Where are you from, Thomas, and what are you doing nowadays?
It's complicated. My parents are British and Irish, but I spent most of my childhood moving around the Middle East and east Asia. Spending the latter years of my youth in England involved overcoming the biggest culture shock of my life! Since graduating from the University of Exeter two years ago, I've worked in China, Japan and most recently a ski season in the Swiss Alps.
Why did you decide to move to France?
Many of my colleagues and friends in Switzerland had come across from France to work for the winter. In those months I made a lot of progress in my French language ability, and was encouraged to try finding work in France, which I duly did.
What were the procedures you had to follow to move there?
As a British passport holder, moving to France wasn't overly complicated (though that may be subject to change in the coming months!). Mostly it was the mundane details - insurance, packing - that took up any time. It was also easier to reassure my family that I would come and visit from across the Channel than some of my previous work locations further afield.
What has attracted you to France?
Everybody dreams of living in France once in their lifetime - I'm no exception. It's the world's food capital, steeped in history and culture... there's a reason it's the most visited tourist destination on the planet.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
Honestly, it was the high regard in which English people are held here, despite all the chaos in Marseille at Euro 2016 so soon after my arrival. It's great to see that the actions of a few aren't ruining it for the majority in this case.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
My boss very kindly arranged for me to stay with local families for my first month, which was a real weight off my shoulders. If you don't have the same luck as I did, there is a wide range of apartments, studios and houses available for all budgets throughout the country, that you can find advertised through the classifieds in various print and online publications.
How about jobs? How did you find a job in the country?
Work opportunities often come around for me via word of mouth. On this occasion, I happened to be talking to a good friend of mine, who mentioned an exciting start-up based in France which she thought would be right up my street...
You work for TalkTalkBnb, a young start-up dedicated to help people wishing to travel and to learn languages: what has seduced you in this concept? How can it help expats worldwide?
As a travel addict and language enthusiast, being part of a team that allows others to enjoy my passions was something I always wanted. The benefits for expats are manifold. Often we get so caught up with work and other day-to-day necessities that there's no time left for pursuing our hobbies and interests. As a TalkTalkBnb host, you can practise a language from the comfort of your own home, and experience complete immersion with native speakers. If you're looking to explore somewhere new, you can expect free room & board, plus a glimpse into daily life in other cultures, authentic travel experiences, and making new friends wherever you go.
How do you find the local lifestyle?
It's pretty relaxed around here, and there's a strong sense of community, which I love. Brittany is very proud of its Celtic heritage, plus there are festivals and events throughout the year. In August Lorient hosts the annual Festival Interceltique - the biggest celebration of Celtic culture in the world.
Have you been able to adapt to the country and to its society?
As soon as I stepped off the boat at Roscoff I was made to feel right at home. The hospitality here is as good as any I have experienced on my travels. One thing I'm still getting used to though, is that, as a Catholic country, everything is closed on a Sunday!
What do you like the most about the country?
Rarely does a country manage to tick all the boxes for me, but here, you can find everything. Brilliant beaches, top-notch ski resorts and everything in between.
Your favourite local dishes?
Everyone knows that the French make some great food, but some of my favourites from Brittany include the Galette (a savoury crêpe made from buckwheat), and Gâteau Breton à la Framboise, a butter cake with raspberry jam filling - only as a special treat! The seafood here is incredible, too.
How do you spend your leisure time?
Being right on the coast, I like to get to the beach as much as possible. Nothing beats a day of sun and sea! Brittany is also host to stunning countryside which makes for great cycle tours. Otherwise you'll find me in town at one of the local taverns, planning my next adventure over a bowl of cider (that's how they drink it here...).
What do you miss the most about your home country?
One of the advantages of having moved so much as a child is that I never became too dependent on the cultures and customs of one particular country. However, being in Western France I do sometimes miss the spices and flavours of Asian food (specifically Indian and Thai), which is what I grew up eating with my family.
Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in France?
Go for it! Whether you're headed to one of the big cities, or a smaller town in the country, France's joie-de-vivre is contagious, and it's bound to take hold of you. Do your best to fit in - even if you aren't a confident French speaker, a little bit of effort goes a long way. One word of warning - if you plan to drive here, the French interpretation of "priorité à droite" is worth learning before you hit the roads!