"I was 21, doing boring jobs in England and thought that there had to be more to life than growing up, working, getting married and finishing my life in the same place. I had spent my childhood holidays in the area and thought to myself… hey, why dont I go to France… and off I went. I was an au-pair looking after children as I didnt really speak French, it was the only opportunity available to me" (A R-H, March 2012)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in La Haute Savoie? Which part of La Haute Savoie do you live in ?
My name is Alison Robin-Hood and I have lived in Haute Savoie for nearly 22 years, and in La Roche sur Foron for 3 years
You moved to the region alone, how did that come about?
I was 21, doing boring jobs in England and thought that there had to be more to life than growing up, working, getting married and finishing my life in the same place. I had spent my childhood holidays in the area and thought to myself… hey, why dont I go to France… and off I went. I was an au-pair looking after children as I didnt really speak French, it was the only opportunity available to me.
What is the area like where you live?
The area is lovely, Haute Savoie is lovely, and the regional dishes are to die for. La Roche sur Foron is a beautiful little town and we are very happy here, there are breathtaking views, the mountains, lakes and beautiful towns and villages in the area.
What nationality are you and your partner?
I am British, but I have had French nationality for about 15 years, my husband is French.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
I have two children, my eldest daughters name is Elodie, she is nearly nineteen and was born in Haute Savoie in Annemasse where I lived for 16 years. My youngest daughters name is Kayleigh, she is nearly six and she was also born in Annemasse.
What was your experience of having a baby in La Haute Savoie?
A good experience, although there werent many choices of child birth, positions etc. I was very nervous for my first birth, as most women I assume. The most important thing for me at the time was the professional treatment, the midwives and maternity staff were very helpful, my French was not brilliant at the time, especially during such a stressful time. I had no family near and felt quite alone. They really helped me out with breast feeding , which was not simple at the beginning. For my second daughter, I was more confident, I gave birth in the same clinic and being so many years later things had changed somewhat, for the better of course. The mid wives were relaxed and friendly.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
I work in Geneva as a secretary in a law firm and have done for 2 ½ years. I worked in France up until then, in and around Annemasse.
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
We bought a flat here in La Roche three years ago. It all went through very well, once we had the mortgage sorted out, the process went quite smoothly and rapidly. We found the agency very helpful and the notaire aswell.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
Totally integrated, I feel as French as I do English and my husband and daughters, being born and bred here, are obviously totally integrated. The Savoyards arent well known for being very warm and friendly towards newcomers, but I never really felt that, although I have probably been here longer than many of the people I meet…
What language do you speak to your children?
I speak only English to my eldest daughter who is totally bilingual, and mostly English to my youngest, although she usually answers in French, the school environment plays a big part in that, she actually knows a lot of English but seems rather shy to use it unless we are in an English speaking environment. My husband speaks French to both of them.
Do you think it essential for someone to speak French when relocating to the region?
I think it is important, but not essential as you can learn while living here. I didnt really speak French when I arrived, and not knowing anyone who spoke any English obliged me to learn, and quickly. If you speak French it is obviously much easier to integrate into a community and I assume when people relocate to another country that the idea is to integrate.
What is your impression of childcare and education in La Haute Savoie?
I have not been disappointed with childcare here. Pre-school garderies were very good. I feel that maybe schools are missing a little colour, not the colour of the walls of course, I mean that they are very straight curriculum and not creativity orientated. I cannot compare to back home as I have only experienced adult life, child care and schooling in France. Luckily there is a childcare system before and after school, we would be lost without it. Out of school activities are not adapted to families with working parents, I havent found any activity for Kayleigh, ballet being what she would like to do, everything takes place straight after school, when we are still at work, or on Wednesdays when we are also at work. I would love to offer her ballet classes but will not be able to. I would have thought that someone somewhere could organize something on a Saturday for children whose parents work all week.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in La Haute Savoie?
Difficult to say, as I have been here so long, when I am with the French most of them dont even know Im English, otherwise, those that do are interested and friendly. An obvious advantage is being totally bilingual which is also an advantage for my daughters.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in La Haute Savoie?
It was difficult to tell at first as I didnt speak French so Ive no idea how people reacted because I couldnt really understand them. The general feeling was interest from most people because I was different and many people enjoyed helping me out, which was really good.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
I would say quite family friendly, lots of things organized for children, storytelling, plays for children, different festivals etc. I would just improve out of school activities for children with parents who work, there really is nothing available, very disappointing,
Are you able to recommend to other MumAbroad members in the area any local services (home delivery, plumbers, dentists, babysitters etc) or any activities, restaurants or shops for children in the area?
We have found a very good pediatric dentist in La Roche who is very good with children, after a rather bad experience with an ordinary dentist who was not at all interested in adapting to a child we were really pleased to find her - Anne ABBE DENIZOT : 04 50 03 21 67 I know a very good babysitter, my daughter Elodie, she does quite a lot of babysitting and everyone seems really pleased with her.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to La Haute Savoie with children?
Difficult to give this type of advice, as I was already here when I had mine. Just try and get involved in clubs, organisations, anything you can, it really is the best way to integrate, and more importantly, to show that you want to integrate, that makes a difference too. If you stay in your own corner and stick only to other English speakers, theres not much chance of becoming part of your community.
What couldn´t you live without in La Haute Savoie?
The mountains, I miss them when I go home to England on holiday, not so much missing them, but really nice seeing them again when we come back. The beautiful food, I definitely couldnt live without that!
What could you live without in La Haute Savoie?! Errrrm, cant think of anything for now…