I caught up with French friends a few days ago, and they explained to me that they had bought a property in France for their retirement. They were adamant that they needed a place there. They were doing it up and project managing it from London, which must be a real challenge. And then it dawned on me: I am not going back to France. I don’t want to. Despite my French accent, the rainy weather and the condescending comments, I love it here. It is my home now.
How did it happen? When did I turn a corner? I don’t know. Probably after three or four years, actually. I just know that I am not going back to live in France. Don't get me wrong, I might live in another country, but not in France.
Other expat friends are leaving London too. They had lovely expat packages, with housing and school fees paid by their (very) generous companies. They live in the most expensive streets of London. I can’t help thinking that such expat packages are a double-edged sword, because of course you get used to a very high standard of living. If you decide –shame of shame! , they would say- to go local, you are going to have to cut back your cost of living in a very significant way. I have always wondered why companies are still giving such generous packages. What is in it for them? I will never get it. The thing is, I have been working on local contracts since we moved here.
This means that we had to be more careful than our expat friends with money. Still today, I love a bargain, and I compare prices on the web. I have tried to share my experience on various forums, and I participated in the latest HiFX campaign (see here) to share some tips -and believe me, I would have liked someone to tell them to me when we moved-. I ask questions to other mums to know where to go. It has become a habit, really. And I am glad to be doing this, because we don’t rely on any expat package for our life in London.
That said, expats come and go, and a new cluster seems to have invaded the city. They stay together. They make snotty comments such as ‘I can’t find decent yogurt over here’ or ‘we didn’t take the apartment because we could hear Big Ben. It might wake us up, right?’ Between you and me, I would love to be woken up by Big Ben.
Will they stay? Will they go? I really wonder. That said, I am under no illusion: most of them will go. Why did I stay on? What has happened to me? Well I am still working on this one…Any thoughts?