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wheninflux

the lifestyle blog for twenty somethings

It is not goodbye. It is goodbye for now.

The hardest thing that living abroad and travelling throws at you is learning to say goodbye. It is a lesson you never quite master as with each farewell to new ami’s or à bientôt to family back home, feelings of sadness and loneliness weigh heavy on the heart. It is a bitter-sweet moment that leaves a lingering doubt in the back of your mind as to whether jetting off on your travels is as good an idea as you thought it would be. Why must you have to say goodbye already to the friends you made a month ago? Why can’t your family be in your back pocket in a moment of loneliness? IMG_9075_edited.jpgLike everything in life though (and certainly in any lifestyle choice) there is the good and the bad. In fact, it is actually in the bad times that we learn our lessons and become stronger and better equipped to deal with the next mishap or misfortune.

 

Over the past year living abroad, quite sadly I tell you that I have had to say goodbye frequently to each of my wonderful friends I have met along the way. Each time, the ‘throw-my-toys-out-of-the-pram’ part of me has kicked and screamed about how it is not fair and life will not be the same once a friend has gone; a pretty natural reaction to the end of months of fun together. However the more, shall we say, reasonable part of me (that has evolved further with each au revoir) acknowledges the sadness of the situation but calmly searches for the silver lining. A friendship is never lost as it lives on in happy memories of time spent together, however short. A true friendship will last the test of time and distance; lost contact and thousands of miles have no bearing on the ability to resume a friendship like no time has passed.IMG_1466_edited.jpg It is these friends that you can, in a year or five or twenty, drop by on when you are finally together again in the same corner of the world. AND honestly, who wouldn’t want to have a free stay and private tour guide available on every continent?

One thing I like to remind myself when I am feeling uncertain after a friend has gone on their way, is that when one door closes another opens (as clichéd as that is). You have time to meet new people and hear fascinating stories from their past and can share new memories of exciting experiences. I can liken the steady comings and goings of friends to the ebbs and flows of rivers; it is comforting to realise that even when friends leave, new friends arrive.

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”  Paulo Coelho

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It is quite possible to believe (and I do believe in things happening for a reason) that I have had to endure many goodbyes over this year just in order to prepare me for the ultimate one which, scarily, is fast approaching; the farewell to my au pair family whom I leave in two short months. This I know will be tough to bear as they have over the past 16 months become a second family to me. It will take all my might to leave and not be too heartbroken but I will recall my past experiences in goodbyes and think only about the new endeavours and new friendships that await me.

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Pooh Bear

IMG_0575_editedHere is some advice from me to you- whether you are living abroad, your friend is leaving for a more exotic land or you are even just missing old school/ university friends.. do not be disheartened by a goodbye. It is only a ‘goodbye for now’.

 

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” Robert Southey

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Quoting Albert Einstein…

“In the middle of a difficulty lies an opportunity.”

The dilemmas of French (cheek) Kissing

Unlike today’s blog post, performing the typical cheek kiss on arrival and departure in social settings in France is most definitely not short and sweet. Mastering the art of ‘faire la bise’ as it is called in French, is no  mean feat. Knowing exactly when to do it and with who can leave foreigners in bewilderment. An overwhelming sense of awkwardness goes without saying.

One thing I certainly have noticed here in France is how much the French LOVE to kiss. Integral to their culture, it is considered poor etiquette if you do not partake in ‘faire la bise’. Being English and considerably more reserved in nature, cheek kissing a total stranger you’ve just been introduced to can feel uncomfortably intimate in comparison to a conservative English handshake.

The dilemma lies, however, in knowing with who and when to do the ‘bise’. You constantly fear getting it wrong and going in for a kiss when the other person clearly doesn’t think you have progressed to that level yet (normally when you have known each other for a little while- although when you have been introduced you must do the ‘bise’ regardless).  It can be a nightmare too, when you are late for an appointment, bump into a bunch of people and have to stop and kiss them because it would be too rude to just wave hello across the street and keep on going!

The absolute headache though, is trying to leave a small gathering or party where each person must in turn ‘faire la bise’ to say goodbye. Somebody no doubt gets chatting again for another 5 or 10 minutes and then all the kissing efforts are wasted and must be redone to say goodbye again- nightmare! That’s an awful lot of kissing an awful lot of people. All I can say is… thank goodness you only have to give two kisses in the South of France.

So whenever you’re next in France, good luck with doing ‘la bise’!

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7 Things I love about the South of France

1) Wine. IMG_9686_edited.jpgWine, wine, wine and more wine (purely for medicinal purposes, of course!)The South of France is a place where it is acceptable to order un verre de rosé at any time of day. In fact, just the other day the waiter misheard my café allongé (an americano in English) for un verre de rosé. He obviously thought it was more reasonable that I had asked for a glass of wine at 11am than a  civilised morning coffee. And if you are wondering why, of all wines, choose rosé? On the Cote D’Azur… It’s always rosé. It’s classy, it’s refreshing in the heat of the summer and quite frankly, it’s mouth-wateringly delightful for the taste buds. New Image.jpg

 

2) The French accent. The one thing that seems to go hand in hand with a glass of wine, is a sexy French accent. A couple of glasses down, and the French accent you are chatting up at the bar  on a Friday night gets infinitesimally sexier (…if that’s even possible). It’s also the perfect way to master your own French accent. The French wine gives you the perfect ‘slightly’ drunken boost in confidence to summon your inner French spirit leaving you with a resounding husky French accent. I cannot say if this helps or hinders one’s chances of securing a date with a lovely French man; but for me, that frankly doesn’t matter when, even for a small period, I can convince at least one person that I am pretty much a French girl.

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3) The food. Baguettes, croissants, pattiseries, crepes, smelly cheese, moules marinieres and aperitifs… the list is endless. But honestly, riddle me this, how do the French stay so thin?!IMG_5247.JPG

 

4) The coffee. It appears to be endemic in the lifestyle here to flit from café to café drinking lots and lots and lots of coffee- which well and truly suits me to a tee. New Images

5) The landscape. Whether you are on the coast relaxing on beautiful IMG_0400_editedsandy beaches and turquoise waters or in land hiking the forest covered mountains, you are overwhelmed with the natural beauty of the South of France. The forever changing landscape gives you plenty to explore and leaves you wondering if you really are in France. The plains in land lead you to believe you are actually in Africa while the Gorges du Verdon leaves you feeling like you’ve travelled back to a prehistoric time. However, nothing beats the brilliant blue sea lapping at the rugged Mediterranean coastline.

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6) The weather. If ever it is a cloudy day in the South of France, the silver lining is that, IMG_8733without fail, it is at least 10 degrees warmer here than in Britain- at all times. The summer is exquisite- you can plan an outdoor event or day out to the beach without fear of rain or cold weather. I have even fallen out of the habit of checking the weather forecast (a habit drummed into every British person for their own personal health and safety). On the VERY occasional chance of a storm (mostly during the months of September and October)- the rain is unleashed from the heavens in a truly magnificently huge way. So much so you can’t help but actually enjoy it.

7)  The French shrug. This is the epitome of how much the French don’t give a flying f**k.  It’s baffling how much you can understand when receiving a shrug from a French person and how infuriating it is when it, in no way, helps to answer your question or solve your problem. I have come however, to rather enjoy the French shrug. This is because it is ridiculously satisfying performing the French shrug with other French people around you ( when something abnormal is happening in a shop and you collectively want to show each other you have absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on, for example). In that moment, where you French shrug to other people, you take a momentous step forward into mastering a truly French attitude. IMG_5264

 

3 Things I Love to Hate about France (and why I love it anyway)

As a Roast Beef, I cannot express enough how much I love living in The Land of The Frogs but, like all countries (the UK without a doubt included), France has a few foibles I can’t help but find utterly infuriating. I admit, somewhat guiltily, that I get an immense pleasure from getting on my high horse and having a good ol’ moan about the annoyances of daily life in France; when having a bad day this can even cheer me up. However, I must digress, life in France and the French culture is undeniably enchanting and in fact the French, in many ways, have got the good life sussed out far more than the British.

 1) THE OPENING HOURS

This is unequivocally, unquestionably and without a doubt, my biggest bugbear. French opening hours, or as they are named locally ‘Horaires’, are quite frankly the most frustrating thing known to man. I honestly believe the French, when originally determining their working hours, purposefully chose to have the most complicated and mind-boggling hours possible in order to confuse all foreigners.

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Let’s say you want to run a few errands on a Monday- a normal day where you would expect no problems in completing them considering it is, for most of the (Western) world, the start of the working week. Well, the French have different ideas. To them, Monday is actually just a second Sunday. Countless times have I travelled into town to go to the post office, for example, only to realise that they are closed and I’ve wasted half my Monday morning.

The French LOVE to spend hours on a lunch break too. Strangely, they have not quite grasped the concept yet that if you stagger each employee’s lunch break, the shop could actually remain open and fully functioning over the lunch period. Instead, nearly everything closes for, at minimum, a good two and a half hours. It is infuriating enough trying to schedule one’s day around lunch but, imagine the frustration when every store insists on taking their lunch break at slightly different times too. I could quite happily go on, but I think my point is clear. IMG_5346_edited.jpg

In case you are ever in need of running an errand in France, here is some useful advice- to guarantee a successful outing, try the shops only at 11am or 4pm (but not at all on a Sunday or a Monday, of course, or any other day they stay closed  just because they can).

2)  THE DRIVING

I am half in awe of the audacity of some French drivers I have come across on the roads here. For the most part however, I find their naturally aggressive driving manner too boy racer and not enough ‘care and caution’. On seeing a car physically on a roundabout, a French driver will still choose to pull out with just seconds to spare, casually avoiding a collision. On windy mountain roads as narrow as one car width, they’ll decide suddenly that they are Kimi Raikkonen and are competing with the car ahead for top podium in the Grand Prix. Furthermore, get comfortable with getting up close and personal with strangers when on the road as the froggies love to get right up your arse (excuse my French) if you’re not IMG_0463_edited.jpggoing at least 110km/h whatever the speed limit.

 

Finally, THE SCOOTERS. The scooters, especially in summer, are comparable to swarms of locusts that invade the Cote D’Azur. They appear to be on a mission, putting themselves into every dangerous situation they can possibly find on the road. They swerve unnecessarily between cars, overtake traffic by driving down the centre  and it is clear that they truly believe they are a law unto themselves.

 

3) THE RADIO

If you’ve never experienced French radio then count your blessings. The radio DJs spend more time chatting about nonsense and playing ridiculous games with callers than they do actually playing music- the only reason why I’m attempting to listen. For the most part of my car journey I will continuously hop from radio station to radio station hoping to find some sort of music being played instead of the verbal diarrhoea from a DJ or worse, lousy radio adverts. It is no word of a lie, but adverts on French radio stations go on for at least 5 minutes (I’ve been sad enough to time it) before they go back to playing cheesy chart music. And let me tell you, those 5 minutes drag on for what seems like 5 hours. If you’re struggling already with the concept of French radio then, I’m afraid to say, it gets worse. When one radio station decides to broadcast a deluge of adverts, every other station jumps on the advert bIMG_6862_edited.jpgandwagon too. WHERE IS THE MUSIC?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In feeling rather cruel for voicing some of my rather harsh opinions on the daily quirks of life in France, I’d like to affirm how much I truly do love living here. The oddities of French culture are in fact some of the things I love most about France. It is somewhat liberating that everything closes on a Sunday for instance. Instead of going shopping, I choose to get more acquainted with nature by going for long hikes and picnicking in beautiful locations.

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The perilous driving style here has actually made me
a more confident driver; adapting your driving style is essential to remaining sane on French roads. And finally, the radio…. ahhhh the radio. I hate to admit it but, the radio (apart from the adverts) is a guilty pleasure of mine. I have grown accustomed to and even find pleasure in listening and singing along to cheesy chart music on every  car journey. I mean, who doesn’t think they’ve found themselves a CHEERLEADER?!

On that fine note, stay tuned for next week’s post where I will try to whittle down the many many reasons why I love life here in France and why it should always remain a top destination for foreigners!

Quoting Abraham Lincoln…

“In the end, it is not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

6 Lessons Learnt whilst Living Abroad

It has been inexplicably exciting and at times horrendously daunting but living abroad has most importantly provided me the opportunity to learn some lessons about myself. Choosing to work abroad instead of finding a graduate scheme job after university may be perceived as adventurous by some but more than likely, as a form of escapism by others. However, after a year of living and working abroad (and a plan to continue to do so for another year)  I have thought long and hard about the 6 most important things I have learnt and skills I have developed to explain why, when I return to the UK, I will be just as employable as a grad scheme graduate.

 

CULTURAL AWARENESS

Immersing myself in the French culture , I truly understand the many similarities, and more crucially, the differences between France and the UK. Gaining an insight into the core values and beliefs of a country and learning how to communicate effectively there will be an asset in the business world where firms are going global by the minute and where mergers and acquisitions are increasingly frequent.IMG_0515.JPG

 

NETWORKING

Meeting a diverse range of people here in the South of France has been one of the more fascinating aspects of living abroad. Making international friends from all around the world and learning about their life back home, and on a deeper level, their values and beliefs, has given me the chance to view the world from their, somewhat different, perspective. Chatting to people from all walks of life and listening to their stories of weird and wonderful life experiences has been incredibly insightful. I have learnt about careers I’ve never heard of and been told some captivating stories of how they got there. I feel confident now to pluck up a conversation with anyone by asking interesting questions and truly listening to their answers; this is the key to networking, to establishing a good contact.

 

EXPERIENCE

Trying out a crazy water sports,  fire fighting in full gear (part of a course needed to gain a job in the yachting industry) and learning volleyball completely in French have been just some of the many highlights of my time abroad; it is safe to say that this year has given me plenty of exciting new experiences. When considering your employability, personality is integral; having stories to tell from your experiences abroad will leave you oozing personality (just don’t brag!)20150809BRI_1135

 

TRANSFERABLE SKILLS

Working my year (or two) abroad was, to me, a no brainer. Many skills I have developed from au pairing and will develop in the yachting industry are easily transferable to a job back home. Be it the ability to anticipate my au pair family’s needs or responding quickly to solve an impossible task set by a guest on a super yacht, I know that these skills and experiences will hold me in good esteem in the business world.

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LANGUAGE

A skill sought by many employers are foreign language skills. Whilst living in France, it has been my mission to improve my knowledge of French. With my international au pair friends I only communicated in French, I made French friends and I even attended a language school for the first 4 months; I made a concerted effort to speak as much French as possible to whoever would listen! I am proud to say that I now have good conversational French and I believe this could set me apart from many other graduates.  IMG_6855.JPG

 

DETERMINATION

Before living abroad I would seek reassurance and approval from my parents, two people whose opinion I respect the most. In April I decided  to spend another year out (in 2016) by joining the yachting industry; this was one of the scariest decisions of late. As per usual I discussed the decision with my parents and for once, they did not fully support the idea at first. I immediately doubted my decision and questioned whether it was, in fact, a good choice or not. After a few days however, I knew that this was something I really wanted to do with or without my parents approval; I could see the many benefits I would gain from working a season on a yacht. I found in myself, the courage and determination to pursue my desire to work on yachts without, for once, needing my parents support; I became truly independent.

As Rosa Parks once said,

“I have learnt over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this finishes fear.”

To live abroad successfully you must be strong. You must be motivated to try out many new things, to meet as many people as possible and to feel comfortable in your own company without getting too lonely. Along the way are many lessons to learn; the above are some lessons I’ve learnt that make me employable when I return to the UK. Some lessons learnt whilst living abroad have been more personal to me. I have learnt that I have strong family values and will want to ensure I have a good work/life balance when I settle down. I have learnt, from setting myself multiple challenges this year, that I have the motivation and will power to achieve them. Most importantly, I have learnt that change is good because change equals growth; I strive to change and better myself whenever and however I can.

 

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” -Winston Churchill

Quoting Mark Twain…

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade wind in your sails.

Explore, Dream, Discover.

Taking the Road Less Travelled

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.” (Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken)

In the months following graduation I was miserable. I hadThe Road gained a degree and finished education, but, unlike most of my peers, no graduate job screamed me. In all honesty, with no plan for the next step, I was terrified about my future. It would be foolish of me to feel like I was the only one who felt lost after graduating, but the truth can be easily distorted when you’re surrounded by a generation who are obsessed with competing on social media in the battle of who is happier and more successful.

It is dictated to us that there are better and worse ways to go through life. Universities are unquestionably a good example of this. They teach students that after graduating from university you must find a graduate job and focus solely on a career;  one could claim that it is a job that is the key to living a happy and full life. In my opinion, they neglect to inform students that there are numerous routes to take after university each as a fruitful as the next. Each of us has our own path and journey to make through life; for some people it is right for them to start a career in their early twenties and for others they need to explore the world before discovering their dream job. It is fundamental to understand that you are not a failure if you do not choose to find a graduate job straight away. In taking the road less travelled (just like Robert Frost), I find myself 100% happier than I The Unknownwas a year ago in those first few months as a new graduate. I have found that choosing to live and work abroad has allowed me to learn more about myself and the world than I could ever expect to whilst working in a corporate firm. I encourage anyone who feels uncertain about what they should do post- university to venture into the unknown and see where it takes them.

The most important lesson I’ve learnt so far is that each of us has the power to carve our own individual path through life. Have confidence in living life the way that is right for you. Learning this is integral to being happy, and it is something I wished I had known a year ago to save me from months of anguish, guilt and feeling ashamed.  A lesson to learn as soon as humanly possible is to stop comparing your life to that of your peers. It can become a dangerous obsession that will leave you distressed when your peers appear to be further down the road than you. It is essential to remember that the big things in life, such as careers, relationships, marriages etcetera happen for each of us at different times.

The au pair girls of St Tropez

Having taken this first year after graduation to go abroad and explore another country I have been able to grow in a multitude of ways. The proof is in the pudding; my whirlwind year has enabled me to mix with a multitude of nationalities, undertake new sports, explore my creative side, discover new places and develop new skills. I feel happier, I understand more about what I want from life and what values I hold most important. I live life, as I believe you should in your twenties, looking for the next change so that I continue to grow.

Being introduced to the yachting industry has been an extremely positive outcome from living abroad here in the South of France. A job that combines my love of sailing and my love of providing top quality service is the perfect choice for my next adventure after au pairing.  Going abroad has been unmistakably the right choice and I cannot help but looJet surfing in St Tropezk back and examine how greatly my life has changed in just one small year. Life abroad so far has taught me to believe that life will tend to work out for each of us as long as we truly make the most of what it offers. Therefore, as a twenty something, you must capitalise on these years of freedom- if only to have some great stories to tell the grandchildren.

As much as I enjoy living in a certain degree of flux, I know that I will return to the UK in the future to find a career as I’m sure I will begin to crave a more stable lifestyle. Ironically, my flux dominated lifestyle of current will in fact set me up in the best way possible for a settled life back in the UK. For example, in an interview, my wild adventures and fantastic experiences will engage the interviewer providing me an easy opportunity to create a great impression and give me a better chance of acing the interview.

Another lesson I have learnt (I really have done a lot of learning this year…) is that I am just as successful as my peers who work in their graduate jobs. I might not be in a career yet or earn as much money but the experience I have gained and the White and Gold Birthday Soireeopportunities that have arisen have been invaluable. I insist that taking a year or two to travel the world or work in a foreign country will never leave you looking back over your twenties with regret. As it is said in the clichés- take life into your own hands, live life to the maximum and live as though today will be your last.

And finally, remember this; some of the world’s most successful people didn’t have it all sussed out in their twenties either: Ang Lee, after earning his masters in fine arts, became a stay at home dad for six years; Ralph Lauren was a sales assistant for Brooks Brothers and  Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was flipping burgers in McDonalds. So here’s one more cliché for the road; life is a marathon, not a sprint.

SIDE NOTE:

I write this post, albeit a rather serious first blog post, because it is the inspiration behind starting this blog. It is a subject I hold close to my heart and something that has shaped my beliefs about how to live life. If my blog could reassure and influence even one individual who can relate to the feelings I had as a new graduate then I would be delighted. I feel it is my duty to share my experiences so far to show that choosing your own path, not the one University prescribes us, will just as likely lead you down the road to success.

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