Moving to France
Expats often dream of moving to France. Visions of long country lunches; people-watching from cafés; strolls in a lavender-scented Provence; sunbathing on the beaches of Nice; and immersion in the cultural riches of Parisian art and couture mesmerise potential expats and lure them to this legendary European country.
Ironically enough though, living in France may not be the proverbial ‘walk in the park’ you imagine – even if it is the immaculately clipped gardens of Versailles you had pictured yourself wandering through. The country prides itself on its distinct culture and language, and many expats initially report struggling to find their niche and to adapt to the social rules that govern daily life. The language proves the most difficult barrier for expats to cross, especially as the French prefer to engage in their local language. That said, most locals have some degree of proficiency in English, and will reciprocate efforts to communicate if you make even the smallest attempt to speak in French. A simple ‘Bonjour’ (Hello) and ‘Parlez-vous Anglais’ (Do you speak English?) will usually do.
Expats moving to France for work purposes should prepare themselves accordingly. Though the French are renowned for their choice to “work to live”, not “live to work”, the nation claims the fifth largest economy in the world, and Paris has the largest city economy on mainland Europe. Thus, businesses do expect efficiency and productivity; and, those planning to relocate to France without a job already in place may find the job hunting process challenging. Opportunities will be severely limited without a fluency in French.
All things considered, expats account for 19 percent of the workforce in Paris, and businessmen value the new skills a foreigner can bring.
At the end of the day though, most expats don't move to France to climb the ladder of ambition, but rather to live out their twilight years amongst the richness of the culture and the beauty of the country.
The nation itself is old and highly cultivated. Fields and farms, elegantly bridged rivers, chateaux, estates and ancient cobbled towns dot the landscape. Bordeaux and Burgundy, the country's famous wine centres, showcase endless vineyards rolling over their gentle hills.
Paris and Lyon are justly celebrated for their fine dining. These two cities vie yearly for the honour of being the top culinary destinations in France. Regional specialties are celebrated and brought to the cities for everyone to try; expats willing to let their taste buds do their exploring for them will find themselves in an adventurous space.
All in all, no matter where you move in France - from the biggest city to the smallest country village – you can count on a slower, more enjoyable pace of living marked by the kinds of little joys that lead to a greater quality of life overall. As Amelie, the famous French film, so aptly points out – there’s nothing quite like the sound of cracking the top of a freshly made crème brulee at the end of a lovely lunch shared with friends in a beautiful place.