Our year is over, we leave France tomorrow. It has been wonderful, I'm so glad we took the opportunity to live in another country for a year. Here are some of our good and bad decisions over the course of the year.
A great decision was choosing France. We wanted to come to Europe but France wasn't my top choice. However, we knew that after spending a year in France, the kids would be able to speak French and continuing with French immersion at school in Canada after our return would ensure they didn't lose it. France has exceeded all of our expectations. We have found the French people to be very warm and friendly and unfailingly polite. Fiacra is a lot more polite when interacting in French than he is in English. We have seen a lot of Aquitaine and love it. We want to come back. Bordeaux was a great choice for us.
Another good decision was putting the kids into public school. We considered a private international school where the kids are taught in both French and English, similar to the French immersion system in Kitchener-Waterloo, but in the end the cost was prohibitive. Fiacra and Ailbhe have instead been truly immersed in French and now can both speak French well. Initially, the school day seemed so long to us, from 9 to 5, but the kids love eating in the canteen and having a big break in the middle of the day to play sports and play with their friends. All the play time with their friends has probably been a major factor in them picking up French. Walking home from school, Fiacra will sometimes make a mistake in English, as he transitions from speaking French to English, using a French word unintentionally in the middle of an English sentence, or saying "the teacher of German" rather than "the German teacher".
A regret is that we didn't buy a dishwasher the day we moved into the rental house. A very bad decision. There is a spot in the kitchen all set up for a dishwasher so it would just have been a matter of quickly installing it. What were we thinking - would you pay $300 to not do dishes for an entire year? I think we were overwhelmed by how much we needed to buy and a dishwasher didn't seem like a necessity.
I'm undecided as to whether not buying a car was a good or a bad decision. It's been interesting to live for a year without a car. We walk, bike and take the tram everywhere. We often rent a car for a weekend of day trips or to go on vacation. I think we'll use our car less on our return. There were times though when I wished we did have a car, it can be just so easy to jump in the car and drive somewhere. I'm happy we didn't have to go through the hassle (apparently not insignificant in France) of buying and then subsequently selling a car.