Thursday, September 25, 2008

When the Rose-Tinted Glasses Fall Off

The other day I happened to come across a forum posting from an expat who was clearly having a bad day. The trouble was she had allowed a smallish matter to blow itself up into something that had completely sent her off on a rant. Against everything French.

The rose tinted glasses had well and truly come off, and de-railed her in the process.

I can understand how this could have come about. And it's not unusual. Especially in the present economic climate.

The pound sterling and the dollar are being squeezed to within an inch of their lives, belts are having to be tightened all round and M'sieu Sarkozy is not exactly making life easy for immigrants. And that is what we are, we Brits, Americans, Dutch, Germans Like it,or not.

So often we think the word applies just to Moroccans, or the Algerians we see on the markets selling cheap jewellery. But it's us too. So Sarko's ruling last year on health cover didn't go down well with those expats who had recently arrived, often with young families, to find they were not entitled to the same health cover as French nationals. Full private health cover came as a nasty shock to many, and that together with the general rises in the cost of living has brought on some severe cases of disillusionment.
When the dream looks like turning into a nightmare, something else coming along to hit them full in the face, or the wallet, is the very last straw.

For many women there's the added stress of being separated from their close family. Yes, you can explode, or whimper (depending on your personality) down the phone to mum, but it can never take the place of a good old-fashioned bawl on a sympathetic shoulder. And for men, in France there isn't the option of going down the pub for a pint and a moan to your mates. French bars may appear havens of warmth and friendliness ( an idea put about by the likes of Peter Mayle with a good dollop of literary license) but in actual fact your average Pierre propping up the bar with his pastis is not in the least interested in any one's marital or financial problems. Political discussion....ah that''s another matter. He'll talk politics all day.

Right now expat internet forums seem full of sob stories, but I wonder how many of them would resort to the cold anonymity of the web if they had a near neighbour who spoke the same language and who was probably in the same boat? Maybe someone should start up local support groups for those who think their dream has turned sour. I say 'think 'because I reckon if only some of these families who seem at the end of their tether could have a good old moan, over a glass or two of something, maybe they'd look at life in France in a more balanced way.

Yes, life here has got tougher over the past few months, but what are the alternatives? The grass isn't any greener anywhere else, especially right now.

So to those who are really fed-up and contemplating a move back I'd say..."Hang on in there. Don't make any hasty decisions you might regret later."

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