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French family enjoys diverse nature, spirit of community

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Jean-Sebastien and Iseult-Line Delfosse wanted to experience living as expatriates from France.

For five years, the couple had been living in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a commune just outside of Paris, France. But they longed to settle abroad in a community with rich, cultural diversity different from their own.

In March 2012, Jean-Sebastien’s job as a program manager with Valeo Sylvania presented the opportunity to move to the United States, namely Indiana, where his company has operations in Seymour.

Columbus made their short list of U.S. places to call home. Its cultural diversity and family-oriented activities, such as parks and the kidscommons museum, offered what appeared to be the perfect destination for the Delfosse family.

The chance to move couldn’t have come at a better time. Iseult-Line was pregnant with their third child, Timothee, and taking a break from her communications job at the European bank BNP Paribas.

Last June, the couple arrived in Columbus for a five-day visit. The purpose: Find a home and check out area schools for their daughters — Domitille, 4, and Clemence, 5.

“We were very comfortable with the culture and diversity of Columbus,” 35-year-old Jean-Sebastien said.

Jean-Sebastien returned to Columbus in September to start his new job with Valeo Sylvania. Iseult-Line followed with the children in October.

Moving from the outskirts of a bustling metropolitan area with a population of slightly more than 2 million to Columbus, with a population of about 44,000, wasn’t as much of a culture shock as might be expected. It’s the subtle differences that have required some adjustment, Iseult-Line said.

“We lived in a very big city, and that isn’t the case anymore,” 36-year-old Iseult-Line said.

The Delfosses think of Columbus as a dynamic city with unusual architecture that offers country living with convenient access to big cities such as Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

It isn’t as densely populated as Paris, there aren’t traffic jams and there’s much less noise pollution, said Iseult-Line, who viewed those traits as positives.

Shopping has posed a bit of a challenge, however.

“In Paris, there are outdoor markets within walking distance where you can get fresh produce year-round,” Iseult-Line said. “Here, there’s a market one day a week, but you must drive to get there. Also, in Paris, there’s little shops everywhere. Here, there’s the mall.”

Many of the specialty foods readily available in Paris, such as genuine croissants and saucisson, a type of sausage, are also difficult to find in Columbus, she said.

Soon after she arrived, Iseult-Line became involved with Mothers of Preschoolers, the Newcomers association and other groups. She said they have helped ease her transition to American life by introducing her to new people. She regularly participates in organized activities, the dice game Bunco, movie nights and crafts.

One of the biggest challenges she’s faced, aside from settling into her new role as a stay-at-home mom, is mastering the English language.

“It will be very easier for my girls,” Iseult-Line said. “But I am confident I will improve.”

One adjustment Jean-Sebastien wasn’t prepared for was the drive to work. Their home on the Parisian outskirts was a mere 20 minutes from his office. But because of the availability of public transportation, he usually took the subway.

Now he drives 40 minutes one way every day.

“Before, I was paying $45 for fuel every two or three months,” Jean-Sebastien said. “Now, I’m paying $45 per week. I’m not used to having to buy so much fuel. There’s a huge difference.”

The couple is raising their daughters to speak French and English.

Being bilingual is good for them, Iseult-Line said. The girls, who attend ABC Stewart School, have adjusted well, despite initially missing their friends from home, Iseult-Line said.

Jean-Sebastien and Iseult-Line see Columbus’ cultural diversity and educational opportunities as beneficial for their daughters.

The girls attend dance class twice a week at Dance Zone. The kidscommons museum and Luckey Climber, across the street in The Commons, top the list of their favorite places in town, Iseult-Line said.

“We have a membership to the museum, and the girls go at least once or twice a month,” Iseult-Line said.

“What’s great is the kids are showing us their universe,” Jean-Sebastien said. “In Columbus, you have everything you could possibly want with kids.”

If there’s one thing the Delfosses have noticed about the culture in Columbus, it’s that no one is a stranger. People are friendly and easy to talk to here, Jean-Sebastien said. When they visited in June, Iseult-Line said she was a bit bashful.

“We would be in shops and people would come up and say, ‘Oh, you’re pregnant! Congratulations!’” Iseult-Line said. “And that really surprised me. People don’t do that back home.”

Currently renting a home from another French family, who returned to France last fall, the Delfosses know they’ll be here at least two years. “If all goes well, we’d like to stay,” Iseult-Line said.

“Our first impression of Columbus was very good,” Iseult-Line said. “And we know that we still have a lot to see. We are very happy to be here.”

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