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Interview with Emmanuelle – a French expat in Miami

Updated 5 Mar 2019

Emmanuelle Joachim is a French expat and mother of two who has lived in eight cities and five countries and speaks four languages. Paris, Philadelphia, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Miami are all places she has called home, each unique culture enriching her life and representing chapters in her story. Emmanuelle considers herself a French citizen by birth, but a global citizen by heart.

About EmmanuelleUSA%20Emmanuelle%20Joachim_0.JPG

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: France.

Q: Where are you currently living?

A: Miami, United States.

Q: When did you move here?

A: September 2016.

Q: Is this your first expat experience?

A: No, it’s my sixth.

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?

A: I moved with my husband and our two daughters.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?

A: Miami was always a city we imagined we could end up in, conveniently located mid-way between France and Brazil, our two home countries. After many years in the same corporation, my husband decided to start his own company and Miami just seemed like the right fit. I currently work for Once Upon A Town, a company offering personalized relocation services, where others can benefit from my previous experiences as an expat.

Living in Miami

Q: What do you enjoy most about Miami?  How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?

A: Living in Miami is being able to work while living on vacation, if that makes any sense. The quality of life here is very good compared to France.

Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about France?

A: What I miss from home are the cultural events, the architecture and diversity of landscape. Florida has some of the most beautiful beaches but sometimes you just want to see a mountain.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Miami? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?

A: I did not experience any culture shock as we had been vacationing here for years and I knew what to expect. Hispanics or Latinos make up 70 percent of the population of Miami, a reason why it is nicknamed 'the capital of Latin America'. Having lived in South America for 12 years, I could relate to the specifics of this city.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in the USA?

A: The cost of living has become higher as housing has become more expensive and wages have staggered. As a French citizen, I find education and childcare to be particularly expensive as well as grocery shopping and healthcare. Nothing appears to be really cheap here, but I guess it all depends where you come from.

Q: How would you rate the public transport in Miami? 

A: Public transportation in the city of Miami is pretty good with an elevated electric railway, trolleys, bike and car shares, bus and train lines. Recently, an express intercity train called the Brightline has started operating between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Miami? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?

A: Healthcare in the United States is very expensive and even with health insurance, the costs of medical services can add up very quickly. Finding a good doctor is a hit or miss, I have had both good and bad experiences. I would recommend the Cedars Sinai Hospital and the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital along with the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for paediatrics. 

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Miami? Are there any areas expats should avoid?

A: I don’t feel there are any specific safety issues in Miami other than ones found in every big city.

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Miami? What different options are available for expats?

A: A wide variety of housing options are available, from luxury condos with all the amenities of a resort to Spanish-style homes, modern houses and quaint apartment buildings. There is something for every budget and offers are plenty.

The months of June-July are the most popular moving months so you may not have as much inventory, or you may have to make a quicker decision in order not to lose the property you are interested in and have less bargaining leverage. If you will be moving during the summer, it may be best to secure housing a couple of months before arrival.

Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?

A: Choosing where you live should depend on where you are going to work and if you have children, where they will be going to school. Commute times can be long so it really all depends. Popular neighbourhoods with expats are Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Pinecrest.

Meeting people and making friends in Miami

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular groups? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Miami?

A: Miami is a melting pot, it is very cosmopolitan and international. I have never experienced discrimination. Everyone here is from somewhere else.

Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?

A: It was very easy since I can relate to many cultures and speak various languages. People here are open-minded, friendly and welcoming. Speaking Spanish is a plus, but not a necessity.

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals? 

A: I have made friends with locals and expats and mix with both. If you go out of the beaten path, you will find the true local hangouts. Following social media accounts such as @miaminewtimes or @miamiandbeaches can also be a good source.

Working in Miami

Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?

A: We enlisted the services of a specialised lawyer. The process was fairly quick at the time. We entered the country with an L-1 visa which was a big advantage. I would definitely recommend investing in hiring the services of an immigration lawyer who will be able to guide you applying for the appropriate work permit or visa. There are many different kinds and each has its own process.

Q: What is the economic climate in Miami like? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job? Which resources did you find most useful?

A: At the moment, unemployment in Miami is at under 4 percent of the population. The city is expanding with a lot of investment in construction and transportation and has seen an increase in the startup ecosystem. Networking is everything so be ready to mingle.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Miami? Did you have any particularly difficult experiences adapting to local business culture?

A: As opposed to France, people work more hours and have very few vacation days per year (5 to 6 weeks paid vacation in France vs. an average of 2 weeks in the United States). 

Family and children in Miami

Q: How has your spouse or partner adjusted to your new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?

A: My spouse is Brazilian and with such a large community of Brazilians in Miami, he feels right at home. Since Miami is so cosmopolitan, it is easier for the spouse to adjust, find a community that he/she will connect with. I do recommend investing in a good Spanish course though.

Q: Did your children settle in easily? What were the biggest challenges for them during the move?

A: Our children adapted very well. Coming from a multilingual family, they no longer felt like the outsider and felt a sense of belonging. 

Q: What are your favourite family attractions and activities in Miami?

A: We love going to the beach and paddle boarding, visiting the different museums which frequently have kid-friendly attractions and, of course, discovering new restaurants.  

Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?

A: In Miami, there are public, charter, magnet and private schools, pretty much like in the rest of the United States. The choice of a school is very personal.

Final thoughts

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Miami?

A: Miami is a great city to live and work in, ideally located for doing business with the Americas and Europe and very easy to adapt to if you don’t mind the summer heat and humidity. But I reassure you, during those months, you quickly learn to hop from one air-conditioned location to another. After 20 years of hopping around, it’s going to be hard to make me move again. I think I finally found my home away from home!

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