Moving to France with Kids

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By Jen

We moved to France from Scotland 7 years ago. Our kids were 9, 7 and 3. Now they are 16, 14 and 10. There have been ups and downs living in another country, but here are three (of many) positive things which stand out for us about the kids growing up in France.

Splitting wood is hungry work
Splitting wood is hungry work

1. They like beetroot.

And they eat unnaturally large quantities of green beans, and snails on special occasions.

Beetroot and green beans feature highly on the school dinner menu. The French not only have an appreciation of good food, but they understand the social importance of eating.

We didn’t expect to see on the “what to bring” list for one of the kid’s football matches that a napkin had higher priority than football boots. And I remember in the early days, that pit of the stomach feeling on a Monday morning finding the napkins were still at the bottom of the laundry basket, again. The shame.

Our kids now look at us forlornly if dinner takes less than an hour. I used to be the queen of sandwiches at the desk at lunchtime. It’s not good. They have taught us to slow down. And enjoy.

2. They have sussed meeting and greeting.

I was a tiny bit surprised to hear when we arrived in France that sneaking away from a party without going round everyone individually to say goodbye is called “partir comme les anglais” or “leaving like the English”. Blimey that’s a bit harsh I thought.

The French generally give each other a kiss on each cheek (or shake hands); two or three or four kisses depending upon which part of France you are from or how well you know the person. It’s called a “bise” and it’s not a pretentious air kissy thing; it’s the standard way to say hello (or goodbye).

We watch the kids now with their confident bise or handshake, no matter whether it’s a group of 15 year olds or a bus load of old ladies. That makes us happy. We are maybe easily pleased.

3. They speak French.

When I first arrived in France I thought I spoke French. I studied it at school for 5 years. I did exams. I could listen to the recording and answer the questions in the book about where Henri the removal man had put the washing machine pretty well.

I got to France and I couldn’t understand a damned word.

Learning to write loopy French
Learning to write loopy French letters

Now we have three permanently-present French teachers with us (a bit embarrassing at Parents’ night at primary school with your youngest but otherwise quite useful). They switch from French to English without batting an eyelid. Being able to communicate in another language is becoming more and more important every day as our world gets smaller, and if I could have one wish it would be to be bilingual. And it’s said that mastering one language opens up the brain to learning another.

Kids make that look easy. To hear another language glide effortlessly out of the mouths of your offspring is beautiful.

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