A New Zealand citizen with a deep-seeded passion for travel. I am currently travelling the world working as an English Teacher along the way.
Where are you from, Mark, and what are you doing nowadays?
I am originally from New Zealand but have spent the past year and a half traveling the world, of which six months have been in France. I come from a background in broadcasting, but nowadays I am a freelance English teacher.
Why did you choose to expatriate to France?
I have chosen to come to France to experience the language and the culture after having spent some time in the Czech Republic. I choose Grenoble for its mountains and proximity to Italy and Switzerland.
As a Kiwi national, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?
I followed a rather unconventional route to arrive in France. I was previously living in the Czech Republic where I applied through the Austrian Embassy to move to France on a short-stay visa. Once I arrived here, I changed over to a long-stay residence visa under the independent category. I have Auto-entrepreneur status which allows me the freedom to work as a freelancer in France.
How long have you been in the country?
Since July 2015.
What has attracted you to Grenoble?
Mountains, hiking, skiing, the great outdoors and the work opportunities.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
No, accommodation was easy because I arrived early when everyone was on vacation. You have many options to choose from. You can live in an apartment or a house. Student residences' are also available.
What are the local labor market's features?
The market is smaller here than in obviously bigger cities like Lyon or Paris, but you can make it work if you are willing to work for companies, schools and online.
How do you find the French lifestyle?
France has opened my eyes. This can be construed as positive or negative, depending on which side you look at it from. I've found the locals to be friendly and they do try to help you out if they can. I've struggled with the language because it isn't easy to learn and it is often pushed on you. As an immigrant, adapting to a new culture can be daunting and overwhelming. The lack of confidence from French with learning other languages because they fear failing at it is one of the many factors to be taken into account for this.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
In part, yes. I've found the lifestyle easy to adapt to. The bureaucracy and business on the other hand is a little difficult here. The systems in place are very old and traditional and don't reflect the modern, changing face of France all that well. This is a country that is changing rapidly as it fights off the centralized system which has been such a prevalent part of this nation for well over 200 years.
The banking system is something I don't agree with and I recently closed my account here. There is a lot of control with banks in France and you don't have much control over how much money you can extract. For example, I was only allowed to retract between 10 and 40 euros from my account via the banking machine (ATM). You are also given monthly withdrawal limits, for example: 1,000, 1,500, etc, which given how much money the bank can have of yours is a little insulting.
On a positive note, there are many picturesque villages and small towns in France that are worth wandering through. I particularly enjoy hiking through the mountains and visit some of these places on my day off to really experience the beauty of France. The architecture in France can be really interesting if you take the time to study the intricate detail on it.
What does your every day life look like in Grenoble?
My day-to-day life in France entails working and exploring the surroundings of my town. I enjoy the local cuisine and getting to know the city's many trails.
Any particular experience in France you would like to share with us?
If you have the chance to meet a local or have a translator with you, I'd recommend it. The French bureaucracy is overwhelming, even for the locals, so I would suggest having someone with you to help you out. When I arrived at the local prefecture, I had to visit seven times before they would help with my visa, after I was told at the Immigration to bring a translator with me! Be prepared to have a strong comprehension of the language and respect that the French struggle with English, etc. Make an effort and they will be grateful to you.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Grenoble? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
Living in France can be expensive. I would suggest getting a full-time job if you can. Rent is reasonable and you can find a decent apartment for around 500 - 700 euros a month, or even less.
There is something for every budget. Sample the markets to get lots of fresh and cheap produce and other items. You'll find some cheap supermarkets in town as well, such as DIA on Jean Jaures if you are on a tight budget, plus a healthy array of places to dine.
Public transport is brilliant here. You can catch a tram or bus everywhere and you'll pay 1.50 euros (the ticket is for a return if used within one hour). Bus trips to Lyon cost only 5 euros. Grenoble has a pay-as-you-go system for trams where you buy your ticket at the stop before you enter the tram.
How do you spend your leisure time?
Lots of hiking, but will be doing some cycling in the future as the city is perfect for it. I've also dabbled in some rugby and touch rugby as well due to the popularity of the sport here.
Your favorite local dishes?
Just one? Raclette has a real winter warming element to it. They have lots of amazing fresh produce and specialties here. It's hard to decide.
What do you like the most about Grenoble?
The scenery on a sunny day. There is nothing more enchanting than waking up to snow-capped peaks everyday. It's an endless bliss.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Family and friends, and sometimes the cuisine.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in France?
Learn French. Be prepared for the bureaucracy, it will blow your mind.
What are your plans for the future?
To travel and explore more of Grenoble and France while I am here, before I move on.