The Real Expat: Sully Quay tells about her journey of being an expat to becoming an author
15 October 2017| Last updated on 23 October 2017
About Sully Quay
Tell us about yourself and your family:
My pseudonym is Sully Quay and I currently reside in Paris, France with my three teenagers.
I was born in Paris and grew up in a near suburb where my parents moved to when I was two. I am French originally from Togo and Benin from my parents who were born there.
By the age of fifteen, I was fluent in English because I used to go to Margate, in Kent, on holiday ten weeks a year from the age of twelve to eighteen to a British hosting family who has really become part of my family now.
I am an ESL English teacher, love acting and am keen on running in my sports club twice a week. For a few years now, I have discovered that writing was really enriching and fulfilling. "I´m An Expat And So What!" is my first novel and writing experience.
What was your expat journey? Where have you lived, for how long and where are you currently staying?
I was an expat for ten years in total: I first lived in Seoul for five years from 1999 to 2004. We then moved to Cracow for two years from 2008 to 2010 and the last post was in Budapest for three years from 2010 to 2013.
In between, we went back to the Parisian suburb where we live today.
Relocating: Why did you move?
My husband works for an international company that led us to live all these incredible experiences. We were eager to discover new ways of life and culture too.
What do you wish you’d known before you moved?
Actually, I have never been really curious beforehand about the countries where we moved to. I always wanted to discover the place and the people (who live on the spot whether native or expats) by myself as I had plenty of time to do that.
What were your challenges during the relocation and adjusting to life in a new country?
They are very trivial. Maybe my first challenges were to go grocery shopping when I used to stride in the alleys of (super)markets pulling my empty cart not knowing what to buy or to cook for dinner or not understanding the different labels.
Furthermore, I am very keen on languages and I happened to feel frustrated when I was unable to communicate and to be well understood. But it always turned out funny and fine. Finally, to make friends in an environment where you know nobody except your family members is a real challenge.
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Adjusting to and living in a new country: What have you been most surprised about?
I lived in countries where foreigners were not numerous and where people were not used to having foreigners around. Surprisingly enough (even though people sounded unfriendly and resented foreigners) I was, most of the time, well considered and admired to venture outside my country. Hence humanity in each citizen of the world.
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
During my free time, I like to be with my soul sisters. I like hanging out with my girl friends. We go to exhibitions, museums. We take these cultural outings as alibis to chat endlessly.
Otherwise, I run. Write and read and do some acting with two friends. We have set up our own theatre company for one year now.
What is your favourite spot in your new hometown?
It is my home if I may answer that way. In my home, my favourite place is the kitchen. It is always a bright, warm and roomy space where all my family and friends can enjoy a good time. I am keen on sitting there to read or write too.
Advice for other expats:
What top tips do you have for anyone considering a similar move?
There is no particular recipe. I believe that a successful expatriation resides in each personality. There are different leads to take and it is important to take the one that fits you.
Most importantly, it is essential to keep one´s personality and to stay oneself and not Mrs. the spouse of so and so.
Keep in mind that before taking the long journey to expatriation you were a person of character not living in the shadow cabinet of your spouse. So why change because you follow your partner? Just remain who you are.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt as an expat?
Life is short. Carpe diem.
Based on your experience, would you recommend this transition to anyone else?
I would say that if you feel unsecured about leaving everything behind you, then stay home. As in all beginnings, expatriation can be more or less tough. So it is important to feel strong-headed, supported and emotionally secured. As a consequence, if you feel unbalanced in your relationship with your partner or whatsoever, I would advise to delay the departure or not to go.
But it is so enriching when you just try to live this experience in the best possible way.
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The Expat Life: What’s the best thing about being an expat?
I really liked hanging around with my soul sisters. I felt much accomplishment in being a mother and sharing my feelings and digging in my resources with my friends.
How do you keep a little bit of home with you as an expat?
We always have a piece of furniture or item that recall our past adventures or home. It can be represented by a picture, a painting, a plate, a piece of cloth. Objects can become very sentimental.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us about your expat experience?
It is a great, daring adventure. It is enriching. You can connect to the world as long as you open many doors and not only the ones of the expat communities.
About Your Book:
What is your book “I'm An Expat And So What” about?
It deals with expats. And above all expat ladies. It is about my experience and my friends' or ladies I came across. All the anecdotes are written with humour, derision, but sense and sensibility too.
Each page will lead you to exotic and savoury experiences.
What inspired you to write the book?
In the beginning, I had no intention of writing. I was just lying down my thoughts and observations in my notebook with as much humour and derision as I could, certainly to have an impression of detachment.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
I felt so tired of hearing people (whether men or women, but especially women - expats to be or not expat at all) looking down on expat ladies that I became determined to achieve the book. People have so many prejudices against us just because they do not know the essence of our existence. Throughout my novel I really aim at awakening people´s opinions about expat ladies´situations because our lives are not always unfolding as in a sentimental comedy.
So far I have had much positive feedback about my book, I hope it will continue, because, I have striven to tackle on many topics - even though I know the subject is not exhaustive.
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What would you like readers to take away from your book?
When women read the book I would like them to feel at peace with themselves and take the novel as a testimony for women's conditions in general. For the book is about expat women but before being expats these women were Women.
What was your favourite part of writing this book?
I was thrilled with working on words and looking for their music. I was dancing with words if not more. I loved living this exercise. I was on the quest for words and transcribing emotions. I tried to do that anyway.
You have published your book, so what is next?
I am trying to write a marvellous but terrible love story between a man and a woman while Paris was under siege during World War 2.