Ever dreamed of whiling away the hours in a Parisian cafe, soaking up the sun on the beaches of Nice, or setting up shop in the Dordonne? If you’ve fantasized of champagne nights & caviar dreams, then perhaps a move to France could be for you. France is a very beautiful country with a singular lifestyle that attracts thousands of visitors every year. That being said, making the leap from holiday-goer to card-carrying resident takes passion, perseverance, and a whole lotta patience.
Here’s a short list of good reasons to pack your bags and hit le road, followed by a few thoughts on when it’s time to re-think your grand adventure à la française.
Mais oui! Good reasons to move to France
You have a family connection (or friends) who can help you get established.
You’ve been offered a job to work in France.
You’d like to have a short-term experience and have saved enough money to finance / supplement your stay ie. sabbatical, working holiday, study program, seasonal jobs, etc.
You’ve been accepted to a French university.
You’re buying a second home or retiring in France.
You’ve had a passion for France for as long as you can remember and are willing to work as hard as possible to make your dream of living in the country a reality.
Pas bon! Time to re-think your grand adventure
-You’d like to relive that magical feeling of your last holiday in France.
Indeed, very possible. Except that that feeling of total wonderment lasts only about three months. I do love it here, and I do take time to recognize how beautiful the area is where we live, but the rest of my life is spent with simple day-to-day living: going to work, paying bills, and trying to fight the crowds at our local mega-supermarket.
-You’re in the middle of a major life change and France sounds like a perfect escape.
That sounds like a great temporary solution (nothing wrong with a short-term stay!), but since the cultural differences (let alone finding a job and a place to live) are quite overwhelming, moving to France will probably not provide the solace you need in a time of transition.
-You’d love to take full advantage of the French lifestyle: work little, drink a lot of wine, and take lots of holidays.
I hear ya on that one! Besides the very blessed 5 weeks of holiday time, the French actually work quite a bit, and if you work in anything related to business/commerce, the 35-hour work-week is a bit of a myth. Of course you can have all the wine you want, but generally the French drink in moderation – 1 or 2 glasses with a meal and c’est fini!
-You want to find the man / woman of your dreams.
Believe me, I’m no dream-crusher, but I’m also not too sure you can plan those types of things. If you move to France, there are plenty of dating sites that can help you in that department so who knows? I moved to Italy and thought perhaps I would meet a nice Italian man and in the end my match ended up being a French guy at a Christmas party. C’est la vie…
-Moving to France sounds like fun.
Well, no lie, it is. But it’s also a crazy-amount of work and can take years before you finally feel integrated – or even semi-integrated! Moving to France is a very long-term pursuit, full of highs, lows, and more than a few extra kilos. If you feel it’s something for you, it’s important to have a real passion and drive to make it work. The challenges are great, but so are the rewards.
La vraie vie – 10 Truths about living in France
1. Being fluent in French will make your life about 1000 times easier (even upper-intermediate level can move mountains).
2. Finding a job outside of major metropolitan areas is difficult.
3. Making French friends takes a long time.
4. French people are often shy to speak English, so you’ll really have to make an effort to communicate… in French!
5. It takes at least 3 years to get your French life “on track”.
6. You’ll probably always feel foreign, but that has it’s upsides too.
7. Moving with your family, a friend, or partner, makes the transition a lot easier.
8. Be ready to make major lifestyle changes as you adapt to the French way of life – ie. no popping out for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on a Sunday afternoon – all the shops are closed as everyone is at home spending time with their families.
9. Customer service can be a very flexible term in France.
10. French bureaucracy can be a headache & can drive you to drink – the hard stuff.
These opinions are purely my own and are meant in no way to discourage anyone from following their hearts (and stomachs!) to la belle France. I hope only to give a realistic, albeit brief, picture of what a move entails. If indeed you’ve got the drive and ambition to make it work, there are few places on earth that rival the beauty of la belle France.