It’s no secret, I love living where I live. I’ve lived a nomadic life moving country 9 times though sometimes all those other countries seem a very long time ago as I’ve now been in France for nearly 18 years. But even within France I’ve moved house 8 times, lived in 7 different towns in 5 different départements from Nord Pas de Calais in the north to the Alpes-Maritimes in the far south-east corner. And out of all these places in France where I am now is where I have felt happiest, most at home.
This contentment comes partly from my physical surroundings: it’s stunningly beautiful in the PACA* region, being close to the coast and mountains, close to Italy and close to one of the best cities I’ve ever had the fortune to know: Nice is more than nice, it’s phenomenal! It comes partly from the wonderful Mediterranean climate but it also comes hugely from how international this area is….
Having been brought up in multinational communities with friends from all over the world I find it stifling to be surrounded by one nationality for long, I couldn’t imagine living in a small country village in rural France or Britain and even found it hard in the Paris region! And yet I live in a small town now. A small town with 25% foreigners from at least 30+ countries (that I know of). So how is it that Roquefort les Pins and the surrounding area is so international?
Roquefort is on the edge of Sophia-Antipolis, Europe’s leading “technology park”. I’ve used the quote marks as Sophia has grown enormously since its inception in the 1970s to be much more than a park and is now a sizable town (population 9000) in its own right. Around 1400 companies from all over the world mainly in the fields of electronics, IT, pharmacology and biotechnology have offices/headquarters in the park providing 32,000 jobs. There are also several tertiary education institutions including the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. All of this means there are lots of expatriate foreign workers. And this, in turn, means there are international schools. My teen goes to an international lycée (local high school with Anglo-American, Italian, German, Spanish and Russian sections) and my younger son goes to the local primary where he has friends from a dozen countries. In the photo below of me being “taxi-mum” on the last day of term, there are kids from Chile, Jamaica, Malaysia, Germany, Australia, Romania, England and France. Only one of them is mono-national, the rest are gorgeous mixes of 2 or even 3 nationalities.
Add this to the substantial yachting community – crew from the luxury yachts based in Antibes – and the plentiful amounts of northern Europeans who have migrated south for the climate and you’ve got a very international crowd. You’ve also got a very transient crowd, with people moving on after short periods of time. And so I come to the title of this post: expat farewells.
One of the downsides of expat life is that you’re constantly saying goodbye to friends. Whether you’re the one moving or more recently in my life, the one staying, you’re forever saying au revoir, particularly in summer. The expat farewell season is upon us and so far I know of friends moving to 3 different parts of the USA and one lot to Hong Kong. I won’t be surprised to hear of more. Over the last few years we’ve “lost” friends to Tahiti, New York, Dubai, San Francisco, Düsseldorf, Montreal, Capetown, Accra, London, Cornwall and Beijing. It can be hard (and every time I hear of a friend’s plans I must admit to being a tiny bit envious; I haven’t lost my wanderlust). So I focus on the positives: it’s so much easier now to keep in touch than it ever was when I was growing up. I Skype, Facebook, Whatsapp, text, Instagram and Tweet my friends and this keeps them close. (I’m hesitant to take on even more methods of instant communication, apparently Periscope, Meerkat and Snapchat are addictive….) And I think of all those great holiday destinations where we can stay with friends (even if we don’t actually get to them before they move on again!)
I’m used to it really, it’s been my normal for ever. So I look forward to making new friends amongst the new arrivals, for there will be more and the cycle will repeat itself. And I rejoice in the small things like one of my oldest and bestest friends, another eternal nomad, recently moving to live near Lyon which is practically next door, in our lifestyle, compared to Perth (Australia). I adore that my children have friends from all over the world, somewhat repeating my multicultural upbringing despite living in one place and that they find this normal. And I would so much rather have my life enriched by these international relationships, transient as they are, than not at all. Tennyson sums it up perfectly for me: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.
*PACA = Provence, Alpes, Côte d’Azur
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***If you are moving abroad or even planning a move abroad in the near future you may (should!) be interested in reading The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. This informative, practical, useful and highly readable book is designed to help new expats navigate every possible scenario when moving country, from when to tell the children and sell the car, to managing house staff, finding new friends and what to do in an emergency. Packed full of real-life anecdotes and websites, telephone numbers and practical information, it definitely should be on your bedside table (and in your hand luggage) now! By the way, I have no commercial interest in selling this book, just helping out an old friend.***
photo credit statue: “The Meeting Place” St Pancras International via photopin (license), photo credit plane: Decollo / Takeoff via photopin (license)
What Does Adventure Mean to You?
Did I Mention I Like to Travel?
Having grown up in an international community saying goodbye is kind of my normal too, but I’m out of practice – we’ve been in Italy for 4.5 years and have mostly made local friends. This time we’re the ones who are leaving and I’m finding the goodbyes so hard! I agree with you that having friends all over the world is an incredibly positive thing though, and it’s what I hope my son will take away from this too. We’re already making plans to come back to visit, which is keeping me going through the packing and tears!
Wow you have lived an adventurous life! thank you for sharing!
Lovely post that encapsulates this aspect of expat life pretty perfectly. It is easier now though, I remember losing contact with a Turkish friend when we both moved and lost addresses 6 years after I left Turkey. A few years later I was able to track her down on Facebook, we met up after 17 years and my family were able to be in Istanbul to celebrate her wedding. We hope to catch up in person again soon so our new babies can meet and be friends too.
Phoebe, as always, I loved this! It really sounds like where you are is a perfect mix for your expat family with such a huge expat community!! It’s so lovely that your kids are getting the best of both worlds living in the same place with the benefit of being able to mix with so many different cultures and people! You really do always sell me your little village I’d love to come over one day!! Thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily always a pleasure to have you!
It really does sound like the perfect lifestyle, the advantages of an expat life with the bonus of stability, a great balance. What a fabulous community to part of! Boston always strikes me as being quite international, in US terms, and it is one of things I love about it 🙂
Friends leaving is so, so sad. But we have to remember there are so many more destinations out there where we have fabulous people to go and visit! There is always a silver lining. But I admit I find it pretty hard too.
Sounds amazing! I would love to spend more time in France. I took French in high school and would love to be able to practice a little more 😀
Thanks for posting on the #ExpatLifeLinky!
Definitely would love to visit SA (and see the other friends who left here a few years ago now too). Let’s hope we can get our act together to visit while you’re there. (For act read finances as that’s the only thing that’ll hold us back!)
Sounds like a lovely mix of cultures around you Sam, an apéro with dishes form all those places would be yummy!
The secret life of Sally, interntional drug dealer! That explains a lot of things!!!
And every now and then to Lou Messugo!!
And I wonder where I got my wanderlust from? Both those trips sound great. Lucky youse!
Luckily the farewell season is also the nicest season weatherwise so it’s easy to get distracted and not dwell on all the departures. If it coincided with depressing February that would be too much!
The cake was at International Day at my kids’ school! I am happy here but I’d still like to ive somewhere else again!
Nice hooks you in doesn’t it? Good to hear you share my attitude to new friends and holiday destinations!
I know how you feel, Phoebe. When I came to Nice, I didn’t expect to stay more than a few years – but I did. I just love it and can’t think of anywhere else that I might like more. But it’s a very transient area and my friends are always leaving. 🙁 Fortunately, new ones are always arriving too, so it’s ok. 🙂 It just means that we have lots of friends all over the world!
Love these pictures – and that cake. Finding your happy place and getting to live there really is an achievement! Thanks for linking up.
I love that cake! I wrote a similar post recently, it’s hard this time of year isn’t it? The best thing about it though is having friends scattered all across the globe to visit! 😀
I have it on good authority that Catherine is known to go further than the village shop now and again. In fact this autumn she and I plan to idle our way from Prague to Berlin, and then in the spring to explore a few gardens in Morocco. So, while we are no longer remotely “expat”, we still indulge our wanderlust, and would find life pretty dull if we didn’t. That’s because we caught the bug when we were a bit younger, and can’t quite shake it off.
And we can vouch for the agreeably expat nature of Lou Messugo.
I used to have the wanderlust too. Now I wander as far as the village shop! (Not quite true)
I confess an interest because I’m the long lost friend and have known Pheebes since we were getting up to all sorts of stuff in Hanoi. I had a pretty complicated response to this post. I’m not good with the farewells. I’m not even very good at making friends, being a bit on the shy side. In fact one of the reasons that I decided to stop travelling was because I seemed to be the one who was always left behind to make new friends because my old friends were leaving. Only it turns out I didn’t stop travelling. There always seems to be some new adventure to get involved with. I love the comfort and security of being in one place, and yet I’ve just spent the last six months ‘travelling like a drug dealer’ as I described it to another friend – throughout South America, India, Thailand, Morocco and back to France. For work, but not for drug dealing, I hasten to add. As I said … complicated.
Oh, and we live in a small rural town!
At Etienne’s birthday in October I remarked how all but one of the 6 boys seated round the table had mixed origins. One had a dad from India, one a dad from Turkey, one a mum from the Philippines, one a dad from Martinique (OK That’s France but the child is café au lait) and Etienne himself who gets his Brit half from me! Only one Franco-French friend out of six. You’re right, it’s cool!
Well done on getting it written! It does sounds like a wonderful place where you live, sounds like you’ve found a good compromise between travelling and staying put. We’d love to see you in South Africa if you fancy a trip