One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence – Keith Van Sickle

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job and moving to Europe to live part time? That’s exactly what Keith Van Sickle and his wife, Val, did.

While working on a long-term assignment in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Keith appreciated that life was less hectic. People took their lunch breaks and vacations. “Work wasn’t the be-all and end-all “ like it was in Silicon Valley. Since Switzerland is a central location for travelling all through Europe, the two took advantage of the opportunity and explored the culture, history and food of the towns they visited. Also during that time, they fell in love with Provence.

When it was time to go back to California, they knew what they had to do. They quit their jobs and started a consulting firm, so they could spend part of the year living in Provence. Oh yes, did I mention that they didn’t even speak French?

One Sip at a Time is a light, humorous memoir that explores Keith and Val’s adventures as they discover and try to fit in French society.

How do you deal with contrasting cultural beliefs from money (bad) to melons (good)? How do you eat a flaky croissant and not make a mess? How do you learn to exit the off-ramps and why is blocking traffic so acceptable? Why is it so hard to buy cold medicine and beard trimmers? Most importantly, how do you learn to communicate and make friends?

These are just a few of the obstacles they faced. Each short chapter features a cultural difference or irritation that they faced and how they dealt with it. Some produced embarrassing situations, but they convey their feelings with humor which keeps the reader engaged.

You may be tempted to skip the “Resources” chapter at the end, but definitely don’t! The suggested sites include finding long-term rentals, seeking out native speakers to practice your language skills on and even English-speaking businesses in France. This resource chapter will even provide ideas for trips outside of France.

If you ever thought of escaping your current surroundings and living as an expatriate,  One Sip at a Time is the book for you.

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