“The internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” Bill Gates
When Expats first arrive to a new country what is the first thing they do? For most, they try to find others living the same crazy dream.
That is how our family met Natasha, her husband and their two very adorable children.
We were still on chapter one of our novel life and in the honeymoon stage with France. Everything seemed perfect; food was the best ever tasted and everything held our attention being so new and shiny. Our optimism was contagious. It was the perfect time to meet fellow expats looking for a similar life.
Natasha and her family were renting a little flat in the village of Capestang through a mutual landlord we used when we first arrived. It was nice to meet people with the same points of reference coming from the same continent and viewed the same TV programs growing up. It was also nice to help someone for a change instead of always being the one in need of help.
However, they were already one step ahead of our family when they set foot in France. They work remotely, using the Internet in different ways to bring business and in turn income with them. Without the huge worry of how to find a job or make a living in France, they were at ease to enjoy their first year without any financial stresses. It freed up time to focus on their children, and stay in tune with their development.
Who are you and where are you from?
Natasha Freidus, and I moved here with my husband and two kids, who were 3 and 5 when we arrived. We moved here from Seattle where we had spent the past six years. We were both lucky that we were able to slowly segue into working virtually over the past few years until we were both positioned to be able to work from home 100 percent of the time.
Why did you move to France?
We had lived in Spain for a year before we had kids not far from here, and we loved it. My husband has EU citizenship so as soon as we were able to figure out a way to work remotely and had the kids out of diapers, we figured we’d take advantage of the chance to live somewhere different for a few years. We wanted the kids to learn a different language and we had heard wonderful things about the maternelle system here in France.
Did you experience culture shock?
I wouldn’t say culture shock per se, but school holiday shock! I knew to expect no school on Wednesdays but I didn’t realize there would be two weeks off every six weeks. There’s a different rhythm of life here and that has taken some getting used to.
Did you do anything since moving to France that you never would have expected?
One of our most memorable days was a family trip to our neighbors vineyard for the vendange. It was a great way to meet other neighbors and we all had a blast picking and munching on the grapes.
Another thing I hadn’t really thought about before moving here is how it feels to be learning French as a family, together. Of course the kids are miles ahead of us by now, but I think it’s really good for them to see us trying something new, struggling…that learning isn’t something you stop doing when you are an adult.
What do you do for a living?
I teach video production and digital storytelling and I’m lucky enough to be able to consult using remote tools like Skype and teach via webinar software. I have to work a lot of evenings since my clients are in the states but its’ worth it! My husband is a programmer and he also works for a U.S. based company developing renewable energy peripherals.
What did you do to integrate with your community?
Because we’re both working from home, in English, we need to make an extra effort to get out there to interact with our neighbors. We’re lucky in that having kids in the school it’s been fairly easy to get to know families in such a small village. We go to all school and community related events and have just tried to get past our bad French to meet people.
Tell me something special about the Languedoc that most people don’t know?
I’m amazed by the wide open skies and landscapes here. You hear a lot about the beaches and bigger sites like Carcassonne, but I appreciate all the smaller, less known places. We can walk to two castles from our villages, I think that’s pretty spectacular. And they are both very different. We love the variety of rivers, rock formations and caves (both kinds!) as well.
What is the worst thing about being an expat?
It can be isolating at times. I think that’s always true to a certain extent when you are working remotely, but when you are physically far away, trying to keep track of the time difference at home while dealing with a new language and what store is open when and helping the kids with their French homework,….we’ve had to seek our new community here for support. We are also fortunate to have some wonderful neighbors here who have been instrumental to us learning what is what.
What is your favourite thing about being an expat?
Feeling like everyday’s an adventure, but I’m sure that cools off after a few years.
What do you miss the most about the US?
I miss my family and friends. Definitely the big drawback.
What is a myth about your adopted country?
People are much more patient with my French than I expected.
What advice would you give other expats?
We’ve learned to stop groaning at all the school breaks and just enjoy them, see a bit of Europe while we’re here, and are amazed how much there is to see within an hour or two drive.
What are you currently working on? Projects, books, business ventures…
I just started a new blog a few months ago reflecting on different lifestyles in France and US. http://alightinattic.blogspot.fr/ other than that I’m just working, trying to take a lot of walks, enjoy my kids, and learn French. That’s probably enough for the moment.
Generally speaking, making money online is difficult. Many blogger take years to build up a following, and placing ads on websites only generate a small income. Expats come with the idea that working online is an easy form of income but the reality is you should start working online long before you move away to establish Internet connections and concrete work. And of course the popular stereotype that remote workers have short days in pajama bottoms lying in bed; keep remote workers working harder to fight that very pigeonhole. And working from home requires endless amounts of self-motivation which after working for decades 9-5:00 some may find it hard to adjust.
There is a freedom that comes once you stop punching the time clock. But be careful not to be sucked into the notion that it is all freedom and no deadlines. Successful remote workers work hard often being pulled away from their life to check-in throughout the day for responses to emails and they never fully unplug. Your freedom becomes slavery at this point. Balance is always the key no matter how you find your income.
Evan if you are an Expat in Languedoc France.