Wendy Hollands is a freelance Writer, blogger, snowboarder and travel enthusiast who has been living the expat life since 2000. Caz Adlington recently interviewed her for Aetna International, providers of international health insurance, and here is the result!
Caz Adlington: Hi Wendy, thanks for answering my questions! Let’s start with where you are from originally and which countries you have lived in.
Wendy Hollands: I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I moved to London in 2000, then moved to Cambridge, and eventually ended up living in France.
CA: Are there any places you’d move back to, or any countries you’d like to live in that you haven’t yet?
WH: Where do I start? Italy, Spain, Canada, some island in the Pacific. I’d love to live everywhere! I expect I’ll move back to Australia one day, and although I loved Cambridge, I think I’d move to Brighton if I were ever to live in the UK again.
CA: Brighton is amazing, good choice! You live in La Clusaz now – how did that move come about?
WH: I spent a summer in Annecy and wanted to find a ski resort to live in for winter, other than Méribel where I’d lived previously. I saw a sign to La Clusaz on a hot summer’s day and I followed it until I arrived. I immediately fell in love with the beauty of the mountains here, and the size of the resort too. I started looking for a place to live immediately and moved in a few months later.
CA: How long have you lived in the area and what’s kept you there so long?
WH: The snow keeps me here in winter, and Lake Annecy keeps me here in summer: it’s the cleanest lake in Europe, and the temperature normally reaches 22°-24° in summer, making it a great lake for swimming, wakeboarding, snorkelling, sailing, stand up paddling and more. I guess it’s nature that keeps me here.
CA: What do you do there for work and fun?
WH: I’m a freelance writer, so I get to write all sorts of interesting copy from the comfort of home, with snowy mountains to look at as I write. This also means I can escape the writing and hit the hill if the conditions are irresistible. I write my blog (www.lefrancophoney.com) for fun, along with fiction whenever I can find some spare time.
My project for 2013 is to find an agent and concentrate more on fiction. My other project for 2013 is to travel more. So far this year, I have trips booked for Rome, the Northern lights in Norway, Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Greece. I’m hoping to add more.
CA: Do you speak any other languages?
WH: I can finally speak French to a conversational level, but don’t ask me to spell anything!
CA: Do you think traveling a lot has helped you pick up languages more quickly, or do you still struggle with it like the rest of us?
WH: I’m afraid I still struggle with it like everyone else. Travelling has certainly helped open my mind to other perspectives and situations, and has made me far more patient with people trying to communicate with me in English when it’s not their first language. I’ve found travel to be rewarding and educational, but learning a language is just one of those things that takes time and practice.
CA: Tell us a bit about the expat life – do you find it easy to settle into new places? Are you quickly accepted into communities or do you sometimes feel like an outsider?
WH: Each place is different. I moved eleven times within ten years and survived unscathed, but it’s not for everyone. When I moved to London, I was overwhelmed and charmed by the size of the city and how lively it was. I fitted in straight away, although I missed my family and friends back home a lot. With social networking and cheaper worldwide phone calls, I can stay in touch with them a lot more now, and with each move, adjusting gets easier.
You have to be brave enough to smile and talk to strangers in order to establish your friends. In places like La Clusaz, this can be difficult, with residents not bothering with the newest arrivals who are likely to leave at the end of the season. My advice would be to stay patient and to picture yourself in six months’ time, with new friends introducing you to their friends until you’ve found the circle you’re comfortable in.
CA: What would be your advice to someone who is day dreaming about living abroad?
WH: It’s important to remember that every habit you have will change when you move abroad. The shops might open at different times; you might not find your favourite brand of tea; you might end up on the Wrong bus because you didn’t understand what the driver said. Give yourself time to adjust and learn, and to accept that things aren’t as they were back home. Embrace those differences and you’ll start to enjoy your new country much faster than you ever thought.