Reflections on leaving France
A RECENT news story that made the headlines in France featured three Frenchmen urging young people to head overseas to find work and experience life.
They claimed that the French system was 'run by old men' and that it worked against younger people, whilst opportunity was abundant in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, China and Senegal.
I linked to the story on Twitter, and it was retweeted by Jennie Wagner who had faced her own difficulties when tackling the system so much so that it was one of the reasons that convinced her to leave France to head to Australia.
The US-born linguist is fluent in French, created the popular ielanguages website and taught English in schools in the east of France and at the Université de Savoie.
But as Jennie writes the frustrations of trying to work in the French system ultimately sapped her spirits, forcing her to move to southern Australia and the city of Adelaide.
Working in France was often depressing because I could only find temporary jobs (CDDs) with low incomes. I had a Master's degree in Linguistics and years of experience in teaching English, and I could not find anything that was long-term or that paid what I felt I was worth.
Most of the jobs paid less than SMIC [minimum wage of 9.40€/hour gross] and required driving around to businesses in the area to teach English, but the hours and therefore the monthly pay was never guaranteed.
I was lucky enough to be an English assistant in local high schools for the first two years (but renewing for a second year was very stressful) even though it only paid 780€ a month for seven months out of the year and then I moved on to teaching English at the university level where I had a 12 month contract that paid 1,220€ a month.
However, even this job was limited to two years, so after four years of teaching English in France, I was unemployed and could not find a teaching job that would pay the bills.
I grew increasingly depressed with the lack of a real career in France and knew that I would never be happy or content in life if I stayed there. I had many ups and downs over the years, but the poverty line incomes were the final straw to convince me to leave France.
I had always planned to live in Australia, and in fact, I was supposed to do my PhD in Australia after having taught one year in France, but in the end I had decided to stay in France.
Luckily another opportunity to do my PhD in Australia came up around the same time that I became unemployed, and I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship and living stipend. I did not think twice about leaving France for good.
My situation in Australia is slightly different since I am receiving a living stipend (which is much more than the average income in France!) and I have a student visa.
In France, I arrived with a travailleur temporaire status and ended up with a vie privée carte de séjour since I was PACSed to my French boyfriend at the time. That meant that I was able to live and work in France with no problem, but many other expats/immigrants who don't have French partners have major problems getting the right to work in France.
Personally I feel that everything is better in Australia. In France, I always felt that the administration and bureaucracy made life difficult and frustrating for absolutely no reason.
Opening a bank account took six weeks, renewing my carte de séjour took nine months, stores were always closed during lunch and on Sundays, all the strikes, etc. In Australia, I don't feel stressed every time I have to run errands because I know I won't have to fight with a fonctionnaire to get them to do their job.
Australia is much more relaxed and I feel so incredibly lucky to be here. I am going to obtain Australian citizenship and plan to stay here forever.
I don't miss anything about living in France, except perhaps the proximity to other countries and how easy it is to travel to them. I still love being a tourist and travelling in Europe, but I would never live there again as an immigrant.
Australia is much more welcoming to immigrants and I experience no hostility for being a foreigner (sometimes Americans have to put up with a lot while overseas...) The cost of living is high, but incomes are also much higher than in France so I am much better off financially here even though I'm a postgraduate student.