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Delorys was born, raised, educated and married to her husband of now 38 years in New York City. She has lived in several US cities (New York City, Westport, Connecticut, Saint Louis, Missouri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Princeton, New Jersey) and in France. Delorys and her husband have been living in the South of France for over a decade after having spent 17 years dividing her time between France and the United States with the intention of eventually moving abroad.  

What do you remember of your first trip abroad?

My first trip abroad was the summer before my junior year in college. I travelled in France, Switzerland, Germany and England. Back then (and I’m not going to be specific about the date) airline tickets for student travellers was dirt cheap…so were the Eurail passes. I had a blast! I met other students from all over Europe. People invited me to their homes, so I was able to see a lot of life in other countries. I was surprised also, how things in Western cultures could look so similar on the surface but be so dramatically different when you “walked through the door”… so to speak. But I had a wonderful time and in the meantime fell in love with France.

At what point did you become aware that you wanted to live abroad and be an Expat? First let me say that I am not comfortable with the “Expat”. I just don’t like the prefix.  Nevertheless I do use the word I coined, “Blaxpat”, to describe my current lifestyle.  Anyway, realizing through subsequent travel that there was a huge, friendly world out there, and that as an American, coming from a country with so many allies, I had the privilege to be able to travel almost anywhere in the world and be welcomed. As a black American, I enjoyed the feeling of being identified culturally and nationally as an American as well as being Black. When I discovered, life in The South of France, I knew that I wanted to find a way of living here one day. I never really thought of living in a foreign country until my first visit to Nice, France, in my thirties.

What experience has enlightened you the most since you moved abroad?

That learning a new language fluently, not only enhances your ability to communicate more precisely in your native language, but in others as well… as you learn them… through travel and social interaction. I am fluent in French. I cannot imagine living in a country without speaking the language. I would have to find a way to learn the language somehow if I already didn’t know it. Most countries in the West at least, have some form of literacy program.

… And the most disheartening experience so far?

The demise of the American dollar!

Have you adopted any new customs whilst living in France?

You know, I honestly can’t tell anymore. Celebrating Bastille Day, perhaps?

We know that you moved to France with your husband, did you have any children that came with you and if so how have they adapted to the expat life?

We don’t have children. But I’ve realized that if I had children, I doubt that I would want to raise them outside of the US, unless my husband was a citizen of the country where we lived. I would have no problem having them attend school abroad, after a certain age, but I feel that It is always easier to adjust to other cultures when you are firmly grounded in who you are. Family connections are important. Also as a black American, I feel it would be important for them to understand the unique history of our particular tribe of people in the US, and how it is juxtaposed with the rest of the world.

Do you miss any customs from home?

I certainly don’t miss Thanksgiving, especially as a black American with Native American heritage. Otherwise, things aren’t all that different here in France. But then, it probably seems that way to me because in addition to having been raised in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural environment, I have always lived in Cosmopolitan communities whether it be Connecticut, Missouri or the other places we’ve lived.

How have you gone about making friends?

My social connections come through my work in the arts, as I am both a painter and author.

Have you connected with the expatriate community where you live?

Not really. I’m more comfortable with the Gallic way of life.

How do you keep in touch with family and friends from home?

We keep in touch through traditional mail, email, telephone and occasional transatlantic visits.

Are you employed?

I am an artist, so my issues are quite different from those who seek traditional employment.

Since you are self employed have you considered starting a business in Nice and what difficulties are there to start one?

I had considered starting a business here, as I had a business for a number of years in New York City. But being an artist it’s obvious that I deal in luxury products. Right now in Europe the economy is in horrendous shape. We’ll see what happens in the future.

You mentioned earlier the demise of the US dollar, has that affected your income, having to live on less and if so how have you made the adjustment?

Our income comes from the US. The dollar has been worth bupkis for the last 9 years! We have had to make some adjustments, although we are fortunate in a number of ways to live in a country with a great quality of life.

In regards to housing, is it hard to find decent living accommodation?

The French Riviera is an expensive region in France. On the other hand, because it is such a desirable place to live, there had been major urbanization. If one doesn’t mind living in a crowded city, one can find many housing options and lifestyle choices in cities like Nice, Cannes or Antibes..

… And the opportunities to buy property?

It’s pretty grim. It’s easier for a foreigner to rent first.

Where do you recommend as the best spots to vacation in the south of France?

The entire French Riviera is a wonderful place to visit. The beaches are lovely, whether they be the rocky ones to the east or the sandy ones to the west. The area is rich in culture: theatre, museums, art galleries, universities, fabulous restaurants and shopping for almost anything!  As a single person the French Riviera is a safe and diverse place to visit. Nice is particularly visitor-friendly because the public transportation system is the best in the South, outside Marseille. The same applies for couples and families.

Have you achieved any of your goals while living abroad?

I have achieved my dream of living in France… the sunny part. Also, I published my second novel, about expat life on the French Riviera. I’m working on my third novel and in addition, building a terrific body of work for future exhibitions of my paintings.

Some pointers you would tell to a friend or relative who is considering moving abroad?

Learn the language of the country you chose. Read literature from that country, see movies from that country, make strong efforts to meet people from that country who can interpret and explain the environment to you, and read the newspapers from that country.

Do you think that at some date in the future you will return to live in the US?

I have no idea whether I will return to the States. Sometimes I see movies which take place in New York City and I am struck with extreme homesickness. Then I realize that one of the reasons I left New York City was because it actually wasn’t New York City any longer.

Has your life as an expatriate changed who you are and has it taught you anything new about yourself?

I’m pretty much the same person, just with a broader world view, and a diverse collection of terrific artefacts, books, and a cultivated palate for exotic cuisine… I find that I’m quite comfortable in the world in general, barring, of course, sudden political unrest.

Have you had any problems with discrimination?

I have faced more discrimination from my own people in America than I have ever experienced in any foreign country. I can’t even begin to understand why. Perhaps it’s because in the States most issues boil down to someone’s complexion or last name, but in the rest of the world it’s basically about class and economics. The Riviera has an ethnic mix of French, other Europeans, Africans, North Africans, some Asian and others who interact with one another with surprising ease and commendable “politesse”.

The Riviera lifestyle of sea, sand and sun!

 

Living & Spending in Nice, France 

Monthly rent:

General range: 1000 -1500 euros (1 or 2 bedroom apartment)  House? On the coast? Forget about it!

Cost for meals:  50 euros per person, vin compris.

Transportation costs: 

Public transportation 1 euro per ride, gas prices… through the roof, parking difficult although inexpensive.

Compared to your home country are most things cheap/same/expensive?

I believe that everywhere is cheaper than Manhattan.

Recommended monthly living budget:

3000 euros.

How modern are basic amenities/infrastructure?

In France you have state of the art.

Any legal hurdles all foreigners have to face to live there?

Besides the basic visa issues, I don’t know.

Top 3 things you would recommend someone to bring when they come.

An open mind. A sense of humor.  Health coverage until you enter the System.

 

Be sure to visit Delorys Welch-Tyson’s website: www.deloryswelchtyson.com and blog: www.deloryswelchtyson.blogspot.com

Photo credits: All photos courtesy of Delorys Welch-Tyson

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