Stone gargoyle looking over the Paris rooftops

Some Of the Beauties (And Beasts) Of Life In France

“But French is impossible!”

“I can’t cope with the accent!”

“You people speak way too fast!”

Those are just some of the comments I’ve had to endure from English speakers over the years. And, we know from reader inquiries that learning a new language is a scary prospect for many a would-be expat.

Here’s the bad news about French…

If you’re planning on spending extended time in the country, you will have to get to grips with the language. While some of the havens we talk about have a city or region where you can get by in English—Panama City, for example—neglecting to speak la langue in France won’t win you any favors…

The good news is that Alexandre Dumas had a point. English and French are closely related. It’s believed that as much as 45% of English words in use today have their origins in French. So, while it does take time to decipher the French accent, you’ll find the vocabulary familiar (and you’ll likely start to make sense of your copy of Le Monde long before you can keep up with the rapid interchanges between your neighbors).

Welcome to expat life! Wherever in the world you go, you have the chance at an exciting new adventure—with a healthy measure of new challenges…

As a French native, of course, it’s harder for me to identify its quirks. But Euro-Correspondent Lucy Culpepper, who spent 10 years living in France, is one who appreciates both les belles and les bêtes of expat life here. To give you some idea, following are some of Lucy’s hard-won insights on la vie française

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Beast: Retail stores are closed on Sundays. Really.

Beauty: Retail stores are closed on Sundays! I see this as a beauty, unless you’ve forgotten an essential ingredient and your new French neighbors are coming over for lunch.

Sundays in France are different. You go into the center of town and enjoy the beauty and the history of the place, rather than the squish of retailing madness. The main road is closed to traffic, the cafés spill out onto the streets, people stroll through the parks. Sunday is for leisure, family, and friends.

Beast: To kiss or not to kiss… the indecision can be agonizing. How long does it take to know someone well enough before you can change from a handshake to la bise (cheek kissing)? I sometimes see a flicker of indecision run across my French acquaintances’ eyes; should I kiss this foreigner or not? If I’ve met someone a few times, I take the plunge and go for la bise. But never kiss full on the lips.

Beauty: The bise… the charming way French people greet each other. Now that my son has been playing basketball with the same team for three months, I feel comfortable joining in the greet and kiss pre-game ritual; this full team’s worth of kissing can take quite a while. Note: Do not kiss if you have a cold. “J’ai un rhume” (I’ve got a cold) is enough to put off even the most determined kisser.

Beast: French drivers. They use their signals oddly, they often beep after something has happened so no one knows whom the beep is meant for, and they cut back into line on the freeway, after passing, as if there were a chase on.

Beauty: Compared with other south European drivers, who seem to do everything but concentrate on driving, French drivers are on the ball and considerate. They let you out if you are waiting to enter traffic, and, as with everything else in life, they are generally courteous (Parisians excluded!).

Beast: Opening a bank account. Be prepared for the third degree. You will be asked a lot of questions about your financial situation. If you are uncertain where you stand vis-à-vis your tax, residency, etc., status, be careful.

Beauty: After a long and complicated bank manager meeting, I stepped out onto the town square, into the middle of the Farmer’s Market, bought some smelly cheese, a long crusty baguette, a bunch of homegrown Lily of the Valley, then sat to contemplate life as I sipped a café allongé.

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This is just a taste of the no-stone-unturned approach you can expect from the team of presenters at our upcoming Live and Invest in France Conference… all in an effort to help you settle in comfortably, and with minimum hassle, to your new life overseas.

If, for you, nothing compares or competes with life in France, then this special event is your chance to make a realistic plan for realizing your dream of la vie française.

During this year’s Live and Invest in France Conference, taking place Oct. 23–25, 2017, in Paris, we’ll open our Rolodex and introduce you to our top resources in this country. This is your opportunity to have every one of your France questions answered by people who know from firsthand experience what they’re talking about, including…

  • Should you become a legal resident? What are the pluses and the minuses… and how would you qualify?…
  • What is required to open a bank account?…
  • What are the options for health insurance?…
  • What about public medical care? It’s the best in the world and can be free. Would you qualify to use it?…
  • What are the options for financing as a foreigner? How much could you borrow… how would you qualify… what terms are available?…
  • Don’t the French hate Americans? (We get this all the time. The answer, of course, is no… but we and our team will give you further insight when we get together in Paris.)…
  • What are your best options for learning French? Our expats will share details of the programs they’ve used…
  • Where should you buy today for investment?…
  • What return could you expect from a rental in Paris, arrondissement by arrondissement?…
  • What about French taxes? (They can be diabolical… but you need not necessarily deal with them.)…
  • How would you undertake a country house renovation? What would it cost?…
  • What are the opportunities for you to connect with the expat communities in Paris and elsewhere in France?…

It’s going to be an exciting three days in the City of Light… and seats are quickly filling. If you’d like to join us please don’t delay…

Reserve your seat here today at the Early Bird price—and use Coupon Code PREFRANCE50—to save an extra US$50.

And, don’t hesitate to contact me at the details below should you need assistance with your booking…

Valentine Fouché
Editor, Live and Invest Overseas Confidential

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