Adapting to life as an expat in France

Adapting to life as an expat in France

Adapting to life as an expat in France

If you’re planning to emigrate to France before Brexit kicks in, clueing into to the French lifestyle is an essential task.

Living in France is a dream for many Britons who’re sick of British politics, British weather and the prospect of a diminished UK due to Brexit. France, it seems, represents the mythical land of milk and honey, crammed with delicious food, stunning countryside, historic towns, great wine and warm, sunny days on a nearby beach. However, becoming a British expat in France isn’t a long holiday, it’s a commitment to adapt to a very different lifestyle with two intertwining basics – culture and language.

If you were educated in the UK, you’ll probably remember some basics from your four years or so of French lessons, but expecting to get by on this is a big mistake. Whether or not you’re good at languages, mastering French is essential for making the most of your new life. As a newcomer, communication is crucial as the French are very courteous and expect courtesy in return. Language classes before you leave the UK are the best idea, continued after you arrive and backed up with French radio and TV programmes. Language changes over the years, and the French in use nowadays is different from the language you learned at school. Many French people do speak at least some English, but relying on this to get you by is a recipe for disaster.

As for French culture, the understanding of which is another essential for a successful integration, it’s subtly different to what passes for culture in the UK nowadays. French people think differently, have different sets of values and a different way of doing things as well as different culturally-based priorities. One simple example is the long French lunch hour during which everything closes, even the banks, thus causing confusion amongst newly arrived Brits. Another problem for new arrivals is estimating the cost of living, with finding out the hard way be overspending not the best idea. Planning ahead for the lifestyle you’re comfortable with, not forgetting to include heating, phone and electricity costs is the way forward.

Lastly, accepting the incontrovertible fact that French bureaucracy is infuriating will get you through the initial phase of adjustment with your sanity intact. Endless copies of everything are always required, and the best way to deal with what seem to be totally illogical requirements is to remember the French hate it as well. Finally, when you begin measuring time using the seasons, you’ll realise you’re in the integrated heaven you promised yourself.

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