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Frenchie you are, Frenchie you will stay

I’ll let you in on the secret... as an expat, my life used to be more like a rollercoaster! Here's Ana Salido's story moving from France to Australia

For some people, being an expat is the best way to live in a place which looks like heaven on Earth - you know, a place where we can drink cocktails and enjoy the sunshine every single day!

Well, I’ll let you in on the secret... as an expat, my life used to be more like a rollercoaster! Personally, my biggest challenge as an expat/immigrant was to discover who I was. This experience challenged who I thought I was but also what I thought I was expecting from life.

My expat story

I fell in love with Australia and especially Brisbane quickly. I can't picture myself living anywhere else now, but If I am being completely honest, my first two years were challenging. I felt like a tourist in Brisbane. My English level wasn’t high enough for me to get a job as a psychologist, I had a lot of French friends but also international like Brazilian, Colombian... To them, I was the Frenchie! On top of that, I wear glasses (it's unusual in Australia), I speak English with a French accent and I love drinking Champagne. Let me tell you that overseas it is the cliche of the French girl.

The following years, a lot of things changed. I made an effort to get out of my comfort zone and to mingle with the local community. It allowed me to improve my English quicker, but also to find a job as a Psychologist and to meet some Australians with whom I have beautiful friendships, but I am still the Frenchie... the foreigner! It had been my biggest challenge.

Back then, I did not know who I was anymore. I had lost that feeling of belonging - where we feel safe and simply at home. I know what you are thinking, France is home and I should have come back. Here was my issue. In France, I felt like a tourist and I became the Aussie girl, while I was the Frenchie in Australia. Many questions popped into my mind: Who am I? Where do I belong? Where is home? As Human beings, we have that need to categorise everything and everyone. We want our environment to fit inboxes.

It took me a few years but these days I don’t mind which boxes people want me to fit in, and you know why... Because I now know who I am. I consider myself a French world citizen who has found her happy place in Australia.

Ever heard the expression "Home is where the heart is"? Well, the last two years taught me what it means. Sometimes I compare myself to a turtle, in a way that I've got that feeling of having my house on my back all the time. This house is simply my heart, myself! I had to get out of my comfort zone so many times, it taught me who I was. I simply learned to be myself, but more importantly to not leave my external world impact my inner world negatively. I learned how to trust myself and my instinct.

I can now feel at home wherever I go. What matters to me is to feel good. I don’t care about the way people see me or what their opinion of me might be. I can’t control their thoughts but I can control the way I react and how I want them to impact my life.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine, and she asked me if I was missing France. To be honest with you, I don’t miss my home country. Of course, I miss my family and my friends but I've never felt homesick. She told me that I was born in the wrong country, I laughed but I would not have said it better.

I was born in France, My mum is French, and my dad is Spanish but it is right to say that Brisbane is the place I now call home. Australia, and especially Brisbane, is simply closer to my values and the life I desire. I love the laid back attitude of Aussies, the lifestyle, the beaches, the weather and how safe this country is. I know that I couldn’t have the life I've got now back in France.

Expatriation has allowed me to discover myself so deeply that I can now feel at home almost anywhere. I am really sensitive to a place's vibe. But I met some fellow expats for whom it was hard to feel at home without their furniture for instance. I know how challenging it can be to live camping style but do not leave your external world to define you or your level of happiness. This adventure has opened my eyes on what was truly important to me but also that I did not need anything from my external world to define my level of happiness, I've got everything within me.

Passionate about my job and what expatriation has brought to me, I decided to create Expat Infinity to help fellow expats make their move a successful one. If I had only one piece of advice to give you it would be to get out of your comfort zone as often as you can and make the most of this amazing experience. In the end, it’s all positive and you will be grateful for it.

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