The Group Consuls of our Toulouse Travel Club are truly a dream team: Helly and Serhat met at an InterNations Event in April 2012; by now, the two aren’t only sharing the responsibilities for the members of their InterNations Groups, but also their life in la ville rose.
Read their story to find out more about our multi-national couple and what they contribute to expat life in the beautiful south of France.
A Chance Meeting
Their paths crossed, coincidentally, at the first InterNations Event that Serhat ever attended. A friend introduced him to our Toulouse Community, as Serhat has always liked to meet other people with a multicultural background. Born and raised near Paris, with Turkish parents from Cappadocia, he has both double citizenship and a slightly ambivalent attitude towards his own origins.
“I’ve always felt different living in France,” he says, “not completely French, although I’ve lived here all my life, except for five years I spent in the UK. But not really Turkish, either. I believe we’re strongly impacted by our culture, so I like to think that meeting new people from different places is making us more open-minded.”
Helly, however, describes herself as German, though she was born in the Romanian region of Transylvania. She grew up in a small village near Cologne, and has divided most of her adult life between Germany and France. After moving to Toulouse, she had to relocate to Munich for professional reasons in 2010.
It was there that she discovered InterNations. “I really liked the InterNations philosophy,” she remembers, “and I enjoyed meeting so many interesting people from various countries – and various companies not related to my own field of work!”
So naturally she joined the Toulouse Community when she had to move back to France in early 2012. The rest, as they say, is history.
Creating Memorable Moments
Gradually, the two became more and more involved in InterNations Activities, and last year, they decided to run the local Brunch Group and to start the Toulouse Travel Club as well. “Sharing the role of Group Consul with your partner makes organizing activities much easier,” they joke. “And, of course, it’s much more fun to do it together.”
Their brunches include a variety of themes, such as a champagne brunch to celebrate the holiday season or a crêpe brunch dedicated to this deliciously French specialty. They even host most of their brunch events at home during the winter, as they’ve had some trouble finding good places for inviting many guests to brunch in Toulouse. In summer, they are planning to take it outside and enjoy the city’s mellow climate.
But it’s the travel group that has provided some of their most memorable moments for the passionate globe-trotters. They organized, for instance, a skiing trip to Andorra, one of the biggest ski resorts in the Pyrenees. Over a dozen people from the Toulouse Community spent an entire weekend together: it was a great “opportunity to really get to know each other better and share some nice memories,” the Consuls say. Indeed, the trip was such a success that they decided to plan a repeat event a few weeks later.
But they’ve hosted some lovely daytrips, too. Last November, they enjoyed the colors of a late autumn day in the countryside, at Puycelci, a picturesque sleepy place in the Tarn department, which prides itself on being one of the most beautiful villages in France.
“We even managed to get their castle opened just for us,” Serhat and Helly remember proudly. (In autumn and winter, the local sights are usually closed to visitors.)
Insider Tips for “La Ville Rose”
What’s their impression of expat living in Toulouse? For obvious reasons, the local expat community is very much linked to the aerospace industry, and both Helly and Serhat work in the sector themselves.
Due to the presence of such large employers as Airbus, Thales Alenia Space, or the European Space Agency, there are lots of expatriates from neighboring Germany and Spain in town, but plenty of representatives from the UK and the US, too. With roughly 450,000 inhabitants (including 90,000 university students), Toulouse is big enough to be vibrant, lively, and interesting – but it still retains just the right amount of “small town feel”.
“The size of Toulouse makes it very special,” Serhat says, “especially compared to bigger cities or capitals. We always meet plenty of people we know all across town.”
“I like the intimacy of the InterNations Community in comparison to Munich,” Helly adds. “Here in Toulouse it really feels more like a big family. We’d recommend new expats to join InterNations – it boosts building your network in Toulouse, and you make lots of contacts.”
“And do live in the city center if you can. Public transportation isn’t very good if you live too far in the banlieue.” Then you can also explore your new home more easily and find your own favorite corners, markets, or restaurants.
“We love taking our bikes on a Sunday morning to ‘our’ local market in Saint-Cyprien, or maybe the one in Saint-Aubin. And having a coffee in the afternoon, or a glass of champagne at Le Florida, in front of the town hall, that’s not to be missed.”
And what about the famous French food? After all, Toulouse is said to be the birthplace of cassoulet (a hearty stew made of white beans and sausages) and a number of other regional specialties. “Chez Émile”, our InterNations Consuls recommend. “It’s traditional food from the region, a very good address, right in the heart of town.”
(Image credit: 1) InterNations 2) & 4) Serhat G. & Helly T. 3), 5), 6) iStockphoto)