Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 4 weeks ago

Interviews

Kimberly Celse - Mulhouse (Alsace)

"Ive found that many people understand English but are shy about speaking. As a teacher, its important for me to understand the culture of my students and I believe its a myth that the French are being rude about their reluctance to speak. The French like to do things well and have a lot of pride so its often the case that theyre afraid to make mistakes in speaking" (KC, June 2012)

  • What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Mulhouse?
    Im Kimarie Celse and Ive lived in Mulhouse for 11 months.

    Why did you move there?
    Prior to coming to France, I was living in Hamburg, Germany for 2 years. When I got pregnant, my husband and I decided to come here to be closer to his family. He got a job in Basel, Switzerland and I took some time off during my pregnancy.

    What is the area like where you live?
    The Alsace region is very beautiful and unique because of its rich history of being passed back and forth between France and Germany. Its situated along the prosperous Rhine River and therefore was a highly desired region for trade and warfare. Theres a wine route which reminds me of the wine region from my homeland.

    What nationality are you and your partner?
    Im an American from San Francisco and hes French from the Franche-Comte region.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    Chloé is now 6 months old and was born at Hasenrain Hospital in Mulhouse.

    What was your experience of having a baby in Mulhouse (if relevant)?
    Much better than expected even though I could barely speak any French at the time! Hasenrain hospital is unique in that it offers natural birthing rooms with relaxing whirpool baths and it encourages breastfeeding. I really enjoyed my experience there and the warm, friendly, and helpful staff were very patient with my poor French!

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    Im registered as an auto entrepreneur and work as a Business English trainer which is great work in this frontalier region of France, Germany, and Switzerland. My former career is as an opera singer and I plan to get back into it professionally when Chloés a bit older.

    Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
    Were renting a 400 year old apartment in the central plaza of Mulhouse. An impressive building that people are always taking photos of when I look out the window! We just bought a modern flat in a village along the Germany/Switzerland border to be closer to hubbys work and to have a quieter environment for the baby.

    How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
    My husband is doing fine and it helps that he speaks French, English, and German fluently. I struggled a lot at first - due to the language change, having no friends, not working for the first time, and the aches and pains of pregnancy. Surprisingly, Im integrating really well now and can conduct almost any everyday business in French - and even make jokes! Speaking German really helped me get a boost here as its the second dominant language in this region.

    What language do you speak to your children?
    Mostly English but also a little bit of French to get her used to hearing me speak it. My husband only speaks French to her.
    Do you think it essential to speak French when relocating to Mulhouse?
    Absolutely. Ive found that many people understand English but are shy about speaking. As a teacher, its important for me to understand the culture of my students and I believe its a myth that the French are being rude about their reluctance to speak. The French like to do things well and have a lot of pride so its often the case that theyre afraid to make mistakes in speaking.

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Mulhouse?
    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Mulhouse?
    Although we could have chosen to live closer to my husbands work before we got here, I specifically chose Mulhouse because I wanted to be in the center of events, festivals, shops, etc, and I knew Id have to immerse myself into French very quickly. Areas closer to the border have more English speaking French and expats.

    How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Mulhouse?
    Surprisingly a lot friendlier than the locals in Germany. We never knew anyone in our apartment building over there and our first encounter with a neighbor was very unfriendly. Here, we know everyone in the building and are always receiving offers for help.

    Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    As with all big cities, there are nicer parts than others. I wouldnt call city center family-friendly due to the noise and constant flow of tourists, but its definitely one of the safer areas. Mulhouse seems to be getting wealthier so Id really love to see the city parks get expanded so that you dont hear / see traffic when youre in them. We have amazing nature just on the outskirts of the city but it can take a whole day to make the trip worthwhile.

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Mulhouse with children?
    Id definitely recommend Hasenrain Hospital as its a lot more progressive than traditional French hospitals. If you have children and you need a crèche, contact them before coming as most of them are full and have long waiting lists.

    What could you live without in Mulhouse?!
    Oh, lots of things! We have our fair share of dog poo and some of the buildings are unkept. The baguettes and bread in general seem to be larger and more dense here than the traditional French ones.

    June 2012