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Daily LifeThe Expat Life in France

From InterNations

Moving to France - First Steps and Social Etiquette

Gertrude Stein, the famous writer and editor, once said "America is my country and Paris is my hometown." Just like her, many American writers, artists, and musicians made their way to France, and particularly to Paris, in the 1920s. It is partly due to this era of the roaring 20s and the romantic accounts of famous Americans of that time that France is still a favorite expat destination. Although there are no official statistics available, it is estimated that today there are around 100,000 American expatriates in France.

Essentials of Moving to France

No matter if you are moving to France to follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald or to pursue a career, you need to take care of the basics, before you can settle in. First, you have to turn to a French consulate in the USA to apply for a visa de long séjour (long term visa). This allows you to secure a carte de séjour (work and residence permit) once you have arrived in France. Finally, you have to register at the French Office of Immigration and Integration.

Renting an apartment can be rather tricky, not to mention expensive, depending on where you are about to move. It often makes sense to rent a furnished apartment for a few weeks or months to get you started and give yourself some time to find the ideal home for yourself. Remember that many landlords expect a “guarantee” that you will be able and willing to pay the rent. If your employer won’t vouch for you, you might be asked to pay the full rent in advance.

Finally, you need to get a checking account with a French bank. Try to bring photocopies of all your financial documents from home and several thousand dollars to set up your account. You will need this checking account to set up your utilities or your telephone line.

Social Etiquette and Culture Shock

Once the “basics” are settled, you can fully focus on experiencing expat life in France and dealing with the inevitable culture shock. For US Americans who are used to politeness and personal space, the rules of French etiquette might seem a little off-putting at first glance. The French are rather blunt when it comes to expressing their opinion and don’t shy away from interrupting other people during a conversation. This is not considered rude, mind you, but is simply their expression of freedom, an aspect which is central in French culture.

Moreover, you will quickly learn that the French are rather proud of their country, their history, and their language. This is also why you should try to learn French as quickly as possible. You might be treated a lot more politely if you show respect and make an actual attempt at speaking the local language, even if it is a poor one. You will quickly improve and learn to feel more comfortable in your new home.

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