Evaluating an Offer - Logistics

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Evaluating an Offer - Logistics


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Old 13th November 2013, 08:37 PM
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Default Evaluating an Offer - Logistics

We are looking at a potential move to Paris in late Q1 of next year. I feel we've done a lot of homework around how to evaluate an offer, but still have several questions that I'd like to pose to others who've been down this road.

Current Situation:
We currently live in Denver, Colorado (suburbs, upper middle class community, best schools in the state). Both my husband and I are executives in the software industry and work full-time. We have three children (6yo, 4yo, 1yo) who are either in school or daycare during the day, although flexible working environments mean one of us is nearly always home. Quality of life here is very high -- good salaries, great benefits, good schools, medium cost of living, great weather.

Opportunity:
My husband is receiving an offer for the top executive position in his field at a private, international firm in the financial services space. The company is headquartered in Paris. Presumably I would continue in my current position for my company (no office in France -- EMEA branch is in London, but we have several French nationals who work from home). Our initial intention is to commit to a 5 year period, but potentially would/could stay permanently if we loved it and could work out the logistics.

Things to consider, and where I would like input from the expat community:
1)Type of Visa: Would my husband come on a "employee on assignment" card for senior managers or high-level executives? Would that allow me to continuing working in my current role, or would I need to have my company sponsor me for my own work visa?

2) Expat package: Is there any standard or set of typical elements that go into an expat package that we should expect and/or ask for in the offer? My biggest concerns here are cost of living -- Denver has a very moderate cost of living. To maintain any semblance of our current standard of living would necessitate an outrageous salary (just talking housing, day-to-day expenses here). There's no way an offer could begin to approach that level, and my salary will take a hit (because I'll continue making the same amount with significantly reduced purchasing power). I think we've figured out how to adjust for current expenses we will no longer have (or could opt to no longer have), but the housing cost (rent) and transportation are my biggest concerns. So, is it typical to receive a housing allowance? If so, are there any guidelines here on what to expect/ask for? Rent (or mortgage) appears to be roughly double in the Paris suburbs as compared to our current location.

3) Schooling: Any strong opinions on International vs. local schools? The kids are at ages where I think they would do fine in a French school (6yo would have a bit of an adjustment, but within a year could easily catch up.) So I'm curious to understand the debate for and against international schooling (again this could play into our evaluation of an offer and whether or not we ask for tuition support).

4) Locations: The company is located in 16arr, so my presumption is that we would look in the west, southwest, and northwest suburbs. Does anyone feel strongly about locals that are particularly suited to expats? While I don't want to move into an all expat community and lose out on the opportunity to embrace the French culture, I would like to find a community that helps make for a smoother transition for us, and the children. (I should insert here that I speak French, albeit it will take a few months to get back to a point where I am comfortable with day-to-day interactions. My husband does not speak French, although he is fluent in Spanish and will hopefully be able to pick up an additional language within a year.) We're hoping for a commute that is less than 40 minutes each way for DH. I'm not at all a city girl, and DH is not at all a country boy, so finding something that gives us a balance of community without congestion is important. We are big outdoor-types so that is also a consideration.

5) Relocation assistance: Does anyone have recommendations on strong expat relocation companies? I'm guessing they can help us with a lot of the logistics.

I know that's a lot to cram in, and a little long-winded. Thanks in advance for any insights, advice, and or cautionary tales!

Christine

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Old 13th November 2013, 09:39 PM
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Hi

Welcome to the forum. We have all sorts here, so you will probably get a variety of replies. Bev our respected Mod is from the US, and she understands visas etc for US nationals and their wives, I'll let her comment in detail.

I'm a Brit, so I won't comment at all on the US centric parts of your very good questions.

One thing that I would say is to start learning French NOW, and start looking at French news, even if it's in English language newspapers!

You will probably find France a big culture shock. If you grasp it with both hands you can make it a big success and you, your husband and children. You will all be enriched by being in a very different culture. For this reason I would tend to go for the French education system - they will learn more about France that way!

DejW

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Old 13th November 2013, 09:53 PM
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First of all, congratulations on what sounds like a really good offer. But yes, you will probably have to make some accommodations to expat living.

Quote:
1)Type of Visa:
Be very careful on this. Most sorts of work visas come with a "dependent" visa for the trailing spouse, which means you aren't allowed to work. The "researcher or scientific" is the one work visa I know has work privileges for the spouse. Not sure at all about "salarie en mission." Have your husband's employer check this when they are handling the visa for him. If your dependent visa does not have working privileges, then yes, your employer will have to sponsor a work visa for you separately from his visa.

Quote:
2) Expat package:
Nothing legally binding. Employers are free to roll their own when it comes to packages. As far as cost of living is concerned, the main adjustment is normally for housing. You will not be able to have the same size of house you probably have back in the US. Homes here are much smaller and are considerably more modestly equipped. Salaries in France are also considerably smaller than for comparable positions back in the US.

If your husband's employer has offices in both the US and France, they probably have experience with expat transfers and will be able to advise you on how they plan to work the salary/COL issue. There is a tax allowance for housing. But more importantly, the employer should include some sort of tax assistance, since you'll have to file both US and French taxes and that can get tricky. Some employers will "tax equalize" you - whereby they will guarantee that you wind up with the same take-home pay you would have had if you'd stayed at home, all expat perks considered.

Benefits will depend on whether you'll be subject to French social insurances or if the employer will keep you on an "expat payroll" where your husband will continue to contribute to US Social Security and private health insurance rather than the French social benefits scheme. This arrangement cannot last more than 5 years, however. (And chances are, if you wind up telecommuting for your company, you will wind up paying French social contributions and taxes. If your employer is UK based, be careful because this gets very tricky.)

Quote:
3) Schooling:
There is no reason not to put your kids in the French schools, but a common expat perk is for the company to pay for private English language schools if it's considered a "temporary" (i.e. up to 5 years) assignment.

Quote:
4) Locations:
The suburbs to the west of Paris are definitely the expat section of town, and as such are considered to be the "posh" side of town (with appropriately elevated rents). For a bit more space and "nature" you may want to consider something further out and toward the southwest - like in the Yvelines (kind of out toward Versailles), though that will make for a longer commute.

Unfortunately, the daily commute is becoming worse and worse, with the main axis roads jammed up at rush hours and the transit system not a whole lot better. (One thing to keep in mind, however, is that employers must subsidize a monthly transit pass if you can manage to live somewhere where commuting by public transit is do-able.) You may want to consult a transit map of Paris to see if you can find somewhere on a direct transit line to where your husband will be working.

Quote:
5) Relocation assistance:
In my experience, this is normally arranged (and paid) for by the employer.
Cheers,
Bev

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Old 13th November 2013, 09:59 PM
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Thanks DejW.

I agree on culture shock -- and didn't mean to blow past it on my questions. I figured I'd try to compartmentalize the logistics side of evaluating and offer on paper first, and then dive into the cultural parts of the equation (no less important, but if the financial side can't work, it's a moot point). Those that I touched on (where to live and schooling) are real questions we need to answer in considering the financial aspects of the offer (meaning what quality of life changes are we prepared to make and what will our cost of living be).

We've talked at length about the cultural aspects, and don't take it lightly. I spent many years in my late 20s and early 30s working throughout Europe with several weeks-long stints in France, so I have a hint at what to expect. The big difference will be staying/working in France for stretches (as a young, single female) vs. living a "married with children" life there full-time. It's easy to romanticize my time there given I didn't have any day-to-day realities to deal with and was traveling in style on the company dime.

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Old 13th November 2013, 10:05 PM
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There you are , chère Trois Petits Oiseaux! (don't forge the elision between petits and oiseaux when you say your name!)

I said that Bev could help, and she did!

Feel free to post "stupid questions" here - it's easier when anonymous. Things are very different here in all sorts of ways. Some you will love, some you will hate, but there are many people in this forum, like me, who have chosen to live permanently in France, so there must be something in it.

We do get some people posting REALLY stupid questions here (what's the weather like in France? - answer.... much the same as in the US), but clearly you are not one of them. We like to help, but please don't expect us to agree all the time.

DejW

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Old 13th November 2013, 10:18 PM
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Thanks Bev! Great information.

My employer is US, so hopefully the work visa will be obtainable. I just don't know how it works if the company doesn't have a physical presence in France. Probably a question for my HR team sooner rather than later, but good to know that I should explore it rather than depend on a provision that allows me to work under my husband's visa.

The transport/where to live question is a tough one for me. I've been looking extensively at rental properties and found a lot of great places (outrageously expensive), but can't make heads or tails of the public transport into the city. Maybe it's one of the things we'll have to either rely upon relocation expert help, or try to sort it out on a visit. I'm glad to hear your thoughts on the southwest area -- it's one of the geos I've been honing in on. Any thoughts on timing for looking at/securing a home? We wouldn't be moving until mid-spring (late March or early April) timeframe, so I don't want to spend too much energy on homes that I love that will have been snatched up by the time we move. Conversely, I don't want to wait too long and have to find temporary housing when we get there. To have to move a whole family twice in a year is just too much to think about.

Any resources or recommendations on helping prepare the kids? Given we'll be there close to the end of the school year, would you start the 6yo right away, or try a private tutor until the fall session (giving him time to learn French in the interim)? He's very young for his grade now (a late summer baby, but is in grade 1 here). My thought was to have him repeat grade 1 there next year, which will give him an easier time adjusting to a new language without having a ton of new concepts thrown on top.

DejW hinted at the social/cultural aspects. So on that front, one thought I had (for the whole family) was to hire a private French tutor to come to our house a few times a week leading up to the move. My hope was this will give everyone a baseline of French language basics so it isn't completely foreign to them when we arrive.

What other tips/tricks have you run across to ensure success? I've spent a lot of time on the forum, so have gleaned some great insights already, but would love to have a "If only I knew then what I know now..." type of list. I think beyond all of the big things (bureaucracy, social norms, language) to mundane things like brands of food, quality of toilet paper (don't laugh -- if you're American you know we use outrageously cushy toilet paper), sizing of clothes, cooking, daily medications (and dosing an infant using the metric system), the list goes on and on and on.

~c

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Old 13th November 2013, 10:28 PM
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To chip in with what I do know about: your 6 yo will be fine entering school in the Autumn - presumably rising or risen 7 by then, and is the perfect time for him to start. Kids here don't start "proper" school 'til age 6 (altho' some will have been in creches or maternelles until then), and that's when real French learning starts; the kids get drilled by rote in French grammar - which continues throughout their school career, and all the French "baby" language kind of gets knocked out of them at that stage. Within, I would say, weeks, your boy will be holding his own with his classmates and at no significant disadvantage - depending of course upon the kind of kid he is - academically shouldn't be a problem at all; socially, if he's a bit of a wallflower, it might be, but only you can judge.

hils

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Old 13th November 2013, 10:34 PM
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The tutor is a nice idea, but honestly, you won't really learn the language until you're here and "forced" to use it on a daily basis. For the 6 year old, the public schools would probably recommend holding him back to start in the fall with the first school year again anyhow.

If you're in Paris or some of the posher suburbs, the public schools do have programs to help newly arrived foreigners with the language issue, so it shouldn't be a problem.

If your employer is US only with no French base, they won't actually be able to get you a work visa. The whole purpose of the work visa is to make sure that you are paying the appropriate social insurances as part of a French payroll. What you may wind up having to do is to establish yourself as a "business" in France and then bill your employer for your work. But first check with your husband's employer as to what your status will be if you go as a "dependent" on his visa. (Whether or not you'll be able to set up a business entity for yourself and work on that basis.)

All the detailed cultural stuff tends to work itself out after a bit. Toilet paper has come a LONG way in the last 20 or 30 years here so should not cause any concern. Dosing the kids in metric kind of resolves itself because meds are sold in metric quantities with the appropriate tools for dispensing. (But do be prepared for some changes in familiar medications. They sometimes prescribe different stuff for the same old maladies here.) And do bring your sets of measuring spoons and cups for making your old familiar recipes. I still have and use mine some 20 years on.
Cheers,
Bev

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Old 14th November 2013, 08:33 AM
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Welcome to the forum!

If your husband receives a 'salarie en mission' visa than you will have the right to work. It is specifically for high-paid executives so that a partner can also transition to finding work in France without the problem of a visa (making the offer more attractive). They automatically get a vie-privée-familiale visa while their partner's visa is getting processed.

The western suburbs along the RER line are lovely and we found them less expensive than the 16th or 15th. The RER A services them every 10 minutes and it is less than a half hour to the centre of Paris There is a large international anglo community in Saint Germain en Laye making the transition easier. In Le Vésinet the local association has a group of meetings to help anglos transition (how to set up bills, schools, cultural differences etc) and people are very welcoming. I also have found the French here to be welcoming and very inclusive and found it easy to meet our neighbours and make friends. I have also heard from expats that 'professional trailing spouses' have found this country the most difficult to make friends. In my opinion it is the difference between living in a house and in an apartment. We live in an apartment and see our neighbours regularly for chit chat etc. whereas the person who mentioned how difficult it is to integrate lives in a house. I realise it is great to have a house, yard, privacy etc. but my experience would suggest renting an apartment in order to meet the locals.

As for schools, I am not a fan of the French public system after hearing stories from my French friends so I would suggest the International School in Saint Germain en Laye or the British School in Croissy-sur-Seine. There is also an International Montessori near Croissy or in Le Vésinet. Apparently really good schools are found in Versailles making it an attractive city for both expats and locals.

As Bev mentioned, you may run into problems with maintaining your position legally for such a length of time. If you set yourself up as an independent and charged them it would work; however, the social charges here are high as well as the taxes compared to the States (I am assuming your salary is too high for the autoentrepreneur status).

If you are sporty (Denver) the areas near Croissy, Rueil Malmaison, Chatou, Le Pecq, Le Vesinet, and SGenL have paths along the river for walking/biking and/or forests for the same activities. There are tennis clubs as well and a Par 3 golf course. Paris itself is not an easy city to be sporty in except walking.

From what you have written the half-and-half lifestyle of city/country would be served by living in the suburbs, and in particular the western ones. For ideas for rentals try leboncoin.fr or seloger.com. I find the former easier to use and you can select rentals by particulars easily (the agencies here are terribly expensive and do little than look at your dossier in my experience, which a private person will do anyways).

Good luck with your research!

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Old 14th November 2013, 09:00 AM
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Hi,
I did not take the time to read every reply.
Until last year, I was living in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, maybe I can share some of my thought.
Schooling in France is very different to what you are used in the US. We are French nationals and spend a lot of money to save our son from the French schooling system.
There were very interesting comments that were made in the past on this forum regarding schooling and I strongly advise your try to dig them out.
Around the 16th you have 3 international schools.
ISP International School of Paris: Diploma, MYP and PYP IB Programmes the critic I often hear is that there are so many children for whom English is a second language, the level of English suffers.
Amercian school of Paris American School of Paris : IB diploma paris, AP diploma and English speaking schools paris
Marymount Marymount International School, Paris - Homepage some of my friends have their children schooled there and are happy.

You mentioned you were prepared to leave in the suburbs which could be a nice idea allowing you to live in a house with a backyard rather that an apartment.

These 2 schools may interest you:
Welcome to Forest International School in Western suburb of Paris| Saint Germain en Laye | Yvelines - Home I loved the conversation I had with the headmaster
Welcome to Perceval School | Ecole Perceval I have heard many good things about this school.

They are all located in great international neighborhoods.

Now I am not sure about the weather in Denver. Be prepared to many grey days in Paris. If your income allows you to escape to sunnier spots several time a year it is totally fine, but if you are stuck 365 days a year in Paris it can seriously affect your mood.

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