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EasyStart Relocation Ex-pat Series: Mariana de Albuquerque from Toulouse, France

We had the pleasure to speak with the lovely Mariana de Albuquerque. Full of smiles, life, and curiosity, Mariana shares with us her story about relocating to France and offers some advice on navigating the French administrative system. Mariana de Albuquerque is also a pregnancy, birth, baby, and family photographer based in Toulouse. In the Midi-Pyrénées region, Mariana photographs in Toulouse, Montaubant, Albi, Colomiers, Blagnac, Pibrac, Tournefeuille, Aucamville, Labège, Castanet-Tolosan, Vieille-Toulouse, etc. Mariana de Albuquerque specializes in in-home, studio, and outdoor sessions that include a mix of lifestyle portraits and reportage moments.

EasyStart: Hey Mariana, it’s nice to meet you! Before we get into it, the readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Mariana: Hello, my name is Mariana, I’m 35 years old and from northeast Brazil. I moved to France in 2020 and I left Brazil around 20 years ago now. I’ve lived and been all over the world. Growing up in Brazil, my family had a stable, middle-class background and I was lucky enough to be taught English from a young age. My first few years of being an ex-pat were really difficult. My English wasn’t great and I still had no idea what I was doing. I was in a country and place that was unfamiliar to me, but I noticed as my English grew stronger, my confidence also grew. After living in France for a few years, I met a man and fell head over heels for him. We eventually got married and have been married for 8 years now along with our beautiful children EasyStart: Any relationship advice for dating French men? Mariana: They’re very kind, family driven, and faithful. Although finding open-minded men is hard, it's possible. EasyStart: Could you please tell us more about your educational background? Mariana: Within my professional work, I’ve got a degree and a master's. I studied Psychology and specialized in early childhood for my master's as I love children and understand how and why they do the things they do. After gaining these qualifications I continued to research as I enjoyed it so much and I went on to promote child development. From the back of this, I came to Paris and completed another master's degree in Paris. EasyStart: Wow so you’ve studied a lot! What do you get up to in your spare time? Mariana: Outside of my professional work life, I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa volunteering and traveling which has been invaluable. I also am a photographer so if I’m not with the kids I’m out doing shoots. Difficulties of moving to France EasyStart: What difficulties have you come across since moving to France? Mariana: I’ve moved to France twice now, and I currently live in Toulouse which I’ve enjoyed. I’ve found that creating a social life has been the hardest struggle while moving, with a big factor being the difference in cultures. As a foreigner it was hard to integrate into French culture, especially being a woman and from South America. I found that even though I lived in Boston and the east coast of America it would’ve been slightly easier to socialize but I found it just as hard. The French have a specific type of mindset, very nationalist. They love their country and tradition, and to keep the same way of life they’ve already known. So letting foreigners in can be hard for the French, but open-minded people help this. Community EasyStart: Tell us a little bit about the community and neighborhood you live in. We’d love to know more. Mariana: My husband and I moved here when I was 7 months pregnant. We didn’t know much about the neighbourhood until we moved here At first, I found things overwhelming moving to a brand new city, trying to make new friends, and trying to work out my day-to-day life all whilst being heavily pregnant was a struggle. However, I managed to make it work. These were all pretty big factors in the struggles I had when I first moved, but my children have always been my top priority. I knew the sense of community and friends would happen eventually. Now my children are growing up and my eldest has just started school so I feel ready to start going out and socializing, meeting new friends, and being part of the community. I’ve also met other mothers who are ex-pats and have moved to France from other parts of the world, hearing their stories have helped me. EasyStart: How was it finding daycare for your children? Was it an easy process? Mariana: It was a very simple process but also considered looking into private daycare due to the fact my husband and I weren't happy with the public school class system. Due to my background in early childhood care, I had a hard time trusting the public system at first and how big the classes were. My son is now at a fully public school.

EasyStart: Is there anything the readers should know about the education system? Mariana: School is mandatory from the age of 3 and they’re really enforcing it. Most countries start school at age 5. Again, due to my background in early childhood, I think a 3-year-old is far too young to be starting school and it’s something I strongly believe in. Also, recent laws show that no homeschooling is allowed or at least strictly regulated in France. Administrative process EasyStart: Moving to a different country means a lot of paperwork comes with it, how did you find the administrative process? What was the most difficult thing about the move? Mariana: I think one of the most daunting parts of relocating, is the visa process and knowing which one to get. It's important to know which visa is needed for each family member depending on various scenarios. It also took me a while to get healthcare and the social security number! The process took a lot of time. Having a French husband who spoke the language helped a lot. I'm not sure what I would have done without him! It took 3-4 months to get my social security number. The entire process is just so tedious and long. However, I do have a motto, 'Trust the process'. I've been living off this motto since I could remember. Administration EasyStart: Do you have any administrative advice to give to the readers.

Mariana: My recommendation would be to come to France and stay here for at least 3 years. The first year or so will be a lot of administration and getting yourself settled. Once that's all done, you can really start to enjoy yourself and your new life in France!

Quality of Life in France EasyStart: You mentioned before that you’ve moved to France twice now and that you enjoy the French way of life. How do you find the quality of life here? Mariana: I currently live in Toulouse, taking care of my two sons and my husband, and running a photography business for families who are expecting a child or already have one! I go to Paris every once in a while to do photoshoots there. The weather in Toulouse is good and transportation is easy. For the most part, the city is fairly quiet, but it's culturally fun with all its museums and exhibitions! You can also find nature around the city and it's not too far from the sea. The people of Toulouse are friendly, relaxed, and very welcoming. The food is also very delicious. France is a good balance between work and play, the culture is all about business and pleasure. The balance is what attracted me to France and I feel like I'm finding a good balance now that I've been here for 8 years. Social life can be challenging if you want to integrate into society but equally, I'm embracing and accepting the challenges, as well as enjoying my time here. Life in France is bittersweet! If you integrate into the culture, you’ll learn to love France and overcome any obstacles that get thrown your way. Article was written by EasyStart's Intern, Elise Vernon, from United Kingdom Edited by EasyStart Want to share your relocation story? EasyStart aspires to become a key player in the relocation market in France and Spain while maintaining our ethics and our values of mutual aid and benevolence. We love hearing and sharing the stories of others and their relocation journey! If you have an interesting story to tell, we would love to hear from you! Reach out to us at, briefly explain your story, and we will reach out to you for a possible interview to be featured on our blog!



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