Moving overseas, where nothing around you is familiar, can be overwhelming and lead to culture shock. Fortunately, technology can help you overcome many of the difficulties you may face during the ‘renesting’ process.
I know some of you find technology quite intimidating on its own, but I guarantee you it will enable you to settle smoothly into your new French nest. Believe me, I married a French tech wizard, and it definitely changed my life for the better (alright… it might not have been the only reason!).
So before you sell your furniture and buy a one-way ticket to the sunny South of France, take a few minutes to read these 8 tips.
1. Get organized
Whether you own a home computer or just use a tablet or smartphone, having a printer will save you a lot of hassle once in France. Our top tip is to invest in a printer that includes a photocopy and scanner function. The French love of bureaucracy and paperwork is infamous for a reason! You will need to make, send and keep dozens of copies of dozens of documents and photos.
Having a scanner, or a scanning app on your phone, will also allow you to keep all your precious paperwork in the Cloud, so you can access it whenever and wherever needed, from your smartphone. Many applications like Evernote, Dropbox or OneDrive store and organize documents, photos, and files that you can upload from your scanner, smartphone or tablet.
2. Speak like a native
You may not become fluent overnight, but when it comes to language learning, a little goes a long way. There are now several apps available to help you learn French in the privacy of your own home – DuoLingo, Babbel, Frantastique, Kwiziq to name just a few. Even if language is not your strong point, you don’t need to carry around a dictionary or phrase book like the old days. When you’re out and about, you can use free apps like iTranslate, which translates words dictated into the microphone, or Google Translate, which will translate signs you’ve taken photos of. Both are available for Android or iPhones.
If you use Google Chrome to browse the internet, you will also be able to instantly translate almost all website pages automatically. Just ‘right click’ on your mouse to open the menu which includes a ‘translate into English’ option. The translation may not be perfect, but it’s usually close enough to help you understand the content. In the case of an important application or legal procedure, if you are not 100% sure of the text, we would always recommend seeking professional translation services.
3. Keep in touch with loved ones back home
Nowadays, technology has given us the power to be in more than one place at a time. Social interactions are increasingly able to transcend borders in real time whether through sharing content, music, events, memories and photos or interacting with friends and family via social media. Gone are the days of the expensive and low-quality phone call home. Moving away from loved ones is never easy, but technology helps reduce the sense of distance with free video calls possible via applications such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp and Viber.
4. Make new friends
Starting a social circle from scratch can seem daunting and intimidating, especially if you are starting with few or no contacts in your new home. Depending on where you settle, be it a city, large town or tiny village, tapping into local networks will be the key to learning more about your surroundings.
Increasingly, internet-based community groups and forums can be real treasure troves of information, dates for the diary, events and tips, and also a great way to meet people. Try Meetup or Facebook to see if there are any community-based groups in your area.
5. Stay Tuned
Moving to a new country doesn’t mean you have to cut ties with everything back home, like your favorite TV programs, sitcoms or local news. When you live in another country, watching TV from home can be one of the most comforting things of all. You can now bring your favorite television programs and movies along with you. With the expansion of international streaming services, cloud computing, and on-demand programs, you have tons of options.
Unfortunately, a lot of websites and streaming services, including Hulu, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Sky TV are region restricted. If you move to France and try to access them, in many cases, you will not find the home country content you are used to watching. Even worse, you will be subjected to obnoxious messages such as “HBO is only available in the United States of America.” or “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK…”. The reason you receive such messages is that providers can see where your location is based on your IP address. But don’t worry, that’s nothing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can’t fix.
VPN will be your secret weapon. It’s a tool that helps enhance your online privacy and security, while allowing you to access region-restricted websites. It effectively changes your IP address to make it look like you’re in your home country. Other advantages include the ability to download files anonymously, mask internet usage from your ISP and prevent prying eyes from seeing your activity on public Wi-Fi. The most reliable ones at the moment are NordVPN and UltraVPN.
Satellite TV is a good solution for UK expats, but not the best if you wish to watch US Channels. As you may already know, you will need a huge dish pointed to the UK TV satellite (Astra2, at 28,2° East), or have one installed, then connect a Freeview box (e.g. Humax) which will give you access to all the digital free-to-air satellite channels.
6. Transfer money easily
The days of traveller’s cheques, long lines at the bank to change currency or emergency trips to find the nearest Western Union are long gone. Secure online banking makes moving money a breeze, but a specialist currency transfer company will be able to secure you the best exchange rate possible. This can make a big difference when sending a large sum of money to purchase a house or vehicle, for example. Shop around and you will find some great deals – try Currencies Direct, OFX, or Transferwise.
7. Convert anything in the blink of an eye
Thanks to technology, it is no longer necessary to mentally convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, Miles to Kilometers, Ounces to Grams. No more unconscious shopping sprees when you have only a vague idea of the prices in your home currency. Now there are conversion apps for all measurements and currencies available on your smartphone.
8. Find your own path
No more looking like a tourist with your big paper map. Finding your way has never been easier. You can consult a map and plot your itinerary online with Mappy, Waze or Google Maps, which will even provide the time and cost estimates. If you’re in a city with public transportation, you can usually consult the timetables and quickest itineraries online (RATP, TAM, etc.). And whether you’re on foot or in a car, having a GPS in your pocket, speaking the directions to you in your language, should keep you from getting lost. And hearing how the English GPS voice pronounces the French street names is always good for some laughs!
Be aware that in order to use all these Apps you will need an internet connection. That will be one of the first things you need when you move to France, as well as a mobile phone. There are different options for Internet access at home in France – ADSL, Fiber-optic and 4G box. The availability of the services will depend on where your new nest is located. All major internet providers – such as Orange, Free, Bouygues and SFR can offer bundle packages for your telephone, Internet access, mobile phone and television. It’s important to shop around for the best deal and compare the offers based on your needs and the size of your household.
Renestance has a technology support offer, if you are in our region and need some one-on-one help. And if you still feel a bit wary about settling in France in general, remember that you are not alone. We can help you achieve your dream.
Have you found technology useful if your new life in France? Please share any useful websites or additional links in the comments!
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, Renestance will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that Renestance has worked with these affiliate companies and recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through our links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Dennelle is the President of Renestance and a bilingual American who’s lived in France since 2000. She loves so many things about France, its language, culture, geography, quality of life... that she started a business to help others realize their dreams of living in this incredible place.
All articles by: Dennelle Taylor Nizoux