Honest Advice about Moving to France

I don’t want to be the one to crush people’s dreams. Really, I don’t.

But when I get emails from people asking, “Do I really need a visa to stay in France? Why can’t I just buy a one way plane ticket and move there?” or “I don’t speak a word of French, how hard will it be for me to find a job?”, I just have to say…really?

In this day and age, I have a hard time believing that people can still be that naive. And in order to answer those kinds of questions, I choose to be brutally honest.
Which often doesn’t go down very well.

French Flag

Of course it’s my own fault.
I’m the one who asked the should you move to France question, and I wrote the Moving to France Tutorial and shared my trials and tribulations of attaining French citizenship. So I’m the one who opened the door.

Also, I love helping people who have done their homework.
Moving to a foreign country takes a lot of courage, but it also takes a lot of research, and unless you hire someone to do some of the legwork for you, there aren’t many shortcuts.

Then I thought it would be interesting to poll other expats to see what kind of honest advice they would give to people who were thinking about moving to France. I posed the question on Twitter and received a tremendous number of responses!

Café de la Place

@kasiainparis tell them to keep in mind that living in France feels nothing like vacationing in France & be mindful of cultural differences.

‏@AI_ParisFR @kasiainparis Totally agree. I have met people who have moved somewhere on the back of a holiday, sometimes it works but …


@AnnMahNet Buy your own scanner and photocopier.

@yumandmore i would say it depends if you have a job, if you’ve been to France before & know it can be crudy, u must speak the language &
…your kids must have manners, if you want to have kids u should know that maternity leave is short & babies spend long hours in
…government daycare. basically u should know that la grande nation is not ecl. champagne, fromage & baguette. p.s. I’m french

@lanina123 Mostly + but I come from there. Coming to US from Belgium was challenging. Something we should all experience if opp arises.

@davidlebovitz How about – “Bring exact change?”
@LucyVanel Have a reason to come (i.e. a contract, a job, a mission), and a plan, when a disappointment happens this is your lifeline.
@k_sam Learn as much French as you can before you go & make sure you have a solid plan to support yourself financially!

@katethyme Positive about living here, cautious about recommending it – depends on the people asking, but, usually, if they ask I say yes

@daisydeplume Positive in general. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend.

@jchevais positive for the unattached and young. wary for the rest.
…I think it’s important to know that it’s not “all or nothing”. I used to feel that way about moving back…… and it’s ever so freeing when you realise that nothing is set in stone. Except death maybe.

Bar a Vins

@LostNCheeseland do your research, talk to as many people as possible and come armed with patience.

@JustAnneinParis Try not to dampen their enthusiasm while making sure they understand it won’t be easy. The move doesn’t have to be permanent.

@rhino75 Always cautious. If people are moving with work, as I did, it’s a lot easier but it’s still a big upheaval.
…And, of course, the older you are, the harder it is, I think.

@jennybeaumont I am always positive about it. Tho like @rhino75 said, always a cautionary word to go with.
…people tend to ask if I ever think about moving back, was it hard…but never what they should do.
…I am, however, always encouraging to people who express the desire to move here and/or buy property.

@pretavoyager don’t move – just travel like you’re a local. Much less stressful!
…+ highly recommend Jean Tacquet’s newsletters – he’s a professional who understands the various statuses: http://jeantaquet.com

Baskets of Strawberries

@TheBoldSoul I’m honest: there are pros & cons, doesn’t help to romanticize the drawbacks, but if you really want to be here it’s worth it.

@thenorthernist it depends on who’s asking. I’m generally positive, but aware there are ups (new culture, food, etc) & downs (bureaucracy).

@louisemee u have to strike the balance between the two; forewarned is forearmed.

@Rvaya always cautious! It’s never as easy as they think it will be. And expensive too.

@AmericanWomanFR Great question! Mostly positive, a wee cautious bc everyone’s experiences differ. I think it’s definitely worth doing though!

@spacedlaw That would depend on the conditions they are moving with (in) and their reasons to do so.

‏@AI_ParisFR Positive but I also recommend that people do as much research as possible – people can over romanticize moving to new country

@lacuisineparis moving just for fun or for business? Two different things – but I have a few comments :)…
…small caveat-coming to work in a business, different from setting up a business.
…For all, begin with reading Le Petit Prince!


‏@juliastagg Honest. It’s the only kind. And always tempered by the fact that my experience might not be theirs.

@zuschlag Patience is a virtue. Also, check picky eating habits at the door. They aren’t welcome here!

@AbsolutelyKatia I have to confess to being reluctant to give advice. Everyone’s experiences are SO personal, each situation is SO different…
…plus I technically moved over 10 years ago now so my experience is not exactly up to date. I just stick to cultural advice…
…more than concrete things that can be found with a bit of research

@BurgundyEstates Important..they must have a good knowledge of french..before starting any businesses..contact louloufrance for advice  (what!?)
@fusacparis Learn French, you won’t ever feel at home if you don’t, being an expat and outside of your familiar culture is trying enough
@moss_barbara Go quickly!!!
@ShonaEaston Integrate with the locals and speak French (so many people don’t!) x
@ChezFoti I’d say one of the biggest problems people face is being realistic about work i.e, lack of it, especially in rural areas…

…I’d advise people to think through exactly what they’re going to do before moving to France & thoroughly research it

Cassis Beach

@NormandyRLearn the language & don’t rush to make friends! let it just happen in it’s own time, then they will be real friends for ever@Bellitum Learn French verbs. Drop any notions of superiority. Become au fait with Fr Hist and culture. Lose the Marmite & cricket.
@suislefil I was contacted once by a girl that was clearly running away from stuff. My advice was: if you’re running away from something

…it will catch up with you!
…I think it’s a “grass is greener” thing, only the grass is the same and no one understands you

@milkjam …in all seriousness, researching online is a must!
@KarenSSchmitt To be realistic about their dealing-with-French-bureaucracy capabilities.
…And you should either plan to stay healthy or learn enough French to understand the docs. Stressful otherwise, sometimes…
@Thebestinparisto be very patient and to be as fluent in French as possible.

‏@lisettebtx everything takes longer & needs more paperwork than you expect.
…stop asking “why” and just accept that this crazy way is the way it is. your sanity will thank you.

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who gives honest advice!

Thanks to everyone who helped with this post.

This article was written and originally posted on the blog Chez Loulou by Jennifer.

Jennifer has a project to taste each and every French cheese available in France. She started in April 2007 and is still working towards her goal. Enjoy her account of each cheese on her blog.

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7 Responses to "Honest Advice about Moving to France"

  1. Laura Ann dit :

    Dearest Lisa,

    I am coming to Paris in 7 days!! I’m a senior at a University in San Francisco, graduating this coming June with a B.A. in French. I studied abroad first in 2010 for a month, my first time out of the country. Then I spent my junior year from August 2011-June 2012 studying abroad again. I got PACS’d seven months ago in May (2012) to a Frenchman. However, I left a month later to return to school in SF. I am planning on being accepted into a University of Paris to do a Master’s in Anglophone Studies, then after the two years studying at a French university and obtaining a French degree, I’ll go through the Naturalization process for double citizenship. I am still with my wonderful partner, and I’m moving back with him next week.

    If you have a moment, my question is: Do you know any other Americans who have gone through the PACS process of afterwards obtaining Securité Sociale and a Carte de Séjour? I plan on getting on those two things upon my arrival. I’m going next week sans Visa, and hoping to get the Carte de Séjour nonetheless. What are your thoughts? Thanks so much!!!

    Sincerely, Laura

    • Adrian dit :

      fastest way to obtain carte de sejour is to get a contract preferable CDI but it will work also with 1year CDD
      I`m romanian citizen and in april I will have my carte de sejour.
      until then , I have a “recipise” almost the same thing but is a temporary
      good luck

    • chrisv dit :

      I read that there are basically three ways to get a visa, not necessarily a carte de sejour. The easiest is a student visa, if you go to a French university you can work 20 hours a week. It’s expensive to be a student and Paris is an expensive place to live so count on spending a lot of money doing that. The second is a work visa, which again are often time limited based on the job. I had a friend who couldn’t get his extended after five years for a variety of reasons. Third, is marry an EU citizen. Although, the first four years are yearly carte de sejours and you only get a ten year one after four years, yikes. Once you have lived in France ten years you become eligible for French citizenship; it’s faster if you have a French child. I think spending time in Paris is worthwhile but it’s a smaller economy, high unemployment and as foreigner with limited language skills and outside university degrees job choices are severely limited. English teaching is popular but pay is not great and people get burned out fairly quickly. So, a year in France I think is a wonderful experience, but you had better be pretty serious and have plenty of money if you want to stay longer. Chrisv

  2. Barbara dit :

    If you did not have to already do this obtain a certified copy of your mother and father’s birth certificates then obtain a certified copy of their marriage. If they have divorced you will need a certified copy of these document. I mean not copies, original document stampted with the seal. If you are planning a marriage soon have him obtain his documents as well. Next you will have to take every one of these documents to have them translated by a certified translator. Also if you did not have to do if for the PACS you will need a certificate from you state of residence certifying that you have no prior criminal records. This will need to be translated as well. I imagine your birth certificate is already recorded in Nantes because of the PACS. Attention, when you submit your file make sure your birth certificate has been received from Nantes with a dates less than three months. The translations are very expensive. Also I assume you are fluent in French and can pass the B1 exam that is required. I succeeded but it was in 2005 so some of the requirements may have changed. Also your drivers license will be possibly transferable depending on your state, some are and some are not. Good Luck

  3. Mark Levinson dit :

    Suffice it to say that there are so many wonderful things about France… and so many other, different wonderul things about the USA, Canada and elsewhere.

    Like love, wherever you are and with whomever you be, you can’t have everything everywhere with everyone …

    But … birds of a feather flock together … and great people meet great people.

    New environments are challenging, exciting, stimulating but you.ve gotta have guts … or be very naïve … or wealthy!

    The only thing you won’t have the right to be is … weak! Wherever you are!

  4. patricia dit :

    As an immigrant (French person moving to Canada) I will give this advice: Moving is nothing like home. It is a wonderful journey, you will experience wonderful times but don’t expect to arrive in another country like you arrive to your Mom’s house. You will need to accept to fight to get a work visa or residency visa, you will have to accept to re-learn what you thought you knew and to accept that sometimes your experience means nothing. But after all why do you want move, what are you looking for?

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