How to prepare for a move to France
PUBLISHED: 11:30 22 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:03 02 December 2015
Are you getting ready to move to France? There are lots of fun ways you can prepare for the move from the comfort of your own home, from following blogs to watching DVDs
Written by Eleanor O’Kane
France may be just a short hop across the Channel, but it’s a giant leap in terms of culture change, even for those who feel at home there on annual summer holidays. The better prepared you are before your move, the easier you’ll find the experience. The good news is, there are plenty of steps you can take beforehand so you’re not overwhelmed when you arrive in France. Breaking down a big life change into manageable chunks is often far less intimidating – what’s more, you can start right now, in the comfort of home.
1. LEARN FRENCH
Getting on top of your French before you go will make you more confident about putting into practice all your plans when you arrive, whether that’s establishing a social life, settling the kids in or setting up a business.
Listen to French news podcasts in short bursts to help you to pick up on what’s going on across the Channel; you’ll improve your French and have a better grasp of the social and political climate to boot, giving you the confidence to start conversations when you’re in the queue at the village shop. For starters, try subscribing on iTunes to the Journal en français facile, the daily news in simple French for language learners from Radio France Internationale. If you want to develop your skills, many UK towns have a local French Circle run by the Alliance Française, where you can practise your French and meet others with a knowledge of the country.
Check out our learning French section for tips and simple vocabuary
2. LEARN FROM OTHER EXPATS
Learning from the experiences of others is a great way to build up a picture of life across the Channel. The Complete France forum www.completefrance.com/cs/forums is one of the longest running message boards for expats in France and is a great way to acquaint yourself with the nuances of French life from your kitchen table. The discussions are wide-ranging, and include topics from French motoring and health care, through to pets and hobbies. The questions and answers from experienced expats are an insight into how things are actually done in France and give a realistic view of what to expect when you move.
Expat blogs can be another gateway to understanding life in France. A read through the musings of Stephanie Dagg, who writes as Llama Lady at www.bloginfrance.com, gives visitors an insight into her experiences of living in rural Creuse, including entries full of small but vital observations. Not only are blogs an entertaining read, but posts on village life, politics, culture and education are a good introduction to French society.
3. READ BOOKS ABOUT FRANCE
Your local bookshop or library is full of books and DVDs that will shed more light on French life. French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman and Why French Children Don’t Talk Back by Catherine Crawford take a look at the Gallic approach to child rearing. For a humourous approach, try the novels of Julia Stagg. Set in a fictional village in the Ariège-Pyrénées, the Fogas Chronicles (named after the fictional village) highlight French life. When it comes to life in France beyond her books, Julia, who splits her time between France and England, recommends going online to watch Le 13 Heures, the lunchtime news on TF1. “It’s a fun and easy way to immerse yourself in both the language and culture of France before you make the transition to your new life,” she says. “It provides a lighter look at the day’s events and always has a brilliant section on French culture – and it’s not that difficult to understand either!”
4. WATCH FRENCH FILMS
If you’re a film buff,seek out great moments in French cinema. While the classics might not paint a picture of contemporary France, they offer an insight into the French psyche and make it clear why cinema is greatly respected today. The much-loved Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953) throws the spotlight on the French sense of humour, while Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave masterpiece À Bout de Souffle (1960) shows Paris at its most chic.
5. VISIT EXHIBITIONS
For a day out, pay a visit to the how-to and expert seminars at the French Property Exhibitions, which take place throughout the year (this year from 15-16 May at Wetherby Racecourse, and from 18-20 September at London’s Olympia). These will also give you the lowdown on everything from running a business to integrating.