This year I saved myself a lot of dosh on travel. I did manage to get to the Isle of Wight, the Cotswolds and Ibiza on holiday, and to Austria for work. However, for the most part I was here in Berkhamsted, a small town nestled in the sleepy Chiltern Hills. But thanks to technology, a new long-haul destination came to me via the airwaves: 2021 was the year I discovered Australia.

The year took off with Craig Harper who in the meantime can get me out of any kind of funk (see language glossary below). “Harps”, as he is known as in his community, swears a lot and talks about “broscience” on his podcast The You Project, where he conducts interviews on topics about to how to motivate human beings. His pearls of wisdom on “Whiteboard Lessons” on Instagram are both funny and brutally honest.

Then there was “Married at First Sight Australia” that was broadcasted in the UK in dark and gloomy January. I appreciate I may lose some of my followers at this point! Having sworn I would never get into reality TV shows, this social experiment show one got me thinking about the psychology of relationships and there was some Aussie sunshine on the screen while here in the UK we were soldiering on through Dry January.

The next Aussie who zoomed into my living room via my laptop was Liz Ridgway, a fabulous fitness instructor based in Brighton who has (literally) kept me on the ball and my zoom-weary body flexed throughout the year. Liz is such a wonderful PT, full of fun and positivity and really knows her kettlebells. She manages to create a judgement-free zone in her classes like no other and they are still “pay-as-you-can” if anyone is interested!

Finally, the Australian who has massively inspired me in my workspace is Tara Cull from ArchiEnglish. Tara is a landscape architect and an English teacher and is currently based in the south of France. She has created a job for herself by taking all her talents and rolling them into one; she now teaches English to architects. Neat, right? Tara is a neuro-language coach, her drawing skills are amazing, she’s a fabulous listener and she knows her stuff both linguistically and architecturally. Her learning experience always starts with YOU. As a lover of bridge builders (time, space, culture) I decided to interview Tara on her life in France, how she’s managed to create her own space in the virtual world of language training, and how culture influences her field of work. This is what she had to say …

Describe what you do.

I coach architects, designers and landscape architects who speak English as a second language to build more confident communication skills. I do 1:1 coaching as well as small group coaching, and I also share my thoughts and ideas on my podcast Think Big – English for Architects.

What has been your biggest “lesson learned” in 2021?

Our present moment is the most important thing we have. The world has been unpredictable, unknown and challenging at times throughout the year. Whenever I’ve felt challenged, I’ve tried to go back to ‘what’s important right now’ and ‘what I know I’m good at.’

You have so many talents. Would you say you have always been an allrounder?

I’ve always been interested in a diverse range of subjects. In my first job after university working as a landscape architect is definitely where I further developed this skill. You have to be a jack of all trades, knowing a little about many things – drawing, computer software, writing, communication skills, science, technology. The list goes on! I’m happy that this is where my initial path started because being flexible, adaptable and versatile is a skill I believe the world needs now more than ever.

You are from Australia and now live in France – what part of French culture do you find difficult and why? Which part of French culture would you take back to Australia if you moved back and why? What do you think might irritate you about Australia after living in France?

In the beginning, everything was new, so I appreciated lots of the big differences, like the French’s appreciation for food and mealtimes. The most challenging for me was learning the French language. Having very little of it, in the beginning, was difficult to overcome, but once I started to understand more, things became easier. There is also the difficulties of French paperwork and the bureaucratic system. But the most challenging aspect for me is that expressing an opinion is necessary here. I would consider Australia to be a place where we speak less about serious global politics and more about our own culture, so that was hard to get used to initially. I’m far more relaxed about things now and even see the challenges with paperwork as just a normal part of living.

I’d bring back the eating rituals like “apero”, eating cheese for dessert, and eating raclette in winter. I’d also adopt the philosophy that eating time is time to share with friends and family and stop eating lunch at my desk.

I feel the accent might irritate me if I were to go back to Australia and how loud everyone sounds at cafés. I don’t know if I understand more of what people are saying in Australia or because people in France speak quieter. Still, the last time I visited home, I remember that profoundly irritated me!

When you work with architects, do you find big differences in architectural styles/use of materials from one culture to another? Can you give me an example?

Absolutely! Many of my clients enjoy talking about these differences during our sessions.

I also have a client interested in combing traditional South Korean Hanoks with a typical Queenslander style house. In one session recently, we discussed how in Hanoks, the outdoor space is located in the centre of the house and all rooms in the Hanok look out towards it. This is significantly different to a topical Australian home which typically has a front yard and backyard. We also discussed the types of timber, where they come from, and traditional decorations and what they mean. These discussions about cultural differences are always intriguing to have with my clients.

What are your hopes for 2022?

I want to visit home with a fresh set of curious eyes. I’m excited to learn how I might have changed and grown in the last few years. I also hope to continue to learn more about intercultural training and working with training in architecture practices. I also want to continue growing my community and sharing my thoughts and ideas with other language learners about learning languages in creative ways.

I also hope to travel more. I’m crossing my fingers that the world can return to somewhat normal so I can get out to explore more of the French landscapes and architecture.

Last words from me

Tara’s story shows how it’s possible to carve out a niche by bringing all your talents and personality traits to the table. If you are an architect or work in the built design industry and want to work with Tara, you can find out more about her here.

Tara also interviewed me about being an intercultural trainer on her Think Big – English for architects podcast earlier in the year. You can listen to our fabulous chat about language and culture here.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tara for her reflections and for bringing some rays of sun into my virtual workspace.  And thanks to the other Australians who entered my life via the screen in 2021.

I wonder which country will become more prominent in my life in 2022?

Happy Holidays folks!