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Rockies to Rhône-Alpes: One Family's Journey from Idaho to France

Our guest contributor shares her experience moving from Boise to Lyon

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Special Guest Contributor, KL, gets candid about her move to France in this Q+A style interview. Enjoy!


Can you tell us a little about your background, where you’re from and how you got to France?

J grew up in Chicago and got his engineering degree from the University of Illinois, and then moved to Boise, Idaho right out of school for work. I grew up in Boise and went to the College of Idaho. We started dating in 2006 when we were living in the same apartment building and got married in 2009. We took a long trip around Europe as newlyweds and loved all the typical European things: the food, traveling by train, the rich culture and old architecture. I was a midwife before my girls were born, and then I was staying home with them up until we moved. We still own our home in Boise and somehow ended up with 5 college girls as renters!




Why (& how) France?


I’ve always been a bit of a Francophile, but living in France seemed like a dream that was unattainable. In 2019, John got a new analyst position with a French company that had a US entity as well. As part of his new employee integration they had us come to Lyon for 5 weeks and we just loved the city; so vibrant and great for families. We mentioned to John’s boss how much we enjoyed Lyon during a lunch out, and she said that maybe in the future we could return for a longer stint in France, so we just pursued that option! Our girls were 10 months old and 3 at the time so we knew they would be a great age for a big move like that.



Let’s talk about moving to France WITH KIDS!! What were the biggest hurdles or challenges and how did you overcome them?


When we arrived last December our oldest, S, was 5 and our younger daughter, A, had her third birthday after we had been here a week. With S, we thought she would have a harder transition because she had already been in school and had to leave her friends and the environment that she was used to. A had never been to school so we thought her transition might be easier because she didn’t know any different. We were totally wrong, it was the opposite. S thrived right off the bat, making friends and already understanding how the school routine worked. A really struggled. New home, new language, school for the first time, and she was the youngest in her class. She did just half days all last year and it was plenty for her. Her language acquisition has been a little slower too because of her age and less school time. It all feels like a big experiment sometimes!


How much, and what sort of, planning went into making this move?


Our move was delayed quite a bit with Covid, so we weren’t sure it was even going to happen for awhile. I think our desire to move was really amplified during that time, just spending so much time at home and feeling so ready for a change of scenery. Once we finally got the confirmation that it was actually happening it felt like things went quick. It was a whirlwind of passport renewals, visas, packing the house and deciding what is donated/goes into storage/comes with us. We were preparing to move right in the middle of the shipping crisis, so that was tricky to figure out how to get our stuff over here. We ended up using a company called SendMyBag.com and sent 16 boxes by air. They arrived in 3 days! But that did dictate our apartment situation a bit, and we got a furnished apartment here rather than buying new furniture and appliances.


What has been your biggest lesson so far in making this move?


Good question. I think we are still figuring that out! It has been interesting this year so far to go through such a massive change so far away from our support system. We both really wanted this experience, we wanted to move for our own growth and to give our girls this incredible chance to become bilingual in these formative years. We anticipated being lonely at first and knew that things would really feel uncomfortable and hard as we got settled in. For John and I, our anxiety was just through the roof for the 2 months prior to moving and about 2 months after. Then we started making friends, the girls were settled in school, and we felt more or less like ourselves.



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What do you wish you would’ve known prior to your move?


More of the language! We worked on learning as much French as we could before we left (or so we thought), but the language barrier is tough when you’re trying to set up a new phone number, utilities, looking at apartments, and getting the girls registered for school. A lot of the French I had learned in school was really not helpful in navigating everyday situations like these. We had a wonderful women from a relocation company help us out the first couple weeks and that was huge, it wouldn’t been difficult without her.


What advice would you give other parents making a move abroad?


Do it! If your kids are young, consider putting them directly into a local school. I’ve always heard about how quickly kids pick up another language but it has been an absolute wonder to witness it.


I taught them what I could in the year before we left (like switching the language on Netflix to French, lots of music and learning songs, as well as The Cultured Kid French program -which was such a good start). But it was hard for them to really get why we were doing all this French stuff until we arrived. For my oldest, she was 5 1/2 when we arrived and for the first month in school she didn’t really know what was going on.


By month 3 she could understand most everything and by 6 months she was speaking. By 9/10 months she was fluent. It definitely makes my 39 year old brain feel slow.


We had a hard time deciding between a neighborhood French school (which are an excellent education in general) or an international/bilingual school. I am so glad we chose the former because we all really felt like part of the community right away. The school is a block away and their friends live nearby. We see familiar faces at the park and market instead of their classmates being spread all across the city.


What resources would you recommend for others considering a move to France?


I read a lot of books (Bringing Up Bébé, The Bonjour Effect, Dirt) to mentally prepare myself for Lyon and the cultural differences. Perused all sorts of blogs and Instagram accounts, tried to connect with other expat families that had made a similar move with kids. I joined expat groups and the American Club of Lyon before we arrived. We tried to immerse ourself in French culture as much as we could in Boise with French cooking, music, kids books, just whatever I could think of that might help.


I love it here, for so many reasons. It’s such a different pace of life. Not just because we’re in the middle of a large city vs a quiet neighborhood, but it’s a good quality life here.

Our phone bills are cheap, it’s affordable to eat well and healthy food is very accessible. We have no car- we just walk everywhere and take the train for trips. The city is lively with events, art, young families, and the public parks are incredible. Our visas are good for 4 years and I know already it would be hard to leave.


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Resources For Researching and Planning Your Move Abroad


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