3 March 2017

J. Jacobson - Expat in France

J. Jacobson - Expat in France

We’ve had the chance to talk to J. Jacobson, 31, an American expat who has moved to France with her husband. Mrs. Jacobson who has been living there for six years, now works as a teacher. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Illinois, USA.


Q: What made you move out of USA?

A: Study and love of French, my significant other.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: France.

I found a job here as a teacher before I moved from the US, I had studied French in college and wanted to come to France to live for a few years to see if I could stay for more than a few months.


Q: How long have you been living in France?

A: Six years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: With my husband, but he's French and has always lived in France.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I miss people, family, and friends. My friends and I will make phone 'appointments' to talk when we're both available, I also use Whats App with quite a few people. But the time difference does make it difficult.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: French culture is more coded than in the US. If you don't know some things about the way France functions socially it can be a little difficult.  So I would say the locals are nice but you have to get to know them, and this takes time.


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: No, it hasn't been easy, and I live with a French person. Slowly but surely I've met people through parties and some activities I've done. I know some expats from work, but they are not the people I see the most. I do think it is important to try to not shut yourself in only with expats, even if you do need them sometimes.

My best advice to meet people would be to join activities or groups of people who share common interests. I've done an art class, taken Italian lessons, played in a local municipal band, etc.


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


  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: About 1.50 euros.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: You can buy a plat du jour (main dish) for around 10 euros in a sit-down restaurant, for more quick meals (sandwich in a bakery) 4-5 euros.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: This has no limit in France! I guess I would say there are a lot of restaurants where you would expect to pay 20-30 euros for your meal, above that you're starting to get a little fancier.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Good wine isn't necessarily expensive, you can find respectable bottles for 5 euros! Cigarettes I don't know.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in France?

A: You need lots of documents to do this, it's not the simplest procedure. But the most important document is proof of an address. If you don't have a permanent address, sometimes you can get a French person to write you an attestation stating that you are temporarily staying with them and this will work.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: France is not a pleasant country for paperwork, this is something you have to be prepared for when you come (it's the trade-off I guess for the good food and vacation time!).  Government paperwork often takes a long time and can be inefficient (e.g. papers getting lost). You may also struggle to get complete and accurate information; phone numbers for customer service or information lines are often paying phone numbers, and websites are not always accurate/complete.

The most efficient/effective way to get information here is to actually go to the office or building in person. You will always need a lot of documents for any administrative procedure. Make sure to make photocopies of these in case things are lost and keep a personal record of any administrative procedures. And see if you can get a French person to help you.  


Q: Would you say that healthcare in France is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Yes, absolutely, great healthcare system. Dental and eye care can be expensive and are more often out of pocket, but generally, the system is good and you can buy private supplementary insurance for reasonable prices. My supplemental private insurance costs about 30 euros/month.  


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the USA or France?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: In my host country (France). When you work in France, you are assigned a social security number, which gives you access to the national healthcare system. This number allows you to be reimbursed after going to the doctor and cheaper prices on prescriptions from the pharmacy.


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 moved by myself and only took the bare essentials in 2 suitcases, so I don't have a lot of practical advice for this. But I will say that it can be less expensive to pay for an extra suitcase at the airport rather than ship the same amount. Usually, the cost per pound is much lower this way but check with your airline carrier.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Finding my place as an American here and creating a social network.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in France?

A: Positives: good food, great cultural activities, and exchange, beautiful country, and sites to visit, ample vacation time, the overall quality of life, access to travel around Europe.

Negatives: fewer conveniences (stores closed on Sundays, for example), sometimes heavy/inefficient administrative procedures, high taxes (income and sales tax)


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: There are so many things to do in France, that's one of the reasons I love it here. Wherever you find yourself, there are always quaint villages, beautiful countryside, and vineyards to visit nearby. Near Lyon, for example, there are the Beaujolais vineyards, the Alps within a 2-hour drive, etc.  


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No, not in the near future.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Learn French, especially French for formal situations or when you have to be polite. This is essential for getting treated fairly, whether you're speaking to someone or corresponding by email.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about France?

A: My own! https://mavieinfrance.blogspot.fr