For some reason I feel I must move to France

I'm a restless person and now I feel the curious tug of a foreign land.


Cary Tennis
March 30, 2006 4:04PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I am 31-year-old professional who has decided I need a new life. A new life in France, that is. Not for any reason in particular ... I am not going through a quarter-life crisis or anything. I have just always been the kind of person who can't stay still in one place for more than a few years. After a year or two, I begin to feel restless and no matter how great the job or the friendships, I just feel like I can be doing and need more. More adventure in my life. I have always wanted to live in France for an extended period of time, and I always assumed I would do it. But the older I get and the more my friends are settling down, I find myself settling into their "routines" and forgetting my own ambitions and dreams.

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So, I have finally decided that if I am going to make that fresh start and find my next adventure, I need to do it now.

I am ready to move, ready to buy the ticket and just "see what happens," but the little perfect planner in me is having a problem. I don't know where to start planning! I assumed with all the other things on the Internet these days that someone with the experience already under their belt must have already done this and posted on a blog or at least posted a "top 10 list" of things to do to move to France, but I have yet to find that. If this were a trip across the country to a different state, I would have no problems, but this is a life change to a different country and I am confused as to where to start (other than getting a passport and plane ticket). Any ideas?

Restless

Dear Restless,

Before my wife and I left for Paris in March 2005, we bought many books. One of the books we bought I found myself reading more upon our return than before our departure. It was called "Paris Inside Out: The Insider's Handbook to Life in Paris." I heartily recommend this book. It describes in fascinating detail such aspects of life in Paris as the work culture, opening a bank account, parking, etc. It also covers in good detail the legal intricacies of trying to live and work there. I note that you said you want to move to France and not specifically to Paris, but I still think you will find this guide of immense value. I do not know why you did not find more useful information on the Web, but I recall having much the same experience, and finding that various guidebooks were of much more utility -- except in the booking of hotels and transportation from abroad, in which the Internet proved to be of great value.

I'm sure there are many resources that you will find useful if you are persistent and energetic in your research. But I feel very lucky to hold one book in my hands that I know is both packed with detail and also a joy to read.

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It is a curious sensation reading through the book again now, a year later. Upon our return from France last year, I read through it with a sense of belated recognition: Aha, so that's what was going on there! Now I read it and am reminded of the cognitive complexity of trying to understand a culture without being there. So, paradoxically, I think you need to be there to understand what you need to know before you go. So I would recommend that you first visit as a tourist. Wander around and allow yourself to be baffled and enraged and charmed and seduced, and do not expect to understand what is happening around you.

Then come back home and begin preparing to move there. This book I am recommending will be more useful to you then, I would think, as the intricate aspects of French cultural, commercial and legal life will seem more immediate to you.

It strongly cautions one, incidentally, not to arrive unprepared. So your instinct to plan is a good one.

"Americans should not come to France in the expectation of being able to find a job and to regularize their status after arrival," writes author David Applefield. "These expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled and personal hardship may result."

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But while the book is full of caution, it also brims with possibility. I feel sure that if you are determined to go and live in France and are willing to do the necessary learning and paperwork, you can do it. I hope you do.

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