Our story: Rugby brings Kiwi family to Grenoble
Names: Johnny (40) and Jaimee (39) Claxton and Mackai (eight), Carlos (six) and Lily (14 months). Mrs Claxton answered our questions.
When did you move to France?
Where do you work?
Johnny is head strength and conditioning coach for Grenoble Rugby. I write a blog about living abroad with kids.
Where did you live before moving to France?
We left New Zealand in 2012 and went to Dublin for 20 months, then we moved to Swansea before coming to Grenoble.
What research did you do before the move?
One of the benefits of the professional rugby industry is that you often meet people who have been where you are going. So we relied heavily upon our friends who were already living in other areas of France and also reached out to foreigners at our new club.
Were you a regular visitor to France before?
No. We had previously spent two days in Paris and we holidayed in Sérignan Plage (Hérault) in 2014. Johnny had visited Grenoble and other French cities on rugby trips but I had never been to Grenoble until we moved.
How did you find a place to live?
My first priority was understanding the school system, then finding the school we wanted the kids to go to. From there we researched suburbs that would be suitable and then used online estate agents to find properties in those areas and Google Maps to get a feel for them.
How have you settled in?
This is always hard as I have to navigate a new country, figure out where to shop and how to get things done while dragging three kids along. Not to mention the heatwave after we arrived with temperatures reaching 38C.
After a few weeks of school we are in a lovely routine and life is what we wanted it to be.
Have you made friends easily?
Grenoble is such a friendly place. I found a Kiwi cafe in town owned by a New Zealander and his French wife. They have made phone calls to the doctor for me and helped with my French, and mums at the school have been incredibly welcoming. However, Johnny and I are firm believers that if you really want to experience local life, you must meet local people.
What has been the most enjoyable aspect of your new life in France?
The ‘food, glorious food’ and the fact that eating is a real experience here and is something to be appreciated, not rushed. We love looking out over the city every morning and across to the ever changing landscape of the Alps.
And the toughest?
Most definitely the language. I get quite frustrated when I can’t communicate with people. But every day I try to use a new phrase whether it’s at the boulangerie or with the teacher. Also, there have been some tough times for me as a mother, watching my kids feel sad or lonely. Personally, the hardest thing has been starting again in terms of friendships.
How have you managed with the language?
Every day I try to learn something new and use it – it’s all I can do. I am having three French lessons a week and Johnny gets a tutor through the rugby club.
What do you miss most about where you lived previously?
My dear, sweet, wonderful friends, my routine of life and being able to easily ask for what I want and know where/how to find it.
What three tips would you give to anyone planning on moving to France?
1. From my perspective as a mother: find local people who can help you navigate school enrolment, after-school activities, school meals etc.
2. Start learning French before you arrive and practise, practise, practise. Go to the same places when you first arrive – boulangerie, supermarket, café – people start to recognise you and it gives you more confidence to practise.
3. Walk around your local area as much as possible. The faster you get to know your new city, the more confidence you have.
This article is an extract of our 2018 Guide: Moving to and Living in France