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  • Writer's pictureCath @MyMarketingToolbox

Back to France - What happened the past 2 months

Two months ago, I was saying goodbye to my 7 years in Turkey, also ending a 14-year cycle abroad as I was heading back to my home country, France.

I was feeling sad but also hopeful.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Sad, because it’s always not that easy to say goodbye to the life you created, to the people you met, to your flat and habits, to the projects you still had.

But also hopeful because of the new ideas, the new projects, opportunities and thankful for that new white page of that new chapter in my life.

The end of my Turkish adventure

In a previous post I explained how I ended up closing my company and I was waiting for an answer to my second residency permit application, the previous having been rejected based on the motive that I should have asked for a work permit and employed 5 Turkish citizens (to make it short).

While preparing and waiting for the second application, I decided to get prepared for the worst. One rejection, Covid situation, diplomatic tensions, restrictions and many lockdowns later, I felt my mental health wasn’t in a good place. Uncertainty about the future was literally killing me. I started planning my return to France, contacting moving companies for estimates and also for my cats. I wasn’t alone: I had the responsibility of my 2 cats Popeye and Swee’Pea. Thus, I already had a plan to put into motion when the 2nd rejection came.

I spoke about uncertainty a bit earlier. I guess I changed my moving date a dozen times before fixing it around 15 days before my actual departure. Not mentioning that the pet transportation company I hired for my cats confirmed the pick up date 24 hours ahead, having their issues on their own. I already left when they picked Popeye and Swee’Pea up and I am so thankful to have the golden neighbors I had who took care of my cats in the meantime, having to deal with an emergency situation when Swee’Pea escaped in the morning not to be found until 30 minutes before the pet transportation came. Eventually, everything ended well, 3 days later they were with me and are now fully adapted, Popeye taking over my mum’s cat #turkishcatsaretheboss

Swee'Pea & Popeye adjusting to the French life (very exhausting as you can see...)

My exit from the country hasn’t been smooth either. After a week trying to see as many friends as possible to say goodbye trying not to cry each time and an incredible evening spent with my neighbors talking and drinking, I headed to the airport, trying not to shed tears too much.

Istanbul Airport at 2:30am was empty. I dropped my luggages, showed my attestations for the French government, my PCR test and valiantly headed up to the visa violation office: 2 rejections and overstay were going to cost me.

Two guys were there, visibly bored to be there at that time of the night… The first one looked through my docs, thought I didn’t speak Turkish then, understanding I could speak Turkish, started to talk in a condescending way. Yes, I was aware I overstayed, yes I was aware I was going to have to pay a fine and to have an entry ban and, yes I was going to pay my fine now. Oh And I almost forgot the moment when he refused to take into account my electronic boarding pass and made me cross the airport to have a paper boarding pass. You understand, the electronic boarding pass is not official documents. How come airlines let us boarding with it then?

He kept my passport, gave me some docs and told me to go to the other guy who told me exactly the same things in the same condescending tone and sent me to another desk to pay my fine. Of course, at 3am, there was nobody… After 10 minutes a guy dressed as if he left a contaminated zone (or was entering one) went out the toilets (contaminated zone?) and, without taking off his white overalls, proceeded to the payment of my fine. A young guy dressed in a suit entered but behaved as if I didn’t exist. So I am still wondering if the guy in the white outfit was really a government official or the cleaning guy…

Finally, I came back to take my passport and my docs to, finally, being able to exit this airport.

Usually, at passport controls in Turkey, I try to choose a guy who seems nice. Some are really like prison doors and don’t even say hi. I was in the queue and one waved at me, all smiles. However, when he saw my overstay papers, he told me to go to the window #1. I was window #45, I think. So I crossed, again, the airport and guess what? Yes! Window #1 was empty! No passport controller. Window #3 waved at me, talked to me as if I was a dog and spent 10 minutes looking through my docs and calling 3 different phone numbers… Ok Turkey, either you want me and you give me a residency permit or you don’t want me and you let me leave! I really thought he wouldn’t let me go and I was going to end up in a prison somewhere between the Turkish territory and the international zone of the airport and was so happy to have decided not to travel with my cats!

Finally he stamped my passport and I almost ran in case he would change his mind.

I won’t talk about the sudden blues I had while waiting for the boarding and the not less sudden realisation that it was it, the end. I wasn’t leaving for a 1-week holiday in France and coming back. It was real. My belongings were in boxes somewhere in the moving company’s facilities, my cats were about to leave too. I didn’t have a “chez moi” anymore, I was coming back to my parents’ place, I had a 3-month entry ban meaning I couldn’t attend the wedding of a friend at the end of September and the future suddenly seemed so blurry. Impression reinforced at the landing in Paris where I was welcomed by rain, grey sky and 20 degrees, against the sun and 30+ degrees I was used to in Istanbul.

Adapting to the French way

I landed in Paris the day after Emmanuel Macron made a speech on the TV in a try to get more and more people vaccinated. An information I didn’t have since I was busy drinking and chatting the day before. And though Turkey wasn’t on France's red list anymore, meaning no mandatory PCR test at the arrival, my luck, or lack of it, made it that Turkey was amongst the list of countries to be automatically tested upon arrival that day. Needless to say that my sinuses didn’t appreciate 2 PCR tests in 24 hours and made me pay it by a sinusite. Thanks God, I was still negative and booked an appointment for my first jab for the following week.

And about the 3 attestations requested by the French government, apart at the check-in desk in Istanbul, nobody asked me anything at the French border. I just gave the address where I would self isolate myself (had to argue with the guy that, yes, the place I gave really existed, that it was my parents’ place and if he wants, he can call or Google to confirm).

At the passport control I’ve been asked for a vaccination certificate I didn’t have, thought he wouldn’t accept my brand new French PCR test alongside with my less new Turkish one. He didn’t want to look at my attestations, saying there would be another control for that (like a 3rd control because when you come to Paris from Istanbul, they check your documents almost at the door of the plane)… Which, of course, didn’t happen. And, after having taken back my luggages, I exited the customs in slow motion, almost waving my attestations in the hope someone would look at them. But no, no eye contact. I guess they weren’t interested in my lokoums and aromatised Turkish wine and I entered the French territory with my attestations requested by the French government but which were controlled only in Turkey…. #dontaskmewhy

After 14 years abroad, readjusting to your home country almost looks like adjusting to a new country. As you can imagine, France didn’t stay the way it was when I left it in 2007… It didn’t wait for me to move on.

And, to be part of the French system again, it might look like an obstacle course…

One of the first things I did was to reactivate my Social Security, Sécu for the close friends. Pandemic dictates, the French government announced that all French people from Abroad (this is how they name us, the Frenchies not living in France) coming back to motherland for real until a certain date in September, would benefit from the reopening of their social security rights without delays. In normal times, it’s 3 months. I was thinking “Easy Peasy!” And I filled out the requested form, sending it with the requested docs.

After a few weeks, not having any news, I decided to call for a follow up. Who knows, maybe the French post office started to work like the Russian one…

It took me 3 tries in 2 days with an average of 15 minutes waiting time to be able to talk to a human being and not a robot. And the, not so nice operator informed me that the reviewing delay was between 4 and 6 weeks and that, no, I will need to wait 3 months before having my rights reopened as I wasn’t employed nor a teacher. I argued, mentioning the French government decision, written on their website by the way, and on a letter sent by M. Macron to the Frenchies from Abroad in April (yes, presidential elections in France are next year. Electoral campaigns already started).

But no, of course she knew better than me, that it wasn’t her problem if I had to wait until November to go to the doctor or to open my company but I would need to let them know for any change in my situation. I don’t like to be fooled or being treated as stupid when I know I am perfectly right (#capricorninfullforce). On the top of that, she gave me an email to do a follow up which didn’t work. I wasn’t pleased, as you can imagine. And I prepared my attacks. I found the text, the email from dear Emmanuel Macron and wrote a beautiful email to the President to let him know about how his directives are (not) applied. Of course he had other business to deal with and I never got an answer. In France, you can write to your president, you have a website for that even with a procedure to follow. But nobody seems to read or answer.

Anyway, end of August, basically after the reviewing period, I received a letter for additional docs to have my new Sécu card. Hourray! Because in France, your Sécu number is like your fiscal number in other countries. So it’s better to have one and one activated… It almost created an issue for my first vaccination…

I guess it won’t be my last encounter like that with the French administration. Anyway, welcome back to France! At least, it’s my country, we speak the same language and there are few chances they are going to refuse to give me a residency permit, or renewing my ID, or asking me to employ 5 French people in my business to be able to open it. Right?

Shall we talk about the readaptation spleen? A foreigner in my own country

When you live abroad, you understand how well, in fact, the system is in your home country compared with the one you experienced in the countries you happened to live in. And France, on that topic might not be the best, but the Providence State still works. Not speaking about a certain quality of life. Even Paris, which I didn’t like, seems to me a more human scale city than Moscow or Istanbul. Or is it old age already talking?

So I was slowly but surely readjusting, trying to convince myself to be patient, to stop this thought telling me that I left Istanbul on a failure (I closed my company). I was happy to find a more healthy way of life, to be with my parents in the countryside, in that nature I missed so much during the lockdowns, to see my brother and sisters, how their lives were going on, to see my friends…

And I really thought it would be enough, I would feel happy, at my place.

The truth is, after almost 2 months, I am still wondering what I am doing here. I am still in the landing stage, feeling completely out of sync compared to those friends who came back years ago. Yes, I feel like a failure and it’s hard to cope with. Faking positivity and happiness until you have it doesn’t work anymore when you reach the 2-month readjustment threshold.

Recently we had a gathering party where I met friends, some of whom I hadn't seen for a long time. We are all more or less the same age and, even if I know you shouldn’t compare your stage of life with the one of the others, it still hurts.

Some of them have partners, speak about having babies, even expecting babies, have a beautiful career, bought houses,… The full social jackpot.

And though, I am quite proud of what I managed to achieve in my life, I still can’t help myself thinking that, at 37 years old, not married, not even speaking about boyfriends or babies, not owning properties, all savings given to help my parents, a company failure in Turkey, not even having a place I can call “my place”, living with my parents, well, compared to the French standards, I am a failure and I will end as an old cat lady alone.

And, even if I know it’s way too early to say it’s a failure, or I am a failure, even if I know it’s sometimes harder to readjust to your own country than to a new one, that it takes more time than just 2 months, it’s not easy and it is something I may have overlooked when I prepared myself. I knew it wouldn't be easy but I prepared myself for the wrong difficulties, the ones I thought would happen, but didn’t happen as big and insurmountable as I thought they would.

And what about the future?

I may have pessimistic thoughts and I had to change my initial plans the past weeks. But it doesn’t mean I don’t have plans, ideas or projects!

My Fashion Stories Box Podcast will start again this month. So stay tuned for new episodes and, in the meantime, discover the Top 5.

I am also planning to launch a Patreon, should you want to support me and My Fashion Stories Box Podcast :) Stay tuned on that too.

A press kit will be created for potential partnerships, my goal being to make fashion history mainstream (yes, I have ambitions). Some episodes might also be in French in the future. So get prepared!

My Marketing Toolbox will change too. The many adventures and changes I have had the past year made me review how I see it, what I want to do with it and how I want to help entrepreneurs. My Marketing Toolbox is leaving childhood and will enter teenagerhood with a new look and a new offer mixing all the things I like: communication, marketing, fashion, arts, culture and teaching. More soon!

I may need to put my entrepreneurial journey on hold for a while and take it more slowly than expected. However, it doesn’t mean I’m not working on it. My Marketing Toolbox remains here, no worries about that. You will still hear about me!

Once I will deal with my failure demons, I will start artistic activities again: drawing is still on the plate and I am looking forward to the slow countryside winter weekends. I plan to join the amateur theater group of my town as well as the musical ensemble. I also plan to compensate for the 1+ year of no social events by going to concerts, exhibitions, movies (really looking forward for Dune with Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet) and I discovered that the region where my parents live is quite active on that topic.

Meeting up with friends, discovering France as if it was a foreign country, and in a sense it is, are also part of the plan, as well as registering My Marketing Toolbox in France at some point. And many more depending on the opportunities, encounters and inspiration.

Cheers to a new page in a new chapter!

Did you also come back to your homeland after several years abroad? Did you experiment with this “out of place” effect? How did you cope with it?

Feel free to share your experiences!

See you soon!

Cath @MyMarketingToolbox

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