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It has been said that London was selected for the Olympic Games 2012 because, as ‘the most international city in the world, it offered a world games fit for an age of globalisation.’ According to the Office of National Statistics, there are over 300 languages spoken and over 200 nationalities represented in London alone. London has become the leading city on earth in which economic prosperity combines with unlimited opportunity, personal liberty and a truly cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Contributing to the ‘cultural soup’ that makes London so great is the fact that many foreign nationals moving to London bring with them a strong sense of their own cultural identity. By living and working here, educating their children here and interacting day to day, they assimilate and take on outwardly the customs and practices of the host culture whilst still remaining faithful to their own cultural characteristics and traditions. With this ‘duality’ firmly in place, these emigrants contribute to the cultural mix of London, yet remain firmly rooted in their own unique sub-culture.
When choosing a home, they tend to migrate towards their fellow compatriots living in London, naturally seeking to create a sense of belonging and shared meanings in this ‘home away from home’. This is no more evident than with the approximately 300,000 French nationals who have made London their home in recent years. They have settled in large numbers near the French Consulate and the Lycée in South Kensington, otherwise affectionately known as ‘Frogs Valley’. At the heart of this is l’Institut francais, the cultural centre created to promote French and European culture to the British. The membership to the Institute consists of approximately 60% British and 20% French with the balance being various other nationalities residing in London, yet interested in ‘all things French’.
The French Property Consultancy, Boulle International, has experienced this cross-cultural blend since its inception. Led by Marie-Cecile Boulle, herself a dizzying mixture of cultural identities, from French Mauritian to Dutch to South African and latterly London, Boulle Int’l has a multilingual team of consultants, all expatriates themselves, who specialise in providing Bespoke Property Search and Expat Services in English, French, Italian, Dutch and Spanish. Their aim is to help newcomers find a home and feel at home in this dynamic global city.
‘Cultural identity is a matter of ‘becoming’ as well as of ‘being’…it belongs to the future as well as the past. It’s really about a search for belonging,’ asserts one local expat. The beauty of London is that in this huge cosmopolitan city, those from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, all sharing the common bond of being expatriates, create their own sense of belonging, making this great city their own.
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