As an American married to a Frenchman with 3 kids born in France, and living here full-time (before in Paris, now in Annecy) for the long-term, I’ve always wanted my children to be more familiar with their American culture. Regular summer holidays and other trips to the U.S. definitely help, but the kids are definitely, infinitely more French than American.
All those small cultural idioms and the whole feel of what the U.S. is really about eludes them. But alas, moving to America for work was unlikely as my husband has his own company with clients almost exclusively based in Europe. So, I did what any red-blooded Pittsburgh-born mother of three Frenchies would do:
I waged a year-long campaign with my husband to live in the U.S. for just one year.
(“But honey, I’ve moved my life to France, certainly you can move to the U.S. for just one year?) for the sake of our three children (12, 10, and 6).
Now, my husband is certainly no typical Frenchie: He speaks better English than I do, has lived in the U.S. before as well as throughout Asia, and is very open-minded. But he just didn’t really see how it could work.
Until I sent out an e-mail that changed it all. An off-the-cuff e-mail that I wrote during a moment of writer’s block and daydreaming that was more about procrastination than anything else. Something to the effect of:
Dear Friends and Family,
Next year, Eric and I are considering moving to the U.S. for one year to give our kids an all-around American experience to improve their English, be close to their American grandparents and cousins, and to soak in all those cultural experiences that aren’t possible by spending a month or two in the country every year.
If you happen to know of anyone who would like to swap their home with our great lakeside pad in Annecy for one school year, please forward this email to them! Our requirements are pretty simple: East Coast, easy access to airport with direct flight to Paris, decent public schools.
Rebeca and Eric
Okay, so the actual e-mail was much longer and detailed, but you get the gist. After clicking “send” I gave the e-mail zero thought, because I never thought anyone would respond.
Although we live in the world’s most fabulous location (Never been to Annecy? You are missing out!!!), it’s not exactly a capital city with a plethora of large companies (although easy and direct access to Geneva is a huge bonus). Who could or would want to swap with us? I got on with life.
Until, about four days later (!!!!) a lovely woman (friend of a friend) in Washington D.C. responded and asked us if the swap was still possible? Sure, I said! And we exchanged a few e-mails with info on our houses, our neighborhoods, etc. I still had very little hope because I thought: “It’s one thing to dream about moving to France, but it’s entirely different to do it!” She’ll never go through it when it comes down to the actual deed. I’ll just go with the roll and see what happens.
And so began an adventure into long-term house swapping, moving abroad and managing careers, family separation and culture shock on so many levels.
Stay tuned for more of our story, tips on moving for just one year, house swapping, educational adaptations and so much more!