• Leah Wong

Settling into the Unfrench life














Bonjour! I'm fairly new to France, and entirely new to UnfrenchWives. What a wonderful community it is to be part of.


When I first moved to France six months ago, I felt very lonely. Women have followed their spouses all over the world for hundreds of years, I know. While the spouses might get promotions and bonuses, and even make the history books, there isn't much focus on the women behind them: the trailing spouses who give up their homes and careers to support their partners. These days, it might be a man trailing a woman, or a man trailing a man, or a woman trailing a woman and any other combination, but the sentiment is still there. There is often a group of little thought-about spouses.


Six months ago, I finally made the decision to move to eastern France to be with my partner, a physicist at CERN, the European nuclear research facility. While he'd been here for two years and had an established group of friends, I was entirely new, leaving behind my friends to move to a country where, I have no job and don't speak the language. Seemed like a big adventure, but when I got here, the reality was very different.


While being a lady of leisure might be ideal for some people, I found myself bored. I'd gone from planning communications strategies for one of the largest companies in the UK, to planning what to have for dinner! One day my partner came home and explained how he had solved something that had been puzzling his department for weeks. That day, I'd found a new way to fold the pillow cases. Needless to say, my mental health took a hit in the early days.


Fast forward six months, and I'm still not planning communications strategies, but I have found a purpose. I've started making my own toiletries (green tea and aloe toner, anyone?), as well as sitting dogs, cats and children. Living between the Alps and the Jura is ideal for this sort of work. Imagine walking dogs through forests, or taking a baby for a walk in the park overlooking the mountains. I even enjoyed walking a dog through mud in the freezing rain.

I've also made friends. With CERN people, and other CERN spouses. There's a truly amazing community here with people from all over the world. Everyone moved here to start a new life, so luckily people are very open to making friends. I guess that means I've had it easier than most when moving to a new country and I'm grateful for that. There's always someone willing to explore new cafes, or go to see a new film. So yes, there were days when I felt so lonely, I wanted to go back to the UK, now I think this is the best move I could have made.


Leah x

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