Moving to France
Expats often dream of moving to France, mesmerised and enticed by visions of long country lunches, people-watching from cafés, strolls in lavender-scented Provence, sunbathing on the beaches of Nice and being immersed in the cultural riches of Parisian art and couture.
However, living in France may not be the proverbial ‘walk in the park’ one imagines, even if the pictured park is the immaculately clipped gardens of Versailles. The country prides itself on its distinct culture and language, and many expats initially report struggling to find their niche and adapt to the social rules governing daily life. The language usually proves the most difficult barrier for expats to cross, especially as the French prefer engaging in their local language. That said, most locals have some degree of proficiency in English, and will reciprocate efforts if expats 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. Although the French are renowned for their choice to “work to live”, not “live to work”, the country claims the fifth largest economy in the world; Paris has the largest city economy in mainland Europe. Thus, businesses 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 fluency in French.
Nevertheless, expats account for 19 percent of the workforce in Paris and businessmen do 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 years amongst the rich culture and beauty of the country.
France is a historic and highly cultivated country. Fields, farms, elegantly bridged rivers, chateaux, estates and ancient cobbled towns dot the landscape. Bordeaux and Burgundy, the country's most famous wine centres, showcase endless vineyards rolling over their gentle hills.
Paris and Lyon are rightfully celebrated for their fine dining. The two cities vie yearly for the honour of being the top culinary destination in France, with regional delicacies being celebrated and brought to the cities for everyone to try. Expats who let their taste buds do their exploring for them will find themselves immersed in a world of adventure.
Expats moving to France can count on a slower, more enjoyable pace of living marked by innumerable little joys that lead to a greater quality of life overall. As Amelie, the famous French film, so aptly points out, there is 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.