Swiss Expat in scale in Montpellier, I am surprised every day by small differences between life in my country and the South of France…
Kantu is not a newcomer in France: after four years exploring Montpellier she already feels almost a local, but unable to forget her Swiss roots… Through the blog Y’a pas le feu au lac, Kantu shares with her readers the folklore of Southern France, her travels (last year she lived six months in Montreal!), lots of curiosities and also the differences between Montpellier and her origin country (“their cultures are close but not identical!”, she says).
Talking to her makes us travel through her passion for never stop learning, and clearing up common issues that face expats while transitioning to a new life abroad.
Why “Y’a pas le feu au lac”? But especially: Why Montpellier and not elsewhere? (work, love, pleasure …)
Hi! Thanks for the interview. I’m really glad to tell you more about my expat blog, that I write as a Swiss girl living in the South of France.
So, “Y’a pas le feu au lac” is an expression that French-speaking people use to say “We’re in no hurry”… If you tell it mimicking the Swiss accent, it’s also a way to gently make fun of Swiss people, who are supposed to speak slowly… Of course, that’s totally wrong 😉
As for choosing Montpellier, it’s a classic! I fell in love with a French guy from Provence, who was working in the watchmaking industry in Switzerland for a year. I moved to Montpellier to live with him!
What is an expat for you?
Being an expat is for me an extraordinary adventure, it’s like being on travel every day of the year, since there will always be something that surprises me. It can be an expression, the way people do things, food or the folklore from South of France. I love this impression.
Living away from your homeland also helps you to open your mind – since people won’t be acting as you expect it, sometimes. You have to accept that things are slightly different, and that there’s not one way of thinking or for doing things.
As I come from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, it saved me from a huge cultural shock. I already spoke the language from my new country fluently 😉 Nevertheless, there are many Swiss expressions that are not understood here, it’s amazing! And of course, until I pronounce it loudly, I have no idea that this expression doesn’t exist here and is typically Swiss. That was a big surprise for me. But it’s not only about the language, of course, there are lots of other things that change. For instance, people are very often late in Montpellier, and as a Swiss it’s really difficult to adapt to that! However, French food is so delicious that it makes me forget about that kind of trouble!
How was the transition before leaving France (what to put in the luggage, researching new house …), the first days abroad (discovering the area, new friends) and today?
I’m lucky, because my boyfriend had moved back to Montpellier some months ahead of me, and was carrying back all my stuff each time he came to visit me in Switzerland. When I finally let my flat in Neuchatel and moved to the South of France, I just appeared with a suitcase 😉 I had some problems with the administration though. I couldn’t believe my French boyfriend telling me it was unnecessary to register as a new inhabitant at the townhall – something you have to do when you move to a new city in Switzerland. So I went there and said I wanted to register as a new inhabitant and the woman at her desk didn’t really understand what I wanted! And I experienced a lot of incidents like this one I wanted to do things right, but generally I was wasting my time with unnecessary procedures!
It was just amazing. I fell in love with Quebec and especially with Montreal. Everything about this city is so cool, and people are so polite and friendly there! I was also very interested in the expressions- since the Quebecois speak French, but it’s quite a different variety from the French we’re used to listen in Europe. I learnt tons of cute words! Most of all, I love the cultural aspect of Montreal – there’s always something going on – and the possibilities to wander in the nature of Quebec, which is wild and wide! I even saw a moose one day… I was so glad!
In your opinion, does an expatriate will always be an expat, or over time you can finally feel a “local”?
I think it depends of the person. I would say, after 4 years living here, I feel half / half. I’m an expat – but I easily forget about it. I really feel like a local in the city of Montpellier I know so well. However, in the deep of my heart I really feel Swiss nevertheless, especially when I have to wait for people who are late or I think about Swiss cultural references that my French pals don’t get! And often, I miss Swiss cheese… The French make excellent cheese, but some like the Swiss gruyere or the Tete de Moine are juste irreplaceable.
If you want to know how the adventure of Kantutita continues: Y’a pas le feu au lac!
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