"As a member of the International Community,iInevitably you have contact with other nationalities that keeps a certain multi-nationality aspect to life. With that I hope to instill a wider point of view into my daughter, with greater tolerance for what is different." (CG Feb 2010)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in France?
My name is Claudia Graf, I am 48 years old and I have lived in France since 1991, where I arrived on May 2nd.
Whereabouts in France do you live?
I live in the Alpes Martimes area, about 30 km from Nice in a little village called Le Rouret.
What nationality are you and your partner?
I am German and my partner is French.
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
I have one daughter called Lilou, and she just turned 4 on December 8th.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
Before I had my daughter, I was working at Amadeus, a multi-national company providing travel solutions for the tourism industry worldwide. I took 3 years maternity leave and now I am on a 2 year sabbatical creating my own company, Zone Bébé. Zone Bébé is a website in 3 languages providing organic baby, mums and family items. From clothes to cosmetics to household goods. Making all the research I have done available to other mums. Trying to explain what “organic” really means, and offering the products according to their high organic content, fair-trade and without any harmful substances.
What was your experience of having a baby in France? (if relevant)
I would have loved it to be more personal. But at the time, for my first child, I was more or less pushed into the choices. For sure a second pregnancy would have been different. Unfortunately now I won’t get to try it.
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
It really depends what that means. Does it mean speaking French and having some French friends? Generally “international” French are easier than those that have stayed here for all their lives. Our lives are so fast and busy that it is difficult to go outside the usual frame, work and school. We do speak French, we know most of our neighbours, are aware of the French system.
What language do you speak to your children?
I speak predominantly German to my daughter, and my partner French. Liliu goes to a bi-lingual school, where she learns French and English.
What is your impression of childcare and education in France so far?
I feel that the system is made for mothers going back to work. But whether it is rather making mothers go back because they have to pay a lot for child care, or because they want to is debatable. Staying at home is still difficult as there is not much financial support. Most of the time the salary earned by mothers is used up for the childcare during the first 3 years. After that puplic school is free.
What school do your children go to?
I was not impressed with the local facilities. I wanted her to grow up in a multi-national environment tapping into the facility of learning languages at that age and the local school did not provide this. So she now goes to a Montessori school Les Colibris in Sophia Antipolis, 06.
Why did you choose this school and are you happy with your choice?
Basically because it was new, the teaching staff extremely motivated, the school itself is small and the Montessori system really appealed to me. I am very happy with the choice and so is my daughter.
Where you live, how good are the facilities for children (shops, restaurants, activities etc)?
There are a few facilities around, most of them are payable. In the village there are a few clubs from older age onwards.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in France?
Inevitably you have contact with other nationalities that keeps a certain multi-nationality aspect to life. With that I hope to instill a wider point of view into my daughter, with greater tolerance for what is different. It makes integration with other French parents a tiny bit difficult, especially when French is the only language.
Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives in France?
Definitely the school vacation system. Even though I am not yet implicated, I find that long days at school plus homework is a drain on kids. In return, long and many school holidays are counterproductive. If I was to change something I would shorten the holidays, and make the days less intense.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to France with children?
For having a baby, don’t let yourself be run over by general medicine, go on the search for something that suits you. Because too many hospitals are made to be convenient for the staff not to the patient. Go and research forums on the net, ask questions among your nationality’s community as there is already a lot of experience out there. When you relocate to France with children, do your research before, it is lovely to live somewhere in the country side, but then you are dependent on car/bus for EVERTHING. Look at schools, crèches etc and see whether they suit you before moving there. Think about the fact that there are loads of strikes in the schooling sector, plus all the other industries (ie buses and trains) so be prepared to deal with such situations.
What couldn´t you live without in France?
What could you live without in France?!
Strikes, andouillettes, cost of living in the South…