Life of An Expat: Il Fait Fraud

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Life of An Expat: Il Fait Fraud

Il fait fraud! Just arriving in France and feeling the shock of my first winter.

Il fait fraud! She does not have any interest in being my friend.

Il fait fraud! The employees at the grocery store have no patience for me and my broken French but I just want to know where the soup is.

Il fait fraud! Did he really just say that to me?

Il fait fraud!

Cold was a common theme when I first moved to France. I was on a four month assignment there and the French phrase for it’s cold “Il fait fraud” was referring to more than just the weather. Coming from sunny southern California, and an overall open and welcoming culture, I felt the cold immediately after arriving in France. I was experiencing one of the coldest winters in Lyon and I was experiencing a culture that initially came across as cold. It was cold because of winter, it was cold because people were not as welcoming as I wanted, it was cold because I did not have anyone to talk to with my broken French, and it was cold because their initial kindness did not reflect their true intentions of forming a friendship.


There were times when I went to a very bad place feeling isolated in my temporary home. I did not understand why I had to actively join Meetup groups to meet people rather than becoming friends with people who were part of my daily life. I did not understand why I sometimes experienced first interactions with people as direct and obvious they had no interest in even continuing the conversation, yet other times I had very lovely conversations that opened possibilities to new friendships yet  the person’s true intention was not anything more than having a pleasant conversation. A woman I had just met even invited me to Christmas dinner with her whole family ten minutes after we met, before even asking her name yet left without asking for any of my contact information to follow through with her plan. Another time I showed up three minutes late when meeting a new friend because I missed the first metro and that friend thinking my lateness meant I changed my mind on meeting with them.


Finally, I started catching on to the patterns of the cultural norms. I acknowledged that some accepted traits of a culture may be very offensive in another and my duty as an expat was to adapt to their norm.I learned that no culture is bad for its norms, I just simply have to adapt.


Now that I am back in southern California I reflect on my time in France and it turned into one of the best periods of my life. France may have some serious winters, and less small talk, but with the help of cultural coaching I adapted well to my surroundings and made lifelong memories.


Written by Cultural Business Consulting in collaboration with Madison Blaylock

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