Please fill in all fields and then click Submit.
Once submitted, your comment will be sent for approval by one of our editors.
Let’s Pack our Bags and Move to France – The Plusses and a Few Minuses
Moving to France is many people’s fantasy and they have different reasons. If queried, the main unifying thread is the conviction that France offers a better quality of life than the one they left behind. But, sooner rather than later, there are bound to be some down sides. C’est la vie.
Some American Bonjour Paris readers fulfilled their dream by buying a pied à terre or a summer home. Gradually, they found themselves spending an increasing amount of time on this side of the Atlantic. When it was time to retire, or possibly cyber commute, more than a few opted to make France their primary residence. They had already been introduced to the French way of doing things and not everything felt alien.
Many EU citizens gravitate to France, even though it’s not as inexpensive as it was before the introduction of the Euro in January, 2002. But, compared to London, it’s a veritable bargain. Plus, there’s more sun in the South of France and wine flows freely. It’s close to Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Holland and, as EU residents, they’re spared from much of the mounds of paperwork the French so love. These recent French inhabitants aren’t even required to obtain a new driver’s license or go through driving school and the subsequent test – something many people fail on the first go-round.
With the introduction of cheap intra-Europe airlines and the expansion of the high-speed TGV train network, families can remain more easily connected since distances are becoming shorter each year.
There are so many étrangers (foreigners) in the South of France, it’s not unusual to find yourself at a dinner where people are speaking three or four languages and switching from one to another.
When we first bought our home in Provence, we made a beeline to the English language library. Since it’s private, we paid our dues and borrowed some books. We assumed it would be an excellent place to meet other Anglophones since the library sponsors readings and art shows. The owner of the library commented that when Americans choose to make France home, it’s out of love and conviction and not simply a search for sun and cheap wine.
When she said that, I dismissed it as applying to others. We were young (well – ish) and our families were more than willing to visit us. My son loved France and very often deserted us for a few days to go off exploring using a Rail Pass (BP URL). My mother thought Paris was simply wonderful and we ran through the city doing what she did when she used to come to the city on a relatively frequent basis. A museum addict, we’d see every possible exhibit and shop until we dropped and she was spent out. For other members of our families who weren’t as mobile, we returned to the US a minimum of twice a year and did what I called the "family bit."
We managed to stay in touch with friends – sometimes even more often once we had moved to Paris. People had become increasingly mobile and those were the days of the frequent deep-discounted fare wars. It felt as if everyone we knew in the US ended up in the City of Light, if only for a stopover before continuing to another destination.
The Internet (plus being a compulsive communicator) made staying in touch so much easier. Internet phones cost next to nothing and there’s no excuse not to call a near and dear one. Not so long ago when France Telecom had a monopoly, calling the US made most people think twice. Now Noos offers an introductory package of Internet, Television, and unlimited telephone (including calls to the US) for approximately $60 per month. Other companies have learned the word, "competition."
I’m not claiming being a long distance Expat is always easy. It becomes increasingly difficult as you get older; having to deal with aging parents, children who may have bumps in the road as well as the happiest of occasions, like their own children. It’s then that transportation between France and the US has to be a definite part of your budget and there are times when you have no choice but to be flexible and get up and go at a moment’s notice.
The life of being an Expat isn’t for everyone. But for many, it’s the way to go. Why not live in a place that you love? It’s the ultimate luxury.
© Karen Fawcett