Dora has always wanted to go back to France. In 2003 she spent six months in France in a small town called Annecy near the Swiss Alps, and six months in French Quebec in Canada. Even before we started dating nearly 7 years ago she had been talking about going back for something at some point, so I’ve always known we’d come here eventually. I pushed back our departure a couple of times; first to finish my masters and then to serve out a reasonable period at my first real job.
I decided a couple of years ago that I didn’t really believe in long distance relationships. We’ve done a few 3 month stints apart; once when she went South America on a girls trip in 2005, again on a medical exchange to Ghana in 2009 and finally during my 3 month trip around South America in 2010 - longer than this doesn’t feel sensible to me; I’m less productive, less happy and less healthy - those three reasons are enough to avoid it.
Since I’ve always known that Dora would want to come here, and I’ve known for some time that I wouldn’t want to be apart for such a long period, it was always going to be an easy decision to move here when the time came. But to be honest, even if I wasn’t with Dora, I still would have wanted to do a long term trip.
I’ve never been a particular fan of the Kiwi classic: move to London, earn pounds & travel Europe. There’s a lot of Kiwis there for starters so you’re not actually that far from home and you’re not particularly differentiated career wise if you’re that way inclined either.1 Mostly though it doesn’t achieve the one thing that I think a really good destination for a long term stay needs to: is the place significantly different from what you know. For the same reasons I wouldn’t describe working Australia as an ‘Overseas Experience’, I don’t think that the UK should count as such either. It’s just further away and close to some awesome stuff. I’m sure there are lots of cultural differences that you can cite between New Zealand and the motherland, but they pale in comparison to just about anywhere else - arguably even the United States.2
I like that fact that in France, I’m somewhere a little different. It’s good that I have to learn a completely new language to really get to know the place, the people and culture, it’s a steep slope for sure but it feels great. It’s so different cuturally here from New Zealand. For example, this is the most productive economy in the world by hour spent, but instead of working more hours everyone decides to work less. I haven’t met one person pulling more than 40 hours a week and most do 35, this coming from an area surrounding Sofia Antipolis: the Silicon Valley of Europe.
I’m hear to learn some things that I couldn’t get from just doing a ‘bigger economy’ version of what I do back home. They’re harder to see but obviously there, I hope being here will bring a diversity to my thinking that’ll make me better at whatever I do in the future - the second language won’t go amiss either3. I do want to work in a larger economy at some stage, but I’d rather do it for a New Zealand company than get the experience elsewhere - there are exceptions to every rule but at the moment this feels pretty good.
I’m savoring my time as an un-employed, illiterate and semi-mute citizen to get some distance from my day to day life in New Zealand and catch up on reading and thinking. It’s now 38 days since I’ve left New Zealand; I’ve read through a few hundred instapaper articles4 that I had in the queue, read 11 good books5 and soaked up 30 hours of french lessons. All the while meeting some new people and exploring Cote d’Azur. It is beautiful down here after all.
1. Firstly, yes international experience counts for something but that doesn’t need to be in London. You’ll get some empathy from employers who did the same thing, but over all I think this is a weak effect and certainly is less useful than something based on an actual commercial advantage.↩
2. Nothing useful here, but did you know the US is abbreviated EU here, just to really confuse you (Etats-Unis)↩
3. My goal for the year is to pass my B1 DELF exam, probably around August. You could call this proficient, something between and beginner and fluent, closer to the former. This is the minimum language requirement for a school like INSEAD that is taught in English but requires a second language.↩
4. The articles I read and really like get posted on my Tumblr, you can see all the posts I ‘heart’ on Instapaper here. If you like reading long form articles and often find yourself not able to read them because you find them at inconvenient times (like at work), then you should definitely check out Instapaper. Especially if you have an iPad.↩
5. Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Autobiography, The Start-up of You, The Girl who Kicked the Honet’s Nest, American Gods, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay, Decoded: The Jay Z Autobiography, The Tiger, Power to the People & Superfreakonomics.↩