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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bonjour,
My name is Robert and I have a few questions about living in France. My wife (our three kids) and I will be moving to France from Los Angeles in about a year and a half. We will be USA/Italian citizens and will be looking to live in the Ile-de-France area. I will most likely be working for Disney and had a few question about transportation. We were hoping to be able to move and not have to buy a car and just use public transit but it seems that the RER line (A) doesn't run late at night (which is when I might be getting off work sometimes). That being said, it is a huge bummer. So, now we are looking at the possibility of have to purchase a vehicle and I was wondering if anyone can give actual estimates of the monthly costs of owning a car in France. We plan to buy a used car (if we have to get one at all). For example, insurance, gas, and any other fees. We are looking to rent an apartment somewhere between Paris and Disneyland, maybe Noisy-le-Grand. Don't know much about that area but we like the fact that it is between Disneyland and Paris. If anyone has advice on safe areas to live that would be nice as well. If anyone believes we wouldn't need a car then that would be welcome info also.
Merci,
Robert
 

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You've discovered one of the best kept "secrets" about life in France (or even in most of Europe): outside the large cities, public transport is often not readily available. And even in and around the big cities, it's often geared toward those who work on a regular schedule in the city center.

Anyhow, you say you'll "most likely" be working for Disney. You may want to get confirmation of your employment before you decide where you're going to be living, because Disney is one, big employer on that side of Paris, and if that doesn't pan out, you need to be flexible enough to consider living elsewhere, cause you could wind up working in Paris proper, or to the west or south of Paris. With a car, you especially want to avoid a cross-Paris commute (particularly at peak hours).

As far car costs, obviously the big difference is going to be gas prices. At the moment, gas runs about $5.50 to $6.50 a gallon here. As a result, people generally don't live the distances from their place of work like in the US. Having to commute more than 30 to 50 km each direction (i.e. up to about 30 miles) is considered a serious "hardship" by many. That said, however, there is still something of a culture of the "company car" at least for managers at a certain level.

Insurance is subject to this odd (at first) bonus-malus system. If you can present a clean driving record from your US insurance company you may be able to transfer into a "preferred" category, but otherwise you may start out paying high premiums until you can "prove" yourself worthy of the 50% reduction.

There is also the little issue of driving licenses here in France. California is not a state with reciprocity, so you're looking at getting a French license from the ground up (driving school and the long wait for an exam date). See here for more information: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/france/5/acs/paris-driving.pdf

That should get you started, but you seem to have a bit of time before you'll be moving. The other big question would be the classic, "How well do you speak French?" because regardless of how the job situation is, you and your family will need the language to get by actually living here. (And there is loads of information available in French.)
Cheers,
Bev
 

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maybe another state you have lived in does have reciprocity with france and you can get eveidence of your licence from there ?
 

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maybe another state you have lived in does have reciprocity with france and you can get eveidence of your licence from there ?
Be careful - the prefectures are starting to request proof that you were resident in the state in question when the license was issued. And US driving licenses generally expire every 2 to 6 years. The license you present for exchange has to be currently valid, too.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was just going to ask that very question. I talked to the department of motor vehicles in the state of Oklahoma and was told that I did not need to be a resident of that state in order to obtain an Oklahoma drivers license. according to the French Consulate's website Oklahoma is a state in which they do exchange licenses with. So the thing is we were thinking that we might be able to get Oklahoma State drivers licenses maybe six months or so before we moved. All we would have to do is go there and take an eye exam and show proof that we are legally allowed to reside in the United States. The DMV in Oklahoma said that we do not need to show proof of residence in Oklahoma. But I was wondering if the prefecture in Paris would want Proof of residence from the state of Oklahoma. Another thought is a PO Box in the state of Oklahoma. Would that suffice at a prefecture in France as residency in that state? Also to answer Bev's previous question, I will be working at Disney. It is our goal to eventually live in the capital of Normandy, Rouen. The plan is to start at Disney. I am currently working at the Disneyland resort in California and I figure transferring to Disney there will help with getting a lot of things set up i.e. checking account Health insurance etc. as far as speaking French as of right now we know very little but we are hoping that over the next year and a half or so we will learn a lot we have recently hired a tutor.
 

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I was just going to ask that very question. I talked to the department of motor vehicles in the state of Oklahoma and was told that I did not need to be a resident of that state in order to obtain an Oklahoma drivers license. according to the French Consulate's website Oklahoma is a state in which they do exchange licenses with. So the thing is we were thinking that we might be able to get Oklahoma State drivers licenses maybe six months or so before we moved. All we would have to do is go there and take an eye exam and show proof that we are legally allowed to reside in the United States. The DMV in Oklahoma said that we do not need to show proof of residence in Oklahoma. But I was wondering if the prefecture in Paris would want Proof of residence from the state of Oklahoma. Another thought is a PO Box in the state of Oklahoma. Would that suffice at a prefecture in France as residency in that state? Also to answer Bev's previous question, I will be working at Disney. It is our goal to eventually live in the capital of Normandy, Rouen. The plan is to start at Disney. I am currently working at the Disneyland resort in California and I figure transferring to Disney there will help with getting a lot of things set up i.e. checking account Health insurance etc. as far as speaking French as of right now we know very little but we are hoping that over the next year and a half or so we will learn a lot we have recently hired a tutor.
I had a similar problem registering a vehicle in georgia
after a little head scratching the solution was as follows
gave an address at a mobile home park [ never been there ]
went to post office , paid for a box for the year [ made mistake ...bought a key **** ]
added box number to address [ for non US readers any post will always be sent to the box , and they will forward to you if requested ]

would the prefecture query that ? probably not in my view
maybe find a park which will rent you a unit for a week [ the week you get your licence ] pay the bill , keep the receipt ; proof you were resident in OK when you got the licence ...and you don't even have to go in the door ; a huge lot cheaper than having to get a licence in france and if it doesn't work you won't have lost a great deal
 

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It's all in French, but here is the "official word" from Service Public: Échanger un permis de conduire non européen - Service-public.fr

The issue is this requirement:
1 attestation récente de vos droits à conduire établie par l'État de délivrance de votre permis mentionnant l'origine, l'étendue et la validité de vos droits à conduire et, si besoin, sa traduction officielle
Each prefecture seems to have their own interpretation of this requirement. Most seem to send the person to their embassy or consulate to get a document attesting to their residence in the appropriate state (for the US). Admittedly, this requirement is fairly recent (say, within the last few years) and is meant to address the well-known trick of getting a new license in a neighboring state just before you move to France. They can be sticklers about it. (Or they may just let it fly.)

Best, probably, to check the website of the prefecture where you'll be living because procedures do vary from one place to the next.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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If you exchange a licence that you have had for such a short time (provided the Prefecture accepts it and associated proof of residence - which they may not), you would be considered a jeune conducteur (new driver) and be subject to all that involves, including higher insurance premiums.

When I exchanged my Queensland, Australia, licence here I had to provide proof of residence (which I ended up doing by providing copies of my income tax notices). As Bev says, it all depends on your Prefecture. My advice is not to assume anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
First of all I want to say thank you to everyone for your replies. From everything I've read everyone on here seems to be very helpful and that is much appreciated. I was wondering if anyone would be willing to post their monthly costs broken down for owning a car. Very curious as to what someone there is paying per month. Also does anyone have any advice on the RER system as far as using it at night or in the transportation that is available at night other than taxi? I would love it if I knew that I would be working 9 to 5 every day but I know that working for Disney might include some late nights. One more question and this is getting a little off subject but there are five of us. I know that apartments are smaller there than here in the U.S. Are there specific laws or codes for how many people can live in an apartment or house per square meters? The thing is were hoping to find something at about ?1200 or less. I have been using SeLoger to look at places but I feel that there might be better deals somewhere else. Any suggestions on where to look?
Merci,
Robert
 

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Other than se loger, there is le bon coin Annonces Ventes immobilières dans toute la France - leboncoin.fr and pap if you're looking to avoid the agent fee IMMOBILIER - Annonces immobilières | De Particulier à Particulier - PAP - however €1200 a month may be a little tight to rent a place for a family of five in the immediate Paris area. Century21 also has a presence here in France, though not all their agencies here have much in the way of rentals on their website. Normally speaking, the way "credit" works here, you will not be allowed to exceed one third of your income for housing costs, so plan accordingly.

Car costs are more or less the same sorts of things you pay for in the US, though gas is about twice as expensive here due to the taxes. Insurance will run you 500 to 1500€ a year, depending on your rating (the famous bonus-malus rating) and what level of coverage you take and what kind of car you're driving. Once you get your French license, you're licensed for life (soon to change, though you'll still be licensed for the "long term" - something like 15 years at a time). And then there are the maintenance costs, which vary considerably - oh and a bi-annual inspection that will cost you 60 to 75€ each time.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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You really need to know where you will be working, as accommodation on the outskirts of Paris is generally less expensive, plus the further out you go the more you get for your rental dollar (generally speaking). Plus you will also need to check the availability of public transport. So you need to choose an area that is not too far from where you will be working, has good public transport for your children - but as you work through that you may well find that you are able to rent a house rather than an apartment.

Re the drivers licence thing - be careful about obtaining a licence from another state as in my recent experience they have become very strict on ensuring that you were genuinely resident in the State and are likely to ask for evidence of the time time you were living, and they may well look for more than 6 months. (I actually had a Queensland Australia licence and had lived there since 1988, owned a home, etc etc - even though my Prefecture wasn't concerned and all Australian licences across all states are exchangeable, they had to have evidence of stable residence there. However you will be able to use your US licence for 12 months.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Everhopeful, I will be working at Disneyland. So we are looking for something either in that area or somewhere between Paris and Disneyland. As far as your rent needing to be one third of your income, who regulates that? We should have some money saved up when we move and was thinking I might just need to pay for three or four months of rent in advance. When we move my wife won't have a job but will be looking for one. So our monthly income might be on the smaller side until she will find work there. That's why I was hoping to just pay for some months of rent in advance. I noticed that Bev mentioned being able to set up a French bank account before moving there but I realize that the person she was talking to might've been in the UK. Is that a possible thing to do here in the US before we move?
Merci,
Robert
 

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Everhopeful, I will be working at Disneyland. So we are looking for something either in that area or somewhere between Paris and Disneyland. As far as your rent needing to be one third of your income, who regulates that? We should have some money saved up when we move and was thinking I might just need to pay for three or four months of rent in advance. When we move my wife won't have a job but will be looking for one. So our monthly income might be on the smaller side until she will find work there. That's why I was hoping to just pay for some months of rent in advance. I noticed that Bev mentioned being able to set up a French bank account before moving there but I realize that the person she was talking to might've been in the UK. Is that a possible thing to do here in the US before we move?
Merci,
Robert
The one third of income is 'regulated' by the agent or the owner. If you have an employment contract with Disneyland, that may suffice as evidence of your income, in which case you would only pay the usual rent in advance plus the deposit. If that income is insufficient, it would be easier to rent privately and see whether the owner would consider an additional advance (estate agents normally get very sticky about the one third rule). The reason the proportion of income is required is that it's very difficult in France for the owner to terminate a lease. I know that some people have been able to lock up 12 months' rent in order to secure a rental, but it's not really legal and it's a very hefty sum. The alternative would be to have a guarantor, but that would need to be someone here in France as it is difficult to pursue an overseas guarantor for unpaid rent, but some employers may consider acting as guarantor.

You may be able to set up an online account in France from the US - others here will be able to advise on that.
 

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It's possible to set up a non-resident bank account before you actually move to France, however there are restrictions on that type of account (and no, I'm not sure what they are). The banks are pretty much bound by this KYC (Know Your Customer) stuff - something related to the OECD rules intended to fight money laundering and tax evasion. After you get established here, you can then change from a non-resident account to a resident account - but in the long run it may be easier to simply wait until you're here to open an account. Normally you want a bank that is convenient to where you live and they usually require you to come in and meet with them face-to-face in order to open the account.

The one-third of your income thing is the way they evaluate your "credit" (i.e. ability to pay the rent). As EH says, there are lots of rules that protect tenants once they are established in a residence, so the landlords need to know they can get their rent no matter what.

Since you're looking to be transferred to Disney rather than trying to get a job there from scratch, you may want to try and contact some of your co-workers already working in Marne la Vallée to see where they live. I suspect strongly that they tend to live in the area of the park rather than in too close to Paris. Other than the one RER line, there isn't a lot of public transport, and Disneyland Paris is definitely considered something of a long haul from the city.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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You won't in any case be able to organise to rent an apartment before you get here (unless your employer arranges it for you) - best bet is to rent a holiday apartment for several months in the meantime, which will give you time to look around for something more permanent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yes, that's what we were thinking. We rented an vacation rental last year when we stayed in Rouen (Homeaway.com). We thought that might be best for when we move.
Merci,
Robert
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Another question I have is safety. Having three kids we don't want to rent in unsafe areas. Does anyone know if Meaux is a safe area? If we have to get a car I think rentals are a bit cheaper there.
Merci,
Robert
 

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It's a bit like anywhere - each town has its safer and not as safe areas and neighborhoods. It's a big reason why we usually recommend that folks not commit to long-term housing until after they have arrived and can scout out the various neighborhoods for themselves (at various times of day).

Since you're still preparing for a transfer in the future, why not consider making a reconnaissance run (i.e. vacation) to come over with the family and take a look around for yourself?
Cheers,
Bev
 

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The East of paris is a bit hit and miss and the nicer areas (if you can call them that) are expensive. Noisy Le Grand is a good example. Meaux is not that interesting either.

I would NOT travel on any RER late at night.

What about 'Provins'. It is a bit further out (60 km's) but rents will be cheaper. It is a nice little place (google Provins and click on images). You will of course need a car but it is a better place to settle a family than some urban crime ridden suburb of Paris.

It will be an hour drive but lets be clear, central Paris to Disneyland will be 1hr + horrible commute.

Provins is out in the countryside so a better quality of living.
 

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Provins to Disneyland Paris is a good hour's drive (with no traffic, bad weather or other road problems). The other problem is that, while you're working, your wife and kids are stuck out in the middle of nowhere, with basically no means of getting around unless you have a second car. (OK, there is a regional bus line, but you'd have to check schedules to see if it would be usable for anything other than maybe commuting on a regular schedule.)

If you're planning on a transfer by your employer, you should check with your employer to see what they can recommend. They aren't going to go to all the trouble of transferring you, only to have you wind up in some dumpy accommodation that will make you want to turn around and go back home. They have an interest in making the transfer work out - if only to avoid wasting their own money.

Your employer is going to have to get you a visa, which is somewhat easier if they do regular transfers like this, but still they have to show that you're at a certain level and/or meet other conditions. If it's a time-limited transfer (highly likely because that way they get out of paying the French cotisations by keeping you on the US social security system), company policy may include some form of housing benefit or reimbursement and possibly even a car or car allowance. Be sure you look into all of that before you make a decision on where to live.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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