Are you considering moving to France? Are you grappling with the decision? Before you sell the house, the car, and put everything you own on a container, take a look at our list of key factors to think about before deciding to take the plunge!
1. How long will you stay in France?
Moving to France to start a business and live indefinitely is a different project from coming for a gap year or six month sabbatical. Personally, my family fell somewhere in the middle as we came for a “trial year” and figured we’d see how it went before making a long-term commitment. In some ways this approach makes sense, but the negative side is that it leads to ongoing uncertainty. So as you are doing your dreaming and scheming, reflect on your timeline and your tolerance for the unknown. The context for your move will determine the administrative steps in the process, especially regarding your entry and visa. You may find that your intended length of stay will also impact how you handle the challenges you face along the way. (See #5, culture shock!)
2. Navigating Systems in France
Are you an EU citizen or able to obtain a long term visa? What about getting healthcare coverage? Finding an apartment? Getting a driver’s license? Moving to another country will invariably involve a fair amount of paperwork–but people moving to France from the U.S., the U.K, Australia, or, umm, most places in the world may be surprised at the twists and turns involved for even the smallest administrative steps. For example, when we first moved here I had been used to paying online when I wanted my kids to buy lunch at school or join after-school activities. Now I have to stop by the Mairie, buy a little paper ticket for each lunch, fill it out, and remember to drop it off at the school by Friday morning. While the systems are often mystifying to newcomers, you will get a handle on it as time goes on. Do not underestimate what you can learn from those who have come before you. Which leads us to…
3. Support networks in France
I think there is an unspoken rule of karma among expats to the area. When we first arrived, our lovely real estate agent invited me to a “girls night out” where I met a few people who have become lifelong friends and invaluable resources. While you will, of course, want to make French friends, they are not going to be able to help you get a SIM card that works abroad or with the paperwork involved for your carte de sejour. When we were getting ready to make our move, I wrote to a few bloggers in the area asking questions and received wonderful detailed emails chockful of advice. In return, when I receive emails or questions from newcomers, I try to pass on useful information and point them to services like Renestance or online forums. If you already have friends and family in France, even better. And if you are the type that likes to go it alone, more power to you!
4. Money money money: What is the cost of living in France?
Finances, of course, are one the top questions for most people considering the move to France. As you are working on your projected expenses you may want to take a look at some of the budgets that others have shared online. For example, bloggers Bob and Bill have a page on their site, Let’s Live in France where they share their annual budget. The money question will also depend greatly on where you currently live. People moving from Los Angeles or London to the Languedoc will find the housing costs affordable by comparison, while if you are househunting in Paris or Aix-en-Provence you may be in for a shock. As we discussed in a previous post on working in France, most people tend to earn less money in France than they did previously. This is not to say that you can’t earn a living here, it’s certainly possible, but we encourage you to be realistic if you are coming without a regular source of income.
5. Culture shock: Adapting to the reality of living in another country
Have you ever lived abroad? How prepared are you to deal with the reality of living in another country? Are you OK with being out of your comfort zone? Do you speak any French? Let’s face it, anyone who willingly uproots themselves and moves to another country is a little bit of the best kind of crazy. Jerry Jones, cross-cultural trainer and blogger, agrees and writes, “It’s good to wrap your head around the fact that the next few months of your lives is not going to be normal…” Yes, living in the South of France will involve barrels of rosé, medieval villages, and Mediterranean sunsets. But it’s also going to involve wandering through the spice aisle trying to remember how to say nutmeg and figuring out how many kisses to give your neighbor (and if you have just inadvertently insulted her mother.)
6. Information: Doing your homework before moving to France
What other factors impact your move to France? What information do you need to help you make your decision? Where can you find it out? A reconnaissance trip of a few weeks is a good way to test the waters and see where your (first) landing spot should be. If you do one in the Languedoc, we can help you plan different city/village tours, meetups and activities with other expats who’ve been in your shoes, or even French classes or immersion days. However, regardless of how much research you do, you are going to have to expect the unexpected. When I was pregnant with my first child, I remember a good friend telling me she didn’t put much stock into birthing plans. “That baby will have her own plan,” she told me and she was right! Moving to France in many ways is like a re-birth. So yes, do your homework, just remember that even the best laid plans go awry and c’est la vie!
Need help making the decision? We’ve created a free online tool to help you clarify your thinking. If you’ve made your decision and are ready to figure out the next steps to make sure this move is a success, stay tuned! We’ll be publishing the Renestance List of Things to do before moving to France in a few weeks. If you would like additional support thinking through your decision, be sure to contact us.
Natasha Freidus was Renestance’s first blog editor and web content advisor. She is a consultant and trainer specialising in multimedia storytelling. You can learn more about her work at her website, Creative Narrations. Natasha moved to Roujan from Seattle in early 2013 with her husband and two children.
All articles by: Natasha Freidus