There are several reasons you might want to live in France for a while. You’ll be in good company: Over 4 million foreigners live there, about 30,000 of whom are Americans, with a third of these in Paris.
Your company can transfer you there for a month, two, or more. You may study abroad. You may have a short-term assignment with a nonprofit, such as a ministry or other charity, you could be an au pair, a retired or self-employed part-time resident, or you could be simply addicted to France! (That’s understandable…)
The first thing to consider is your residence status. For 3 months or less, you won’t need a visa. If work or study is leading you to France, you’ll get a work or study visa.
Otherwise, you might be receiving a salary or pension from your home country which you can live on without having to work in France. This will give you a long-term visitor’s status.
You’ll need to get a visitor’s visa for the length of time you’ll be in France and renew it annually. The initial visa request is handled at the embassy or consulate nearest where you live in the U.S. (or your home country.) The renewals will happen at the nearest prefecture in France. You’ll have to have proof of income and medical insurance in advance.
- Moving: Questions such as renting out your home while you’re gone, what to take with you (furniture or not?), finding housing and furnishings in France. For short stays, this is less of a concern. You can find furnished apartments once you arrive, or buy furnishings at Craigslist or Le Bon Coin. Your school or company may help you find housing. Short-term apartments are also available.
- Daily life: Being open and willing to learn and accepting the fact that it is a different culture will increase your satisfaction with living in France. People are more reserved at first, (see the post on French people) but give them a chance. Do learn the language or at least some of it. If you stay in an anglophone enclave, you’ll likely regret it, because this is an opportunity you won’t have again. There are programs and government-sponsored French classes you can take, and
you should get a copy of Real French for Travelers, which gives you a head-start and will be a valuable language guide.
- It will take time to get settled, find your habits, and make new acquaintances. Culture stress is a reality, but if you expect it to come in waves here and there, you’ll go with the flow. You’ll also have your honeymoon moments.
Some Pros and Cons of living in France
- It’s a fantastic experience you won’t forget
- You have a chance to absorb a new culture and learn a new language (and eat cheese and pastry!)
- You’ll meet people who will become friends for life. Once you get to know them, the French are wonderful people.
- You’ll be able to travel easily around France and Europe
- It will look great on your résumé!
- It takes time to adapt, but that depends on how adaptable you are.
- You may have awkward moments with language or other things you don’t understand, or inconveniences, or not be able to find the exact cereal or deodorant you like.
- You’ll miss family, friends, and events back home. For a while.
- It takes planning to get organized to go.
Ultimately, it’s an experience you’ll never regret and never forget. Its benefits will last with you for a lifetime. Trust me, I know.
Here are some helpful links if you are going to live in France:
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/france.html Official site for travel