"Parisians are often described as aloof, abrupt or even rude, but I think that can all be chalked up to the fact that they are generally very private people. While Ive never had a Parisian neighbour come over and introduce themselves to me, plate of home-baked goods in hand, I can honestly say Ive never had an unpleasant exchange with any of the people I interact with on a daily basis. Every time Ive made the first move, Ive been rewarded for my efforts" (L C-B, Aug 2011)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Paris?
My name is Lise Charlebois-Ludot. Im 37 and have lived in France for nine years.
Why did you decide to move there?
I came to France looking for a change in careers; I worked in publishing in Toronto and wanted to find a job that would allow me to travel more while earning an income. I came to Paris to take a TEFL course at the American University of Paris and ended up getting a job and an apartment shortly after completing the course, so I stayed.
What nationality are you and your partner?
Im Canadian and my husband is French.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have a daughter, Uma, who was born in 2007 and were expecting a second daughter at the end of this year.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
I divide my time between two careers at the moment; I work as an English teacher for a training company that specialises in in-house corporate language training. In 2005 I began pursuing a career as a freelance food writer and now write for various English language publications.
What was your experience of relocating to Paris with your children?
As my husband and I met and started our life together here, I dont have any experience with relocating, family in tow.
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
My daughter is completely integrated into the French way of life; she goes to French public school, attends extra-curricular activities in our town and is completely fluent in French. Outside of school, all of her friends are the children of bilingual/bi-cultural homes, which seems to be a direct result of my own level of integration into the French community. Because my work isolates me somewhat (I work from home by telephone and internet and so have no colleagues per se) I have little contact face-to-face with French people and consequently very few French friends or acquaintances. Most of my friends here in France, mothers like me, are anglophones.
What language do you speak to your children?
I speak only English to our daughter and my husband speaks to her exclusively in French.
Do you rent or own a property and how did you find the renting/buying process?
We bought our first home, an apartment in the western suburbs of Paris, at the end of 2009 after several years of renting. I have no point of comparison as I had never bought property before, but I found the whole process relatively easy. From contacting the sellers directly and circumnavigating agencies, to ordering the requisite diagnostics to signing the papers with the bank and at the notarys, it all went rather smoothly and we were able to easily find the answers to any questions we had on one of the many internet sites dedicated to the subject.
Do you think it essential for someone to speak French when relocating to Paris?
I already spoke French quite well before coming to France and being married to a Frenchman has certainly improved my fluency so I dont have any first-hand experience with coming here unable to make myself understood, but many of my friends have and have managed to do it successfully. Id say it definitely helps to at least have the basics down in French before arriving if youll be negotiating home rentals or purchases, enrolling children in the French school system, opening bank accounts etc., but its not absolutely necessary. Whats more important is a willingness to learn.
How welcoming have the Parisians been towards you and your family?
Parisians are often described as aloof, abrupt or even rude, but I think that can all be chalked up to the fact that they are generally very private people. While Ive never had a Parisian neighbour come over and introduce themselves to me, plate of home-baked goods in hand, I can honestly say Ive never had an unpleasant exchange with any of the people I interact with on a daily basis. Every time Ive made the first move, Ive been rewarded for my efforts.
How would you describe a typical Parisian?
What is your impression of childcare and education where you live?
Overall weve been very pleased with the options open to us. That the municipal daycare is priced on a sliding scale makes childcare affordable for everyone. Our daughter went to an halte-garderie, a daycare centre which gives parents who do not need full-time childcare the possibility of a few hours a week, from eighteen months to the age of three; she enjoyed it and it gave her the chance to socialise with other children in French a few times a week. All in all it was a good option for our family and we plan on using it again with our second child.
As for the public kindergarten, or école maternelle which our daughter now attends, again we are, on the whole, happy with our experience. She attended her first year and will be entering her second year there this September. While we have found the approach to early childhood education a little stricter than what we would have expected or liked, we found the teacher and principal open to discussion and our daughter was like a fish in water from day one, so for now were happy to have her continue on at that school. Come the time for middle school, or collège, we would like her to attend an international section, which may require moving to be closer to a school that offers that option.
What school(s)/nursery(ies) do your children go to?
Our daughter attends Ecole Georges Braque in Montigny-lès-Cormeilles.
Why did you choose this school/these schools and are you happy with your choice?
As we enrolled her in the public system, we were subject to the catchment area in which we live, so we were not given a choice of schools. Had we not been happy with the school, we would have considered sending her to one of the private schools in a neighbouring town.
Are there any services, activities for kids, day-trips for kids, family-friendly restaurants or kids’ shops you’d like to recommend?
We go to Cité des enfants, an interactive science centre geared to small children, on a regular basis. Our daughter loves all the different activates, especially the water games.
Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
For better or for worse, much if not most of the child-rearing wisdom in France differs significantly from what you may have been used to back home. The need to constantly defend your choices as parents to health care providers, teachers, neighbours, even strangers on the street can become quite tiresome. That said, giving your child the opportunities that come with living in a culture that is not their own far out way any inconvenience in my opinion.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Paris with children?
Leave your expectations at home.
What couldn´t you live without in Paris?
My network of friends.
What could you live without in Paris?!
The red tape!