Ira faro Southern France America
Ira faro Southern France America

“Everyone should have a blog. It is the most DEMOCRATIC thing.” Jessica Cutler

Three reasons you should never blog: Money, Notoriety, and Traffic.

Money: If you are lucky, you can generate enough cash with Google ads to pay for your hosting and a few office supplies. Of course, there are indirect ways of making money, when clients find your services after finding your blog. For us, the blog generates traffic which in turn brings bookings for our wine tours, or our Bed & Breakfast.

Often people ask me to guest post, or to write a sponsored blog but usually they only pay a few dollars and offer a link to their website in return. Occasionally I do get asked to do an interview for TV or radio, twice we have been asked and participated in reality TV shows, and I was hired last June to film a tourist video of our second home in Budapest for an airline with new routes from Canada. Although great when they come, those paid gigs are few and far between, and not enough to stop working a normal job.

Notoriety: Blogging rarely makes people famous. Internet superstardom based on your deliciously clever words and sharp tongue opinions are rare. However, if you have an interesting life, and blog about it, you could turn it into a book and sell it on your blog. And maybe in a perfect world, some producer will read and find your story so interesting, they will want to make a movie of your life. Julia Roberts would play me of course and it would be under the Tuscan Sun meets Eat, Pray, Love except with children. But again, that’s not the norm.

Traffic: Most blogs generate less than 1000 hits a month. A good personal blog can generate 10,000 hits a week. Most bloggers can’t just start writing one day and draw large amounts of visitors to their site by writing alone. There are simply too many bloggers out there. It takes Search Engine Optimizers, paid advertisements, tweets on Twitter, Facebook friends, a good visual template, shiny high quality photos, photo sharing platforms like Pinterest or Flickr and a good security software program to help your website stay safe from bots, spam and hackers. Statistically, most give up after their first year.

You can always tell when people are writing with their SEO in mind; placing the same words throughout their posts, trying to be clever where they repeats those words and sometimes they have really strange titles, but it takes away from the quality and natural flow of the piece.

Unless you find your niche market, and not line-up behind the millions of others making mediocre attempts at writing, you will not get the results you want. Although a small percentage do become popular fairly quickly, for most of us, it is a very slow build to generate traffic.

Bloggers are an interesting breed. Some say we are losers spouting the endless dribble that concerns us in our ordinary boring lives. Others say that bloggers are revolutionary, giving uncensored, unsolicited opinions at lightening speed or perhaps that’s just my opinion.

Even the least educated can have a voice online. You don’t have to be a scholar to start one, especially with the ready-made templates, and easy build platforms. Within a few clicks, and voila, you have your own place to spout your egotistical garble. As long as you are passionate about what you write, you will eventually find some followers.

But even so, even I who support all sorts of bloggers, I get super excited to run across a blog like South France American.

Now, Ira’s blog doesn’t have shiny hi-def. movies or beautifully edited photos. Nor does it have a good template. In actuality, unless you go there to read, it doesn’t have any of the bells or whistles. But what it does have, is something many blogs lack, good content.

I find his viewpoint of the world hilarious, and writing funny is hard! Coming from North America myself, I can relate to his comparisons and find myself laughing as I read. Especially when he talks US politics.

Ira, Writer for the blog South France American
Ira, Writer for the blog South France American

My Expat Life Interview Questions

Who are you? My name is Ira Faro. I’m 67 years old. My wife Cathey Grubbs and I have been married for 43 years. After I retired (mostly), we moved to Quarante full time in April of 2014.

I was born and raised in a part of New Jersey in the United States that most people don’t know – on a dirt road, surrounded by neatly tended cow pastures and corn fields. The small towns of my youth were connected by winding two-lane blacktops with few billboards, housing developments, or businesses in between. Replace the corn fields with vineyards and the slate roofs with clay tiles and the Languedoc looks today quite like where I grew up decades ago…except for Carcassonne. Nothing in New Jersey looks remotely like Carcassonne.

Why did you move to France? Cathey is from Texas but she’d lived in the American northeast for most of her life. She was not a fan of the winters. “When I retire, I will never shovel snow again.” We’d traveled throughout the US and no place really interested us. We thought about Mexico, but we wanted a solid, First World environment. We had friends who lived in England and we’d begun traveling in Europe. Why not live here? So we checked out the Algarve in Portugal, but Portuguese is a language from Mars. We passed on the Spanish costas. We’re not interested in tennis or golf. Eventually found our way to the Languedoc – thanks in part to publications like International Living, which at that time featured Mexico and the Languedoc much more heavily than, say, Panama.

Did you experience culture shock? Well, we eased into it. We bought a holiday house in Cazouls-les-Beziers in 2005 and visited as often as we could. So we spent some time dipping our toes in to make certain that we’d planned wisely. But the small-town nature of the region made me feel right at home and Cathey – being a really skilled, multi-cultural cook – enjoyed the availability of great ingredients from around the world. We made a few friends early on, mostly Brits, and they helped to guide us through the rough spots. So by the time that we retired, we slipped into our new life fairly easily.

Did you do anything since moving to France that you never would have expected? Did I ever expect to buy a fifteen year-old, diesel-powered Citroen with 135,000 kilometers on the clock? I don’t think so. And I certainly didn’t expect to become one of the go-to people in our village to feed neighbors’ cats when they went on vacation – the neighbors, not the cats. But seriously, we were open to experiencing expat life, whatever that might bring, so our expectations were centered on going with the flow. And we have.

What do you do for a living? I retired as an administrator/fundraiser for a charitable organization that addressed such problems as hunger and homelessness. I still work with them as a consultant, so I guess that I’m not really fully retired. Before that, Cathey and I were mass-market florists, providing grocery stores and other non-traditional vendors (at the time) with pre-made floral bouquets. When we started the business in the 1970s, the idea of buying flowers in a grocery store was brand new.

Why did you start a blog? Did you always write?

We write because we must write. At some point during our schooling, we realized that words on the page had life and power. Writing became less a chore, more an obsession. For some, it can be an exercise in ego. But for folks like us, it’s breathing.

What did you do to integrate with your community? We attend village fetes and memorials, go to the local doctor and pharmacy, buy locally when we can. But until we are more proficient with the language, there’s a bit of a barrier. On the other hand, our village has a robust expat community – Brits, Americans, Aussies, Swedes. They tend to be more open about inviting you into their circles than the French. And, of course, there’s a comfort zone in spending time with people who speak your native language.

But we are slowly fitting in. During a recent patrimony celebration, a cardboard model of the village as it might have looked 1,000 years ago took center stage in a local chapel. I pointed out to the local historian that part of the village ramparts against which our house stood. He nodded his head and said (in French), “Yes, that’s right. I know who you are.”

Tell me something special about the Languedoc that most people don’t know? What has surprised us most has been the sky. In the United States, places like Texas and Montana are known as Big Sky Country. We didn’t expect to be as impressed with the expanse, that particular shade of blue, and the wonderful diversity of the regional skyscape. Very impressive.

What is the worst thing about being an expat? Right this very minute, the worst thing about being an expat from America is Donald Trump. But in truth, it’s the distance. You just can’t pick up the phone to call family when the mood strikes. It might be the middle of the night back in the States. And even though our families lived anywhere from 45 minutes to 1,800 miles away, popping around on the spur of the moment was always a possibility. Finally, now that the next generation is having babies, Facetime isn’t the same as bouncing them on your knee.

What is your favourite thing about being an expat? Discovery. There are dozens and dozens of vineyards that we pass by every time we take a drive whose wines we haven’t tasted yet. There are dozens and dozens of little villages that are a pleasure to walk through with little bars/cafes/restaurants that serve great food that we haven’t tasted yet. There are markets and beaches and lakes and ruins and rivers and canals…

What do you miss the most about your home country? People. People that we’d like to share this experience with. And…

Nathan’s hot dogs and cheap, squishy hot dog rolls. Bagels. Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Texas-style smoked ribs and brisket. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Crystal Hot Sauce. Twizzlers Chocolate Licorice Twists. Vita herring in sour cream.

What is a myth about your adopted country? That all French are snooty and aloof. That’s just Paris…

What advice would you give other expats? Think long and hard before you commit. Because it is a commitment. Learn the language. And learn everything you can from the internet, from books, and from folks who have actually taken the plunge. Then realize that some of what you learn may be bogus. (Most of what I have read in English about the French has been written by Brits. There’s no chance that there might be a bit of an attitude, given the history of launching armies and DNA across that Channel at each other. Right?)

What are you currently working on? Projects, books, business ventures… As I said, I still consult with my former employer. And I write a blog, hosted at www.southfranceamerican.com. I have kept a spreadsheet detailing every centime that we’ve spent since we arrived that I hope to be able to analyze and turn into the basis of a short essay one day. And when I get the chance, I add to the 20,000 words or so that I’ve put into my murder mystery.

——-

Ira is bringing writing back to the blogging world. Quality content should have more leverage on the Internet and Ira is a clear example why!

So you ask me why I blog? Money, Notoriety and Traffic.

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Eva Hamori
Our mission is to share our family's move to France, and now to Hungary, how to slow travel with kids, and give tips and ideas as to what works and what doesn't being an expat and a travelling family in Europe. Expat experts on an adventure!

2 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with the scheduling. Changing from a Canadian (North American mentality) work schedule or constantly producing and moving, with little rest, or even running through our holidays trying to get it all in, was hard to quit in a more life-work balance place like southern France. The first few months were very difficult, always looking for things to clean, and organize. Thankfully after 7 year away, I have been able to manage just fine, just takes a while.

    Here in Hungary we have met some wonderful American families, nothing like you describe. I can report no hustlers or hucksters here! I find them always happy, super helpful, and always see things in a positive light. I hate to generalize, but perhaps we are lucky, meeting people in our circle of friends that have similar interests, attracting the same types of people wherever we live. Law of attraction <3

  2. We try to stay away as much as possible from americans–98.7% are hustlers and hucksters. It’s amazing to compare the american work schedule with continental Europe, or even the UK to a lesser degree. Relaxing is ‘bad’, so everything has to be overplanned with constant activity. But of course it is not possible to live up to this schedule, so the workday is a mix of work and sitting around playing with your phone. Likewise students aren’t ever given ‘free time’, so they just offer only superficial attention to the schedule of constant work. In Europe, people actually work for shorter bursts. Much less fake. Perhaps, that’s what americans enjoy?

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