Two Years in France

February 11, 2013

la cressonniere hallway

By Gabrielle.

February 1st marked 2 years that we’ve lived in France. Two years! It’s flown by so incredibly fast. And I feel emotional every time I think about it. We hoped and suspected it would be a happy and growing experience for our family, but it has been so much more positive and life-changing than we could have imagined.

Our plan is to move back to the U.S. in July, after the French schools let out for the summer. Which means we’ve got 6 months left here at La Cressionère. And we want soak up every last minute of it! So don’t be surprised if you see a heavier dose of French-themed posts in the next while.

I want to give you the latest report on our children’s experience in French schools. A language learning update, too. I want to share my favorite inexpensive souvenirs. I want to recap what we’ve done, and the places we’ve visited since we arrived. And generally just reflect on what we’ve learned, and what comes next.

Speaking of what comes next, I’ve mentioned it before, but we are trying really, really hard to buy a rustic cottage here in Normandy before we move. (Rustic = needs much TLC.) Lots of paperwork involved, but if we are able to make it happen, I’ll definitely report. Please wish us luck!

And if there’s anything specific about our experience here in France that you’d like me to write about, let me know in the comments.

P.S. — Man oh man I love this house. The image is the hallway at the top of the stairs.

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shannon { A Mom's Year } February 11, 2013 at 9:48 am

Do you know this Ernest Hemingway quote? “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” La Cressionère is definitely a moveable feast. :)

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2 Amy February 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

I would love an update on the kids adjustment in school, activities, and friends. Also anything else that has impacted the family socially or culturally.

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3 Shannon Bradley-Colleary February 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

I think it may be best I don’t live in France because I suspect I would have to have a torrid affair with an earless depressive who paints prostitutes (oh wait, Van Gogh was Dutch N’est-il pas?) This is how I comfort myself and allay my jealousy. xo S

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4 Rebecca Alexis February 11, 2013 at 10:07 am

ohhhhh to savor those last few months. Savor and sip them up and enjoy every last crumb of your baguettes and the way the light flitters off those ancient stone streets. Enjoy kissing cheeks and the warmth in which you say bonjour and bonne nuit. savor it all and post it here. So glad you will be savoring your life there , living every step of these last few months and hours in the present.xxoo

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5 Louise February 11, 2013 at 10:13 am

Don’t go back…don’t go back…don’t go back!! You have all adapted so brilliantly, I think you should stay for the long haul! ;o)

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6 Zoe February 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

Can it really be two years already?? Wow.

Since we dream of spending an extended time abroad some year soon, I’m curious to know what you wish you knew at the beginning that you know now — things that would have made the planning, transition, or experience easier/better. Anything?

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7 Ann February 11, 2013 at 10:19 am

I would love to hear how you adapted in the kitchen!

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8 Molly February 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

You have written about how your children are doing in school and that they have made friends. I’m curious to know what kind of community you and Mr. Blair outside of your immediate family (I imagine it’s trickier to establish without school and the learning curve that goes along with a new language).

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9 Crystal February 11, 2013 at 10:37 am

I’m always curious about how you navigated visas to stay for 2 years, and how you chose to enter your kids in the local school, and how quickly they adapted to learning in a foreign language.

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10 Maria Baker February 12, 2013 at 6:13 am

I’m curious about the visas and such too. We lived in Germany for two years (2010-2012) but it was through the military so we didn’t have to do all the visa stuff. My husband and I talk a lot about going back to Europe on our own terms (no threats of deployments, etc) but always get bogged down with all the details.

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11 Micah H. February 11, 2013 at 10:41 am

I’d love to hear more on your search for a cottage. My husband is British, and we really want to purchase a small house somewhere between Britain and France (I love France.) so that we can spend part of our year closer to his family and homeland.

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12 susan February 11, 2013 at 10:41 am

Yes, more French-themed posts please. We will absorb every last drop of France with you.

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13 Suzanne February 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

Yes, please…more posts on France! I’d love to hear more about advice you’d give another family considering a similar move. Perhaps not as much the logistical challenges/solutions but some the emotional side of the move. How was it to adapt to a new country and culture, how did you make friends, what was hard about the change? What would you caution someone else? What do you wish you’d known before the move that you know now? And did you find that it was easier for some of your kids to adapt than others (and is that a factor of age, or just particular personalities)? So many questions :)

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14 Sue February 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

I’d like to know what you have missed most about the United States (besides family of course) and what you have loved most about being in France from a cultural standpoint. And what of those favorite lifestyle patterns/rhythms do you think you will be able to take home and sustain?

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15 Mary-My Life in Scotland February 11, 2013 at 11:29 am

Yay for 2 years! At the end of February it will mark 5 years for us living in Scotland. I can not even believe it has been 5 yrs! Whoa.

This past summer we decided to make our expat experience permanent. Our son was born here and we like it. I’ve been thinking on where it is that I want to settle and what kind of life I want to live here. Although we’ve had a great experience thus far, we’ve not done as much as we’d originally thought. So…I’m thinking we need to move to the seaside and buy us a cottage. Live the life we’d imagined for ourselves. Live the dream. Let’s hope it happens!

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16 Joy February 11, 2013 at 11:56 am

I love reading all of your France-related posts.

I’d love to read about your experience with the language. How do you get by without speaking French fluently? Did you pick it up? Do you speak it fluently now?

I’d also love to know if you’ve experienced any negative attitudes from people…you know the old saying that the French don’t care for Americans. Have you had any negative experiences or did you feel at home in France?

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

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17 Laura February 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Me too! I’d love to know how you navigate everyday things (haircuts, grocery store, buying gas, restaurants, cafes, teacher conferences) without speaking fluent french? We have a large non-English speaking population in our town and often the children act as translators for the parents.
ps — Have you dreamt in French yet?

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18 neha February 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I would like to know what the French think about Americans and the US not necessarily politically but culturally, economically, American environmental conscientiousness, food habits. What can we Americans learn from them?. What do we offer them as a society?.Also, are there areas in which Americans can find employment there should someone want to replicate your experience but is not involved in online work ?. And yes please, more posts on France..it has been wonderful reading about your French and European adventures!.

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19 Sharon @ Discovering blog February 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Yes, I’d love to know if you feel like you have one foot in America, one foot in France, and if you ever feel “misplaced”. What’s the general response you guys get if you all show up in the grocery store and are yammering on in English to each other? Do you feel self conscious? Do you feel like it’s home, or like you are a visitor?
Thanks so much for sharing any of this! My daughter’s best friend is moving to Paris for 3 years and I’m dying of jealously! I told the mom to check out your blog for some guidance.

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20 emily February 11, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I can’t wait to see your ‘inexpensive french souvenirs’ post – will be in france this spring and love to hit up some local shopping.

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21 Lark February 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your experience in France. You are a true inspiration for families who would love to take such a leap. I have given my own three children the gift of travel and recently my 12 year old told me how grateful she was for those experiences! Good luck with the cottage. I would love to watch how that unfolds.

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22 Arija February 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Did you ever think that France can be your permanent choice??

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23 Kylie February 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I would love to hear about how it has been cooking and grocery shopping in France. How many of your old recipes have you been able to use? What common ingredients have you had to replace with something new? How about a favorite new recipe from your time in France. Thanks Gabrielle!

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24 Emme February 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I still want a post on what books children read in elementary there–actual French series/pictures books by French authors, rather than translations! :)

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25 Maggie February 11, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Oui oui, plus, s’il vous plait! I second someone above who asked about how you and the mister adjusted. Very interested in updates on the kids’ language skills, school, friendships, too, but it seems like they’d have more natural immersion. What about you, working with people in the states the whole time, but needing to go shopping at Monoprix and Auchan — have you picked up the language, made French friends, etc?
Will greedily gulp up everything you write on France!

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26 Vera February 13, 2013 at 2:06 am

Yes, these are very good topics! :)

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27 Christina @ Homemade Ocean February 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I have learned so much in your time there….two of the most facinating topics were the kids schooling and the typical wardrobe (ahem not being yoga pants). I can’t wait to hear more!!!!

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28 Alie February 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Have you read Bringing Up Bebe? I’m curious to know how much truth there is to it.

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29 Kathy February 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Somehow I missed the story of what brought you to France in the first place. Would love to know!

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30 dolly February 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I would love to see traditional french children toys ,games or books .
I HAVE A PASSION for them. please share ! french playgrounds ? love all your post your amazing .thanks for letting us peek into your world.:)

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31 Natalia February 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I just can’t say enough good things about your posts on France. They are part vicarious-living, part arte-de-vivre, and part inspirational. I’d love to second the above comments and say that I’d be very interested to know how the children have adjusted…what you think they will miss most about France when they go and what they will tell their American friends! By the looks of things, you’ve exposed them to all the best the country has to offer, I’m sure they will be little French Ambassadors! Best of luck with the rustic cottage search and with sucking the marrow out of your remaining months.

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32 Inspired by This Blog February 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm

That’s amazing! You’re definitely living the dream!!! Happy for both you and your growing family! :)

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33 Lana Cole February 11, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I sent you an e-mail about this, but I’m really curious to know about your experience with The Church in France! Especially the youth and the culture of what it means to be Mormon and French. I hope you’ll share some tidbits!

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34 françois February 12, 2013 at 8:33 am

Pour moi c”est la principale différence entre la France et les USA.
La pratique des religions et la croyance sont très basse (entre 15 et 30%). Les Mormons n”ont jamais réussi à percer malgré les milliers de jeunes missionnaires.

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35 Valerie February 12, 2013 at 10:10 am

I think one of the only real public displays of religious history/practice, specifically Catholic, is French holidays. Many of public holidays remain based on the Christian calendar. I would say the other more publicly debated religion topic is the growth of Islam in France. Immigration polices (or lack thereof) in the late 70’s, early 80’s and the higher birthrate among immigrants is beginning to result in a material shift in numbers of people who practice a religion not typically recognized as being Christian.

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36 françois February 12, 2013 at 11:28 am

Some mosquée are build in France and many catholic church was closed or transformed in house, café etc…
But even in Islam cult the régular practice is minority.
sorry for my bad english

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37 Melanie February 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I would be interested in knowing about why you are choosing to move back this summer! Are you homesick, or was it always your plan to leave after about 2 years or so in France? It sounds like it it has been a great experience for you guys and I have enjoyed reading about all the fun stuff you have been doing in Europe!

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38 Alison Chino February 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Yay for more posts about France!!! I started reading your blog when you moved to France and I have loved every minute!

We are moving our family overseas next year so I am taking notes about everything. Thanks so much for sharing!

And Bon Chance on the cottage hunt too!

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39 Emily W February 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I live reading about your family’s experience moving to France. I recently read “French kids Eat Everything” and was interested if 1. Have you read it? And 2. Have your kids tastes changed (particularly your older ones) since moving to France? After reading the book I was particularly intrigued with the cultural habits involved with eating (no snacking, and a very thought out menu for each meal which everyone always sits down for) as well as the high quality of food served at school. Thanks!!

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40 Jenny February 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Time FLIES! I discovered your blog just after getting married/moving in with my husband, and you were in the final stages of getting ready for the move. I’ve loved following along with you all, and remembering the sweet newness of our marriage at the same time. :)

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41 Hillary February 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Hi, I would love to hear more about the children’s experiences at school, especially the social aspects. Have they made close friends, do they socialize outside of school, were they well accepted by their peers and teachers?

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42 Rosie February 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I’d love to hear about how you navigated the health care system there, how you found a good pediatrician, etc… LOVE your French posts and live vicariously through you!

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43 JenG February 11, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I love reading about French food! Cheeses, yogurts, other dairy, breads, jams…yum! What have you experienced as being a normal breakfast, lunch, dinner etc?
I loved your textiles post about the french linens too!

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44 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay February 11, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I would love to know how you will approach looking for a place to live in the States after living in France? How is your search for culture/community/ location/schools/walkable vs. drivable stores etc/food influenced by your stay there? I really would live to know your thought process as it emerges. Thanks.

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45 Terry February 11, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I echo the last comment about French food and textiles. As a teacher, I would love to hear more about language learning for your kids– did you see a difference in the older children’s language acquisition?

Also, what difference in French culture do you most enjoy? What French word do you most like the sound of? How do Normandy and Paris differ?
Looking forward to hearing more!

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46 Christelle February 11, 2013 at 8:32 pm

We live in Canada but I’m from France and we’re toying with the idea of going back for the kid’s education. They are perfectly bilingual so the language wouldn’t be a barrier. I’m just wondering how they would adjust to the French education system. Things have changed since I went to school myself…. I remember much much more discipline, apprendre par coeur, standardization of the education, lack of team work. I would be curious to hear your honest opinion on the subject. Enjoy your last 6 months…

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47 Stella February 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm

You’re leaving France?? So sad :( I’ll miss seeing photos and hearing about it… But I know the next phase of your lives will be just as fun and just as much of an adventure. I’m so curious where you will settle after leaving!

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48 Jenny Lynn February 11, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Has it really been 2 years? Wow, I can ‘t believe you will becoming back to the states in July. I really pray that buying your beautiful cottage will work out for you and your family. As I have followed you, it is very apparent how much you love it.

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49 chrissy February 12, 2013 at 3:33 am

ah
we are also moving back this fall after spending 2 years in london. it is very bittersweet and i am doing the same thing you are doing…savouring it all. are you worried about repatriation? i am thinking it may be a little depressing to go back to “normal”. how are you and your lovely family approaching this?

we also chose the non-american school route and chose to put our 3 children into the also in the british system (my oldest is 16 and in a international IB programme school). there is not the major language challenge that yours faced, but there are many educational, cultural (and even language!) differences. i think the experience has taught them each a lot about themselves, whether they know it now or not, and the amount of information they have absorbed both in school and in our travels is fabulous.

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50 Nicole May 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

We will be moving to southwest England for 2 years in July. We’ll be about 2.5 hours from London. Our 3 daughters will be attending British schools. In fact, my husband and I are going over there next week to find a place to rent and look at schools. So curious about how you and your children adjusted to the school system. It seems so different than school here in the US–especially for teens. Any advice? :)
–Nicole

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51 Maria Baker February 12, 2013 at 6:14 am

By the way, where are you headed next? Did I miss that? My kids are in an all French school here in Canada even though we are an English household. Two official languages here and speaking both is a definite advantage in life here.

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52 Design Mom February 12, 2013 at 7:45 am

Wow! I love all the questions and topics you’re interested in. I’ve got to figure out how I can address all of these without making the blog all France all the time. : )

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53 Esther March 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Just found your blog – LOVE IT!! Especially the Living with Kids sections… I’ve been searching but did you do a Living with Kids yourself? I would absolutely LOVE to see more pictures of the beautiful house you are living in. I re-watched the House Hunters episode but it’s not the same as seeing how you made it your home and settled everyone in. :-)

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54 Carrie February 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

I would love an all-France for a while!

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55 Béa February 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

Times flies! This reminds me of sthg I make sure to always bring back from France and keep advising everyone to get : Urgo’s super thick Anti-Choc band-aids. Got to think about these few days ago when I used one on my foot. … not too much info, it’s just that they are the only one for me to do the job in shoes (aside from the compeed type of band-aids).
PS: I hope I’m not quoting to many brands here… just stating that they’re only thick ones to pass my quality control!!

PPS : are you celebrating Mardi-Gras today? savouring beignets?

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56 Rebecca S. February 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Yes, I would love more posts about France too! More about the language and how that worked–I am proficient, but my husband knows no French at all. How did language affect your marriage? Did it place more pressure on one partner?

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57 Kimberly February 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I would love to hear more about French fashion! Something like how you would dress for each season.

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58 teresa February 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

That picture kills me…love =)
How can anywhere else you live compare?
What an adventure.
Happy Day

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59 Candalyn February 13, 2013 at 11:56 am

I have also read Bringing up Bebe and French Kids Eat Everything… I would love to hear your take on the French food culture, as it applies to raising kids. How have the kids liked eating at school? How many of their practices have you brought into your home? My little girl is nearly ready to start solids and I am spending a LOT of time thinking about the food culture I want for our family– so I am curious!

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60 Susaninfrance February 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I’m moving back to france, where my kids were born and I spent over a decade, this summer with my kids after spending 7 years stateside. I”m fluent but my french husband will stay in the states for 8 months! I’m so nervous about the educational system and looking at a catholic school vs public.

I”m very interested in the social connections you’ve made. That was harder for me when I was there than I’d have thought, though I did certainly make friends–it took much longer than here in the usa where you can be BFFs after meeting once (half-kidding).
Also, health care—do you have it in the french system or are you having to pay for it? I have french nationality but will not be working in france nor will my husband for the first time….
best of luck and enjoy this remaining time. i’ve always found i feel completely at home neither place after living a large part of my life outside the usa. you might even find you want to return to france! It took me a year to adjust to the usa after my time abroad! xoxo

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