don't go, right, what do you do? How do you make it okay? And, you know, how do you meet new people and get a new friendship, great. And those are all skills that I still feel really important as an adult. And in a way imposing those on the kids while they were little and having them to find their own way, by moving a board. To me, I think, based on my personal experience, and my family background, that was something I felt was important for the kids to have as well. Yeah. So not to be too comfortable in their own surroundings, but know how to adapt and thrive and new ones as well.
Daniel De Biasi 50:47
Perfect. I think this is a good time to wrap this up. So where people can find you, if somebody relates to your story, maybe they want to ask questions about moving abroad with the family. how people can find you?
Yeah, well, the best place to find me is on Instagram. I think that's the one I enjoy the most. And the one that follows our day-to-day life in France, and everything we just discussed is Emerald and Jade Loves. And then that links to the website with the blog and the posts from the other people. other families show their journey as well. But that's probably the main one and it's one I think to be the more active one so you can message me on that or drop me an email on the website.
Daniel De Biasi 51:25
Okay, perfect. Then, as usual, all the links and everything we discussed in this episode will be in the show notes so people can reach out to more easily with the link in the show notes. Perfect. Thank you. Thank you so much Fiona to share your story and share your knowledge about your story of moving to a new country with the with the family.
Yeah, great chatting to you. Thanks for having me.
Daniel De Biasi 51:43
No worries. It was my pleasure. Thanks. Bye bye.
Thank you. Bye.
Daniel De Biasi 51:47
Thank you so much for tuning in this week. You can find the show notes with all the links and everything we discuss in this episode at emigrantslife.com/episode45. If you enjoyed this episode and want to support the show, you can share this episode with your friends. You can leave us a review on Apple podcasts or Podchaser. Then one more thing, if you want to move to a new country and you need help feel free to reach out to me either via email at [email protected] or through our website, emigrantslife.com. It's absolutely free. I don't charge anything. Just reach out to me and we can schedule a call. I look forward to meeting you. Thanks again for listening. Talk to you on the next one. Ciao!
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