Wanderlust: A Place to Call Home

Sept 2, 2020

Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres

This month on Wanderlust we head to Glasgow, where Lisa, a graphic designer, and Cécilie, a journalist, both French and in their thirties, decided to settle down after years of wandering the globe!

Where are you from originally?

C: I’m from the South of France, a seaside town near the Mediterranean called Sète.

L: I was born in Brest, Brittany.

Where did you study?

C: I studied in Montpellier which is the nearest city near my hometown.

L: My most recent and completed studies were in Glasgow.

How many countries have you lived in so far?

C: Five (France, Australia, China, England, Scotland).

L: Seven countries in total (France, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Portugal, USA, Scotland).

What is the biggest move you've done so far? (if there are several please describe all)

C: Obviously moving to the UK has been the biggest, most permanent move. Although it wasn’t that hard because I had my boyfriend and some friends here already who helped. I lived in Shanghai for about 10 months back in 2008 as part of my studies, then I moved to Australia for a gap-6 months right after China. The biggest move I felt was when I returned from Australia and China, as I had a LOT of stuff to carry. Had to organise shipping etc.

What I liked the most about China was that it was such a culture shock. So different to anything that I knew, yet I still had a bunch of my Uni mates with me. Best of both worlds. The food was fantastic, and the people were keen to communicate with you despite the language barrier. I got to see wonderful scenery. My favourite was a place called Lijiang. It’s exactly what you would expect to see in China, in your dreams. Lots of green, pagodas, canals.

Australia was also a culture shock in a way. Welcoming people, very curious. My best memory of Australia was going to a remote village where I had booked myself into a horse-riding afternoon with a cowboy. It was meant to be a big group but ended being just me and him and it was the best experience ever. I got to see Koalas and we had pizza and a drink in the stables when we were done. That’s why you do all this. That’s why it’s worth it.

L: They were all big for different reasons. I moved to Germany because my dad found work there when I was 11, so I had to follow. It was the only time it wasn’t my decision to move abroad, however, I did repeat the pattern as an adult until I felt home in Scotland.

Australia was an exciting move as I had just finished high school. The main reason for moving to both Australia and Brazil were cultural, I wanted to improve my English skills and learn Portuguese. I had itchy feet at the time and both countries offered what I was most drawn to back then: huge national parks with breathtaking landscapes, tropical climates, iconic landmarks and rich cultures. An adventure paradise for a twenty-year-old! The USA was a big side-stepping stone for my professional career as it was my first Graphic Design job.

Image Credit to Cécilie

What where some hurdles you had to overcome?

C: Mainly transporting my things, as I always buy a lot of local products and craft wherever I go. I remember bringing back so many art pieces from China. The main difficulty when moving to the UK was getting a job in my field.

L: Although it is exciting to have a chance at a new beginning, having to restart everything can be emotionally draining and unstable. Depending on the country, the administrative side of things and finding a new place to live amongst other things can be a bit of a nightmare. Maintaining long distance relationships can be tricky as well.

The biggest challenges I encountered in Brazil, Portugal and Germany were the language and mentality. A real culture shock! Brazilians can be very money-oriented and to come from a first-world country made it sometimes difficult to know if a friendship was genuine. I struggled with Portugal’s backward mentality as locals can have a lot of prejudices towards foreigners. The economic crisis didn’t make things easier as I owned a bar-café there and felt some people were envious. Lots of unpleasant surprises there.

In Germany I was bullied at school for being different and I also struggled with my brothers being sent away to another city (French school in Berlin). We moved from my childhood house in Brest to a flat in Leipzig so I felt I had no landmarks left. Lastly I had to learn German, which was a nightmare at first and took me almost two years!

I have also lived in different cities in France during my childhood and teenage years, but after coming back from Germany I felt like a total foreigner. Starting in a new school again made me act cautiously towards people.

I didn’t encounter any major challenges in Australia and felt like I fitted right in.

Scotland’s weather and lack of natural light during the winter were tricky to adjust to, especially after living in warm and exotic places. Glaswegians’ friendliness and openness make up for it though!

The USA was stressful because of all the paperwork and sponsors in addition to a high cost of living. The distance to go from place to place in the same city is very significant, which made it frustrating without a car at first. Uber was my best friend!

How difficult was the visa process?

C: Generally speaking, I’ve never found the visa process to be difficult. I guess most of the countries I wanted to stay in had some kind of agreement in place with France. Going to China was easy as this was part of a University collaboration, so I was given a student visa

Going to Australia required more faff but it was a working holiday visa so again, as long as you are the right age for it, you should get it no problem.

As for my time in Rome and moving to the UK, I an EU National so no visa required for now.

L: USA was the most difficult and tedious in terms of visa and sponsorship processes. They do not joke around!

The rest of the non-European countries were pretty straightforward: the student visa for Brazil only took 3 days to be granted and I can’t even remember the working-holiday visa process for Australia (easy-peasy).

Image Credit to Cécilie

Was it easy to find a new job, or did you move for work?

C: It was extremely hard to get a first job in my field, even though I had previously studied in Scotland and had all the useful contacts. Even today with four years’ experience, I struggle to get interviews for new roles.

L: In Australia I had quite a few different backpacker jobs, from fruit picker to barmaid. I didn’t find it difficult to find a job back then, but I wasn’t picky either. Everything was an adventure!

I didn’t have to work in Brazil which made my life easier.

I moved to the US for a one-year internship, which I had found through a French organisation for recent graduates. I had just finished studying in Glasgow and I wanted to gain professional experience. I wasn’t aiming particularly at the US until I stumbles across their website and went through the application process. I’m glad I did!

As a multi-lingual student I didn’t struggle to find work in Glasgow (from Market Researcher to Game Tester, Customer-Support and Insurance Admin). As a Graphic Designer positions are more competitive, and it takes longer to find work.

Why did you move?

C: I originally moved because the degree I found in Scotland matched what I wanted to do perfectly. I quickly fell in love with the country. Then with a Scottish man. After a couple of years working in France after Uni I moved back to Scotland and made it my home. I’m now married, and I know how to make haggis!

L: I moved to Germany, Australia, Brazil and Scotland for studying, although it is only in Scotland that I finished my studies.

I moved to the US for work.

Portugal was a personal choice, because my ex-partner is Brazilian and it seemed like a logical choice because of the common language and culture.

Would you consider moving again?

C: I would yeah, mainly because I know how much these experiences have brought to me. New cultures, new way of life, new people. I would move if a job opportunity came up. I don’t think I would put myself through what I did when moving to the UK, aka moving, and hoping for the best. It was a tough time. I wouldn’t move back to China or Australia though. Too far from my family. I love living abroad but I still need to remember where I come from. Scotland is commutable and it’s working for me just now. I don’t think I would be happy seeing my family only once or twice a year.

L: After having dragged my backpack across six continents it now rests at the bottom of my cupboard and I proudly call Scotland my home.

Australia was my favourite place to live for its quality of life, modern multicultural cities, abundant wildlife, and nature (not the spiders though), tropical climate and outdoor activities. At the time I was there it definitely felt like an exciting and dynamic place of endless possibilities!

How has living away from home affected your relationship with friends and family?

C: We’re doing ok, mainly because the flight connections are good from Scotland to the South of France. We manage to see each other regularly enough. There is still the odd time where I wish I could just walk 10 minutes to my sister’s house, knock on her door and invite myself in for a cup of tea and a chat. Or take my mum to dinner just because. These are things that people take for granted when they really shouldn’t. Living abroad has allowed me to appreciate all the family time I can get.

L: As I have been living abroad since childhood, I’m used to living away from my family and starting new friendships. Of course, distance can make you lose people, but it can also strengthen bonds and surprise you with unexpected encounters!