Today we are interviewing Christopher Cooley. Moving from the UK to France can be a challenge for anyone.In the summer of 2013, at age 27, Christopher made the move from the South-West of England to Bordeaux in France. In this interview we’ve asked him what it is like to move from England to France, what others can learn from him and what his experiences have been regarding all the paperwork.
Chris has a great blog about his life in Bordeaux. He does wine reviews and reports about his experience at a French hairdresser. If you’re young and thinking of moving the France, his blog is a must-read.
Why didn’t you try to learn languages in the UK?
When I made the decision to leave the UK for France, I started learning the language. I took a quick once-a-week beginners course, and attended some conversation groups. This helped to remind me of the basics that I’d learnt during my GCSEs, but I knew that to really learn a language you had to immerse yourself in it.
In addition to the language being technical, do you think you learn a lot about the cultural context of the language if you move abroad?
I completely agree. There is a level of language that you learn in schools, no matter where they are located, and another level that is actually spoken. You might find a phrase, that can make sense in direct translation, used in slightly different circumstances than you’d expect, and so on and so forth. On a daily basis you are also surrounded by the media, which makes up a lot of our culture, and you start to learn about the language and how this relates to the country’s personality.
Why did you decide to move abroad?
I decided to move abroad primarily because I wanted to learn a language. It was a challenge I set myself to complete before I hit the age of thirty. Having travelled a fair bit in my early twenties I’d met a lot of people from all over the world and most of them would speak at least their native language and English, but many spoke three or four. This made me feel a bit ashamed, but I also felt I was missing out.
What would you advise others that are thinking of doing the same? Why do it?
I would definitely advise people to move abroad to learn a language. My advice would be to go somewhere for a bigger reason than just learning the language i.e. job, love, etc. I think the reason for doing it is to learn, and for the sense of achievement when you overcome each hurdle.
What were the biggest disappointments?
It may sound stupid but I moved to the south of France. I am a big fan of hot weather. It is very often sunny here but Bordeaux, where I live, is the city in France that has the most annual rainfall.
In terms of financial advice; what is the best advice you can give to other people that are thinking of moving to France?
As far as finance goes, and any administrative activity in France, be ready for a lot of paperwork. From banks to hiring a flat, be prepared to show paperwork from years back, and if you send it off by post make sure you keep copies. I did not take my pension with me but I am satisfied with my financial situation and therefore would not do anything differently.
Christopher mentions that taking his (state) pension with him on age 27, probably wouldn’t be worth it. “I’m young and at the beginning of my career. All my pension consisted of was a state pension, and being relatively new to the world of work, it was not something that played greatly on my mind”.
A special thanks to Christopher Cooley! Click here to read his blog.