How I felt when I left France
I left France in July 2010, after living there for 12 years and saying I would never leave. Recently several people have asked me if I miss France, if it was a hard decision to leave or how I felt when I left, so I thought I’d share a little more about that part of our life today.
I fell in love with France and the French when I went on a family holiday to Fréjus aged 8. When I moved to France in 1998, straight after finishing my French & Spanish degree it felt like the most natural next step. No one was surprised when I married my French boyfriend. I was the biggest francophile my family and friends knew.
I always said that I would NEVER leave France and, more precisely, the French Riviera. I assumed I was there for the rest of my life.
So when we made the decision on 18th June 2010 to leave France for good on 19th July 2010 it was a shock to everyone. Myself included.
I have already blogged about our reasons for leaving France so this is about how I felt when we left, and the first few months after relocating to the UK.
We made our decision so quickly that it meant our last month in France passed by in a whirlwind of admin, closing accounts, selling our car and most of our worldly possessions. It also meant that I didn’t really have time to take onboard the emotional aspect.
The day before we left we delivered our dog and cat to their respective homes for the next 6 months; making such a quick decision meant we hadn’t had time to get them ready to travel with us. I still remember the look on our dog’s face as we drove away, it felt like we were abandoning him again (when we adopted him as a 6 month-old he’d been walking the streets, riddled with ticks).
On our last morning we delivered our final belongings and car to friends we’d sold them to. Then we went for one last trip to the beach, and one last dip in the sea.
We came back to our apartment for a quick shower before heading to the airport. The sight that greeted me as I came out of the shower absolutely floored me. Our 3 and 1/2 year old looked like some kind of street child as she curled up on the bare floor to sleep. I really felt like I’d failed my only child.
We flew from Nice to London that evening. As my parents drove us to their house – my childhood home – I felt shit. They were great, but all I could think was “I’m 34 years old and moving back in to my parents’ home with my husband and 3 and 1/2 year old, we’ve got no home, no job, no car and hardly any belongings.”
The next day it was a delight to wake up to a mere 18-20°C, instead of the stifling 35°C we’d left Nice in. But that novelty soon faded as the British weather showed its true colours and 18°C came to be seen as a high.
Two weeks after being in the UK Hubs told me that it was the longest he’d ever gone in his whole life without seeing the sun or blue sky. And that was the summer! We spent our wedding anniversary in London while my parents looked after L, it was fantastic but as I sat and shivered on a deckchair in Hyde Park a thought nagged at the back of mind, “it’s only August and you’re freezing, how are you going to cope when winter comes around?”
I found it really hard having no social life when we moved back to the UK. We didn’t want to use up our precious savings on going out, so during the 2 months we lived with my parents we went to the cinema twice and, other than that, stayed in at my mum and dad’s every night.
We started job-hunting almost immediately and Hubs got offered a job within a week of looking, next up was house-hunting. We found somewhere in London that suited us and just over 2 months after arriving at our parents’ we waved goodbye, as we set off on our new life in the big city!
We had one night in our new home before flying back to Nice for a friend’s wedding. My parents looked after L for us and we headed back to our old stomping ground for the weekend.
What I hadn’t quite realised was how hard that weekend would be.
We left a house full of boxes, a cold, rainy country and landed in the beautiful sunshine of Nice. As we started our descent all I could see was the blue of the sky and the sea of my home. Not my old home – my home. Or that’s how it felt.
We headed over to Europcar to discover that our basic hire car had been upgraded to a convertible for the weekend. Result! Next thing we knew we were driving alongside the beach, on a balmy Nice evening with the roof down on the car, child-free, and I felt so happy.
That weekend we soaked up the sun, revelled in seeing our friends again, reconnected just the two of us, and made the most of the region by ending the weekend eating at the beach restaurant where Hubs gave me my engagement ring (we got engaged on holiday in Corsica) and where my hen weekend started.
It was wonderful, all the best parts of the French Riviera and France.
And then it was time to leave. We boarded the plane too late to sit together. I sat and sobbed the whole flight from Nice to London. What had we done? I was miserable in the UK. I wanted to go home. Home to Nice.
It was very hard when we got back to London. I missed Nice. I missed France. I missed my friends. I missed our routine and our support network. I missed seeing the beach, the blue sky, the sun.
But slowly things started to pick up. L got a place at the nursery of the local school, I got a job that I really enjoyed with a great bunch of people and we started to make friends.
It wasn’t a quick and painless process and I remember feeling quite down a lot during those first 6 months. But it did all work out for the best. Over four years on and some days I still miss Nice and France with every fibre of my being. But we are so much better off here. I am very happy in the UK and we have a far better quality of life in London than we ever did in Nice.
It was a hard decision and a difficult time for both Hubs and me (L didn’t seem overly bothered about the move funnily enough) but it was definitely the right decision. If I had to make the same choice again it would still be London over Nice.
I hope this blog post helps those who are trying to make a similar life-changing decision, and those who have recently moved, whether across one country or from one country to another.
This blog post is dedicated to my wonderful parents who didn’t bat an eyelid when I called them to ask if we could move in with them indefinitely, and who then so kindly hosted us for over 2 months. You are both amazing!
(Main photo is of the sun on the sea in Nice, taken from the Chateau in February)