This week, Becky discusses what lfie is like living abroad, the language gap, culture differences and cravings for home.

People’s eyes always glaze over when they hear that I lived in Paris, the ‘City of Love’, for almost a decade. What they don’t realise is that day-to-day life in another country is very different to the image that you see in films, magazines and postcards.

The French are intrigued by their European neighbours, and whilst living there, I was always asked the most interesting questions. The first one was – “do you know the queen?” For some reason, they assumed we were quite close. Some of the questions that followed were “do you eat fish and chips wrapped in newspaper?” and “do you have carpet in your bathroom?” I didn’t know why these things were so puzzling, but they were.

I tried to integrate fully into French society in order to learn the language and cultural customs. This included things like eating snails and frogs’ legs, trying to be effortlessly chic by wearing headscarves and learning to demand good customer service, not just expect it. What I noticed was that, as I was integrating, I was starting to miss ‘familiar’ things from back home. Things such as waiting in a queue (something that the French know nothing about), having the door opened for you and Terry Wogan (that was the biggest surprise).

Although I successfully integrated into French society and learned the language, so much so that I was frequently mistaken for being native French, I always felt British. I bought a British newspaper every week (this was before the ease of consuming new on the internet), and I was mortified when not informed that new pound coins had been introduced and my old five pence piece was not accepted. It was difficult to accept that my native country was surviving without me!

After nine years living in France, I came home and re-integrated back into Britain, the country of my birth. That was actually harder than I had anticipated. I had no credit history, my CV was in French and I didn’t know what anything was called as I’d learned all the vocabulary in French; simple things like ‘comprehensive car insurance’ were a mystery to me. Before calling the insurance companies for car insurance, I had to write a script as I was so nervous.

I wouldn’t change the experience that I had in France. I had a great time and I learned so much about the country, but I also learned a great deal about Britain and what makes it so great. This is why, when I see people looking wistfully at me when they hear about my time abroad, I don’t burst their bubble and tell them the reality. Everyone’s experience is different.