Moving to France: Honest Advice From Expats Living in France

 

Moving to France- Real Advice From Expats Living in France (1)

Congratulations, you’ve finally made the decision to move to France. Now comes the hard part, getting you and your stuff there.

If you thought making the decision the leave your friends and family was hard, you’ve got another thing coming. Moving to France—or any foreign country for that matter—isn’t easy.

After all, you’re moving to a country where you don’t speak the language and you’re mostly unfamiliar with the customs and culture.

Lucky for you, we’ve interviewed several expats who’ve made the big move and asked them what they wish someone would have told them before moving to France.

Let’s take a look at what these experienced expats had to say about moving to France.

1. Find Temporary Housing

“One of my pieces of advice to people is about finding housing. Searching for housing from afar is not easy and can often be wrought with pitfalls,” says Melissa Ladd, creator of Prête-Moi Paris.

“Paris is a difficult place to find an apartment to rent or buy, because prices are very high and it is a rather small city so there is less space for everyone, thus less available housing. I suggest getting a temporary rental for a month or few when you first arrive, to give you the time you need to find something long term or permanent.”

2. Do Your Homework

“Before moving to France (or any other country) do your homework so you will know what you’re getting into. Also realize France will be quite different from where you’re coming from. There will be adjustment and a learning curve. Contact your nearest French consulate to find out what’s needed for your move,” says Jeff Steiner, creator of Americans in France.

“I often see people asking online what paperwork they need to move to France. Well the only place you’ll get an answer is at the consulate. If the consulate is unhelpful or doesn’t answer your question the way you’d like, then maybe France isn’t for you. If you can’t take the paperwork demanded to move to France you’re not going to like the paperwork needed to live here on a daily bases. That said it can be a great place to live.”

3. Learn the Language

It can be extremely difficult–not to mention frustrating–trying to navigate an unfamiliar city without knowing how to speak the language. Before moving to France, you might want to consider learning some French.

While being fluent in French is ideal, it’s not always possible. We suggest learning basic phrases that will help you hold a conversation with a native. Check out these 25 conversational French phrases to get you started.

4. Read Reviews en Français

“So you just moved here and you want to go to a bar. Or a restaurant. Or even find some decent chocolate to bring to a dinner party. I suggest reading reviews, but not in English. Visit the French version of sites like Timeout, TripAdvisor, and even Yelp. If your French is good enough, you can get the gist of what the review says. If it’s not so good, use Google Translate,” suggests Whitney Donaldson, creator of Whitney in Paris.

“Reading in French will steer you away from reviews left by those who are only in town for a few days a.k.a Anglophones who don’t live in France. There is nothing wrong with that but if you want a feel for the local flavor right off the bat, do a little searching en Français.”

5. Don’t Lose Your Cool

“Be patient and remain calm at all times. There are many great aspects about living in France, but many that make me want to pull my hair out. I used to get upset every time something took longer than I thought it should or if something didn’t go exactly as planned,” says Audrey Hickey, author of Audrey Meets World.

“Take it from me, this is a sure way to exhaust yourself very quickly. Know your rights, know the rules, and keep every single piece of paperwork; you never know.”

6. Greet People Properly

“Kiss don’t hug – on the whole, the French are not huggers and will be horrified if you throw your arms around them and pull them close against you – kissing them on the face four times is fine though,” says Janine Marsh, editor of The Good Life France.

“The French can be quite formal at times so don’t expect to be on first name times for a while. When you’re introduced it will often be as Monsieur or Madame this or that and you’re expected to call them as such until they invite you to call them by their first name. It’s not that they’re aloof, it’s just a way of life in France.”

7. Mind Your Ps and Qs

“Never forget to say ‘bonjour’ upon entering an establishment, and ‘merci, au revoir’ upon leaving. This is an essential part of French culture and to not do so is considered incredibly impolite,” says Edna, creator of Expat Edna.

“Even if I enter a shop and accidentally blurt out my order, I’ll stop, backtrack, say ‘Bonjour’ and start over to show that I respect them.”

Good Luck!

Moving to France can be scary, even for the most seasoned travelers. Make the transition easier by taking advice from the experts above.

Have you recently moved to France? We want to hear from you! Share some of your expert advice in the comment section below.

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5 replies
  1. Nathalie Monsaint-Baudry
    Nathalie Monsaint-Baudry says:

    Dear American friends,

    Good points covered.

    I am a French professor naturalized American after living 17 years in the US.

    My husband and I write about cultural differences, I amva linguist, he is a psychoanalyst. You can download our essays free of charge from this site: http://www.pbaudry.com
    My essay is not translated into English, his is 🙂
    We give lectures too…

    Enjoy!
    I recommand some reading prior to coming to France:

    The American Scene by Henry James ( a reversed mirror )
    Watch the movie Ridicule by Patrice Leconte
    Read Democracy in America by Tocqueville, etc, etc…

    Golden rule: suspend your judgement. You are stepping into a very complex culture that took two years to elaborate.
    Bonne chance à tous !

    Reply
  2. Margaret Hall
    Margaret Hall says:

    Great tips! It is very important to know the basic things before moving to a foreign country. I would love to move to Marseilles. It is a lovely city and I have my sister living there. The only problem that I have is learning the language. I find French incredibly difficult. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Ingrid
    Ingrid says:

    Don’t lose your cool is an excellent piece of advice. Life in Paris can be challenging even if you do speak French. As long as you mind your Ps and Qs, you be just fine.

    Reply

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