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

Interviews

Leonor Heleno Wielgosz - St Germain en Laye (Paris)

"We feel here at home, although we are real expats and have a bit of a barrier when it comes to make French friends. Being half French makes it harder than just being a plain foreigner. I look and speak like French but I am too different for their taste. I am not exotic like a plain Foreigner" (Leo, Oct 2011)

  • What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Paris? Which part of Paris do you live in?
    My name is Leonor Heleno Wielgosz, I am 41 years old and I live in L’Etang La Ville, just outside St Germain en Laye. I have been here for 1,5 years, after 2 years in Paris 16.

    Why did you move there?
    After London, we lived in Paris 16th in a lovely flat for two years, and although we had a great place and location, it seemed small for my little boy. So we decided to take the big step, and move to the suburbs. We chose St Germain En Laye because there is a huge expat community as well as several international/ bilingual schools in the area.

    What is the area like where you live?
    Beautiful!! I am just along the Forest of Marly, we have plenty of fresh air, a great garden and lots of space. This is a residential area so no great restaurants in town, but St Germain is only 5 minutes away and has lots to offer.

    What nationality are you and your partner?
    I am Portuguese (and half French). I was born in the South West of France but lived all my life in Lisbon where I went to the French Lycee. My husband is British from Polish origins. He was born and bred in North London but with strong Polish influence.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    I have two lovely boys!! Edward is 2,5 years, and his brother Aleksander is 13 months. Both were born in Neuilly at the Clinique Sainte Isabelle 17 months apart to the day!!

    What was your experience of having a baby in Paris (if relevant)?
    My experience was good. But I am fluent in French and I’m sure that helped, also I am very relaxed when it comes to certain things…. I did find for the second that August is a terrible month to be due. Everybody is on holidays and there is a certain chaos that you can’t really avoid!! So my advice, don’t go on holidays in November!!!! ;o)

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    Pre-babies, I was a banking IT consultant…. Post babies, I have decided to use my (hidden) talents and long term training and use them to make a living. After many years of studying art and photography, I have started 2 years ago working as a photographer specializing on children and Family portraits. This year, I have just launched a website store where I sell my own handmade Sterling Silver jewelry. All designs and creations are mine, and I must admit have been a delight to create!! Both jobs seem to combine pretty well!

    Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
    We bought our house. The process was …. well French! All bureaucracy is complicated and buying a house can also be. Our biggest issue was the broker for the mortgage, as they are way behind the UK expectations. Unfortunately she made a little mistake and forgot 50K in our mortgage process and put us in a very uncomfortable situation. Luckily, I am good at improvising and we found a solution (it helped having worked all my life in banks!!). The brokers never admitted their mistake and refused to even reduce their fees.

    How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
    We feel here at home, although we are real expats and have a bit of a barrier when it comes to make French friends. Being half French makes it harder than just being a plain foreigner. I look and speak like French but I am too different for their taste. I am not exotic like a plain Foreigner.

    What language do you speak to your children?
    English. They will go to the French school, so I only need to worry about keeping their English to a top level. We might one day leave France, and we would then go back to the UK.

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Paris?
    It’s complicated! I have studied all my life in a French school, and I think the French education is not the worse you could get. Mainly when you think it is all free! But you do have to understand/ agree with the French strict way of doing things….

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Paris?
    Open minded parents. And we don’t take so seriously French things.

    How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Paris?
    Don’t start me here…hehehe Not welcoming and very clear about it! French don’t like whose different and feels threatened by people who have more experience, travel, and do not fit the Parisian mold!
    Said that our neighbours here in L’Etang La Ville were extremely welcoming!!

    How would you describe a typical Parisian?
    Again, this is sensible point for me, My mother is from the South of France, I was born in Biarritz, and I must admit that Parisian are like nothing I ever met before. I find them arrogant, rude, unhappy, depressed, and awfully unwilling. They will be mean just because they can and with no real reason!

    Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    Now that we live in the suburbs, I do think it is very children friendly. In center Paris I found it very hard to go anywhere with a pushchair… the tube is impossible, and the bus is too slow. Here in Etang la Ville, we have a quiet little town so kids run around freely. Also I go everywhere by car so it is actually easier to carry the kids around.

    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?
    I can recommend several things as we have been here for 1,5 years now, I am starting to know my way around! Just contact me for details!

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Paris with children?
    Don’t live in the center of Paris if you want space!

    What couldn´t you live without in Paris?
    Hum…. Not much…..

    What could you live without in Paris?!
    Parisians?!.... ;o)
     

    October 2011