Things You Should Know Before Moving to France

France is undoubtedly an excellent place to live, blessed with a rich cultural heritage, a beautiful language, varied and interesting landscapes and of course a world famous cuisine. What else would inspire so many Amelie-esque dreams of a new life in Paris or perhaps Provence amongst Francophiles worldwide? The romantic image of hopping on your vintage bike to a local boulangerie to pick up a fresh baguette, all the while clad in Breton stripes, is fairly prevalent. But inevitably there are hurdles to overcome when moving to any foreign country, be they cultural, linguistic or simply practical. Here are some things we think you should know so that you can truly make the most of your time in France!

  1. Don’t expect much to work on a Sunday. This naturally depends on where you live, as you probably won’t face much difficulty in Paris, but in more rural areas you may find yourself unable to buy food on a Sunday, as most shops will shut down for the entire day. Take a little time to plan ahead, buy your groceries on Saturday and see this as a blessing – in France, Sunday truly is a day of relaxation.
  2. Cast off your prejudices about French rudeness before arriving. This can actually be a self fulfilling prophecy: if you’re defensive around the French from day one then you’re unlikely to find them to be warm and fuzzy. Admittedly you’re likely to come across a few stony faced individuals behind guichets, but don’t let this get to you. The vast majority of French people are polite and accommodating in everyday situations, provided you greet them with a smile and a bonjour!
  3. This is perhaps only applicable to Paris, but if you’re coming to improve your language skills, make sure you are absolutely insistent on speaking French. Parisians, particularly in more touristic areas, will readily switch to English as soon as they spot an error in your French. The simple fact is that it’s usually a lot easier to communicate with tourists of whatever origin in English, and many will jump on an opportunity to practise English. Persist in French and most of the time they will quickly swap back.
  4. Be aware that making friends is a little different in France, and can take longer. You might find the French to be a little overly formal with their acquaintances at first; you just have to have a little patience. Once a French person has warmed to you, you will struggle to find a more loyal friend.
  5. Prepare yourself for French bureaucracy. This one is unavoidable, and there’s no sugar coating the fact that French paperwork is a bit of a nightmare, with what feels like endless signatures and attestations to provide. Remember that France also offers some of the world’s best social care, and that jumping through these loops is simply part and parcel of that. Take a deep breath and laisse tomber!

So now you’re prepared to live out your Francophile dreams! France is a wonderful country that, like any other, presents a unique set of challenges. An awareness of the challenges you may face will allow you to better enjoy those moments sipping a café au lait en terrasse. If you enjoyed this blog, you can see more of the same here, and don’t forget to consult our job offers for bilingual assistants in Paris.

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2 Comments

  1. This was a really interesting article that I will take into mind when I visit France. Thanks for sharing

    Reply

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