Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 27 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi All, Im very new to this but the short story is my husband has been made a job offer in France. His employer is providing us with accommodation in Bethune which is a plus. The thing is we have a 2 year old son and expecting a baby in October this year. We love SA and are only considering moving because he has an excellent offer BUT the thought of moving house and home is terrifying. Can anyone give me more information about the place please? General living, cost of living, healthcare, weather, ANy information will be appreciated. Its a huge decision for us but one that we need to make. Please help!
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
49,095 Posts
Hi and welcome to the forum.

The thought of making a big international move like that usually is pretty terrifying. But if you're being moved by an employer, they will probably handle most of the worst of the moving stuff for you - and may even provide the services of a relocation assistant to help with things like househunting, negotiating paperwork transactions, etc.

Probably the biggest culture shock for you, coming from South Africa, will be the weather. The north of France has had a "real" winter this year, with lots of snow. The winter is normally cold, cloudy and damp, but this winter has been somewhat harder than normal. Still, Bethune is served by a number of transportation lines (train, autoroute) and you'll be in an interesting area, with pretty easy access to the UK, Belgium and the rest of France.

Health care in France is overall excellent, and since your husband is working there should be no problem getting set up in the social insurances system.

The one thing you'll want to start working on as soon as you can is learning French. It's really a necessity for living in France, though that's another thing your husband's employer can help with. (The children will pick it up quickly and will probably serve as translators for you and your husband.) There are English speakers and expat groups in the area that can provide support - your relocation person should be able to give you more information.
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks so much for the information Bev. My husbands future employer has already given us a house in Bethune so at least our accommodation is arranged. Im registering for French lessons here so by the time we get there, I am able to communicate, at least a bit, with the locals.
What is the summer weather like? In my mind, i'm thinking grey cold days are the norm and yes that will be a huge adjustment coming from sunny SA where the beach is on our door step, literally.
My husband has a UK passport and busy applying for my sons as well. I am South African. What are the chances of me finding work? In SA, I run my own recruitment agency.
My husband will have to travel a lot for work so I will be alone with the kids at home. Im pregnant and will give birth in October this year and we have a 2 year old son. Are people friendly? So scared of being lonely..... I've heard that the French are not friendly people and im hoping that's a generalisation....
SA is all we know and making the move to another country is scary but also may be a good opportunity for our family so want to get as much info as possible in order to make the right decision.
Thanks again for your help.....much appreciated.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,452 Posts
I was going to say something similar. It's a nice area that you will be going to and the town is really pretty. Being close to Belgium is nice too because it will give you the feel for another European culture other than French. This winter was a hard one in the north with more than it's fair share of 'snow days' where nothing moved. That aside, I think that as daunting as an international move is, it may be an excellent opportunity for the children as they will never forget French learned at a young age.

Since you'll be moved by the company, many of the headaches experienced by others will be smoothed over for you.

France enjoys a high standard of living despite the current economic doom and gloom, and, a very rich cultural life with many events available at little or no cost. I am thinking of outdoor concerts and the like.

Good luck with your decision!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for the valuable advice.
The more I think about it, I feel like this could be an opportunity of a lifetime! It will be a better life for my kids which is our priority. SA is a beautiful country but here we are programmed to be on guard due to the high crime rates.
By no means am I expecting the adjustment to be easy but I also believe it is what we make of it.
My husband and I have ever only travelled to the UK once, and this may be our only opportunity to travel. Travel is very expensive in SA whereas my sister in law who lives in Scotland, has visited places like Spain, Amsterdam, Paris, etc. which we can only dream of....
My husbands employer say we need to say whether we will be there in 3 or 6 months and im thinking it may be easier to go before our baby arrives rather than relocating with a new born.... any comments?
Thanks again for all your help
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,452 Posts
That's a tough one. It will be difficult travelling with a new born but it will also be difficult to travel such a distance in a later stage pregnancy. Sort of a rock and a hard place!

I would suggest your husband have a discussion with the company and explain the circumstances. The relocation assistance people with the company may be helpful in this instance. If it is a French company your husband will be working for, the people will be of GREAT assistance. France is a very family oriented country and French people generally go out of their way to help pregnant women, new mothers and old ladies (like me!).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
289 Posts
Hi,
I left South Africa a long time ago but I would recommend that you take the plunge. Remember you can always go back.

Regarding the French in that area we had a trip planned and my wife broke a bone in her foot and was in plaster and on crutches - every where we went every one went out of the way to ensure she was comfortable.

I would say the big minus is being without friends and family around on the other hand there is the ability to travel and after a couple of years you can always go back.

I would recommend "Living and Working in France" by David Hampshire and for a view by an american on the French system for young children I found quite amusing and could be helpful is "French Children Don't throw food"

NIckl
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
124 Posts
hi there - I am from SA (the lowveld to be precise) and have been living in the north of France since Dec 2011 with my French husband and 7 year old daughter. Being from Durbs, you will probably find the winter hard - in the north it is grey skies and wind and I guess like most people, this winter has been especially hard. To be honest aswell, I have felt pretty isolated as where we live I have not come into contact with many English speaking people, which can be good and bad. Makes you feel lonely when you just want a good gossip over a cup of coffee but on the positive side, it has kind of forced me into speaking more French. I am due in August with my 2nd child and would suggest you move over sooner rather than later. This would then give you a chance to find a good gynae and try to understand how the system works for maternity etc. I did not expect to find an English speaking gynae (we live in France after all) but the first one that was recommended to me happened to speak English and I am really lucky. Funny though, because in the consultations I speak French and he speaks English!!!
A book I would recommend if you have a kindle is "french Mama's pregnant in France" by Carrie Anne le Bras - an American lady who had a baby in France last year. The book is in French and English so you also get to learn words you wouldn't normally learn in French class. And helps you understand the French way of doing things.
As the others suggested, it is very important you learn the language as much as you can.
The first year here has been very difficult as my husband has been working 6 days a week since we arrived but it does get easier and you have the advantage of being transferred by his work so you should get some support from them.

If you want to know anything else, give a shout!!!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Hi there.

You sound like my kind of person! :)

As you know, Durbs has sunshine 9 months of the year and we literally live on the beach which is 2 minutes walking distance. Weather and being homesick are going to be the greatest challenges.

We were provided with accommodation in Bethune. Do you know about that area?

My husband is just negotiating final details with his future employer so if all works out, we will be there in 3-4 months.

Once we have confirmation, we will start with French lessons.

Definitely want to be there before the baby arrives which is on 3rd October. Will check with my husbands future employer about healthcare and will also research some gynaes and pray i'm as lucky as you with finding one that can speak English!

My husband will also be working long hours and be away for a few days a week since his job requires travelling. The thought of being alone with a new born and a toddler scares me but i'm going to have to find a way to cope.

Thanks for all the advice and suggested books to read.

Where about do you live? Is it far from Bethune?

Do you work? How is it finding work that side? Obviously will only look at something after the new baby is old enough.....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
124 Posts
Unfortunately I don't know much about Bethune - although I may have passed through it on the way to Lille (but I could be wrong......) We are halfway between Calais and Dunkirk.

I don't work - the whole language thing etc - not fluent enough for a job. - I attended French lessons through the OFII for 3 months which really helped. Hopefully through your husbands work / colleagues you may meet a few people aswell that can provide support and make friends.

Some advice that I have learnt along the way....if hubby is going to be away for a few days a week, learn to drive in France as soon as possible. SA licences can be exchanged at the prefecture. You don't want to be stuck at home or dependent on hubby to take you to the shops.
I started out by doing short trips to the local shop and then driving further and further. Then you can also go out gallavanting with the kids when hubby is away.

No one is going to come to you to make friends - you have to make the effort. You can do this by joining clubs - France offers a lot for kids and for cheap. Our local "Leisure Centre" has mother and toddler groups a few times a week (in French of course) which will be good for you to get out there and in a way be "forced" to learn the language.

It is going to be hard for you and your family - not just chocolate croissants, delicious cheese, wine and lavender fields all the time! Many times I felt like packing up and going home and for a while the move did put a strain on our marriage. But we have learnt from it and my biggest lesson from living in France is that it is attitude that makes the difference. You can feel sorry for yourself and whinge about how lonely you are and how difficult things are (which I did for the first 6-8 months :( ) and then I realised that this is the life we choose together the only person that can change things is me. So I have been making more effort and joined a couple of social clubs etc volunteering for things at school etc and I am more positive than before - but it took a while. :eek:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
I definitely cannot be stuck at home! I'm sure I will do the same as you with starting with small trips and as I get more brave, will venture further :)
I'm trying my best to be positive about this move (I started off very anti with whole thing) and am trying to see it as a new exciting challenge for our growing family.
I am still expecting a big culture shock though.
Getting some entertainment for my 2 year old is def one of my priorities. If he wasn't mine, I would swear he was on steroids :) So will def need to work off some of that energy!
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
49,095 Posts
Once you get your bearings, look into the association called AVF. There's one in Douai and another in Lille. This is a French group for newcomers, be they French or foreigner. The Lille group has a French conversation group to help newly arrived foreigners practice their French among friends, and some of the AVF groups have a "jeunes mamans" session for those with pre-school aged children.
avflille - AVF Lille
avfdouai - AVF Douai

Another thing you can do to prepare is to consider joining Message, which is a parenting group based in Paris for English speakers. Welcome to Message Paris Although most of their activities take place in Paris, they do have local contacts in many parts of France. And, as a member, you have access to their various files and publications on having babies and raising children in France.
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
737 Posts
no personal experience , but around here ecole maternalle seems to start as soon as kids are out of nappies , and what better way to learn the language !

maybe someone with experience can advise
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
103 Posts
Just saw this thread now. Hi and welcome !!

I think the others have covered a lot of what I would have said. I don't know how long you're going to be here, but with a 2 year old and a baby, trying to set up a business would be really hard especially if you don't know the language and the system. It IS rough being here with a little one far from family and friends and support systems. I had all three of my kids in France and it was tough! My littlest is 15 months old so I can really relate. Finding a support network and meeting people is crucial, without that you're going to feel very isolated.

I'm lucky in that I speak fluent french and have since I was a kid, so I didn't have that additional obstacle to overcome, which is no small advantage. The weather is a BIG minus factor especially in the north of France, where the sun is scarce and grey/rainy weather is the norm. I live further south and I struggle with the weather each winter. This winter has been particularly grey and long, they've even been talking about how bad it was on the news. In South Africa, blue skies are the norm in Winter and you only realize what a blessing this is when you've lived in Europe for a while.

I don't find the french to be very friendly, especially in comparison to South Africans. Where I live the people are reputed to be cold and distant, but the North of France has a better reputation for friendliness. I've also found that in small towns here there is a narrow-mindedness and a lack of acceptance of any newcomers that can be quite disconcerting. People don't move much and oftentimes you will find the same family has been in a town for a couple of generations and think they own the world and stick their noses into everyone's business. Kind of funny and really pathetic actually!

Bethune is a big town, so hopefully there will be less of this type of thing, and I'm sure people will be more open minded

Good luck and if you need any pointers or advice, don't hesitate to ask !
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Heya Liza

Thanks so much. I did get it :)

My husband is a Sales Manager and they have offered him 4500E a month, They have offered us a 3 bed house in Bethune for 1000E a month (is that reasonable?), and a car (which my husband is most excited about...typical man!) Also free healthcare for the family.

Thanks for the heads up with grocery shopping and all that.

Also wanted to ask whats the average prices of used cars...must have 4 doors since I will be travelling with 2 kids and am not prepared to haul them through the front. Said to my hubby that's part of the deal if we are to move, def want my own car so I can go exploring. No way can I spend all day with 2 kids indoors waiting for him to get home...a nervous breakdown would soon come my way.

Hardest thing for me will be missing my family. Here I get to see my Mom at least 3 days a week and my sister at least twice so ja.... will be challenging.

Weather is lovely here today so my son is out with my hubby while I catch up on some gossip with my friends.... going to miss that terribly :(

Where about do you live Liza?

Do you have your own business? If so, what d you do?

Have fun with the kids....

Mel
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
737 Posts
french used car prices are really high ..try looking over the border in belgium . no doubt the dealers there know the details and costs of importing into france , and in the flemish speaking areas many speak good english
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,452 Posts
Excuse me for cutting in, Mel, but you may want to PM Liza with personal Financial détails rather than post them on the board.

That said, used cars - most cars here are standard transmission and if you're used to that there are lots of options in 4 door cars available. Diesel is cheaper than gas, so bear that in mind.

On a do as I say, not do as I do note - I bought a used Clio (2 months old), gas and automatic transmission. Bad left hip and bad right shoulder make driving a standard hard for me. Since my car is really an automated grocery cart, the difference between gas and diesel didn't come to much.

I bought a car with RF plates. RF is a designation for French nationals who live overseas. When these people come to France on Holiday, it's cheaper for them to buy a new car, drive it for the time they're here and then sell it back to the dealership. They get a good rebate on taxes somehow. It was explained to me but I forget. Doesn't matter. So, since the original buyers intend from the outset to sell the car back, these cars are usually in pristine condition.

Hope this helps!

MS
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
Oops I thought I had sent a PM.

Thanks for the heads up with cars guys. Hoping my husbands employer can help us out with getting me a used car.

Will keep all the advice in mind though.

Thank you
 
1 - 20 of 27 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top