“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”

James Michner

Chanay Blog France page

Life in the Village

From 2001 to 2009, I lived in Chanay, a small village in France, with my then husband, Jean Luc and his two children, Guillaume and Amandine.

“Living in France is so romantic,” people would say, and I would reply, “Yes, and it’s tough living in a foreign country where everyone speaks a different language.” It was wonderful and challenging.

In my speaking and training business, I tackled the issue of diversity and cultural differences. I studied diversity management and had a decent understanding of the theory and the legal implications in the workplace. I included topics related to diversity with my sexual harassment prevention programs.  Diversity, harassment, perceptions, culture, behaviors, communication, racism, sexism, discrimination – they all fit under a large umbrella.

After a few years in France, I realized I had no real understanding of cultural differences when I was teaching it. There is a huge difference between theory and practice. Living it versus thinking about it. Experiencing it versus witnessing it. And I was brought to my knees. All the wonder, charm, benefits, love, good food and wine could not make up for the challenges.

To help find connection with English-speaking women, I commuted to Geneva, Switzerland to hang-out at the American International Women’s Club (AIWC). I wrote a column that was published in The Courier – the english speaking magazine of the AIWC, entitled Life in the Village: Reflections of an American Living in a Small French Village. Writing the column was an exercise in making sense of living in a “foreign” culture; they represent a mix of pleasure and pain, discovery and dead-ends. I will share these columns over time as this blog develops.

My intention is to write about the wonder and charm and the challenges of living in France. This was a significant life experience and I have yet to find the pearls. I hope to learn from others who have shared similar experiences.