Three top tips for living in France
- Remember that your experience is going to be uniquely yours, so don't get caught up in what everyone else is doing and what you think life in France should be like. Drop all of your expectations and just experience France for all it is - the pros and cons.
I feel like foreigners have very romantic, idealized notions of France and the French. That everyone is thin and beautiful and fashionable and they all just sit around at cafes drinking coffee and wine and eating baguettes. Or that real life is a 24/7 vacation. While France is beautiful and charming and has so many positives, it's also a real place with real people and their problems, like anywhere. I work, I have a mortgage, I run errands and have all the real-life stresses that people have anywhere. France truly is gorgeous and I find the people to be generous and kind. I think sometimes people move to France with rose-colored glasses on not realizing that life as a tourist and actually living here are two different things.
Always remember your manners. One of the most important things you have to remember to do is greet people with a bonjour before asking for anything. We need to be aware of cultural norms and do our best to be respectful of French culture and the French when on their turf. We’re visitors, after all. In France, beginning any interaction with a “bonjour” is as close to mandatory as any rule is for foreigners and locals alike. Forgoing the compulsory bonjour (or “bonsoir” in the evening) is not only out of touch with French norms but it will communicate to French people that you’re lacking in basic education.
Learn as much French as you can! Most French people -- especially outside of big cities -- do not speak conversational English, so do your best to get your French up to speed. It not only shows respect but it lets you become a part of your community and not just a bystander observing life around them.
Why should people come to France?
People should come to France for the wonderful food including cheese, pastries, wine and so much. They should come to experience a more civilized work/life balance and healthcare system. They should come to learn about French culture and see the beautiful landscapes that make France what it is. Life abroad isn't easy but it's worth it. You'll experience little wins that make you proud of how far you've come and learn things about yourself that you maybe never would have learned if you had stayed in your home country.
The best things about France
There are so many things, so let's see… On the surface, I could tell you about the wonderful food culture. Amazing wine, cheese, and bread count for a lot. Also, the fact that healthcare is a right for everyone and not something you lose if you're laid off from your job is a huge plus. Medical debt isn't a problem in France and the peace of mind just knowing you're covered is amazing. The system isn't perfect but it has a lot going for it in my opinion.
If I go deeper, now after nearly 8 years here, I'd have to say that I love living in a place that challenges me every day. Nothing is comfortable. From the language to the culture to the bureaucracy to even more mundane day-to-day struggles like when the pharmacy closes 10 minutes early just because they feel like it (when you really need a prescription), France pushes me to be better. Living abroad has pushed to be more patient and understanding and to prove to myself that I can succeed.
Maybe my favorite part of living in France is that I’m experiencing my husband’s culture firsthand and getting to know his home while having him by my side. Discovering new regions of France is something I really enjoy as well – especially Brittany which is a short drive from where we live.