Five Things I’ve learned since moving to France as an American Expat.
Here are five things I’ve learned (or more like prepped myself up for) since moving to France. I spent at least 2 years researching various stages and requirements before taking the plunge. I feel like my case is a little different; prepared enough to face whatever the French Administration may throw my way.
1. Patience & Persistence.
You will not be able to escape the rendez-vous with French administration. It has now become more a part of your life than in your former country (assuming). Or maybe it just didn’t seem like that much of a thing to me or you. From OFII appointments to the bank, applying for sécurité sociale, a tax id number, and many other tedious tasks that require insurmountable paperwork and precision. Do not loose hope if you do not get a response right away.Do not give up. Do not take everything personal. The French are on their time and usually “c’est un peu compliqué” (it’s a little complicated). It’s a sort of game and you need to play by their rules; things are done in a certain order and it’s best to follow in the order they’re given. Sometimes that order takes a little longer than expected.
2. Always be (over) prepared.
Since my brother, sister and I have moved out of our parents’ house, Mum has been on a downsizing and decluttering rampage. It forced me to look at my personal affaires and belongings in a different light.
We have an attic in our house and one at point that was my dad’s study. He had all his paperwork and filing cabinets of notebooks and important documents in his corner. I would play at one end of the attic and feel like I was in the study of the professor in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Even though Dad is probably at this moment shredding papers that were kept in those filing cabinets because they no longer serve a purpose. He kept them for a reason. He was prepared for when life needed that information.
As an expat, it’s best to keep every paper (within reason) possible as proof. I still have my tickets from when I mailed all my paperwork to apply for out certifacte de capacité de mariage. Just in case because you never know. I have started to go through my paperwork to see what I can toss out and what I can keep. Take time to research in advance so you can be the most prepared for your meetings and appointments. See n°4 for some groups you can join that may be of help in gathering information.
I also note in my Google calendar dates, times, addresses, and names of persons present in my appointments. This also acts as a digital paper trail and you never know when it may come in handy (you may need to name drop at some appointment, who knows).
3. Be organised.
Do whatever it takes to keep yourself organized. Seriously, it will help you in the long run. Create a system that works for you. I love Google. Google Drive. Calendar. Keep. Tasks. I also use ZenKit because I am able to share my projects with my husband, who usually has some part to do in my administrative affairs.
Google Drive is to organise and share my documents digitally. Every important document I receive, I scan and create a digital print. I have this shared with my husband, my parents, and my mother in law. If my parents receive any important documents in the states, they upload them to my file and then send me the original.
I also have a physical filing folder (that I’ve already had to upgrade once) that holds all my physical documents. This is my baby and I guard it with my life.
I have everything labeled by the following tabs:
Google is great because they are all connected. I use Keep for notes during phone calls, conversations, appointments. They’re like the digital version of Post-It Notes! I have Tasks set up to sync with my calendar and I create reminders that have a due date. I can also link emails and documents with specific tasks.
**Side note: I always get comments on how organized I am when someone sees my binder with all my papers. I hope they see my level of seriousness and commitment.**
4. Ask questions.
If you need clarification, ask. Find groups you can join (online and in person) and use as support systems. Someone out there has most likely been through the same experience you are currently going through. Navigating the French waters can be tough and frustrating at times. It’s always appreciated to have someone who truly understands where you are coming from and who can offer sound advice. Facebook has a plethora of various groups you can join. Here are a few that I look to for advice and support in various areas:
- Expatriates in Paris and Suburbs
- Women Living in Paris
- Strictly Fiscal France
- Strictly Legal France
- Life with a Frenchie
- Paris For Her – Women in Paris
- US Expat Tax Questions
- Strictly Santé France
- Applying for a French Driving License
- American Expats in Paris
5. It’s okay to relax.
Life is about appreciating the little things, slowing down and taking in the moments. Don’t let certain things get your panties in a bunch; this is a new and exciting adventure! Relish in the small victories and celebrate with a bang the milestones. You are worth it and deserve it!
I try to spend one more or afternoon a week doing something that brings me joy. This past week it was buying pots at Truffaut and splitting my monstera plant into new containers and changing out my window flower box for winter. This week it will be celebrating my birthday by going to all my favorite places. I allow myself one purchase a month that is purely for me. Whether it be a new purse from a vintage boutique I adore, a new piece of kitchen equipment to bake with, or getting my nails done in a salon I have been following for a while. This time is about you and you need to soak up every little bit of this gooey, fantastic life!