Skip to content

Leaving France

January 10, 2016

Dear all

I’m leaving France in a few weeks.  I gave it my very best, but it just wasn’t possible to stay.

I’m going to look at leaving the content of this site up for reading only, as this blog gets spammed like most other sites, and I won’t have the time to manage this kind of thing, working full time in the UK, commuting and managing trips back to France to visit the children’s Papa.

Thanks all for your support.  It is possible for some Brits to live in France, so “courage” – stay away from rural areas and if you’re going to marry someone who’s French, make sure they won’t judge you down the line for not being French yourself – and I mean, maintain the moral support of someone who’ll never be French.  I stress this point because it’s something that is difficult for some French people to do, because conformity is so important in their culture that my advice would be to make CERTAIN that your husband/wife truly accepts you for who you are, including your original nationality, and accepts that you might integrate into French life, but that you will NEVER be French.

Good luck to one and all

Over and out

Emily

Tu as marre des critiques des autres?

January 7, 2013

This post exists also in English

Mon frère et ma sœur ont toujours du mal à accepter la lettre de mon père.  Je viens de voir la citation suivante:

“Pardonner, ce n’est pas dire que l’autre partie a raison, ce n’est qu’à dire que tu considères que votre relation vaut plus qu’avoir raison”.

Ce m’a rappelé de l’exposé médiatique de la maudite lettre, et comme mon message positif n’avait jamais vu le jour.  Alors, voici ma réponse à tout ceux et celles qui ont vécu les choses pareilles:

Il me suis venu à l’esprit que les gens ne se sentent pas concernés que par l’avis des célèbres ou ce des experts dans leur champ d’expertise.  Cela fait une bonne raison en soi de ne pas accorder de l’importance aux avis négatifs d’autrui.  Comme leurs propos ne viennent pas, en tout cas, d’un intérêt profond en moi, alors leurs impressions sont mal pesées et elles parlent alors plutôt de leur auteur!

Alors, au lieu de refuser à jamais de parler à celui, comment faire?

Tu pourrais lire “Desiderata” et ainsi arriver à concevoir la critique comme une épreuve, voire comme du bruit, tout simplement.

Tu pourrais écouter “Get Over It” par The Eagles, et s’il te semble que tu aurais pu être le sujet du discours, alors tu chercheras l’aide dont tu as besoin- mais d’où?

Après d’avoir préalablement été traité pour votre éventuel dépression ou autre condition qui te bloque ou t’empêche de t’en sortir, partes sur la rédaction de ton CV, ton business plan, ou quoi que soit le projet de planification qu’il te faut faire à ce moment.  Et si tu te sentira bloqué au niveau de la motivation, je peux te recommander quelques bouquins- mais ça j’ai déjà essayé et j’ai l’impression que ceci n’était pas tout à fait ce que vous avez voulu!

Hier un documentaire est passé sur la télé sur Margaret Thatcher.  Parlant à un intervieweur 6 mois après son départ de son poste, elle a eu mal à accepter que ses anciens proche collaborateurs l’avait trahis en pas arrivant à la dire qu’elle devrait démissionner, mais par la suite donnant leur voix à un de ses rivales.  Par contre ses ministres jurent de l’avoir dit en face.  Alors, qui a eu raison? 20 ans plus tard, cette affaire, a-t-elle d’importance?  Sa perplexité avait, pour moi, l’air du propos d’une personne fait pour un seul poste (Premier Ministre) et qui a exécutée ses devoirs sans lâcher prise, mais au point de noyer ses critiques et finalement aussi ses collaborateurs.  Ces derniers ont eu qu’un recours en fin du compte: l’écarter du pouvoir.

Il m’est venu à l’esprit qui si on trouve que la présence d’un membre de son entourage est étouffant ou que leur avis est difficile à vivre, il n’y a qu’une chose à faire.  Il n’est pas la peine d’essayer à prendre une voie facile et de se retourner le dos, car ceci n’entraîne que d’autres soucis liés.  Il vaut mieux concevoir la difficulté comme un défi.

Pas comme les partis politiques, ni les émissions télé-réalité, on n’est pas en mesure d’écarter les gens par la vote, ni les virer de l’équipe.  les familles ne sont pas, non plus, des entreprises, avec les règles du jeu écrits et ordonnes écrits.

Alors, tu ne peux te débarrasser de personne, pas vraiment.  Pas par façon d’un email grondant, pas en ignorant leurs invitations à dîner, ni leurs cadeaux aux enfants.

Par contre, il est dans ton don à faire face au défi de réussir d’être pleinement toi-même, sans compromis hormis ceux qui entraîneront les améliorations en le sort de toi et tes personnes à charge.  Tu peux choisir d’exister malgré la présence de cette personne qui te rend la vie difficile.  Il va te falloir savoir te défendre, avouer tes erreurs, et pardonner ceux des autres.  Avant tout, il sera histoire de fixer ton cap sur tes propres projets.  Bientôt tu verras qui tu épanouiras à côté de ton ancien détracteur, et ce dernier n’arrivera pas à croire comment il avait eu un tel impression erroné de ta valeur.

Si, par contre, il se révélera ressentant de ton succès au lieu de le fêter, tu le sentiras et, avec ta nouvelle force, tu trouveras une solution.  Quoi que ça soit, tu ne feras plus sujet ne de leur blague, ni de leurs discours de motivation!

Alors, de ma part, Bonne Année et bon défi!

Tired of criticism from others?

January 7, 2013

Cet article existe aussi en Français

My brother and sister are still having difficulty coming to terms with my father’s letter.  I saw this quote recently: “forgiving doesn’t mean you’re saying the other person’s right, just that you value your relationship more than asserting your own point if view”.

It made me think of the press exposé of my father’s letter, and how the positive message I wanted the article and any following interest in it, had never been seen.

So here’s my advice to those who are still suffering the after-effects:

It occurred to me that unless one’s famous or an expert in the field in question, nobody wants to know, generally, what we think.  This is all the more reason not to attach inordinate importance to someone else’s negative view of us.  Their comments (as they’re fundamentally not all that interested in you anyway) are probably either being made off the cuff, or are more about them than they are about you.

So, rather than swear never to talk to the offending person ever again, what to do?

You could read “Desiderata” and choose to see the criticism as another of life’s knocks, but essentially as noise.
You could listen to “Get Over It” by The Eagles.  If it sounds like the song was written about you, get help.  But where?
After seeking for depression or similar problem that might be holding you back, talk to a careers adviser, re-do your CV, or write a business plan, or whatever fits your situation.  If you lack inspiration or still feel held back, you could try self-help books.  I could give you a list!  (Then again, I’ve already tried to recommend some but get the impression it didn’t help much!)

I was watching a documentary on Margaret Thatcher, recently.  Speaking in an interview she’d given 6 months after her having to resign as Prime Minister, she had been unable to accept a key point in the story of her downfall.  This was that ministers and cabinet members close to her had wanted her to resign her post as PM, but had felt unable to say so face to face.  These ministers, on the other hand, say they had done just that. So who was right or wrong? Does it even matter, 20 years on?  Her apparent bewilderment sounded to me like the assertion of someone who was made to do one job only and who did it to the point of drowning out the voices of her critics and ultimately even of her collaborators.  Inevitably, in the end they felt they had one option only: to get her out of the picture.

It occurred to me that if you find it difficult to live with someone, or with their opinions, there’s really only one thing to do. There’s no point in trying to take the easy option and turn your back on them, as this causes too much collateral damage.  It is better, instead, to think of it as a challenge.

Families are not political parties or reality shows where members can be “voted out” or “fired”!  Nor are they companies whose rules of play are set out in company policy manuals and employment contracts.

So you can’t get rid of anyone, not really.  Not by writing them a hectoring email, and not by ignoring their invitations to lunch, their presents for the children, or anything else.

What you can do, is to take up the challenge of being yourself, without making compromises except those that bring about a real improvement in your own life or that of your dependents.  You can choose to allow yourself to exist despite the presence of this person who currently makes your life so difficult.  It means standing up for yourself, acknowledging your own mistakes, and forgiving theirs.  Above all, it means focussing on your own projects.  Before long you’ll be flourishing alongside your erstwhile critic, and he or she will be scratching their head wondering how they had had such an inaccurate picture if your worth!

If, on the other hand, they turn out to be the sort if person who resents your success instead of enjoying it, you’ll sense this and the order of things will change.  You’ll find a way forward from your new, confident position.  Either way, you will no longer be the butt if their joke, the subject of their admonishment nor, indeed, on the receiving end of any more of their lectures or pep talks!

So, from me, happy New Year and I hope you will take up the challenge!

Escaping Depression

December 5, 2012

A friend of mine today publishes his solution to the devastation of depression. As he points out, everyone’s case is different, but I think he still has some points in his solid and thorough approach that could apply to many.

http://www.badwabbittails.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/escaping-depression-bad-wabbit-style/

Fitting in with France … and those French Women!!!

December 3, 2012

Géraldine Lepère, in a recent article in the Telegraph, assures us that French women are not perfect, nor intimidating.  I live in France and I beg to differ!

Although there are many women in France who are not catwalk-thin, and whose children are impeccable in neither appearance nor behaviour, if you want to get on in France, you’d better set your sights higher.  It’s the “perfect” people who have the edge, and people all around are constantly striving to improve.  However, being perfect isn’t all about being primped and preened.  Two French women have given me an insight into what it really does take to be one of the girls.  I will call them Mrs Perfect, and “Noelle”, the French lady with British neighbours.

The Image of Mrs Perfect

My French husband, in a bid to see me settle in to the gallic way of life, put me in touch with someone who, he said, could help, whatever that means!.  Having told my doctor husband that she “loves to receive visitors at home”,  she accorded me (not a doctor) an audience in the safe and sterile environment of a shopping centre coffee shop.  When I saw the immaculately-turned out woman coming towards me, a formal smile spread across her perfect face and a discreetly manicured hand stiffly outstretched, I knew my husband’s idea of “friendly help” to a foreigner was different to mine. Far from being an Englishwoman in France, as he’d said, she turned out to be very much French, and she certainly checked all the boxes in the stereotype!

Immaculately turned-out, she had previously had a successful international career, but was now marooned in Brittany, like me, because her children are young and, well, what’s the point of having children if you don’t spend time with them?  I got the distinct impression that she considers being a mother another quest for perfection, a goal that she pretty much has in her sights.  I also got the impression that my husband had let her know that I could do with some help in this direction.  Not liking smoke and mirrors much, I asked her outright, and she confirmed this.  Oh well, fair enough….  Look, those reading this are probably wondering why I let all and sundry tell me I’m a failure, and then publish this on the internet, in the UK national press, and what-have-you…. but I don’t think I’m alone and I want anyone reading this who thinks they’re the only one to be in this situation to think again – you’re not, and you can survive it!

By the way, I’d also ilke to point out that my husband didn’t mean to intimidate me, he genuinely thought she was English, and that she could offer me some tips on how to have a successful career in rural France.  But here’s the thing: she’s as lost as anyone else is here.  Her appearance gives the impression of a successful career woman, but that’s just what it is, a carefully orchestrated appearance.  I don’t mean to denigrate either her efforts or her actual achievements – she writes articles about eye-wateringly expensive houses and gardens for the sort of glossy lifestyle magazines whose cover price would tell you whether or not there’s any point in your so much as taking a peek inside.  So her career is still going, and she is in the enviable position of being able to balance this with her home life.  However, her domain is completely different to mine, so she didn’t have much concrete advice to give.

I should add that I am in just as good a position as she is, especially considering the shorter time that I have been here and the fact that my French has only been up to a respectable standard for less than a year!!!

She had one piece of advice for me: to ask my husband to “get me a contract” at the hospital where he works for English teaching or some other what-have-you.  We had a laugh, my husband and I, about that later that day.  I mean, really – I’ve been in France a fraction of the time she has, yet even I know that a doctor can’t just “get a contract” for his wife “because he’s a doctor”!  This is the French public sector (i.e. quite similar to the British NHS in this context) – not Ewing Oil!!!

The French lady with British neighbours

Having been recommended to take advice from someone who’s so out of touch with the real France, I decided to listen, instead, to those who are genuinely part of life in our corner of Brittany.  For instance, a lady who had come to me for English lessons and who introduced me to a British couple living nearby – who she promptly fell out with.  This lady, I’ll call her Noelle, has a small cleaning business.

I was recently in a position to ask Noelle why she’d suddenly given up on her erstwhile friends.  Suffice to say that it was really cultural – to the extent that without understanding each culture one wouldn’t understand the reasons even if they were presented in black and white.

To write about the story of those three and their ill-fated friendship would take a while, so I’ll sum it up by saying that initially Noelle was fascinated by her English neighbours, and they were glad of a friendly face among the rest in the area, who were rather conservative and not very open to people from elsewhere.  Unfortunately, though, Noelle turned out to be a rather needy and high-maintenance friend, who took umbrage at a few misunderstandings over invitations to days out, coffee, and such things.  All this could have been sorted out though – and I did try to play mediator on this because all three are good people who had previously got a lot out of their friendship – but it turned out that Noelle found her neighbours’ attitude to her “help” in “fitting in” was churlish – because they hadn’t taken her advice.  Worst of all was – wait for it – that the woman in the couple doesn’t work!  What business is it of anyone else’s, you might ask, if someone decides to lead a life of leisure?  Well you might ask this question, unless you live in France, in which case you would never ask that question in the first place.

There are a few cultural differences at play here that are difficult to explain, but I will do later, when I have worked out how best to commit them to paper.  So here, instead, are some brief pointers based upon the advice of two French women:

▪          Forget sophisticated beauty routines, there’s no point in being pretentious or trying to look “French”, in the unlikely event that you succeed, people will just think you’re from Paris (a big no-no!)  What matters is looking respectable.  French people change their clothes after feeding the animals, even if it’s just to do the school run.

▪          If you don’t work, expect to be treated with anything ranging from bewilderment to downright suspicion.  Whether or not you have enough equity in your house in the UK to purchase a house outright, and a nest egg squirreled away to give you an income, you have a moral obligation, as far as they’re concerned, to take an active role in the community.  By that, we’re not talking about running the WI or volunteering with the local youth football team, we’re talking about 35 hours’ graft every week – the voluntary work’s extra!

▪          If you’re doing home renovations or improvements, use the local accepted choices of floor coverings (NOT carpets) – think compatible with the daily mop and bucket (also compulsory items in the home).  Ditto for the render on the house.  You are only a temporary installation in the area, the house “belongs” to its local community, regardless of whose name’s on the title deeds.  Ignore these rules and your house will be difficult to sell (as well as your life being more difficult while you’re there!)

Accept any “hints” on how to fit in as practically compulsory.  Conformity is very important.  If you think they’re only teasing and they love you as you are, really, you’re in for a rude awakening!!!  The fact that you are here makes you an enigma, and being such is not a good thing.  Most french people would not put themselves in such a position of perceived weakness, and they expect you to feel beholden to them not to be an outsider.  The British penchant for breaking the mould looks, to them, like anarchy, and anarchists are a threat to their security… hence the “unfriendly” attitude towards people who choose to do as they choose saying “It’s a free country”.  Some countries are freer than others!

France pays small business holders to shut up shop and join the dole queue.

November 29, 2012

In The Sunday Telegaph, France’s economy was accused of being stuck in the 70s.  I can confirm, living in France, her being stuck in the past is deeply entrenched in French society’s collective consciousness.

Sorbonne-educated Jean-Louis Borloo, a liberal, is the president of the centre-right Union des Democrates et Indépendants, and one of its radical members.  According to Atlantico, “As the UMP implode, Borloo’s UDI rub their hands (with glee)”.  I heard him interviewed an hour ago on France Inter, as he contemplates an opportunist coalition with the UMP following their being weakened by the scrap between Fillon and Copé.  He was loud and clear on his opinion that the Socialist party are stuck in 18th Century thinking.  You don’t say….!

I’ll say.  Having lived in France for just over 3 years, I was stunned when a well-meaning local employer, at the “Haras National” (National Stud) in my local town gave me some advice.  Seated in her office a stone’s throw away from the 100-year old shrine to the town’s working horse heritage, she advised me to wind up my business and go on the dole.  Excuse me?  “It would make you more interesting to employers”, she continued.  Scarcely able to restrain myself from asking why a “dole layabout” would make an “interesting” employee at any level, I didn’t bother saying that I wasn’t setting my sights on “getting a job”, having set up my own company.  “Please explain”, I said, my eyes wide with incomprehension as she continued this fascinating insight into the workings of a machine that pre-dates the Breton Poster horse. “Naturally”, she said, “government incentives to employ the unemployed mean that, in fact, you stand little chance of being taken on unless you ARE unemployed”.  So France prefers that small business holders shut up shop and join the dole queue, rather than getting off their backsides and generating some wealth.  Or in my case, encouraging and facilitating export.  I politely told her that I preferred spending my time actually working, rather than having circular discussions with fontionnaires.  Her superior smile said it all – but I was truly glad to agree to differ.

So, for Borloo, how to support small businesses?  This morning he commented that what he’s disliked seeing the most over the past 6 months, is the attitudes and practices that guarantee a talent drain for France, the battle for the liberty of those who could generate wealth, the heavy taxation and legislation that weigh them down.  Small companies being treated like large ones.  Man’s instinct to explore, says Borloo, is natural.  But France doesn’t foster enterprise, nor exterior investment, while other countries actively encourage it.

So what about Hollande’s “Competitiveness Pact “?  “Can we get serious for a moment?”, he said, “this crisis isn’t about the credit crunch: this government is leading us softly to recession….  Unemployment rising is the only one of their promises I’d believe.”  He went on to say that France should stop messing around with retrospective tax credits, and just lower the charges on businesses and tackle unemployment rather than paying it lip service.

In a bid to emphasise unity after a swingeing attack on the establishment, suddenly the discussion switches to Scouts – a discussion that turns out to be more than simple light relief.  At their most impressionable age, young boys are schooled into packs.  The most important principle?  The establishment of a clear leader, and the subsequent falling into line by the rest.  How they fear chaos and in-fighting – yet how they foster it in the same breath.

Geert Hofstede’s not wrong when he clinically, and without a solid base in theory, categorised the nations in his 4 dimensions, two of which are pertinent here.  “Power Distance” and fear of the unfamiliar conspire to make the French fearful of and closed to many things, especially the freedom for the ordinary person to flourish.  For all their shouting and demonstrating in the street, the French are actually MORE accepting of authority than many other nations.  This appears to inhibit their appetite to find ways around problems – they seek ways to fit in with the system as it is, instead.  Housewives obey their husbands, children are scared of their teachers – these can be good things in the right context, but are also reminiscent, as has been said before, of Britain in the 70s, and who would want to go back there?  A French person might wind up their business and register at the Job Centre in order to “conform”, but for me this runs counter to the idea that one must start as one means to carry on: from a position of strength.

The French think they’re bad at foreign languages – I don’t agree, what they’re bad at is speaking them out loud, for fear of being judged imperfect.  That’s just another example of how they’re tied up in their obsession with conformity They’d do better to look beyond spelling and grammar, and consider instead their inability to accept “foreign” ideas – such as a Free Market.  Their conservatism, caution and obsession with order and control, are what’s holding them back.

The “Crews Missile” letter was meant to have a positive message!

November 21, 2012

Emily Crews MontèsDear all

The article in The Daily Mail was meant to lead to a positive message about how to improve one’s life against all odds, but I never got to say it.

Even now, people in the media are offering me the chance to speak and to turn that message around, to turn gratuitous and negative rumination on one family in particular into a powerful message of career survival in our uncertain times.  Unfortunately, I’m not able to deliver that message, due to pressure from certain quarters to simply say nothing.

For me, this means that the intended result, the action, the actual doing, that my father’s letter was meant to encourage can not happen.  The seeds sown can not bear fruit.

Did I emphasize that enough?  DOING, ACTION, RESULTS – these are the things that make us feel better.  Think about times in your life when you’ve felt terrible, really, really low.  Were you doing something, striving for something, or were you missing somebody, feeling hurt about something someone said, or feeling your efforts in life were coming to nothing, or that you were getting nowhere, or even that you were a failure?  Perhaps someone even sent you a letter telling you that you’re a failure!!!

On the other hand, think about the times in your life when you felt the best.  Were you sitting at home, thinking about things?  Pondering the meaning of life?  Weighing up whether people have been treating you well lately, or whether fate had dealt you a fair or a lousy hand?  Or were you getting stuck into DOING something, making a difference?  I bet it was the latter!

So please, if any good can come of any of this, please, everyone, let’s get DOING.  Now’s a time for ACTION.  Don’t know what to do?  Do whatever needs doing the most.  Start by putting away the pair of shoes you kicked off before flopping down into your armchair to ponder the meaning of life.  Put away the children’s toys – or better still, get them to do it.  Weed the garden.  ANYTHING.  Don’t stop to think about whether the task is worth your time, or whether someone else really should be doing it (unless it’s the children, of course ;)).

You will feel better, I promise.  And then you’ll be in a better frame of mind to decide what to do next.  (That’s DO, not think about, remember….).  In no time you’ll be maximising your achievements, making better use of your time, and feeling even better.

Next time someone upsets you or gets in their way, try asking yourself, honestly, whether they were really just trying to get something done.  If they were just being a jerk, talk to them about it, don’t hide away at home.  If you don’t know what to say, don’t sit at home going over it all over again in your head.  Just find something that needs doing and DO IT, you’ll feel better, I promise…

http://www.choosemylife.net

%d bloggers like this: