Dear readers, we continue with the Life Abroad series. Today I interview Francey, a woman who moved abroad when she was only a little girl. I came to know about her through her beautiful Instagram feed and lovely handmade things that she sells online. You can find her here.
As if that wasn’t enough to make us drool, there’s a lot more to her beautiful life as you will find out. Happy reading – best read with a cup of tea, naturally!
Life Abroad – Interview with Francey
1. Hi, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi I’m Francey (or Françoise) and I work part time now as a beekeeper. I spent many years teaching in a classroom too. I was born in Lausanne, Switzerland right in the middle of the baby boom.
2. Where do you live now and what was the reason for this move?
Aged 6, my mother and I moved to the UK. She was a single parent in Switzerland with very little support and the offer of marriage, a nice home and a new start were big push factors.
3. How do you find your adopted country?
I remember the first day I went to school in South London not speaking a word of English; I was traumatised to be honest! However, I got into it and in less than a year I understood most of what was being said and I learnt to read in English pretty quickly. I pushed away my mother tongue, refused to speak it with my mother. My step father was an English speaker and I did my best to become an English girl. As an adult though, I have cultivated my French speaking background to sit equally with my English identity. I am a great fan of English Literature which I taught for many years.
4. What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is almost always the landscape and I am drawn to fields and green hills and meadows, places where there are lots of small mixed farms. It doesn’t matter which country or continent it is. I realise the picture of home I have in my head is a farm on the plateau near Fribourg where my mother’s family settled when they came from Paris back in the 19th century. I’ve lived in a number of different houses and moving from one to another is quite fun I think.
5. What were the biggest hurdles you encountered during your first few months in the UK?
Well if I’m honest I remember being lonely and laughed at for speaking another language and being different throughout my childhood: I had long plaits and wore hand knitted cardigans a look which was not considered cool. Schools can be cruel places!
6. How does going back to your home country feel?
I feel a surge of emotion and great affection for anywhere that matches the memories I have kept in my head all these years. It’s all very specific to the cantons of Fribourg and Vaud, not Switzerland as a whole and I take great pride in explaining that la Romandie where French is spoken is quite different from German-speaking Switzerland.
7. What languages do you speak?
I was able to bring back my French once I went to the girls’ grammar school where I was celebrated as a native speaker and I became a reasonable linguist adding German and Russian to the list.
8. How has your life until now shaped your culture?
Coming from a different country has shaped my life enormously. I have been enriched deep down which helps to make sense of things in the course of one’s life. In my family now we have created a new culture in which change is seen as a positive. Day to day an average English person would probably notice that we have salad as a separate course after the main dish, we rarely eat dessert or pudding and we like hand made things from places around the world which we have visited. We are also quite self contained, some might say aloof. I belong to a fabulous French book club in Cheltenham which gives me the opportunity to speak my mother tongue.
How amazing is Francey’s story?! I love it and especially how she views change as positive. I hope you are inspired on your journey too if you’re living in another country than that which you were born in. And if you have yet to make the leap, hopefully you’ll be encouraged.
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