Every week I talk to a Belgian who moved abroad and built a new life there. This week Jeroen tells us about moving to France.
1. Hi, Jeroen! Please quickly introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, where you’re from, where you moved to and when/why you moved.
Hi! My name is Jeroen and I’m 26 years old. I was born in Wilrijk and was living in Lint, Antwerp. After finishing my studies in Marketing (at KdG college Antwerp) I started working as a Junior Account manager with Hamilton Bright for Samsung. To be able to grow in a company like Samsung, it’s necessary that one speaks French fluently. That’s the reason why I wanted an opportunity to brush up on my French. There are plenty of possibilities in Belgium of course, but I like adventure and decided to move to France for a while instead.
In January ‘16 I moved to Montpellier together with my girlfriend Jolien. We both started working as call agents but after two months we realized that this wasn’t what we wanted and started a new adventure. I found a job in Orange, which is why we moved to Avignon. I had a CDI (open-ended contract) which made it easier for us to rent an apartment. After two months, however, we realized that we made the wrong decision again. My job was great, but the working environment wasn’t all that. Jolien had some difficulties with finding a job she wanted to do and I had to deal with antisocial colleagues, besides that we didn’t really like living in Avignon either.
In May, we returned to the Côte d’Azur and started a new adventure in Fréjus, where we were working as receptionists on a camping site. This was a great experience! The environment was lovely, we got to live together with French people and got free lodging as well. After this adventure, in September, we returned to Belgium for a while.
We didn’t want to end our adventure just yet, however, so we started looking for a job in the mountains for winter. We found a company in Val Thorens that wanted to hire both Jolien and me. I already went to Grenoble in October to start my training for two months in the “école de commerce de sport”. Jolien already started her Job in Val Thorens in November and I arrived in December. We’re both working in Val Thorens now and are very happy here.
2. What did you expect from France and life there before moving? Did those expectations hold up?
Our expectations weren’t really that high because we were very aware of the fact that we were starting out on an unpredictable adventure in another country. We just thought “we’ll see what comes our way and we know that in the end, we’ll always have each other and a way back to Belgium”.
3. What’s the biggest difference between life in France and life in Belgium?
The biggest difference is the mentality really. We only lived in the South of France, but there we definitely noticed that people tend to be too lax when it comes to a lot of different things like paperwork, bank matters, showing up late,… Their mentality towards foreigners isn’t always great either. I noticed that they can be really chauvinistic at times.
4. What’s the best part about living in France?
The best part about living in France are the gorgeous views you get everywhere you go! We have the coast, the many lakes, rivers and there are mountains as well. All really beautiful! :)
5. What do you like least about living in France?
The laxity of the people in the South. I tried to set up a new nightlife concept, but the communication didn’t run as smoothly as I’d wanted it to. I kept on hearing “there’s still time…” when there really wasn’t. That’s why I eventually decided to cancel the whole thing :)
6. What do you miss most about Belgium?
Family and friends! We have a tight group of friends in Belgium, so that’s something we definitely miss when we’re here. Although, we’re lucky France isn’t that far away (big advantage of living in France). Especially now that we’re living in the mountains, we get to welcome a lot of friends that are on a skiing holiday over here.
When it comes to food, there are some things that we’re missing as well :) we’re craving some good pistolets on a Sunday morning with preparé (something you won’t find over here).
7. Is there something about Belgium that you don’t miss at all?
The daily grind of life over there.
8. Do you think you’ll stay in France? Or is there a chance you’ll move abroad again someday?
I don’t think we’ll stay here since our initial goal was to improve our French and return to Belgium. But of course you never know what will come along and we’re definitely open to opportunities in France.
9. Do you have any tips or advice for other Belgians who consider moving to France?
Be prepared and be patient :) especially when dealing with housing and bank matters.
10. What are some tips you would give to people who are traveling to your region/city? Things they should visit or eat?
Les plages de Grau-du-Roi (the most beautiful beaches in Montpellier).
Vallon-Pont-d’Arc (the place to be for some adventure, you’ll be able to do some kayaking here) and L’Isle sur la Sorgue (a little village with a cozy atmosphere and a lot of good restaurants, there’s a river that runs through this village as well).
Île Sainte-Marguerite (an island across the beaches of Cannes).
Gorges du Verdon, Lac de Sainte-Croix (a lake with bright blue water, the most beautiful lake I have seen so far).
La Cime de Caron at 3200 meters, you’ll get some breathtaking views here.
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