Originally from Belgium, I had been living for 14 years in the UK when we decided to move to France. What has been the ups and down of moving to France from UK. This is my personal experience 😊
I am writing this article as part of the carnaval of article of the superb blog for expat in France and feel free to check it out for lots of useful advice about living in France 😀
Some health problems precipitated our decision
In 2005, my husband and I decided to move to France for at least a year. We had been planning it for a while and my husband sudden health problems convinced us to make the jump, it would be easier for him to get access to specialist treatment once in France (The UK had a 6 month waiting list at the time to see a specialist)
We rented out our house, packed our bags and took our two small kids to Vendée, West of France by the Atlantic Ocean. We had been on holiday there, to Port Bourgenay to be exact and we had out of the blue bought a piece of land to build a holiday home.
When my husband fell ill, we decided to go to France to supervise the construction of our holiday home as well as have some time off for him to get better. We figured out that a life by the sea would do wonders for his health and it did !
1. Finding our way out the administrative maze
The first hurdle that we encountered when we moved to France from the UK was the administrative maze. To be able to stay in France we needed to sort out a lot of papers, register for healthcare, declare revenue to the tax office. At first, everything was complicated and involved a lot of hassle. The forms themselves were very complicated and I guess foreigners would need help with them. My husband and I both speak French. I am Belgian and French is my mother tongue but still, it was complicated.
My advice to survive the administrative maze is to do anything that can be done online, online because you do get a lot of explicative sheets with it. If you can however, the best thing is to make an appointment and meet someone in person. In my experience, this is how things get sorted the easiest and quickest way. Don’t bother with emails or worst letters, you will be waiting forever for a reply !
However, it this helps, this is only the first year that you will have a lot of problems getting everything sorted, when everything is done, the administrative machine rolls on, next year, you will hardly have anything new to do and everyone will know you !
Guillemette and her blog : Expat in France can give you a lot of valuable tools to help you out, for instance, how to open a bank account in France
2. It is good to talk
It was quite a relief when I got into France to realise that the fact that I am a very talkative person fits really well in France. My favourite subject food is also great because French people love to talk about food ! In England I had to learn to “go straight to the point” and even my manager used to tell me off for “talking too much” with the customers. In France I am free to indulge into my passion of talking because a lot of people are like me here ! 😀
It is also very important to say hello to everyone and make eye contact, like Guillemette explained in her blog, otherwise you may appear rude ! How to deal with French people rudeness.
3. French are very good at moaning
I am sorry if I am making a “caricature” of French people but this one is true, even the French admit it. They like a good moan. Being Belgian, this is a bit strange to me because in Belgium, people do not moan, they wait patiently, they do not complain, they crack a joke but cannot see the point of complaining about something which requires just a little patience or a little understanding !
From the UK point of view, where being “flegme” is the norm and jumping the queue a sacrilege, I don’t think this would come to them naturally too.
This is the price to pay for French lifestyle, after all they keep their good lifestyle or at least attempt to do so by complaining about things and making sure the government listen !
My advice is to use humor. If you have a moaner at work or else, just turn whatever he said into humor, it will help relieve the tense atmosphere and will protect you from the bad vibes !
4. Food is king
Good food is celebrated here in France and the long lunch break is not a myth. Food is to be enjoyed and lunch time is meant to be spent in the company of others.
When I worked in the UK, lunch was rather something you had to get on with and it had to be short and easy. I often ate my lunch alone. Sometimes in the UK lunchtime was not even accounted for in the planning, for instance I was told to come for a test and an interview at 12 o’clock, lunchtime, until 2 pm (When was I supposed to eat?) It never occurred to the company that I would be hungry. I did the whole test with my stomach rumbling !
On the other hand, here in France, I once worked for a school where I had a two-hour lunch break every day and lunch was prepared by a chef and we had our own dining room. The chef would bring our food on a trolley and present it to us, explaining what he prepared. This was awesome ! School lunches are very good to, here find out about school lunches in France.
5. Heath care is paramount
This is one of the reason we moved to the UK and it is a relief to enjoy such a good health service. I am Belgian and facilities are first class too and this is really a big change from the UK. The NHS staff is great but the state of the hospital and equipment do not compare unless maybe you go private. Everything is well organised and this is a really good point of living in France. The sesame to get for that great service is of course the “carte vitale” or health card.
Voilà, this was today’s article telling you my experience of moving to France from the UK, I hope you liked it. I am a French teacher, please see my site here.👩🎓👨🎓
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