9 February 2018

Courtney Recht-Debreuille - Expat in France

Courtney Recht-Debreuille - Expat in France

We’ve had the chance to talk to Courtney Recht-Debreuille, 40, an American expat who has moved to France with her family. Mrs Debreuille, who has been living there for six years, now works as a professor. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?
A: I’m from Florida and before I moved to France I was living in Miami.


Q: What made you move out of the US?
A: I fell in love with a French man who whisked me away to his hometown.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?
A: We are living in Lyon, France.


Q: How long have you been living in France?
A: I’ve been living in Lyon since September 2011, so six years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: I live with my husband who is from Lyon and our four-year-old daughter, so they’re not the ones who have to adjust, just me. I would say now, after six years I’m well adjusted.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: I would say I miss my family, but not home. After living in France for six years this is my home and I love it. We make it back to the U.S. every summer, so that definitely helps.


Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: I absolutely love France. Everyone in Lyon has been super welcoming.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in France? How did you manage to find a social circle there?   
A: Well, since my husband grew up in Lyon we already had a built-in network of friends, so that was good in the beginning. I took French courses when we arrived and met some expats through that experience, so that was helpful for the first two years or so. Then I got pregnant, and joined a mommy group for English speakers and met a lot of great women through that organization. These women are now some of my best friends.


Q: How does the cost of living in France compare to your home?

A: I feel like it’s more affordable living in France than in the U.S. especially when you have a child. For example, my daughter goes to kindergarten here and it’s basically free. In the end, I don’t know if it’s exactly cheaper, but the lifestyle is slower in France than in the U.S.


Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: You can get an espresso for 50 centimes

Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: You can find a decent lunch with two courses for 10 euros

Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?
A: Depends on how expensive you want to go, but a nice restaurant here in Lyon would be about 200 euros, but that’s for something like a one-star. You can go to a nice restaurant and it might cost about 100 euros.

Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?
A: You can find bottles of wine here for 2 euros (I don’t recommend drinking those). Cigarettes are expensive here these days – I don’t smoke, but I think it’s like 10 euros a pack now.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in France?
A: Be patient. Everything in France takes a little bit of time. My husband would kill me for saying that, but it’s true. This is not the land of efficiency.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: It wasn’t easy at first. We were given the run around for my carte de sejour for over two months (not sure why, just government). Then we got lucky, we were having lunch, and the chef at the restaurant who is a friend of my husbands said he had a contact with the prefecture. After that, my file got put through pretty quickly. I’m also an auto-entrepreneur, which just means that I work for myself. That was pretty easy to do – just a few clicks on the Internet and it was set up.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in France is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: Healthcare here is one of the best things about living here. Everyone is equal, pretty much, so there aren’t people who are sick and go untreated like in the U.S. Once you have your carte vitale you can go to the doctor any time and not pay a thing. Medicine, if prescribed by your doctor, is free as well – most of the time. I gave birth at a private hospital and it was a great experience.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the US or France?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?
A: I’m a little different then most since I’m married to a French man, and get healthcare through him. Some of my expat friends who are American have international health insurance from their employer back in the U.S.


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Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to France? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?
A: I think the best part was realizing that I had a chance to start over in a new country. I remember the day we left feeling sad about leaving my family, but also tremendously excited about starting my life as a newlywed in France.  
My husband was on a contract in the U.S. with his company in France so they were the ones who dealt with the move.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: The biggest challenge was that I didn’t speak a word of French when I arrived. Learning French has been the biggest hurdle to overcome. It has taken time, but I think my French is decent now, so says my husband.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in France?
A: There are so many positive things about living in France – the food is amazing, the quality of life is exceptional, and things are affordable. I would say the thing I find myself complaining about the most is that it’s not the country of convenience.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A: Lyon is known to be the gastronomy capital of the world, but Lyon is so much more than that. It’s a multicultural city that offers something for everyone – arts, music, museums. It really is such a dynamic city. I like to say it is a big city with a small town mentality.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: We are really happy where we are! We just renovated an apartment which we put a lot of time and effort into, so we don’t plan on leaving any time soon.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?
A: Be patient. Your life abroad won’t be like is was back home. In the early days in France I remember thinking when will I speak French fluently, when will I have French friends, when will I have a real job, etc… and when you are constantly dwelling on the future you can’t appreciate the present. Each of those things will come in time and just appreciate where you are at the moment. Living in a new country is both scary and exciting!


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about France?
A: I was in public relations/social media before I got to France, so I like to know what’s going on with those things here, therefore I follow a lot of different bloggers. Some of the ones I like the best are: Mode & the City (modeandthecity.net), offering French fashion, beauty and lifestyle tips from Paris with a bit of an American touch; Manger by Mimi Thorisson (mimithorisson.com), great look at life in the Médoc focusing on French cooking; David Lebovitz (davidlebovitz.com) is an American living in Paris and writes about food and French food culture; and Meg & Cook (megandcook.fr), food blogger from Lyon.