If you’re contemplating a move to Strasbourg France and the surrounding villages in Alsace, here are a few key steps to moving and setting up your new home.
Want to binge the full blog series on expat life in Strasbourg, click here!
Expat in Strasbourg France
Living in Strasbourg (and France in general) as an expat is very different from living in the United States. I shared recently about the major lifestyle and cultural differences between America and France here as well how I’ve adjusted to living in Strasbourg France as an American expat here on the blog. As an American expat living here in beautiful Strasbourg, I can’t express enough how much I wish I knewbefore moving here. I followed my husband here after he got a job teaching English at the University of Strasbourg, and luckily, as a freelance photographer, I was more than able to pack up my life and enjoy this experience of a lifetime.
Here are some actions steps that will help prepare you for your move to Strasbourg, France
1. Find a Home
We were able to find a fully furnished apartment on leboncoin.fr. You will need to speak French (most people only speak either French or German – or both – here in Strasbourg) and have a French cell phone in order to schedule seeing the place in-person.
The French don’t use email as often as Americans do and they won’t respond to any calls on Sunday (day of rest).
My husband bought a cheap phone at a Tabac store with a pay-as-you-go sim card to call and schedule appointments. We stayed with a friend in Paris and made a day trip to Strasbourg, saw three apartments and luckily found one that was perfect for us. #flow
We got a bank account with Banque Populaire. We had some problems with BNP Paribas, and they originally asked for a recommendation letter but you don’t actually need one.
3. Get a phone with data and a router for internet
We went with Orange. Orange is a great company as they bundle it all together and it’s relatively cheap. To sign up, you need a RIB account. You can also go with SFR or Free, but Orange, we found, was most reliable. There is an Orange store in the city center at Kleber Square.
4. French Visa
If you don’t have a EU passport, obtaining a French visa is a complicated process. Make sure you allow plenty of time for your visa application to be approved of at the French embassy in your nearest city. Don’t schedule any international trips as the embassy will take your passport and it can be a lengthy process (the French take their sweeeeeet, sweet time).
In our experience, we got the visa first at our embassy in D.C. – a temporary 3 month visa – and then we needed to get it “confirmed” with Alex’s job once we settled in France. You will need to complete a medical exam to finalize your visa, but they set this appointment up for you.
Don’t make the same mistake we did! The tenant who last lived at our apartment forgot to turn off his electricity, and we thought electricity was included because our landlord didn’t mention anything about signing up for electricity (Hello, new to France).
We ended up having our electricity turned off for 24 hours (thank goodness I had a massive candlestick) and started a new account with the electricity company. We pay 40 euros per month, and our electricity bill is actually pretty affordable compared to other people who live in Strasbourg France.
6. Choose your transportation
You can commute as many people in Strasbourg do and rent a bike for 3 months, 6 months or yearly with Vel Hop, or pay for an unlimited monthly or yearly bus and tram, or both.
The tram in Strasbourg is clean, comfortable, silent (ahh so different from the Paris metro…) and above ground. Not only does the tram go all over Strasbourg and its surrounding suburbs, but it gracefully glides on GRASS.
Yup, Strasbourg really is that green and beautiful.
If you’d like to live in the country, surrounded by Alsatian vineyards and outside of the city, or even just plan on traveling often to the outside villages and the Vosges mountains, you might be happier with a car. Many families with children have cars in Strasbourg, especially those that live outside of the city and in the surrounding French villages I shared in this post here, so do what feels best for you.
7. Enroll in French Classes in Strasbourg
Everyone speaks either German or French here in Strasbourg. Most people do not speak English in France, so if you want to connect and socialize with people outside of the Americans in Alsace group, you’ll need to learn some French!
I recently discovered an amazing French language program in Strasbourg France called Universite Populaire Europeenee. They offer affordable language and creative classes, as well as French classes from the most basic level (A1) to the more intermediate and advanced. You can visit their website here.
I recently started classes and love it so much, I wish I had enrolled sooner!
8. Health Insurance in France as an Expat
Health insurance is amazing in Europe – even for expats ans those without EU passports.
Dental and medical visits are cheap (had my cavity filled 20 euros!) and available to everyone, making it such a wonderful system for allliving in France.
We went to the department de Bas-Rhin and filled out a health insurance form using my husband’s work contract, visa and passport and they sent us our cards in the mail. Easy peasy! I love you, France. Boom.
I hope this post helps you in your journey moving and preparing to settle in Strasbourg France! It truly feels like home to me, and as American, I am always in awe of Strasbourg’s beauty, history, culture and easy access to so many countries and cities across Europe.
Strasbourg really is the heart of Europe.
I hope you enjoy this small, lovely city as much as I do.
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Helena Woods is a newborn and family photographer in Alsace France, New England and travels worldwide for her clients. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.