We all know a few things about France that make us want to go there – the cheese, the wine, the croissants… and Paris of course.
But what does it mean to be an expat in France? Here are five things you should know before moving there.
Finding a place to stay in France is pretty straightforward, and the Internet is a particularly good source of information. If you are going to France to live and work, you will find an apartment quickly on the web before or soon after your arrival. If you are a student, your university will be able to provide you with fairly good accommodation, usually on the campus, depending on what you are looking for and what is available. Just try and apply early to make sure there is still room for you.
You could also find a flatshare (colocation), although they are not as common as in other countries, such as Spain for instance. You will probably find several possibilities in the major cities though. Looking online for a room in a flatshare is the best bet, as there are several expat websites which cater for this. Newspapers may also include a few examples in the property section (immobilier). Also, if you have trouble earning enough money to pay your rent, financial aid is available to all students (foreigners included), depending on the type of place you live in. To apply for this financial support, called ALE/APL, you will find all the information you need on the Caisse d’Allocations Familiales‘ website.
In France, a full-time job is 35 hours a week, if you work more than this you are paid overtime, or are compensated with additional days off. You will also get five weeks of paid vacation every year, and that’s without public holidays (11 official holidays per year). Most people have weekends off, except those who work in retail or in restaurants, which means you will have two days per week to travel within the country, visit and see the famous places and regions.
3. Getting around
Moving around is also simple. Public transportation in France is highly criticized by the French, but will get you where you need to go for a reasonable price (except during holidays when the prices shoot up). Visiting an entire region in one weekend is therefore easy, and some areas are especially pleasant if you have a bike and are happy to cycle around, such as the Châteaux de la Loire region.
Once in France, you can also travel easily to neighbouring countries – a weekend in Belgium or in the UK sounds good too, doesn’t it? Keep in mind that if you are a student or an EU citizen under 25 and interested in culture or history, most museums are free, providing you can present a valid ID card/student card.
Paris will blow your mind. Everyone says it and it’s true – Paris is a wonderful city. Museums, theatres, nightlife, bistros, markets, bakeries, the Eiffel Tower… All the landmarks and Parisian clichés your hear about will prove to be spectacular. If you like diversity, the capital is the place to be. But be careful as Paris is a very expensive city, especially for housing, and living somewhere else and coming to Paris for a visit every now and then is the most sensible option. Every region in France has something to offer, and the capital is definitely not the only choice you will have.
France is a pretty open country. Just like in any European Union country, you can come and live/work/study in France without a permit if you are a citizen of the EU. French Universities will be happy to welcome you as any other student, but make sure you know the language: French is hard to learn, and if you don’t have some basic knowledge, things might get tricky. If you are not an EU citizen, just go to the French embassy and ask for the type of visa you need.
Bear in mind though that the French may not be super-friendly. Although some other Europeans such as the Spanish have a reputation for welcoming expats and easily engaging in conversation, the French probably won’t hold your hand. It will help to have family or acquaintances before you arrive, so that you don’t feel lonely. If you don’t, try and make as much effort as you can to appear sociable and fun, to get them to open up.
In any case, France is a beautiful country where you’re sure to have a great time! If you are planning to move there soon, check out our France country guide.
Are you an expat in France? Do you agree with these comments? We want to hear from you!