Travel Books: 'Are we French yet?'


Tales of an American Family Living in France

By Shawn Underwood

Five Star Misadventures. $14.95.

It all began with an innocent comment: "We should all move to Europe in the next few years."

The speaker was the husband of the author, Shawn Underwood.

"Why?" asked the author. "Why not?" he replied. The timing seemed right. The couple had jobs in the commercial real estate business, but with the miracle of the Internet, it was possible to run their business from anywhere in the world.

The timing was perfect, too.

"We would take a year off in an off-year in real estate development," Underwood reasoned.

While many friends questioned their sanity, Underwood compares living a year abroad "to learning how to ride a horse." It would be an adventure. But she doesn't play down the plan. It would require learning a new language, experiencing new food and making new friends.

They researched possible countries before deciding on France.

They chose a place (Nice), selected a house and found a school for their children.

And then there's that little thing called the language barrier - or, as one Frenchman says, "She understands but can't speak well."

It's an enjoyable and humorous journey into culture shock, even if their French sojourn concludes with the scary arrival of six robbers ("uninvited guests"), an unheard-of crime that fortunately ends peacefully for all concerned.

June Sawyers, Chicago Tribune