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Source: Les Echos

Expatriation makes dream a lot of people, it’s often seen as leaving for really long holidays. But what first seems like holidays quickly transform into a common daily routine but without bearings. Everything is different, the culture, the language, the way of thinking of working. We don’t realize how much our own country have a strong identity until we live elsewhere. The six expatriates I met, did not know what it was to be French until they move to another country.

Trailer of my Documentary.

“Without uncertainty, the adventure would not exist“ - Alain Séjourné

Decide to leave our birthplace it’s scary but sometimes it also necessary. Naïma Hannaoui explained “I have Morrocan origins and I am Muslim. I did not feel at my place in France, in my own community. For them, as a single woman, you should not be an expatriate and I wanted to change this bad tradition.“ At the opposite, Estelle Bramli who lived 8 months in Los Angeles just said: “I wanted to know if the grass was greener elsewhere.“

The first days in a new country are often a chock, a cultural shock and all our doubts often came back. Patricia Le Baudrier-Cox arrived in the UK 10 years ago to follow her future husband remember this: “ The cultural choc was huge, I was really Latin, in the way I was expressing my feelings. Even with my husband we often do not understand each other reactions. I sometimes felt that people did not like me because of that. At this moment, I did not understand it was only cultural and not about myself.“ The idea of the expatriation and the reality are often quite different. The new culture is everywhere, and also in work. Naïma Hannaoui came in London as an au pair and did not live well this experience. Indeed, she explained that the vision of education is so different between France and the UK that it created a lot of conflicts. Moreover, au pair persons are often overused, as Johanna Squiban explained “I worked much more than I should in the contract and I was not paid well. So after 5 months, I wait for the mother and I said: “I leave“. It was 11 pm, I took my suitcase and I slept at Paddington Station.“

The psychologist Magdalena Zilveti Chaland in her book Réussir sa vie d’expat’: S’épanouir à l’étranger wrote “(…) Moving in a foreign country is not only a geographical move, it’s mostly questioning ourselves. It’s discovering a new way of living that creates doubts, fears and require a large capacity of adaptation.“

“You miss one person, and the world seems unpopulated“ - Lamartine

When you leave your country you are not only leaving a culture you also often leave people. It’s often a hard choice

Tower Bridge (Credits Aurélie Denieul - iPhone 8 Plus)

between your own ambition and family will not be there forever. Victor Bohot, who lived 4 years in Mauritius Island talk about this feeling “My worst memory was probably when a close person passed away in France. We feel powerless, forgotten. Moreover, the mourning can be longer.“ Johaïna that live since 6 months in London explains also how family quickly miss. “I often felt alone, because friends I had here are different, they are just there for the good moments, for going out but when the time is complicated I often felt alone.“

The psychologist Magdalena Zilveti Chaland in her book Réussir sa vie d’expat’: S’épanouir à l’étranger wrote “In every case, it’s a life between two countries (…) At the same time, no completely here or not completely there, the migrant is often shared between two countries. He feels close sometimes from a person far which create emotional conflicts hard to manage.“

“The thought born of doubt“ - Laurent Genefort

When times are hard, doubts came back most louder than the first day. Did I make the right choice? Why I choose a difficult path? It’s the kind of questions any expatriates ask himself at least once. Patricia Le Baudrier-Cox passed through depression. “There was a moment, I was feeling so bad, I really wanted to go back to France. I felt as a person no-one understood. I was feeling alone, isolated and depressed. I was in a nice place but I did not see anything beautiful. I was like in a dirtbag and could not see where I was. One day, I was so bad that I called 999, they came and I finally we help through this depression. They explain it was due to stress and to loose of bearings.“ Patricia also explains that through this moments, her husband understood she was not well but did not know what to do, as it was not in his personality to express his feelings.

“The experience is the beginning of wisdom“ - Alcman de Sardes

Banana Cake in North Greenwich (Credits Aurélie Denieul - iPhone 8 Plus)

All the person I met agreed on the fact that these experience are mainly more positive than negative. They met people they could never meet, learn about the new culture as they never could before. I read once “Expatriate see what tourist will never see and what local don’t see anymore.“ But Estelle Bramli also added, “However it’s different from holidays, sometimes we are not happy and it’s not related from the fact that we leave under the sun or the rain, it’s just daily life elsewhere in the world.“

To conclude as The psychologist Magdalena Zilveti Chaland in her book Réussir sa vie d’expat’: S’épanouir à l’étranger wrote: “Expatriation is real personal development, which expresses by an external change of living place combined to an internal change, an evolution of ourselves.“

Complete documentary: Expatriates: Lose our bearings, Aurélie Denieul (2018) VF

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