Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 47 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone!

I've been in France for almost 2 months now, living with my French husband. I thought we'd never finish the visa process and I definitely thought the hard parts were over. How wrong I was! I live in Nord-pas-de-Calais - I've almost had a nervous breakdown in the cheese area of Auchuan - just trying to find something I understood, as well as combating mold problems in our apartment, new found allergies, etc! I spent three months in France last summer, so I guess the "honeymoon phase" of culture shock is over and I am having a really hard time adjusting. Does anyone know of any Americans living near Calais or Dunkerque? I would absolutely love to meet up and just - talk - sometime!

Also, I just graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English with an Emphasis in TESOL, as well as a certificate in TESOL (From Wright State University in Dayton, OH)- any idea on where to get started with the job search? My dream is to teach - and I'm hoping I've taken the right path for this. I just sent in my OFII paperwork and will be expecting an appointment soon. I can read French well, understand it ok if spoken properly and at a slower speed - and I have a horrible time speaking it (how terrible for a TESOL person - my students would be ashamed!) I'm also a photographer and have been advised by a French photographer friend to register as a small business with my local chamber of commerce - as I've had a few photography job offers for summer already

Any general advice on just adjusting? I would be so grateful. My husband works and I find myself quite alone in this little town during the day time. It's time for me to realize this is permanent.

Anyway, thank you for reading - again, I'd be very thankful for any help.
-Dixie:cool:
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
49,984 Posts
Hi and welcome (to France and to the forums)!

First tip for surviving Life in France: you tend to have mood swings in roughly 3 month cycles for the first year or two. First the euphoria of arrival, then you tend to slump as you confront how "different" everything is. (I used to sum this up as "everything you know is now wrong.") Sometimes, just knowing that it's going to go like this for a while makes it easier to deal with.

It's a little late for this year (France more or less closes down for the summer - one of the culture shock things you eventually learn to deal with) but come the Rentrée (Back to school in September) you should get in touch with one of the AVFs in your area:

avfcalais - AVF Calais
avfdunkerque - AVF Dunkerque

AVF is an association dedicated to helping newcomers (French and foreign) find a place for themselves in their new homes. It's also a great place to network and to find some of the other foreigners in the area.

On the job front, take you time. Everything takes much longer here in France than it does back in the US (and much longer than it logically should take). I wouldn't worry about job hunting until after you've had your OFII appointment. In some departements, there is a sort of job evaluation session included as part of the session that will help you get a better idea of where you stand in the job market here. Afterwards, when you're up to your ears in work, you'll wish you had taken a bit more time off, so enjoy the enforced vacation and settling in time while you can. (Though technically, you're legal to work, most employers will avoid dealing with you until you have your OFII validation - your titre de séjour - in your passport.)

Seriously, one of the biggest facets of culture shock is getting used to a much slower pace of life. Certain things (closing on a house purchase, hiring decisions, getting almost any official document, etc.) all seem to take at least 3 months. Virtually nothing here happens overnight. Patience is probably the hardest thing for most Americans in France to learn, but once you do things go much, much better.

If you want to pursue the photography thing, sign up for the auto-entrepreneur scheme Portail officiel des auto-entrepreneurs - but for that you will need the number of the "etiquette" (the validation sticker) that you should get at your OFII appointment, so that may have to wait a bit, too.
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you, Bev!

I have been having a really hard time being patient. My husband, of course, is very French in that regard and it's been difficult for us to find a middle ground there. I'm so used to being able to run to the store at 3 am if something needs fixed, etc. He ... is completely ok with taking 3 weeks to fix something I'd fix in 3 hours. It's definitely interesting!

Thanks for the suggestion on the AVF - I will look into that. And also, thanks for the suggestion about enjoying the time off. It's very difficult for me! I just finished my degree (I moved a week after I finished :/)- I've been working and going to school for as long as I remember. I've never had this much time to just - do nothing or everything. That in itself is a HUGE adjustment for me.

I've always been a very high strung person - perhaps, in the long run - this will be good for me.

Thank you again for your advice, and for taking the time to respond.
Dixie
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
363 Posts
I really feel for you dixie. Despite having a good grasp on the French language, trying to apply for the long stay visitor visa just so my fiancé and I can get married this summer has been a complete nightmare. Reading your post has made me realize the paperwork nightmare has yet to truly begin for me. Sigh. To top it off, I'm moving to a small town in southwestern France where I'm likely to be the only American for many miles (my fiancé's in the French air force, so I'm basically moving to a town that's based mainly off the military base). I'm sure things will get better though. :) The AVF thing sounds promising, especially because I admit I am nervous about moving to a small town where I know absolutely no one other than my soon-to-be husband and going crazy since I won't be able to work for the first months.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17,566 Posts
Hello everyone!

I've been in France for almost 2 months now, living with my French husband. I thought we'd never finish the visa process and I definitely thought the hard parts were over. How wrong I was! I live in Nord-pas-de-Calais - I've almost had a nervous breakdown in the cheese area of Auchuan - just trying to find something I understood, as well as combating mold problems in our apartment, new found allergies, etc! I spent three months in France last summer, so I guess the "honeymoon phase" of culture shock is over and I am having a really hard time adjusting. Does anyone know of any Americans living near Calais or Dunkerque? I would absolutely love to meet up and just - talk - sometime!

Also, I just graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English with an Emphasis in TESOL, as well as a certificate in TESOL (From Wright State University in Dayton, OH)- any idea on where to get started with the job search? My dream is to teach - and I'm hoping I've taken the right path for this. I just sent in my OFII paperwork and will be expecting an appointment soon. I can read French well, understand it ok if spoken properly and at a slower speed - and I have a horrible time speaking it (how terrible for a TESOL person - my students would be ashamed!) I'm also a photographer and have been advised by a French photographer friend to register as a small business with my local chamber of commerce - as I've had a few photography job offers for summer already

Any general advice on just adjusting? I would be so grateful. My husband works and I find myself quite alone in this little town during the day time. It's time for me to realize this is permanent.

Anyway, thank you for reading - again, I'd be very thankful for any help.
-Dixie:cool:
OK, before you start commenting that I am in Spain - I am also an immigrant to a country that speaks a different language, with a different culture and a whole different take on life.

Try, if possible, not to take the route of sticking with your own nationals (so many do and are still foreigners trying to be accepted several years later). Get out there and speak French as much as you can to the locals, even if it is only "bonjour" - it will be appreciated and you should find that they will be much friendlier and more helpful. We have the same problem here with Brits/Dutch/Germans who have been here a number of years and they scurry along the road with their heads down, terrified that someone will speak to them in Spanish.

I made a point of greeting everybody when we first arrived (my Spanish is pretty awful) with a "Hola, Bueno día" (this is in Andalucia where the ends get dropped off words) and would get greeted back. Sometimes, people would want to talk and I would struggle, sometimes I would have to resort to "no hablo español" but since I was trying (SWMBO says I'm alwasy strying) they would help me out.

I recently had a mild heart attack and ended up in hospital for a few days but I have been absolutely amazed at the number of people (some I've never seen before in my life) who have come up to me and asked me how I was.

I came here because I wanted to live in Spain not a little bit of Britain, so I avoid mixing more than I have to with other Brits and in fact we have something like a couple of hundred Spanish acquaintances/friends but only about a half dozen Brits

The foregoing also applies to julialynn.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I really feel for you dixie. Despite having a good grasp on the French language, trying to apply for the long stay visitor visa just so my fiancé and I can get married this summer has been a complete nightmare. Reading your post has made me realize the paperwork nightmare has yet to truly begin for me. Sigh. To top it off, I'm moving to a small town in southwestern France where I'm likely to be the only American for many miles (my fiancé's in the French air force, so I'm basically moving to a town that's based mainly off the military base). I'm sure things will get better though. :) The AVF thing sounds promising, especially because I admit I am nervous about moving to a small town where I know absolutely no one other than my soon-to-be husband and going crazy since I won't be able to work for the first months.
Good luck to you, with all the paperwork mess! And also, congrats on your upcoming wedding! I live in a really small town in the north, but it's really old and adorable and offers me lots of photo ops. If you ever need someone to chat to once you arrive and start to go crazy (like me) - send me a message :) Perhaps by that point, I can offer you some advice on how to deal!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
OK, before you start commenting that I am in Spain - I am also an immigrant to a country that speaks a different language, with a different culture and a whole different take on life.

Try, if possible, not to take the route of sticking with your own nationals (so many do and are still foreigners trying to be accepted several years later). Get out there and speak French as much as you can to the locals, even if it is only "bonjour" - it will be appreciated and you should find that they will be much friendlier and more helpful. We have the same problem here with Brits/Dutch/Germans who have been here a number of years and they scurry along the road with their heads down, terrified that someone will speak to them in Spanish.

I made a point of greeting everybody when we first arrived (my Spanish is pretty awful) with a "Hola, Bueno día" (this is in Andalucia where the ends get dropped off words) and would get greeted back. Sometimes, people would want to talk and I would struggle, sometimes I would have to resort to "no hablo español" but since I was trying (SWMBO says I'm alwasy strying) they would help me out.

I recently had a mild heart attack and ended up in hospital for a few days but I have been absolutely amazed at the number of people (some I've never seen before in my life) who have come up to me and asked me how I was.

I came here because I wanted to live in Spain not a little bit of Britain, so I avoid mixing more than I have to with other Brits and in fact we have something like a couple of hundred Spanish acquaintances/friends but only about a half dozen Brits

The foregoing also applies to julialynn.
No worries, it matters very little that you are in Spain vs France as you're still dealing with the cultural differences!

I completely appreciate your advice, and I actually follow it rather closely. I love my terrible attempts at speaking French with the locals! I've made nice with the baker across the street, as well as the two owners of a kebab/friterie down the street (who are fascinated that I'm American - I will never understand this). It just that immersing yourself completely in a new culture, a new country, surrounded by people you've never met begins to feel rather lonely. Without being fluent, it's difficult to connect on a level I'm used to (obviously practice makes perfect, however, it's can be difficult ALL the time). Yet, being from the midwest has given me a nice eye-opener on the "friendliness" of the midwest vs the "privateness" of the French - particularly small town, northern French. When I saw "Bonjour" passing my neighbors, I get stared at but not responded to. As I'm a friendly person in a new land, I don't take it personal. I smile, nod and attempt it to the next person I pass. I've encountered a few nice cashiers who help me out when they tell me my totals at the grocery - as I really can't comprehend numbers unless spoken entirely too slowly :)

Anyway, I'm not looking for only English speaking friends - just merely looking for a few other people who are feeling a little lost in a new country. Someone to have a drink with, chat with etc. Also, sometime to have a little girl time with! I feel I torture my poor husband with talk of shoes and "how does this look" a little too often these days ;)
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
49,984 Posts
I've always believed that the ideal situation is to mingle with the locals but to seek out a couple friends who are also expats (not necessarily your own nationality, but not the local nationality - at least not by origin). Every expat hits a point now and then where they need to ramble on a bit about "why do they do this?" or to try to make sense somehow of puzzling attitudes and habits. And believe me, you don't want to make these kinds of comments to your French friends and acquaintances! (That includes French spouses!)

Meeting people requires that you put yourself out there for a while. It's hard work - just speaking a foreign language all day long can be exhausting. But things happen slowly in France. Learn to slow down and take things one step at a time and you might even find you like it! But jumping into a group like AVF or any sort of newcomers group you can find is a good way to get started.
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
Hello Ladies,

I wanted to chime in here because our situations are very much alike. I moved here in December to be with my French fiance. I, too, was panicked about the visa process, but on my end, everything went super smoothly to the point where I was wondering why I even worried at all.

I've been here nearly 6 months, and as Bev said, your mood definitely goes in cycles. At first, I was elated... then I hit a low... then an even bigger low with the language. On top of that, I was sicker than a dog for the first two months. I must have had 4 common colds, 2 flu episodes, gastro, and chickenpox (don't ask.) I attribute the sickness to riding public transportation A LOT, winter, and major climate differences from where I lived in the US (Texas.) And the biggest contributor... stress.

So while you're adjusting, and it's finally settling in that you're now permanently based in France (eek!), realize that this period of transition is going to be so much easier because you have an advantage that most immigrants don't have: your French husband :) I'm sure I could have done it myself but having that support system is extremely invaluable.

About the "friendliness" of Americans vs. the French, perhaps it was best summed up by one of my neighbors that I recently met who has been living in the States. He said that Americans are all so friendly right off the bat, but they have a tendency to turn it on and off like a faucet. It seems that it takes a lot longer to break through and build friendships here, but in the end, I feel the relationships are more genuine.

One last note about the efficiency or 24/7 mentality of the States... that's something I've definitely had a hard time dealing with. Like you, Dixie, I was used to going out to Walmart at 3 am if I needed something. Then I began to realize, couldn't this really wait until morning? Or if something wan't open until Monday... yes, it could wait until Monday! It's also made me plan better-- and by virtue of that, I am a much more relaxed person. After having a few American friends come to visit, I can absolutely see the difference in how high-strung our culture can be. For me, that's the biggest benefit to living in this beautiful country-- I now actually take the time to enjoy it.

Bon courage!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
363 Posts
about friendships

About the "friendliness" of Americans vs. the French, perhaps it was best summed up by one of my neighbors that I recently met who has been living in the States. He said that Americans are all so friendly right off the bat, but they have a tendency to turn it on and off like a faucet. It seems that it takes a lot longer to break through and build friendships here, but in the end, I feel the relationships are more genuine.
I definitely agree with you about this. I was an exchange student in France about 12 years ago, and it was SO hard to make friends - I think it took me a good 6 months. But the difference is that I still keep in touch with a lot of them. They've truly been friends for life. I'm actually staying with a friend I made while in high school in Lyon, because she's since moved to Paris, and I have to go to the American embassy to get paperwork for the marriage this summer. Meanwhile, I don't think I talk to a single person I went to high school with, and maybe only two or three people I went to college with.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
974 Posts
I definitely agree with you about this. I was an exchange student in France about 12 years ago, and it was SO hard to make friends - I think it took me a good 6 months. But the difference is that I still keep in touch with a lot of them. They've truly been friends for life. I'm actually staying with a friend I made while in high school in Lyon, because she's since moved to Paris, and I have to go to the American embassy to get paperwork for the marriage this summer. Meanwhile, I don't think I talk to a single person I went to high school with, and maybe only two or three people I went to college with.
I can completely relate to this. I went on exchange five years ago and ever since my host family has continued to send me emails and keep me up to date with their lives. I'll be back in France with my French husband in November and it's so lovely that I'll be able to catch up with the people who hosted me in their home five years earlier.

I even feel that when I met my husband our relationship developed slowly and tentatively, but now it feels more genuine and solid than anything else in my life...I know that he would never pretend to love me more than he does in order to avoid conflict, like some members of a couple do.
I don't know if Australians are as keen to show friendliness right off the bat as Americans, but I've had Australian friends that I've pretended to get along with, only to discover that they were doing the same thing...these friendships end suddenly with neither of us ever communicating again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8 Posts
go out and ,,,,

my advice would be to take your free time and start to learn the language and customs of your area.....make friends at the boulangerie, the pharmacy, the supermarché...learn the routine of the city, town or village where you are living....go to your local Mairie...there probably are expat groups around somewhere...bon courage....:)



Hello everyone!

I've been in France for almost 2 months now, living with my French husband. I thought we'd never finish the visa process and I definitely thought the hard parts were over. How wrong I was! I live in Nord-pas-de-Calais - I've almost had a nervous breakdown in the cheese area of Auchuan - just trying to find something I understood, as well as combating mold problems in our apartment, new found allergies, etc! I spent three months in France last summer, so I guess the "honeymoon phase" of culture shock is over and I am having a really hard time adjusting. Does anyone know of any Americans living near Calais or Dunkerque? I would absolutely love to meet up and just - talk - sometime!

Also, I just graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English with an Emphasis in TESOL, as well as a certificate in TESOL (From Wright State University in Dayton, OH)- any idea on where to get started with the job search? My dream is to teach - and I'm hoping I've taken the right path for this. I just sent in my OFII paperwork and will be expecting an appointment soon. I can read French well, understand it ok if spoken properly and at a slower speed - and I have a horrible time speaking it (how terrible for a TESOL person - my students would be ashamed!) I'm also a photographer and have been advised by a French photographer friend to register as a small business with my local chamber of commerce - as I've had a few photography job offers for summer already

Any general advice on just adjusting? I would be so grateful. My husband works and I find myself quite alone in this little town during the day time. It's time for me to realize this is permanent.

Anyway, thank you for reading - again, I'd be very thankful for any help.
-Dixie:cool:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
686 Posts
To see what jobs might be available in your area you can look on the Pole Emploi website. If you use the advanced search facility you can put "anglais" in the keyword field to see which jobs require English. You can then ask to be informed by email when jobs matching your search criteria are listed. As you can imagine, a majority of the results will be for teaching or training jobs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
664 Posts
To see what jobs might be available in your area you can look on the Pole Emploi website. If you use the advanced search facility you can put "anglais" in the keyword field to see which jobs require English. You can then ask to be informed by email when jobs matching your search criteria are listed. As you can imagine, a majority of the results will be for teaching or training jobs.
To be more specific you can quote job codes K2111 for teaching English adults and K2107 for English for children on the pole emploi website. There are some good contracts for kids who need to be taught at home because they are unable to attend school
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Hey there - Welcome to France! You'll probably still be going through the 'I can't stand the way everything happens here' phase years down the line. Generally, the frustrations get fewer as time goes by and you'll need to be careful of not seeing your home country with rose-tinted spectacles when comparing with France - you may get a nasty shock when you go back for visits - I know I have!

Beyond that, here are my tips for the integration process :
1. Speak the language as much as you can until you reach fluency. Make as many mistakes as you can and be totally bold about it. The sooner you're fluent, the sooner you can function normally.
2. Try not to compare your home country and France - it doesn't help you feel any better and doesn't solve your problem (I complained about a quote for double glazing last year telling the guy I could get it for a fifth of the price in England - his response was - quite rightly - "buy it there, then" - it was a good wake up call!)
3. Join an association if you can - perhaps for your photography? This will help you meet the same group of native French speakers over and over again on a weekly basis - this may help you shorten the friend making process.
4. On the work front - think about teaching English privately if you can't find a job in the meantime. It's fairly easy to find work doing this and you can register with the local URSSAF as a self-employed teacher if you have a work Visa.
5. Eat lots of cheese, drink lots of fabulous wine. Love every second of it - it's a great place to be. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ahh, what wonderful advice! The wine & cheese here (as well as the amazing prices for both) are a HUGE bonus! French wine back home was just out of my price range - now I can't imagine drinking anything other than my Bordeaux or my Côtes du Rhône :)

Seriously though, thank you to everyone for the advice. I will start searching with the job codes (as I am fully qualified to teach English to foreign learners - with experience) and I'm already getting a few small offers on photo jobs. If I would have stayed back home, I'd never get this chance to do what I'm passionate about - that in itself is a plus! (I'd still be in grad school, racking up that student loan debt!)

Things have gotten a little better - I think it has a lot to do with the weather. This cold and rainy thing in May really threw me off (when I left the US, it was about 95F everyday - it's reached 80 twice now I think here in the north). But there's been a lot more sun, which means it's much easier to get out walking and photographing and buying more delicious bread.

Thanks again to all :) I'm grateful.



Hey there - Welcome to France! You'll probably still be going through the 'I can't stand the way everything happens here' phase years down the line. Generally, the frustrations get fewer as time goes by and you'll need to be careful of not seeing your home country with rose-tinted spectacles when comparing with France - you may get a nasty shock when you go back for visits - I know I have!

Beyond that, here are my tips for the integration process :
1. Speak the language as much as you can until you reach fluency. Make as many mistakes as you can and be totally bold about it. The sooner you're fluent, the sooner you can function normally.
2. Try not to compare your home country and France - it doesn't help you feel any better and doesn't solve your problem (I complained about a quote for double glazing last year telling the guy I could get it for a fifth of the price in England - his response was - quite rightly - "buy it there, then" - it was a good wake up call!)
3. Join an association if you can - perhaps for your photography? This will help you meet the same group of native French speakers over and over again on a weekly basis - this may help you shorten the friend making process.
4. On the work front - think about teaching English privately if you can't find a job in the meantime. It's fairly easy to find work doing this and you can register with the local URSSAF as a self-employed teacher if you have a work Visa.
5. Eat lots of cheese, drink lots of fabulous wine. Love every second of it - it's a great place to be. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
Hi Dixie:

I'm not living in France (again) yet (i.e. I used to live there, and plan to move back), but I would only add the following recommendation to what others have said:

Become fluent in French as quickly as possible.

I eventually became fluent to the point of being able to pass for French -- and it became an entirely different experience. The French (how's this for sweeping generalizations?) are a very proud people, and Americans (especially tourists) tend to exhibit a "superiority complex". It's not a good mix.

Bonne chance!
- Gregoire
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Ahh the Americans and the French are both very proud I've noticed! Honestly though, I think they more often confuse me for a Brit - no one, NO ONE believes I'm American. And then they act all surprised, like I'm a red zebra at the zoo or something. It's a bit funny!

But yes, I totally understand and agree! I've been studying French for years at university, and my husband and I actually met by becoming penpals to help improve our language skills (his French, my English). He says that I "speak French." I understand most of it, and I get so terrified of speaking it - but I'm finally getting to the point where I don't care if my conjugations are correct - I'm going to try it anyway! And I've found that a. I get corrected sternly, and b. people are terribly impressed that I'm trying and are often very friendly about it.

I would never dream of moving to another country and not becoming fluent in their language and respecting their culture. So yes, fluency is the number one goal :)

Merci encore.




Hi Dixie:

I'm not living in France (again) yet (i.e. I used to live there, and plan to move back), but I would only add the following recommendation to what others have said:

Become fluent in French as quickly as possible.

I eventually became fluent to the point of being able to pass for French -- and it became an entirely different experience. The French (how's this for sweeping generalizations?) are a very proud people, and Americans (especially tourists) tend to exhibit a "superiority complex". It's not a good mix.

Bonne chance!
- Gregoire
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
I really feel for you dixie. Despite having a good grasp on the French language, trying to apply for the long stay visitor visa just so my fiancé and I can get married this summer has been a complete nightmare. Reading your post has made me realize the paperwork nightmare has yet to truly begin for me. Sigh. To top it off, I'm moving to a small town in southwestern France where I'm likely to be the only American for many miles (my fiancé's in the French air force, so I'm basically moving to a town that's based mainly off the military base). I'm sure things will get better though. :) The AVF thing sounds promising, especially because I admit I am nervous about moving to a small town where I know absolutely no one other than my soon-to-be husband and going crazy since I won't be able to work for the first months.
Hi Julialynn,

Where are you going to settle down in the Southwest of France? In France, Americans are much more spread out than we can believe it. I actually live around Bordeaux (SW) not far away from a French Air Force base and as americans we are actually quite numerous but so is the international community in general.
You shouldn't worry about meeting americans in the SouthWest. The local US Consulats are of get help for contacts.

Regards,
Lexa
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
49,984 Posts
- but I'm finally getting to the point where I don't care if my conjugations are correct - I'm going to try it anyway! And I've found that a. I get corrected sternly, and b. people are terribly impressed that I'm trying and are often very friendly about it.
THAT is the magic point where you can finally say you speak French! If you worry about the conjugations and endings and liaisons, you're still just doing language exercises in your head.

Just express yourself - and if the verb comes out wrong, tough noogies. If the person you're speaking to understood what you meant, you've done it! Progress from that point is automatic and fairly painless. But getting to that point is the really tough part.
Cheers,
Bev
 
1 - 20 of 47 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top