I first “met” Eva Hamori even before I moved to the Languedoc when I became an avid follower of her blog, “That’s Hamori“. Eva has launched a series of interviews with English speakers in the region called “My Expat Life“. We thought those of you considering the move to the Languedoc might enjoy reading about people who have already made it happen. We’ll be sharing her stories on a regular basis throughout 2016, and thought we’d kick off the series with an introduction to Eva herself. Voila – meet the Hamoris!
Maple Syrup + Paprika = Foie Gras
by Eva Hamori
‘The Midi fires the senses; makes your hand agile, your eye sharp, your brain clearer,” Van Gogh.
Does Canada + Hungary = France?
Our family came here from White Rock, British Columbia; the most southern point of the west coast of Canada. A strikingly beautiful yet damp area with mild temperatures and 50% precipitation. Alfonz, my husband, and I dreamed of a better climate and a home based business. But there was more to it than that. We craved a deep-rooted community, a rich culture, and easy access to travel. We wanted out of the rapid paced life where being stuck in rush hour traffic for hours was normal. A life with more meaning, less commercialism; we wanted organic, authentic lives.
So we sold everything. Packed up our bags and moved to Europe. We were chasing our dreams.
After exploring Europe for four months with our kids in tow, we simply fell in love with the Languedoc. The endless miles of vine covered landscape change colours each season. In spring the vivid green shoots are a welcome sign that good weather is on its way. They hang heavy with ripened fruit by summer’s end, ready for harvest come fall. The leaves change to red during the cooler nights of autumn and in the winter the leaves fall away and the dry vines reach for the sky; each as beautiful as the last season in its own way.
The light here is indescribable, almost irridescent, and brings artists from all over the world. Until I experienced my first golden nearly orange sunset I had no idea what they were talking about. There was this one time I went for a midnight swim to watch the meteor shower overhead and the moon hung so low I could almost touch it. Moments like these make me feel that I have arrived at my destination.
We wanted a location with a unique experience for tourists and perhaps the opportunity to make more than just a summer income. In this southwestern region of France, real estate prices were still affordable compared to the neighbouring Cote D’Azur. That swayed our decision when we bought our home in the traditional village of Capestang.
Back home Alfonz was a business owner and I worked for 20 years in a large grocery chain in the customer service/management field. Here Alfonz and I own Le Petit Platane, a little apartment attached to our home and a chambre d’hôte inside our house for travellers. It has always been my dream to own and operate a Bed and Breakfast. Alfonz started South Westy Tours, and is affiliated with Vin en Vacances, taking guests on wine tours around the region. Our favourite part is meeting people from all over, fellow wanderlusts that enjoy exploring the world.
I joined the Capestang International Choir to meet people and to continue singing; however having children is an automatic connection to any community. They make adapting easy and through playdates and local events we became part of our community.
Eventually I ran alongside 22 other members to become a municipal councilor in Capestang. Although frustrating at times with my limited French, I love working at the town hall under Sylvie Gisbert, deputy in charge tourism, communication and our local festivals.
Our family feels safe in Capestang; everyone knows us, the children ride their bikes, and we walk everywhere. Everyone meets up at the café on market day when we shop the local vendors. During festivals the whole community turns up and celebrates together from the oldest grandmother to the youngest baby. I love this part of my adopted community.
The French stereotype about the French being rude has never been my experience. I find the southern French people warm hearted and generous.
What is the hardest thing about moving to France?
It’s definitely difficult to get things done; Carte Vitale, CPAM, building permits, driver’s license…etc. This just becomes part of life. C’est la vie, as they say, such is life!
I love to cook and even with the finest ingredients available to me, there are a few things from Canada that I miss; Hy’s Seasoning Salt (I now make my own), Safeway brand organic peanut butter, and lucerne cottage cheese. I also miss our family although though Skype makes this part easier. Without modern technology I am not sure we could have survived our first year in France. Without the translation programs and Internet, we may have turned around straight away.
It took time to get used to business hours, the long school vacation breaks and of course the new language. Surprisingly we quickly assimilated and culture shock was thankfully short lived.
In France our family found some things much harder to figure out. Renovating a home and learning about the materials used was a big change from renovating in Canada. Learning a new language at forty is far more difficult than in your twenties. And starting a business in France takes determination with all the red-tape involved. It is all part of the learning curve when moving to a new country. Although we knew what we were up against, the level of intensity our first year was still unexpected.
What is your advice to other expats?
My advice is to keep your eye on the prize. There are bumps on the road to success, nevertheless stick to the plan and give France a fair chance before giving up. I would rather fail knowing I gave it my all and no matter what happens, I will never regret moving to France.
Currently I am working on publishing a book on our experiences during our first year in France. Our family hopes to stay here permanently and we want our children to grow up in this close-knit community.
Daniel (12) and Angelina (10) love our new life, speak fluent French, English and Hungarian, and are very good in school. It wasn’t an easy transition, especially for Daniel, (who’s now started German, language #4), nevertheless we were determined to make things work. If you ask them now, they would never choose to leave Capestang.
A long way from Canada; we feel perfectly at home in southern France. By checking out of the North American rat race, sure, we gave up the big house, the fancy cars, the designer clothes, and the days at the spa. Although sometimes I miss the spa, we try to strike a balance between what we need and what we want.
Arriving here with two suitcases and a theory of time currency, we honestly believe time has more value than money. We found the slower paced life we were searching for, where you live on less, but focus on what really matters.