Sunday, December 5, 2010

Escaping Corporate Life To Find A More Relaxed Expat Life Abroad

Hi Everyone, If you have taken a break (or are aspiring to take a break) from corporate life back home to explore a more relaxed lifestyle abroad, you might be interested in our recent interview with Courage and Croissants: Inspiring Joyful Living: A Story and Life Guidebook author, Suzanne Saze-Roux, whose family did just that...

Courage and Croissants

Five years ago, Suzanne Saxe-Roux and her husband, Jean P. Roux, left behind corporate life in the United States for a small, peaceful village in Southern France. The expected year away soon turned into three, at which point the family reintegrated back into American society part-time. Suzanne and Jean’s book, Courage and Croissants: Inspiring Joyful Living, A Story and Life Guidebook, explores the events that led to their life-changing move to France and their adjustments to the local culture. Courage and Croissants also features a section of tips for anyone seeking a significant life change and wondering how they can make it happen.

Suzanne is a consultant, facilitator, coach, author and speaker who has travelled the world to train leaders, professionals and teams.  She is currently based in Tiburon, California with her husband and eleven-year-old daughter, but they still enjoy spending a great deal of time at their home in Montpellier, France.

Expat Women’s Interview with Suzanne

Expat Women: Suzanne, what made small-town France appealing enough for you to give up the security of corporate life in the United States?

Suzanne: We loved France and had gone every summer for 12 years. It felt natural to truly take the time off we so desired and regroup, regenerate, and reprioritize life.

Expat Women: What was it like reentering the busy American lifestyle, three years after you had left the U.S. for France?

Suzanne: We came back for a variety of reasons, one being work and another to get our house ready for sale.   I also wanted to visit with friends and see how I felt after being away.  During the first six months, we all felt great sadness over the transition.  We desperately missed the rhythm of how we had lived in France.  As time went on, we adjusted, but we continue to hold on to some aspects of our French life.

Our lives are much more hectic here in the U.S., but we manage the busyness in the following ways:

1. We make only one plan for the entire weekend.  One social event with a schedule and one activity for our daughter on Saturday mornings.  Sundays are free, spontaneous and a slow day in which we are together doing whatever we feel like doing.  Taking control and saying no to certain activities and invitations is often hard, but it is how we keep our pace of life sane;

2. We continue to cook at home and invite people for dinner about once a month.  This brings us pleasure, reminds us of France, and our friends love it as well;

3. We are out in nature as much as possible (especially on weekends) and amidst the busyness, try to focus on the simpler things in life;

4. Our house is much cleaner and void of “stuff” now.  It is “simpler living” even though the house has not changed; and

5. We continue to read as a family and still do not own a TV – we use the Internet instead.   Not being constantly bombarded by the outside world keeps things simpler as well.

Expat Women: You write candidly about your experiences and struggles learning the French language, discovering French cuisine and finding a new appreciation for your body, to name a few.  How did you allow yourself to adjust to the cultural transitions while keeping a smile on your face, and what tips do you have for others in a similar position?

Suzanne: Be curious and put yourself in the place of being a student.  Continuing to learn French is a lifelong goal because language learning does not come naturally to me.   I find though that with every conversation in which I am understood, I am secretly pleased with myself and feel like I am making progress.  Unfortunately, this is much more difficult to do in America as I am not immersed in the language, but I keep on pushing.  I am also constantly cutting out recipes.   I dream of using them and it makes me happy.  Once a month I try to cook something new, which helps me to be creative.

Expat Women: What vital steps do you believe are necessary for someone to pursue their dreams?


1. Decide on a clear dream or vision.  What does it include or not include?  The more specific you can be about what you want, the easier it will be to focus on achieving it;

2. Know and understand your fears.  Write them down, stare at them and then let them go.  Throw them, burn them, and shift them to the back burner;

3. Develop a strategy to move forward on your vision/dream.  Create three to five bold outcomes to help you.  You might look at all areas of your life that need to be included to make your vision/dream a reality;

4. Once you have written your bold outcomes – develop action plans for each one.  Take one at a time or do them simultaneously, moving them forward;

5. Get support from a friend, partner or coach; and

6. Acknowledge the small shifts as you move towards your dream.

Expat Women: Suzanne, thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspiring experiences with us. We wish all the best to you, your family, and your new book, Courage and Croissants.

Thanks go to Ashley Thompson (Expat Women) for this interview.


TaxTeddy said...

Inspiring stuff!

Just shows how the expat experience can be truly 'life changing'.

jared @ corporate women said...

Great blog....thanks for the information

Cara Lopez Lee said...

Great interview, Suzanne. Your values reflect mine in many ways. After my world trek, I changed priorities so much it became easier to work for myself. Sometimes I work harder, but it's more meaningful. And when I want to rearrange my schedule to spend time with my husband, friends, or myself - I just do it.

I haven't pushed TV out of my life, but then I've always been a fan of great stories in any medium - books, movies, or TV. Still, I refuse to plan my schedule around our ancient set.

Monday is my personal sabbath, a day when I commit to spending time with my husband and not doing anything I don't feel like doing. It's a time to relax and re-balance.

I have a Spanish tutor, so I can keep up my skills for my goal of visiting every country in South America.

To afford our passion for travel we've had to think hard about our priorities. I think we should post labels on our belongings: the outdated kitchen would say, "Trip to Scotland," the crumbling bathroom would say, "Peru," our old beater cars would say "Cara's memoir," and so on.

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