My Expat Story: Sophia Marci Anderson
A British expat in Lyon, France
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Sophia Marci Anderson is a British expat living in Lyon, France. She moved there 18 months ago with her husband through his job and she is currently writing and blogging about expat life. She previously worked in the travel industry before relocating. This is her Expat Story.
What is your favorite part of expatriate life?
My favorite part of expatriate life is the ‘permanent holiday’ mentality. When you live in a new country you tend to make more of an effort to explore; whether it’s getting out into the countryside or just wandering round the city on the weekend. Being a bit of an ‘outsider’ means you are a permanent tourist and you are always discovering new aspects of the culture, new places and new foods.
What has been the hardest part?
For me, the hardest part hasn’t been a tangible issue, more the odd sense of displacement that I wasn’t expecting to experience when we first moved. I wouldn’t say it was homesickness, but it’s a lack of familiarity with your surroundings that feels a bit uncomfortable. I had lived abroad previously so didn’t think I’d be affected, but I still took a while to settle in.
Where have you lived around the world? Favorite places?
I’m from Cornwall, England. I studied in Wales, France and Italy, and after graduating spent the next few years travelling, including a year in New Zealand, which I loved. It’s a great country with so much diversity of landscape over such a relatively small area. I really liked the laidback culture there too. After that it was Scotland for four years, another stunningly beautiful country, and now France.
Where would you want to move to eventually?
Who knows! I’m happy here for now but I don’t think we’ll be here forever. There’s definitely the possibility that we’ll return to the U.K. or try another European country within the next few years.
What’s your sense of ‘home’?
The one constant throughout all my travels has been my husband, and having someone who’s going through the same experiences as you definitely helps.
Aside from that, I try to make each new place feel like ‘me’ as soon as possible, so that it can be a little haven to retreat to if I need it. Putting up family photos helps.
What advice would you give to first-time expats?
The expat community is really friendly and people will go out of their way to help you settle in. I’d say to not worry about having to rely on virtual strangers when you first move, as you’ll undoubtedly be passing it on when the next new arrivals appear.
Having said that, it’s important to embrace the local language and culture, and not stay in the comfort zone of the expat community- try to build relationships with locals as it will help you experience your new home through a different lens.
What has been the most helpful thing in adapting to your home abroad?
I think probably just allowing yourself to feel a little lost at first – you’re not a failure if you get homesick or struggle initially, it’s totally normal to take time to adjust and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve moved before, each place will take a little while to settle into.
Practically, I’d say that at least some familiarity with the local language really helps.
Share anything else about your expat life that you’d like us to hear!
I suppose moving abroad is like any major lifestyle change, there is good and bad. While it’s best not to listen to certain lifestyle bloggers who maintain that living abroad is some kind of utopia and a cure for all ills, at the same time you should equally not pay too much attention to posts on expat forums where people moan constantly about the differences between their home country and their new one. There is going to be uncertainty, you are going to have to change and compromise. But if you are able to embrace that, it’s a wonderful experience and a real privilege to be able to live abroad. I try to keep this perspective on my blog: www.peripateticsophia.com.
[Image courtesy of Sophia Marci Anderson]
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