After deliberating for ages, the time has come and you’re moving to France! You’ve handed in notice at your job, packed up your flat, and bought your tickets. While you may think you are prepared for the inevitable culture shock, here are seven things you should know before you arrive.
- Practice Your French!
While French is the country’s official language, depending on where you are in France you may hear different languages and dialects ranging from Italian, Catalan, Breton, or Flemish. Many French people will speak more than one language thanks to their education system and strong tourism industry. If you want to boost your comprehension you will often have to insist on speaking French as most people will switch to English upon hearing your accent. If you would like to practice before your move there are plenty of resources available ranging from podcasts, apps, language exchanges, and websites.
- Courtesy is King
The French are social and courteous by nature, so it is important to get into the habit of saying hello every time you meet a person, ask for directions, or enter a shop. Typically, the number of kisses ranges from one to four depending on the region you are in, so check beforehand or take cues from the locals. Men will typically only kiss other men if they are colleagues or related, otherwise they will shake hands. As for women, you will be expected to give cheek kisses to everyone. Cheek kisses were quite commonplace but as social distancing rules are enforced more people are choosing to shake hands.
- Be Prepared to Deal with French Bureaucracy.
French bureaucracy is renowned for being a painstaking endeavor. Administrative paperwork can be arduous and repetitive so be prepared and bring photocopies of the documents you may need. A general rule of thumb is to not always take “no” for an answer; a “no” will not always mean no, it may just mean the person doesn’t want to do the administration for you. Always keep asking for ways to accomplish your paperwork and rest assured that it will eventually get sorted out!
- Reap the Benefits of L’Assurance Maladie
While getting set-up with the French healthcare system may be stress-inducing, once you are registered you will soon find it is one of the best in the world. Your healthcare costs will largely be covered by social security taxes paid by you and your employer. Many people also choose to take out private health insurance to cover any remaining costs, but making appointments is easy and they can often see you the same week.
- 24 Hour Shops are Not Commonplace
It’s important to manage your expectations about French working hours before you move. France is renowned for its work-life balance and workers typically enjoy thirty days of paid leave per year. French stores, even government agencies, will be closed in the afternoons and on Sundays. Long lunches are commonplace regardless of employment, with some people taking a two-hour lunch break and working longer in the day to compensate. It’s always best to check the hours before heading out!
- Ditch Your Car
When in France, travel by train is ideal as the cabins are comfortable and most major highways have tolls. The French TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, the high-speed train) is one of the biggest railway services in the world. The trains are comfortable, fares are often reasonable and you have the added bonus of relaxing while watching the countryside fly by.
- World-Class Gastronomy
Expect to improve your culinary experience from start to finish. Breakfast will no longer be a piece of toast or cereal with milk; the French prefer a fresh pastry from the boulangerie dipped in hot chocolate. French cuisine ranges from hundreds of different cheese, amazing wines, champagne and seafood. Local French markets serve fresh, locally grown produce and the passion for their food culture is palpable.
While it may take some getting used to, moving to France will enhance both your life and your palate. As you adjust to your new surroundings you will soon find yourself immersed in this vibrant culture.