Interview with Sharka Guiomar - she tells us about her personal experience related to her expatriation to France, from the obstacles she encountered in the beginning, to her bold life choices that led her to a new and fulfilling career.

Tell us about yourself and what brought you in France?
First, thank you for having me and hello to all Live French readers! My name is Sharka Guiomar, I am 39 years old and I am originally from Prague, Czech Republic. I’ve been living in France now for over 12 years, I am married to Marc (French/English) and we have two beautiful girls Emma (5) and Maé (3). I was always a cosmopolitan soul, in my twenties I lived in the United States then I returned back to Prague for a while and I decided to stay. My work background is in digital marketing and when I worked in an American advertising agency in Prague, I met my husband – who led the international account I worked on! We fell in love, we flew back and forth between Prague and Paris until a work opportunity came along. I decided to apply for a job in the Paris office and two months later, I moved to the city of lights (or love?). ☺

What were your expectations before coming to Paris?
I was so excited to start a new chapter in my life. At that time I only knew few words in French but I wasn’t that worried about that since my job was purely international, with just English needed. However, even though I lived abroad before, I’ve never had such a cultural shock like when I moved to France.

So what differences have you noticed between the way of living here in France and in your country?
First of all, if you don’t speak French, you are kind of screwed ☺ JK. No, don’t give up just yet! To all of you who are new in the country, I would suggest trying learning the language bit by bit but start right away. From the USA or Czech Republic I was used to that locals really do an effort when someone doesn’t speak the language. The conversation around the table actually circles around the person, not the other way around. It wasn’t like that for me in France but I also recognize this is only my own personal experience. I just wish I had started learning French much earlier and much more intensively. I would be less singled out during these typical 2h lunch breaks (haha) or during office get togethers. Fitting in would have been much smoother! What I love about French is that during work days they still think about their wellbeing, wellness and time to stop & reset. For example, in the U.S. it is a lot about nonstop work days, super short lunch breaks and close to no holidays during the year. I find it quite extreme. Working in France taught me that we should slow down, appreciate time off, develop new habits and definitely always find proper time for any kind of meal!

How has learning the language changed your way of life and your vision of things?
It changed it completely by 360°!☺ Like everything in life, when you start something new, it needs a lot of courage, motivation and consistency to stick with it and master it. Trust me though, my road was rocky. After I arrived, I was integrating into a new way of working and into a new account, also I had a not so easy personal situation (my husband already had a child), I was missing my family and friends. To be honest with you, I was blocked for a while. It was too much for me and I was not motivated to learn the language. It was hard. But then I thought, I am not a quitter! I will try my best and that is all I can do. I went through a whole bureaucratic procedure at work and demanded a French language trainer who was also my coach. It helped me a lot to learn more about French grammar and culture and I also found a friend at the same time! Step two was – pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone. I was not looking for Czech community in Paris, I had one or two expat friends but I was challenging myself to attend all the work events I could, I was going to lunches with my French team and also my husband’s son only spoke French so I had no choice but to speak. I completely immersed myself in the language and in this new social environment; a 100% French immersion! It was a challenge at the beginning but it all helped me to learn quicker and to instantly FEEL better when I was out and about, having no problem what so ever to chat with people, sort out my taxes, doctors appointment etc. You suddenly feel like a new person and things don’t seem so challenging like they did before!

What has been the best experience you’ve had here related to your expatriation?
I love the country and diversity that it offers. I think it has so much beauty, so much richness, and so much history. Also travelling around with my husband and discovering different parts of France holds the best memories. I am a huge fan of historic novels so the chateaux de la Loire is probably the most memorable trip, we also got engaged there ☺. And when you speak the language you instantly get to know French people better, it gives another perspective on situations and they become more open. The importance of language learning in my expatriation was vital; everything became more pleasant and friendly. Oh and let’s not forget, in France I discovered how a true champagne tastes like and it is the best!

What language do your kids speak?
That is a great question. I was thinking about this a lot before I had my kids. How will this work? Since my husband is half British and half French, we divided the languages ☺. I speak English and he speaks French. Between us we usually speak English, we never fully switched. My kiddos are now 5 and 3 and they both speak more French I guess, or half and half. However since they started kindergarten, they are exposed to French much more. My 5 year old can hold a conversation in both languages and I am so happy they have this huge advantage for the future! Teaching them my maternal language is then left to my mom because I personally feel that 3 languages would be a lot, especially since my husband does not know one word in Czech!

What is the most challenging aspect of your life when working in France?
I would use past tense here – what was the most challenging aspect? I think the most challenging, for us, working women, wives, mothers, is – to find a balance. Balance between work life /family life /our wellness and expatriation. Is it even possible? I learned many hard lessons when it comes to stress being a trigger of many health problems. I was forced to rethink, revaluate and prioritize my health – because frankly, health should be an investment, not an expense. When you live it, you’ll understand. We should take care of ourselves, constantly educate ourselves and this is how I’ve, step by step, started to change our lifestyle. I switched from the reactive approach to preventative & natural approach to our health. I literally became the “gatekeeper of our home”; I fell in love with essential oils and low tox lifestyle! It was the best thing that brought balance into my life and got our health back on track. Also as it’s said, something good can come from something bad, I discovered my true passion, something I was looking for my entire life. So, I changed my work path to what I truly love, to share my passion for low tox living. I guide others on this important journey through which we focus on preserving our most valuable asset, our health.

How would you describe yourself and what you do now?
I am an extroverted introvert, I can read a good book in two days, white is my favorite color, I love minimalistic homes, travelling and getting to know different cultures, I speak 4 languages, I love dogs, open water gives me peace (now living at Geneva lake) and my kids are my driving force.

After all this “adventure”, I am now a wellness advocate, an essential oil educator, a low tox guide and a mentor. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was struggling for years to find true passion and purpose within my jobs. Nothing ever felt like the right fit. I was lucky to have found it and because I’ve walked that path, I am here to walk the path with others, make it stress-free and beautiful, and help them find the support they need, whether it is from oils, total wellness, low tox home or because like me, they want to relight a spark of passion for their own business.

If you had to summarize your experience in three words what would they be?
Life changing, humbling and fulfilling my dreams on every level!
And a little reminder for all of you, get out of your comfort zone to get the most out of everything!