Livia and I have known each other for a long time, yet you’d think we would meet in person more often! The problem is, both of us have moved from place to place, and we are almost never in the same country at the same time!
So I thought I’d catch up with her about living in France.
She currently lives in Lyon and loving it. I’ve been stalking her travels around France through her Le Petit Prince campaign on Instagram as well as admiring her photography (Chamelle Photography). However, I’ve not had the chance to properly catch up with Livia for a long time!
We have both been approached to speak for the Asian Women Empowerment Conference – AWE Connect – this year and I thought I’d use this opportunity to ask her all about life in France and about some of her favourite places.
What brought you to France in the first place?
After having lived in Shanghai for one year I really enjoyed it and wanted to experience living in a different country again. I have always been attracted to things that are not the ‘norm’ or are uncommon so I wasn’t going to move to the UK or US like most Australians do. I really wanted to experience a different culture (even if it meant having to learn a new language from scratch). I was attracted to France because it’s a reasonably large country with a variety of cities to choose from, a variety of landscapes to explore, etc however the thing that really made me want to move here is because I wanted to follow my passion, photography. Photography was invented in France, in Chalon-sur-Saône (a small town that I’ve visited which has a museum featuring the first camera ever created). Initially I wanted to do a Masters of Photography but I wasn’t happy with any of the options.
The thing that really made me want to move here is because I wanted to follow my passion, photography
Then I discovered the teaching English assistantship position and applied for it. Since moving to France is no easy feat for an Australian I thought this would be perfect as it was a guaranteed work visa and job. We had to choose which ‘académie’ (generally geographic location for schools in France) we wanted to be placed in.
So… why Lyon?
I chose Lyon as my first choice because I like big cities but Paris was too popular, and too expensive, and again, I like to do things that other people don’t normally do. Luckily I got in and was placed in the Académie of Lyon although I was not placed in the city itself. I was placed in a small town of only 20,000 people and after my stint there I moved to and spent 4 years living and working in Geneva.
My job ended and I grew tired of Switzerland. Finally, I felt it was the right time for me to try living in Lyon and so I did! I moved here about a year ago and love living here so far. Coincidentally my other passion, cinéma, is founded in Lyon. The Lumière brothers invented cinematography here and there is a museum dedicated to that too.
Coincidentally my other passion, cinéma, is founded in Lyon.
What do you love most about living in France?
I love that it’s a reasonably big country with a big population, and well located in Western Europe, next to almost every other country in the region. This allows me to explore easily.
It is a country with an incredible variety of landscapes from the snowy Alps to the beautiful beaches, the plains, forests, gorges and valleys and everything in between!
It also has an incredible history and is on par with Italy for having so many of the oldest and most amazing monuments in Western Europe.
The food of course is great, particularly the cheese. I’ve never tasted so many different varieties of cheese in my life, coming from Australia where I’ve probably only tried 3-4. I don’t drink so I can’t comment on the wine but I assume that is pretty good too. Food in the supermarkets is also very well priced and there is a real emphasis on using produce that is in season and from the same region.
The French are not big on processed, artificial pre-packaged stuff so it’s made me be more attentive to what I buy and cook. I like that the cost of living is generally much much lower than in Australia or Switzerland.
The French are not big on processed, artificial pre-packaged stuff so it’s made me be more attentive to what I buy and cook
Being a photographer and graphic designer, I love that there is so much art and culture to absorb. I’m constantly humbled and inspired by all the beauty I see around me in architectural and museum works.
And… because we all know nowhere is perfect – what annoys you about living in France?
That’s an easy one.
The bureaucracy and paperwork is something that annoys me about living in France.
For example, for the English assistant position, I had to wait 6 months for a reply. 6 months where I didn’t know what my future would be… Everything takes a ridiculously long time and is extremely inefficient. Customer service can also be pretty non-existent, particularly in chain stores.
The dog poop everywhere all over the footpaths. Coming from pristine Switzerland, it was definitely something to get used to :(
I don’t like that people aren’t as open as they are in Australia but that can be said for most countries in Europe. It takes a really really long time to become friends with a local person usually.
I don’t like that there aren’t that many Asian people around compared to Australia and good quality Asian restaurants are really lacking. It is something I miss every single day, the thing I miss most after my family and friends!
It takes a really really long time to become friends with a local person usually.
Let’s talk about food. The French are known to be quite particular about food! What has been your gastronomy experience? What have you enjoyed eating since you’ve lived there?
During my first year teaching English, two of the teachers I worked with took me to what I now call a zero star Michelin restaurant, which are the ‘bib gourmand’ restaurants with fantastic quality and much lower prices. I was incredibly impressed with the 4 course meal where I tried frogs legs and escargots (snails) for the first time.
I quite liked the frogs legs but I am not a fan of the escargots. I’ve learnt and experienced that during Christmas time the French eat an incredible amount of foie gras, however, it is practically the only time they eat it.
In the winter when it is freezing (since I’ve always lived in the Alps region) it’s really hearty and warming to have fondue, raclette or tartiflette which are all cheese-based dishes.
I now adore cheese, my favourite being Comté which is only produced in the Jura region where I first lived. It’s one of the most popular and most delicious cheeses!
I now adore cheese, my favourite being Comté which is only produced in the Jura region.
I can never get enough of French patisseries. They are all so beautifully made and so delicious. Sometimes though, I think I prefer admiring them more than eating them!
Tell us about your Le Petit Prince story. He’s made quite a journey travelling around with you visiting some amazing places. You’ve even won an award with it! What made you start this idea?
Exactly a year ago it was a beautiful hot sunny June in Lyon and I went into a souvenir shop in the old town (Vieux Lyon). I spotted this Petit Prince figurine, bought it and then came up with this idea right then on the spot!
I took him all around Lyon with me (because I’d only been living here around 2 months and was still exploring myself) and took pictures and uploaded them to his own Instagram account.
I thought it was very fitting because the author of the famous book, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, was born in Lyon. My pictures were soon noticed by Only Lyon, the tourism bureau for Lyon. For helping to promote Lyon to people all over the world, I won a ‘Stars & Heroes’ award given only to 3 people each year.
After about 2 months @lepetitprincelyon had 2000 followers and now he has almost 14000 followers. He is way more popular than me! :D
That’s a fantastic story! Just shows any little idea can become a big thing! So, where can we expect to see Le Petit Prince next?
He is going to visit the Provence region! Follow his journey on Instagram: @lepetitprincelyon
Finally – Could you share your top three favourite places in France with us? And Why do you love them?
Without a doubt one of my favourite cities in France has to be Annecy. I’m lucky to be always be living nearby so it’s easily accessible and I’ve been almost 10 times. It has a stunning mountain and lake landscape (like Switzerland). In winter the mountains are snow-capped and in the summer you can swim in the crystal clear lake.
It has a castle too.
Apart from that it has some of the finest restaurants in France and for such a small city it has a fantastic range of stores, both chain stores and boutiques. It is surrounded by mountains and forests all around too and it is easily one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen in my life! For such a small city it has everything you could possibly want and you can see it all in just one day.
Without a doubt one of my favourite cities in France has to be Annecy… It has a stunning mountain and lake landscape.
Secondly, I would have to say Le Mont Saint Michel. It’s a monastery, an island, a town and with the rising and falling tide it seems to have mystical properties. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions of France.
Thirdly, I would have to say the whole Provence region (Avignon, Arles, Nimes, Aix-en-Provence, etc). It is filled with beautiful medieval villages with well preserved Roman architecture, rolling hills and stunning landscapes, almost perfect weather all year round and fresh, tasty locally-grown produce.
As a region it would have to be my favourite. I have already been there several times and I’m going back next month. I just can’t get enough of it!
Livia is one of this year’s AWE Connect speakers. She will be talking about How to move to Europe with no European ties.
Register to be part of AWE Connect and hear her inspiring talk! Don’t forget you can get $10 off your registration using this code: AWEAMYMC