France: a place where you can become yourself?

Metro lights FranceMany people who feel misunderstood in their native lands are compelled to establish themselves far away.

France is certainly an alluring country because of its romantic reputation, cultural clout and aesthetic beauty. Creative souls from around the world have always been drawn to La Ville-Lumière.

When you travel to a foreign country, you leave behind your history – regrets, relationships and routines.

You’re free to reinvent yourself, perhaps explore different selves, and embody the self that fits best for the here and now.

People are motivated to leave their native countries for a vast array of reasons, but having the opportunity to reinvent yourself is a gift. Rather than reinvention, it may be more accurate to describe this process as uncovering your true self, a self that is free of an identity imposed upon it by external forces.

Flourishing in France

Tina Arena FranceArtistic people often flourish in France despite feeling like outsiders in their hometowns. It seems as though the French are unafraid of eccentricity and instead embrace the qualities that others may label très bizarre.

Ironically, it is often only after the talents of such creatives are praised internationally that they are acknowledged in their places of birth and claimed as such.

Australian singer and songwriter Tina Arena felt misunderstood by local audiences, but has since found her niche within France’s cultural landscape where her fiery passion has been warmly embraced.

Producer Bertrand Lambolt says, “the French love to adopt foreign people who make the effort to learn their language and culture, and Tina has done that.” In 2008, Arena was honoured to be the first Australian artist to be awarded France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite.

Another example is Comedic writer David Sedaris, who left America and discovered unchartered depths of his creativity in Paris. A 2012 report compiled by Eurostat shows that France’s 3.8 million immigrants made up 5.8% of the population, which is evidence of the many people attracted to the French lifestyle.

French people finding home elsewhere

so french so chic France

However, there are certainly French people who find their calling in Australia, such as Jean-Francois Ponthieux, founder of Cartell Music and director of the So Frenchy So Chic music festival.

Ponthieux has introduced many French musicians to the Australian scene where they have found great popularity. He says he fell in love with Australia in ”the way you fall in love with a person”.

Can you be drawn to a place?

Perhaps some people don’t know who they truly are before visiting a place they are intrinsically drawn to. Others may feel unable to inhabit the person they know themselves to be or aspire to become, and it is only through living in another country that they have the freedom to do so.

Can one be French, or indeed American, English or Australian, at heart or become so by osmosis once immersed in the local joie de vivre?

My own French thread

Isabel Marant  France

Although I have not yet visited France, I have always been captivated by French culture, first when my dad took me to see French films as a child, to now idolising actrice and chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg, and coveting the fashion designed by Isabel Marant .

When I travel to France for the first time in June, I hope to have an illuminating month simply allowing the country’s essence to wash over me. I plan to quietly observe my surroundings – the people, places, things – and write about what I see. Whether or not I discover a whole new identity I am not sure, but I hope to find aspects of my being that had previously remained hidden.

Do you have a strong connection to France? Why do you think this is the case? What do you love most about being en FranceShare your thoughts in the comment box below.

Image credits:
Metro Lights, by Punk Marcian via
2. Tina Arena
, by Eva Rinaldi via
3. So French So Chic via
Isabel Marant, by Dave Pinta via

About the Contributor

Lina Vale

"I am a Melbourne-based writer who adores French fashion, cinema and literature. I dream of living in Paris and spending my days writing while gazing out over a wrought-iron balcony, and my evenings exploring the city dressed in Chanel and Isabel Marant!"

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  1. Judy MacMahon Mar 26, 2014 at 2:04 PM - Reply

    Interesting article Lina! Since you are going to France in June for the first time, I imagine you are preparing your plans now. I have a question: Do you have a Paris list?

  2. Lina Vale Mar 26, 2014 at 2:46 PM - Reply

    Thank you Judy! There are so many things I would like to do in France because I have been dreaming about it for a long time. While I am keen to visit Versailles, Le Louvre and take a stroll down The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, what I am most looking forward to is immersing myself in the French lifestyle.

  3. Sahara Wilson Mar 27, 2014 at 10:26 AM - Reply

    Hi Lina, interesting article to read 🙂 It’s very true that a lot of people feel more at home in France and are really able to embrace their creativity. Paris in particular seems like such a unique city for creativity- there are so many artisans and artists who live in the mezzanine above their studio and manage to survive on their art. That seems like something quite unique to Paris.
    I was chatting with a German friend this morning on Skype who I met while living in Paris (she has since returned to Munich) and we were talking about exactly this- how France helped us to define who we were and see what we wanted out of life. I found while I was living in Paris that it really was just as enchanting as I expected, so have a lovely time in France!

  4. Sandra E Brown Mar 27, 2014 at 2:48 PM - Reply

    Have a great time in France Lina! Your article was great:) I’ve spent 6 weeks in France over the past three years and have been to very few, actually only two, of the main tourist attractions. The reason for this is because I wanted to live like a local and never want to say, ‘I may never get the chance to see X again’.

  5. Lina Vale Mar 27, 2014 at 5:15 PM - Reply

    Thank you for your kind wishes Sandra and Sahara! It is inspiring to read your comments about spending time in France. I hope that I will also find it a defining and enchanting experience.

  6. George Escarpe Mar 28, 2014 at 8:56 PM - Reply

    This article hit such a nerve with me! Thanks for the chance to read it. I jumped in last July (2013). I quit my job, no savings, no real plan and little idea how I would make it work in France, but I knew that I needed to get here. At 40 years old some might say that I was being rash and having the “mid-life crisis”, but not at all. I landed here 11 July and have not looked back since. I have evolved so much in that time that I feel that I am only now becoming the person I know I am. France provides me the space and dare I say it… the support to be who I know I am… deep inside. This is directly due to the people I meet and spend my time with and the acceptance and staggering amount of determined support to individualism that is so ingrained in each person here. Of course each day can be a struggle to achieve or realise that (sometimes even accept it!), but the feelings of evolution, and self-actualisation I experience, happens much more frequently than ever before in my life. After living/working in too many countries (some short time, some long time) I have never felt more drawn to one place and lifestyle, than right here. I have been coming to France all my life. The reality is that I only arrived last year. It is of course, not easy. Not remotely close to easy. I struggle with the day to day aspects of living here like all others, but I do it with a smile on my face and literally a happy feeling in my heart each and everyday. It could still be the honeymoon phase, but I doubt it. Not a single alarm bell in the early days (think of dating someone and those little alarm flags that pop-up in the beginning? They end up being a problem down the road don’t they? No flags, no alarms for me… France is the honeymoon of life that in my view will not end. But like any relationship it requires maintenance and effort. If you remember everyday what you liked at the beginning of the relationship, if you make the effort in yourself and you constantly remind yourself why you have been coming here all your life after you finally arrive then this will be yours to enjoy like all the others before and after us. Embrace, enjoy, evolve.


    • Lina Vale Mar 30, 2014 at 1:23 PM - Reply

      Thank you for your heartfelt and honest comments Mat. I am so pleased you can relate to this article. You have been extremely courageous to trust your instincts and move to France, which is something many people dream about doing…They say life begins at 40, and maybe this is truly your chance to embrace the person you know yourself to be. Who knows what might happen? I love the idea that ‘life isn’t a rehearsal’ and am so inspired by your story.

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