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

Interviews

Nataliya Shablo - Chambourcy (Paris)

"You have great experiences and bad experiences everywhere . before France we lived in the UK, Prague , and also 7 years in Dubai . I would say Dubais family life style is probably uncomparable to anything else ( in a good way ) but then it is a very specific country , with a specific infrastructure in terms of facilities available to you there , so it probably is an exceptional case . among all other countries France is an excellent place for the family , and it is better than being in Prague or UK but I loved every place i lived in.
I feel that in France/Paris i can give much more to my daughter than i was able in other places ( not in financial terms of course) - its just there is so much more of cultural exposure to a variety of nice things!"
(NS, June 2011)

  • Interview with Nataliya Shablo

    What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Chambourcy?
    Nataliya , 40 , have lived in Chambourcy 3 years now

    Why did you decide to move there?
    I came to France for my job. When we first came to Paris we were recommended to go to Lycée International in Saint Germain en Laye , so it was then a natural choice to find somewhere to live close enough to Lycée .


    What nationality are you and your partner?
    I am Ukrainian. my ex-partner is english but he does not live in France


    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    One, Anastasia , born in 2000

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    I work for a multinational software company , in sales operations

    What was your experience of relocating to Chambourcy with your daughter?
    relocating to France was a terrible experience , the worst i ever had . It would be a long story to tell . in short words , it was hard and unfriendly and very stressful . Luckily , it is now just a memory

    You have lived in several other countries before relocating to France, how do they compare for family life?
    You have great experiences and bad experiences everywhere . before France we lived in the UK, Prague , and also 7 years in Dubai . I would say Dubais family life style is probably uncomparable to anything else ( in a good way ) but then it is a very specific country , with a specific infrastructure in terms of facilities available to you there , so it probably is an exceptional case . among all other countries France is an excellent place for the family , and it is better than being in Prague or UK but I loved every place i lived in.
    I feel that in France/Paris i can give much more to my daughter than i was able in other places ( not in financial terms of course) - its just there is so much more of cultural exposure to a variety of nice things !

    How well integrated would you say you and your daughter are?
    Pretty well by now , i would say . The first year was the hardest . being now in our third year here , i can say that we are quite comfortable . Although my daughter goes to international school and majority of her friends are from international community or half-french , she has also established very nice social contacts through local music school , some clubs etc . Having been educated predominantly in the french system , she was also able to learn the language quite quick , enjoys french TV , we read french books , and in general we get by . it might be a bit more different for me , my working environment is very international and i can not say that i have estbalished some firm social contacts with French people , but i am getting along quite ok with some of my french colleagues and neighbours. The bureacracy still baffles me and dealing with any administrative issues here is a nightmare but i got used to it and usually set my expectations accordingly , it saves me from frustrations and disappointments

    What language do you speak to your daughter?
    Predominantly English , sometimes Russian but rare , if we are around French people , we do try to speak in French just to be polite !

    Do you rent or own a property and how did you find the renting/buying process?
    I am renting . Renting was a disgusting , rip-off experience , with hardly any help . Learnt all my lessons very hard ( and expensive ) way !

    Do you think it essential for someone to speak French when relocating to Paris?

    absolutely . If you dont , take with you somebody who does . I did not speak any French , except few words may be , when came here first , and believe you me - they made me pay big time for that :-)

    How welcoming have the Parisians been towards you and your family?

    we did not come accross too many Parisians as a family to make a well- constructed judgement as such . if we go out in Paris , lets say restaurants or some entertainment establishments , i would say we are not treated any different than anybody else . okey-ish, sort of ! the neighbours in our residence building are very nice and friendly , i must say . there are only 8 families , we know all , we say hello and they usually have a nice word or two to say to each other or just a friendly nod , if we are passing by . the guy in a local food store is also very friendly and always have a smile and a joke for you . the same can be said about the owners of the local butchers , bakery and tobacco shop . But then all these people are not quite Parisians and Chambourcy is a relatively small town :-)

    How would you describe a typical Parisian?.

    would not even try . many things have already been said by better people than me :-) i always thought all those statements and comments about Parisians were pretty cliché and a bit made up sort of a thing , but can now say that majority of them proved to be true . no need to repeat them !

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Chambourcy?W
    As far as i know , there are few primary and secondary schools . for higher education the childrent are usually sent to Saint Germain en Laye . Local music school is nice . there are plenty of clubs , organized by Maison des Associations etc . I think the French are really good at arranging variety of schooling options and after-school activities . you only need to have plenty of time to get your kids around , which was and is a huge problem for me
    mind you , to find a baby-sitter is very hard ! you of course can easily find local people who are happy to baby-sit in the evning or weekend but only few hours and usually quite demanding . to find a permanent baby-sitter in our area is really a hard thing

    What school(s)/nursery(ies) do your children go to? Lycéé International

    Why did you choose this school/these schools and are you happy with your choice?
    it was highly recommended by some people who have lived here before , also by one member of our family whose children went through the similar system as the one offered by the Lycée .
    i am quite pleased with our choice . Lycée is an excellent school but hard one ! must say that at the beginning we shed some tears of frustration and even a bit of anger , but so far it has all been worth it ! My daughter goes to the British section of the Lycée and i am pleased with the section as well . the French part is a bit harder and stricter than any national section , but it does give childrena firm structure and teaches quite strict discipline , although I do not awlays approve of some methods deployed and attitude of some teachers , but the British section balances some bad experiences of the French system . all in all , children are quite advanced , usually by the second year fluently bi-lingual and adapt faster than parents !

    Are there any services, activities for kids, day-trips for kids, family-friendly restaurants or kids’ shops you’d like to recommend?
    There are plenty around St Germain area . Riding schools , pony clubs , music schools , dancing schools etc etc . in each town or village there usually is Maison des Associations and they offer a wide range of activities . all restaurants we visited in our neighbourhoood are nice and usually all of them are family friendly . I have never seen a restaurant without " Kids menu " or some form of facilities for the babies. it is hard to highlight just one because we have always had pleasant experiences . in terms of kids entertainment , there is Ludimax nearby , Bowling Center in Orgeval , both are popular choices for birthday parties . Staff are usually friendly and are used to have around a bunch of etranger kids or a mixture !

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Paris/Chambourcy?
    Disadvantage - by default you are drown to the international community and it usually results in you speaking anything except French , you can easily get stuck in this " comfort" zone and can hardly see , learn or appreciate the "world outside" , that is to say a proper French world :-) Also , not all intl families stay , so you and your kids make friends and it then is very sad to say good bye !
    Advantage - easier -going and friendlier people in general because we are all in the same boat . Good for the kids to be exposed to different nationalities , languages , cultures . One of my daughters best friends is Scottish , another one is Dutch , and the other one is half -English / half French . plus there is a whole bunch of some school mates and buddies who ae Spanish , Italian , Polish etc . I think its great !

    Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    a reliable and affordable baby-sitting service, but it probably would improve my life more than my daughters , if to be perfectly honest :-) this probably is a selfish comment

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Paris/Chambourcy with children?
    Chambourcy and in fact all surrounding towns and villages aroudn St Germain en Laye are very nice to bring children up . It is less stresfull than Paris and yet is very close by if you want to be close to Paris . there is no particular advice except that it is better if you speak French or at least make an attempt to do so

    What couldn´t you live without in Chambourcy?
    Without my little local shops ( bakery , butcher etc and tobacco shop , because ,sadly so, i am a smoker ! )

    What could you live without in Chambourcy?!
    Hmmmm... i am not sure . i think in general i am pleased with everything and am quite happy here really .

    (June 2011)