My journey here
I started out my professional life as a teacher in North Western Canada working with the little ones. Then, I married a Frenchman, moved to France and my entire life changed in the space of an airplane ride over the Atlantic.
I was totally unprepared for what this move meant. I really was unaware of the impact my choice made to the “who” I was and the “how” I was going to live (and it was a conscious, deliberate choice to make the move).
Oh, the stories I could tell!
Something as simple as money—the currency was French Francs at the time—I had no idea what a franc was worth, or how to count it, or if I was being swindled, or the price was fair.
I was in love and newly married, which is already a huge life change. Within 3 months I had also changed country, language, and culture.
HOW did I deal with all of that?
At the beginning, very poorly.
My husband was wonderfully supportive and helped in any way he could though. But, I was still miserable, yet happy with my new husband, felt terribly alone, yet supported, unable to communicate with anyone except my husband in either English or French, frustrated, disillusioned yet excited, determined but not very patient, bouncing from one emotion to the next with highs, lows, middles, and feelings of being torn apart.
I didn’t speak a word of French, not a word. And the French mostly don’t speak English.
I remember one day going to the doctor. I still had no more than a few words of French and he had no English. I had to use sign language, grunts and groans to explain where I hurt. I felt embarrassed and sad that my great communication skills were reduced to primitive gestures.
I was a mess.
If I was going to build my life in France, I had to get out of my mess.
So, first things first—learn the language. I will blog about this subject and let you know when it’s up. In a nutshell, it was a long uphill struggle because of my bad attitude! Yes, me, jovial, optimistic, outgoing, cheerful me, was going through very bad attitude hassles.
Got over it…slowly, over time, in many steps. Moved on. Learnt French.
I’m now bilingual, decently versed, grammatically competent, fluent, charming, awe-inspiring—just to name a few terms people have said to me.
Then came the cultural aspect.
There is a continent and an ocean that separates Western Canadian and European French culture. I knew it would be different, but not THAT different.
Ha, I’d had no idea really!
And, what’s worse, other than my supportive husband, I had no one to help me through and figure out the whys and hows and wherefores.
I knew no one. I had no friends.
The hardest thing to do is make new friends in a foreign country. I even tried joining a knitting club thinking this might be a place to meet women. I met women. I didn’t make any friends.
I didn’t know how to make friends in France—do you invite them out for coffee, do you invite them to your home, yikes “non”! Not for a long time—culturally speaking this is not even considered until you have built a strong relationship of trust.
Then there is the apéro—who do you invite to that?
It took ages to learn all the cultural aspects, ways of living, reacting, and become socially acceptable in the French manner. Some would say it even takes a lifetime.
What happened next?
Well, I eventually worked my way up from teaching the little ones to working with Master’s Degree students in business in the International and Language Departments of a Business School in France.
Students came from every continent. I was not only a professor but also an examiner in France for entry level exams to Business Schools.
I LOVED that work for 18 years. I could honestly and heart-feltedly say “I love my job”.
As time moved inevitably forward, on top of a full teaching schedule, more and more responsibilities like training teachers, coaching for entry exams, managing small teams of teachers, there was less and less time accorded to do my work the way I wanted to.
I was passionate about my job until management changes challenged my values, and my work was no longer the job I had loved for so many years.
As many of my colleagues went through depression, work-leaves, and other health problems related to stress on the job, I soldiered-on through with patience and determination.
I was determined to still love my job, but in fact, I loved my students and it was for them I stayed on when changes started to tamper with my values.
There did come a threshold though when I really no longer wanted negotiate my values, and fight for the aspects of teaching and training that were important for me. Aspects like the number of teaching hours needed to complete a course, the number of students per classroom, the number of assignments due, and the number of hours allowed for student projects and exams.
I felt it was time to move in another direction. I tearfully choose to leave my students (not the job!) and do just that.
But first, I needed something that was rewarding and filled me with as much passion as I was used to. Something with lots of people. Something that could put my teaching skills to good use and also where I could learn new skills. Skills I could be passionate about.
After much soul-searching, I decided to train with renowned and well-respected coaches in the fields of intercultural studies, professional group-team-intercultural coaching, and NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming).
Armed with old knowledge, tonnes of personal and professional experience as well as a whole new set of skills, I was ready and excited to launch out on my own.
So, in 2016, I left the Business School I had worked in for 18 years and set up Frontières Coaching for culturally diverse businesses.
Today, I’m using everything I learnt from each intercultural encounter to studying the dimensions and impact of cultural diversity, I really enjoy helping my clients find ways of working together across cultures that are effective and logical so they can produce excellent work, build confidence and bring joy into what they do.
I love helping people feel comfortable and joyful in doing an excellent job whether they work with cultures near their own or on the other side of the planet.
I love working with people from everywhere and can’t think of a better way to use my strengths, talents, passion, and love than to work with people who are looking for just that.
And I love helping people like you enjoy your across-culture projects and make your job a joy.
I am grateful I can use my experience and expertise to help others skip the struggle and find what works.
Your Next Step
Are you ready to feel more comfortable in cross-cultural situations and build fulfilling relationships with your co-workers?
If you would like cross-cultural tips and ideas coming to your inbox, helping you make your cultural experiences comfortable, click here for my newsletter.
Download my free PDF: