Expat in Normandy #1: a White girl gets settled

As requested by like one person… Here’s my first blog of moving from Canada as a white girl to Rural as heck Normandy. Hold onto your hats as it’s windy here and always raining.

January. New year, new me. That’s how it goes right? So my new beginning is moving back to Europe from the wonderfully snowy north known as Canada. Of course, I am at the time, looking forward to the desperate lack of snow and cold weather, as a Brit I know the harshness of the UK winter is just under zero. Pretty frightful. But alas the UK was not to be my final stop, just a small hop from the island where I grew up, over to the continent of Europe. To be more specific, La Belle Pays of France.

France in film and TV is romantic. Parisian romance, sandy beaches and blue skies of Marseilles and the perfect fluffy powder snow of the Alps. Alas, I am not subjected to any of these places, as I happen to now live in the rural arm of La Manche in the “it’s not raining all the time I promise” area of Normandy. I’m yet to be convinced of the rain aspect though due to the fact that since I arrived here on the 25th of January, it has literally precipitated every single day. If you have seen the movie marvel that is Forest Gump, you would be familiar with the scene where our dear Forest talks about the rain in Vietnam, the big fat rain the skinny rain, the never-ending rain… Anyways that is basically Normandy in Winter. And spring, and some of the summer. Oh and like maybe 80% of autumn. To say the least, it’s very moist here.

Un Café si vous plait!

Anywho, what’s the perfect thing to do on a rainy day? Aesthetically speaking, curling up with a book by the rain-drenched window with a nice hot cup of tea, coffee, or chocolate, surrounded by cats and dogs with a warm crackling fire. That’s something I can do seeing as we have copious amounts of hot drink potential, many animals, and two wood burners to keep the house all roasty toasty. But if I’m not at home I have to venture out and about in the streets of the local towns and find a bar or café to quench my hot drink thirst.

Previously on “le blog” I have written a piece about coffee culture and the continent, and that sentiment still holds strong in my region. Independent cafes and bars litter the streets, the only Starbucks I’ve seen is at Charles de Gaulle airport. The quality of coffee here is remarkable, compared to the hot watery plant drink that is offered elsewhere. However. Coffee should be handled with CARE. Traditionally coffee is a digestif for after a meal. That should be all I need to tell you. If you are not used to the digestif strength coffee, you are in for a treat. (That was most definitely sarcasm). Be sure you know where the public toilets are, as you may have a wee brown-hued accident. (I pray to the deities this will not happen to me, a near miss is enough to thank you but that is another story that involves cheese).

Long gone are my days of frivolous flavored lattes and expensive low-fat vanilla almond milk, hold the foam, lattes with an extra shot of espresso. Instead, a simple coffee with a singular cube of sugar tickles my fancy, with special occasions calling for a cafe liegois. But that’s only the really special occasions. So Saturdays in Granville. Coffee at home is also a grand affair here, cafetières or french presses as they are known in the North Americas, are a common kitchen feature, as well as various coffee makers. Over the years I have become familiar with many different styles of coffee making, such as drip coffee, machine coffee, instant, you name it, but nothing for me beats a fresh cafetière in the morning. 

If you want to know more about the caffeinated nature of the European continent, you can read more here.

Do you like cheese?

What is also a common course in a french meal apart from coffee? Cheese. Le Fromage. A common misconception about fromage, or when people try to speak french and say omelette du fromage, you are actually saying the cheese’s omelette. the correct form of saying this phrase is Omelette AU fromage. 

Now that misnomer is out of the way I can share with you the wonder of cheese here in Normandy. Normandy is home to a lot of soft squishy cheeses, such as camembert. I talk more about it in my last Normandy themed post here. I feel like I can not leave the house without having all my senses plunged into a cheesy wonderland. Every proper meal has a cheese course, a light snack is biscuits with cheese, cheese factories dominant the landscape amidst the fields of cows and corn. Supermarkets have long aisles dedicated to the stuff, as well as a magical cheese counter, with cheeses the size of a labrador. Safe to say, if you don’t like cheese or are lactose intolerant, you will not have a good time.

Free healthcare you say?

Something I was completely unaware of when moving here was the healthcare. I imagined I would have to pay for appointments and medications, a more reasonable price than the states of course, but I was aware I would have to set money aside for my ailments. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really think about that when I really should, so imagine my surprise, when I’m completing my entrepreneur paperwork, and find out that I can claim back my money spent on doctors and medication from the government. Not only am I eligible for a Carte Vitale, the french health card, but also my rheumatoid condition is considered an illness of the state or something. This means that anything medical related to my illness is covered. Anything. Including the medication, I had to pay $4000 for in Canada. 

Quality of life is valued so highly here, doctors do not turn you away when you are in pain. You aren’t too young for operations that can aid the quality of life. I honestly could cry at the health coverage here it is that good. I should mention that there are stipulations to getting your Carte Vitale here, its not just instant free healthcare. You do have to be responsible for your taxes and the usual, so make sure you are on time with your filings and what not.

What now?

Well here’s to hoping I can get some freelance work at this difficult time and hopefully complete a TEFL course! I look forward to sharing my adventures and photos here in the upcoming months so stay tuned for more vivacious posts

Thanks for reading and have an excellent day!

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