Moving and Living Abroad – Interview With Annie Andre

I am very excited today, because I have the honor to present you with a great interview with Annie Andre form AnnieAndre.com Practical Adventure-ology She and her family have moved to live aboard in Marseille, France this past year.   In this interview, Annie is telling you the Whole story, answering many questions you may have.

If you ever have ever dreamed about moving and living abroad in a foreign country you MUST read this, because you are going to get some valuable hands on information.  Annie really gives you some priceless pieces of information that you don’t want to miss.

If you have never thought about moving abroad, you might still enjoy this interview, and learn a lot of things you never knew.  So, without further ado it’s Annie’s turn.

Sylviane:  So, my first question to you Annie is how in the world did you decided to move abroad to France with your husband and three children?

Annie:  I’ve always had the travel bug. I was born in Thailand to a French Canadian Father and a Thai mother. We lived in Thailand until I was almost five years old. After that, I spent time in both California and Montreal Canada growing up.  I knew early on I wanted to travel and see more of the world and because of my French Canadian side; I always had this draw towards France.

When I was 18 I thought about spending a year travelling through France but I couldn’t find work so I ended up working and living in Japan for 3 years working as a model and English instructor. In between assignments I traveled to over 15 countries and I vowed one day I would try to live in France. That opportunity didn’t happen until 20 years later 2011.

Sylviane:  How long did it take for this dream to go from the thought of moving abroad to actually being able to do it?

Annie:  I think I’ve been preparing for this my whole life. It’s hard to explain but I knew sooner or later it would happen.  The actual time from the decision to actually arriving in France on October 6th 2011 took us just over 14 months.

Sylviane: What were the main challenges you had to overcome while preparing your move?

Annie: From August 2010 to October 2011 we literally had no home. We lived between Montreal and Maryland with Family, Friends and even stayed with complete strangers while we got our paperwork in order.

We could only keep what we could carry in the back of my husband’s truck which was some suitcases, some personal effects like my son’s guitar, my husband’s books and a few toys.  I travelled with my sewing machine because I was making sleeping masks for my web based sleeping mask business.

Home-schooling the boys, was another challenge to do on the road, while running my business while also getting things ready for our trip to France.

Another challenge was to actually find a place to rent in France that was fully furnished that was also within our budget.  Most places don’t even come with a stove when you rent them so finding one with everything included was quite a challenge. Most were out of our budget. But we found one in Marseille, and now that we are here it’s easier to look for other places because we can actually visit them before we sign the lease.

Lastly, being around your family 24/7 for over a year straight travelling in a small truck up and down the east coast can be very stressful.  It put a huge strain on my relationship with my two older boys and I was really glad once we arrived in France and we all had our own space to live in.

Sylviane: What were the main challenges you had to overcome once you first arrived in France?

Annie: Learning how to set up basic things that you take for granted in your home country is a challenge.  Like what is the name of the electric, gas and telephone company? Opening bank accounts. Figuring out where to buy groceries, how to get places and get the kids enrolled in school. The first 2 months were literally spent just setting up house and learning the ins and outs of the French system. We had to learn it all at once and learn it quickly.

Sylviane:  Was the language ever a challenge?  When I heard you speak French to your daughter in one of your videos I detected in Canadian accent, did you learn French in Canada?

Annie: Honestly I didn’t have much of a problem adapting except getting used to the French accent which is different from the French Canadian accent.  It’s like being an American and then getting used to the Scottish or British accent.

I learned French from my father and from going to high school in Montreal.  My Father’s side of my family is all Francophone dating back to 1680. “Yes, I was able to trace back my heritage back to my first French ancestor who first came to Quebec from Poitou France.

Sylviane:  If you don’t mind me asking, what is your family legal status in France right now and how did you made it happen?

Annie:  My family has a “Visas de long séjour”, which gives us the right to live in France for a year. We are not allowed to work so we had to prove that we could support ourselves.   This Long Stay visa allows our children to attend school. We can also open bank accounts, get library cards and other various activities required to live here but we must provide our own health insurance.

We made it happen by doing good old fashioned research. I called the French embassy up and then we provided all the required paper work. We had to apply twice because the first one was rejected for various reasons but overall it was pretty straight forward to make happen. It was just a lot of paperwork.

Sylviane:  How old were your children when you moved abroad to France and how well did they adapt?

Annie:  My two older boys were13 and 14 and my youngest daughter was 4. They all have adapted fairly well. The biggest issue was the friends my boys had to leave behind. It’s hard to drag teenagers from their life.  But after about six months they seemed to finally adjust to being away from their school mates and they are making new friends at their schools.

I think since we had been to France several times before, it made it easier for them.   They don’t much like living in Marseille. They find it too urban and we are looking into moving to a less urban city soon.

My youngest daughter who is 4 years old has had no problems adapting. She is quite a good traveler and knows the drills going through airports, train stations and bus stations. She’s spent half her life on the road.  I have always spoken French to her since birth so she is perfectly bilingual and actually speaks French better than English. Her ability to move from English to French easily makes things much easier for her.

Sylviane:  What is your occupation in France beside blogging?

Annie:  Part of the reason I came to France was to accomplish goals. One of my goals was to start a web based service business helping that I can run from anywhere in the world.  I hope to help other families; couples and busy professionals learn how to take time off from life to accomplish their own personal goals like we are doing.  Over the past 20 years I have taken 4 total breaks to accomplish different goals.  This is my second break abroad. So officially I guess you could say I am a solopreneur in the early start up stages.

Sylviane:  What do you like the most about France?

Annie:  Food.  I love how the French appreciate food.  Food is savored and eaten slowly together not in a rush while you’re running to your next appointment. I love all the little outdoor markets and cafes. I love that I don’t see people running around holding their coffee in a paper coffee cup like you do in the U.s. People sit down and relax more…

Sylviane:  What do you like the least about France?

Annie: Nothing comes to mind except I am sad to see more and more fast food places popping up everywhere.  McDonalds, Subways seem to be everywhere.  I can’t explain why I don’t like it, I just don’t.

Sylviane:  What are the first 3 most important tips you would want to give to anyone reading this and thinking about moving abroad anywhere?

Annie:

1-If you are moving to another country that speaks another language: at least learn a few words in that language.  It will make your life so much easier. You can order water, ask for the restroom, the atm etc.

2- If you can, spend a month abroad or a month travelling somewhere to prime yourself and see if it’s what you really want.  Especially if you have kids.  The fact that we had travelled so much with the kids really helped to prepare them.

3-Unless you are loaded, make a budget for your trip for the duration of your trip. And give yourself a slush fund for unexpected expenses. There are always unexpected expenses. ALWAYS!!!.

Sylviane:  How long are you planning on staying in France? Are you home sick sometimes?

Annie:  We plan on staying in France for 2 years. We may stay longer but it’s too hard to tell right now.

I don’t miss the US.  I do miss Montreal a lot.  Mostly because I miss my extended family. I miss hearing the French Canadian (Quebecois) accent. I miss certain French Canadian dishes and I miss the city of Montreal.

Sylviane: I know that after over 15 years in the US I am home sick sometimes and one of my dream goals is to purchase my childhood’s house, from whoever owns it now, and live there at least 4 months out of the year.  Did you ever thought about splitting yourself between the two countries?

Annie:  Yes I have often thought about splitting my time between two countries.  I’m not sure we would want to buy a house abroad but the idea of doing an annual house swap with another family for 2 to 3 months out of the year is something we’ve thought about doing in the future.

Sylviane:  Thank you so much, Annie for answering all my questions with such delicious details.  I am sure that whoever is going to read this is going to learn a lot about moving and living abroad.

So, what do you think? Did you learn something? Do you have other questions for Annie? If you do, please, leave a comment or ask your questions below.

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17 Comments

  • AdrienneTwitter: adriennesmith40 says:

    Wonderful interview Sylviane that you did with Annie. I even learned a few more things about here too and I just thought I knew the majority of them. Surprise!

    I admire Annie that she would not only want to visit a different country but live there for awhile and take her entire family. I think it would be a great experience actually if I already knew the language. I personally wouldn’t feel that comfortable doing that myself. I do hope to visit France someday mainly because I hear it’s just so beautiful.

    Really enjoyed this interview and you did a wonderful job.

    ~Adrienne
    Adrienne invites you to read..How To Create An InfographicMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I learn a few things myself as well.

      Weren’t Annie answers great? I really think that this post can be valuable to a lot of people who might my asking themselves those questions. There are more people than we may think who are interested in moving abroad.

      Thank you for coming and have a great week end!

  • Lenia says:

    Hi Sylviane,
    My name is Lenia and this is my first time in your blog. I am excited to discover it. I am from Greece I had been living and working in Paris from 2006 to the end of 2011! I have recently moved back to Chios Island, Greece. I follow the blog of Annie and this interview was great.
    I loved the question about living between two countries. My fiancé is French and we would love to split our lives between the two countries!

    Have a wonderful sunday.
    Lenia

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      HI Lenia,

      Nice to see you here for the first time and nice to meet you. I am glad that you liked the interview. It was fun to do and I think that Annie’s answers can help a lot of people thinking about moving abroad.

      Have a great week end!

  • Annie AndreTwitter: annieandrehacks says:

    Sylviane,

    Thank you for sharing my story Sylviane. I really do hope I can inspire and help more people in this world to take a break from life to experience another culture. I realize living abroad for a year may not be possible. But perhaps a month or three months at least once in your life. I think it is such an enriching experience to do so. This world would be such a different place if people did this because living amoungst another culture opens your eyes and makes you more tolerant and empathetic.

    ps
    all those emails i sent you keep bouncing back to my email box. Try sending yourself and email from your gmail acount. You may have a problem with your server.

    au revoir xoxxox
    Annie
    Annie Andre invites you to read..Video: Should You Hire A Property Manager When You Move Abroad?My Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Bonjour Annie 🙂

      You are so right, traveling opens your mind and makes you more open to things. I totally agree and I’ve been saying the same thing because of my experience moving here in the States.

      When I go back to France and meet those folks who have never been anywhere sure feel it. And this goes for some people here who have hardly left the sate they are from. There is nothing wrong with this, per say, but traveling will definitely open your mind.

      About 10 year ago I brought a friend from New York to France with me for two weeks. She was saying the word “wow” a lot and she loved it.

      One day in Paris she heard an Asian woman speaking French and she was shocked. She assumed that Asians either stayed home or moved to the US LOL! Great eye opener for her that day!

  • Carol LynnTwitter: carollynnrivera says:

    Wow, what a story! That’s incredibly brave to just pick up your life and move it somewhere else, with kids, too! I can’t imagine how you balanced so much at once, from your business to homeschooling to just surviving. It sounds both exciting and terrifying.

    Sometimes the idea of leaving my house for a night sends me into a fit of panic 🙂

    I can understand what you said about the fast food places. One of the things I love about travelling is experiencing the food and there is nothing as disappointing as seeing McDonalds or Starbucks somewhere when you want to experience the culture.

    Sylviane, thanks for this unique interview and Annie, thanks for sharing all that. It’s quite fascinating and exciting.
    Carol Lynn invites you to read..Sabotaging Success Part 4: Why ‘Management’ Isn’t Just For Guys In TiesMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Carol,

      Did I tell you how much you crack me up in your comments:) You are always so honest and funny. Frankly, I do not have kids, but I understand how even leaving the house with kids can be an adventure.

      I always took my two cats with me on vacation and I tell you, that’s work too 🙂

      I’m really glad if you enjoyed what Annie is sharing about her experience with her family. I’m really happy with this post, hope it can help some people and become viral, maybe 🙂

  • Donna MerrillTwitter: donna_tribe says:

    Thanks for introducing us to Annie! As I was reading this post, all I could think of was Annie is the poster gal for getting out of your box. So many people are fearful of change let alone changing locations. Some people won’t even move to a different state here in the US. I find that Annie is not only living her dream, but showing her children what the world really is all about.
    As for language, I could never learn another language, but when traveling, I can surely pick it up quickly. Thank you Annie for sharing your journey with us. And most importantly being a role model for people to get out of their box, remove the fear from their lives and follow their passion.
    Donna
    Donna Merrill invites you to read..5 WAYS TO ENGAGE IN SOCIAL MEDIAMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Donna,

      First off, what are you saying that you would never be able to learn language? You probably underestimate yourself 🙂

      For sure, Annie is showing people how to get out of the box and do something incredibly interesting and mind opening. It is, indeed, a great example for her children.

      Thanks for coming 🙂

  • Carolyn says:

    Hi Sylviane and Annie, What a great interview! I first met Annie over at Adrienne’s place and was so impressed with her and her ability to shoot and edit interesting videos.Thanks for letting us know more about her, Sylviane!

    Annie, I am almost two years back in the US from having lived in the UK for 3 1/2 years. I know how challenging it is to live in another country, but we had very few language issues. I understand the strain on the family.

    We have friends living in Paris now for their second time using “Visas de long séjour”. They absolutely love the experience.

    Our biggest challenge for our children was moving back to the US. Our teenage daughter really struggled to adjust. When you leave France will you be headed back to where you lived before or will you be starting a new chapter in your lives?

    Bon chance, Annie! I wish you all the best.

  • Annie AndreTwitter: annieandrehacks says:

    Carolyn,

    We will not be heading back to California. We think we will move somewhere on the east coast between Maryland and Montreal because my family is in Montreal and my Husbands is in Maryland…

    We may apply for a talents and competencies visa this time around rather than the long sejour visa which allows us to stay for up to three years and gives us temporary residency and health insurance…
    Life’s one big adventure..
    Annie Andre invites you to read..What is A Career Break And Why Should You Care?My Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Annie,

      I’m sure learning a lot about French visas with you 🙂 I think the comment link is now fixed and I hope everything will be back in order in this comment area 🙂

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  • bradduff says:

    This may sound surprising but moving to Philippines can boost your social skills. With nothing to lose you can only gain from widening your circle of contacts. When a person is in a completely new environment, they realize the usefulness of networking, be it to find work, for fun or just for a more active social life.

  • Chris says:

    I don’t think I could travel with kids on the first trip. I just kept having thoughts that it would be crazy and out of control. I think I’ll try it out first and see what’s it like over there. I don’t know about others. But that’s just me.

  • Apu says:

    That’s a great post…specially if you are thinking about living abroad..thanks for the information again…will be helpful for me.. 🙂

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