There are probably very few people who have taken the leap to move to a new country that could tell you it was all smooth sailing from start to finish. No matter how well prepared you are, you are bound to face a few challenges or obstacles at some point during your life as an expat. That should by no means put you off the thought of moving, as the enriching experience of living in a new place and meeting new people will outweigh the hiccups and pitfalls you may encounter.We’ve compiled this guide on challenges expats face in France and how to overcome them, based on real life experiences from members of our community, as well as our best tips and recommendations on how to face these challenges head on.
“The most challenging part of moving was the children. Trying to explain it to them, easing them into their new life, helping them overcome the triple obstacles of new country/new school/new language.” – a member of our Facebook group for expats in France.
For a child, moving to a new country can be unsettling, overwhelming and confusing. Communication with your child is incredibly important – when you decide to move to France, have conversations with your child about your plans and involve them in the process as you go along.
At first, they may struggle with a new language, interacting at school, and making new friends. Try not to worry too much, children can pick up a new language quickly, the key is to instill confidence and trust in them, make them feel excited about the opportunity, and maintain a positive and upbeat outlook. Pay close attention to any behavioral changes and ask them to share their experiences with you. Listen to their frustrations and validate their concerns about their struggles. Encourage extracurricular activities like sports or art clubs, especially ones that your child had enjoyed in your home country.
Try to get settled into a routine as quickly as possible. This can be easier said than done when everyone is adjusting and there is lots to do, but is essential in creating a new happy and stable environment. It is common for children to have disrupted eating and sleeping patterns after moving. Toilet training can also be an issue for younger children with a big move.
The best way to combat your children’s homesickness is to set up a stable support network and work on finding a good balance between staying in contact with those close to your child at home, and building new relationships. With modern technology, it is much easier to stay in touch, such as arranging video calls with your family so your child can see all the faces that they miss.
“The paperwork side of everything, I’m still sorting it all out! Getting the horses registered, gîte registered, insurances, finding equine vets, finding a farrier for the horses. The biggest barrier is not speaking the language well enough.” – Rebecca Lay, expat in France.
The procedure of moving pets may not be as complicated as you might think, take a look at our website www.expatfocus.com for various guides to moving your pets abroad. Many expats struggle to find care for their pets once they have arrived in France. Arranging pet insurance, finding local vets and services such as farriers can all be challenging. Veterinary surgeries in France are marked outside with a blue cross.
Depending on your level of French, you can use local directories such as the Yellow Pages and search under vétérinaires practiciens (veterinary practices). Directories are usually organised by location first and then by profession. There are several organisations such as Ordre des Vétérinaires Conseil Supérieur and Fédération des Syndicats Vétérinaires de France which have search options on their French websites, and which offer helpful information on pet insurance.
Pet insurance cover in France can be considerably less comprehensive in comparison to some other countries, but vet bills are relatively low and the level of care provided is very good. The percentage of people who purchase pet insurance in France is much lower than other countries. For example in the UK (roughly 5 percent in France compared to around 30 percent in the UK). Some of the largest pet insurance providers in France include:
• Mutuelle Animaux
• Animaux Santé
Healthcare And Paperwork
“Still in the process of getting carte vitale. The French love their paperwork! I was advised not to enter into tax realm until here a year. I have had free advice from French advisors who work for insurance companies/financial advisors. Others also advertise in Etcetera magazine, which is aimed at English speakers living or thinking of moving to France.” – a member of our Facebook group for expats in France.
There are a number of local and international banks In France. A majority of expats tend to opt for larger banks as they are less likely to encounter issues due to language barriers. Some of the main national banks include BNP Paribas, CIC, Credit Agricole and Société Generale. Another option, particularly for those in more rural areas, is to open an account at La Poste (the French Post Office). Internet-only banks are another option to explore, with some trusted corporations operating in France such as ING Direct, Groupama, BRED and Monabanq.
“Lots of conflicting advice re entry into the healthcare system, tax issues. We have no French income but forums have said you must declare "worldwide" income, "social charges", registering UK car etc.” – a member of our Facebook group for expats in France.
The Carte Vitale, which is the French National Health Service payment card, is meant to be issued within a few weeks after your application, but frequently takes longer than this. In some rather extreme cases, it can take up to a year to receive the Carte Vitale. During the time you are waiting, should you need medical attention, keep all feuilles de soins (medical receipts) so that you can claim back reimbursement.
The French tax system can be confusing at the best of times. The French tax year runs the same as the calendar year (from January to December). Déclarations de revenus (tax returns) are required to be submitted by the end of May; a fine of 10 percent is issued if they are submitted late. Take a look at our overview of the French tax system or have a read through the government website on taxes. There are also various companies, agencies and websites with useful tax information, some with the option of free tax consultations.
These websites are also helpful:
“Language as a beginner – I've needed help and/or a lot of preparation for the most routine things that I took for granted in Australia and the UK, such as opening a bank account, applying for rentals etc. Having a French partner helps of course, but also makes you a bit lazy in working things out for yourself. Getting my social security number has been a mission, still in progress. Doesn't help that different sources tell you different things, however this forum and English help lines have been an absolute godsend. – Carlie Bonavia, expat in France.
Understandably, plans can change at the last moment. You may not have originally planned on moving to France and consequently may not have prepared as much as you have preferred to in terms of speaking the language. Some expats who work for international companies do not necessarily need to speak French to be able to fulfill their role.
Regardless of the situation, it will undoubtedly make your life easier to have at least some grasp on the language. There are plenty of options to explore both before you make the move and after you arrive, from highly rated apps like DuoLingo and Babel, online courses such as Rosetta Stone, to private tutors, language exchanges or classes.
There are plenty of online directories to utilise when searching for tutors or classes. Alternatively, look for recognised language schools such as:
• Alliance Francaise
We hope this guide has answered the main questions that our members may have, and helps you address and overcome the challenges you may encounter whilst living as an expat in France.
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