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How to Move to France

October 9, 2021

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A sunny gal from Cali living in the south of France. I adore slow living, magic, and celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I’m a self-proclaimed Disney nerd (as is my husband!), obsessed with cats and cocoa, and you can often find me swimming with the fishies in the salty sea. Come along and enjoy the magic, the simple joys of life with me...

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Hello lovely reader! I’ve been getting a lot of emails recently from people wondering how to move to France. If you follow the Simple Joys youtube channel, you know that my husband got a job teaching English at a university, which is what brought us here. I’ve been blogging my way through the entire journey – from when he inititally got the job offer to the apartment setup and personal challenges that came with being an expat wife, to plenty of guides and helpful resources I’ve learned along the way. I love sharing anything and everything I’ve learned through my experience living abroad here on the little blog. And today I felt inspired to write this post to help those who may be intrigued by the idea of living in France and don’t know where to first begin.

In this post, I share where the best places to live are, how to get visa and navigate the French paperwork as well as share more details for those who are curious about teaching English in France, which is what my husband does! My husband wrote a simple ebook about our journey and the step-by-step process, and I’m excited to share it with you! Let’s get into it.

First things first…

Where is the Best Place to Live in France?

Where you want to live in France depends on your preferences. Here are a few things to consider when moving to France:

Cost of Living –

Cities are generally more expensive, especially if you live in the city center. You can save more money living in the outskirts (when we lived in Strasbourg, we lived around a small village called Eckbolsheim which was just a 30-minute bike ride into the city)!

Geography / Climate –

Do you like rain (Northwest of France)? Or do you prefer sun year-round (South of France)? Steep mountains (Corsica, Pyrenees) or flat land (Alsace, Camargue)?

Transportation –

Walkability is an important factor if you enjoy walking, biking or taking public transportation. If you enjoy driving, opt for the countryside or outside of a nearby city.

For me, a slow pace, walkability, access to nature and beautiful architecture are my top priorities. I personally love biking and walking, so for me, finding a city or town that’s walkable is really important. Living in the mountains and in rural areas where I had to rely on a car to get me anywhere made me feel trapped. It’s quite isolating living in the rural countryside if you’re used to chatting with people, wandering and exploring local towns and cities.

I encourage you to imagine first how you’d like to spend your days. And what’s your routine now? Chances are, you won’t want to drastically alter it too much from how you’re living currently. 

My Favorite Places in France

While living in France the last three years, I’ve traveled through most of France except for a few regions like Normandy and the Dordogne region. If you want a fast-paced city with culture, plenty of job opportunities, social life and variety, opt for Paris, Lyon or Montpellier. Toulouse and Bourdeaux are beautiful large cities with a lot of variety but with a more relaxed pace. I often tell Alex that I could see us living in Bourdeaux because it’s a slower-paced, more relaxed version of Paris. Beautiful, classic French architecture and great walkability!

Some of the biggest reasons to move to France: architecture and the food! If you want beautiful French-inspired architecture, don’t move to cities where most of the buildings were bombed during World War II and then rebuilt later (ahem: Nantes). If you like half-timbered houses (think Belle’s village in Beauty and the Beast), consider Alsace.

If you want to live somewhere with an abundance of nature and beautiful architecture, some of my favorite cities in France are Avignon, Bourges, Aix-en-Provence, Strasbourg and the Giverny area. If you enjoy living near the sea and enjoy a warmer, sunny climate all year round, check out Gassin, Cote d’Azur, Cassis and the area near Saint Tropez! The Vaucluse region in France is my favorite with the abundance of wildlife and diverse landscape. Luris, Luberone, Cadenet are some beautiful areas. Alsace is one of the most unique regions in France and some of my favorite places in Alsace are Strasbourg, Colmar, Nancy and the small towns along the Alsatian wine route: Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé, Riuewihr. Even little towns like Barr and Andlau I’ve visited, loved and recommend.  France has everything: mountains, flat fields, sea, charming villages, sprawling cities. You can’t lose while living here.

My guide to getting settled in Strasbourg is here and living in Strasbourg is here. 

Navigating the French Systems

When it comes to living in France, there are two things you have to be really good at: paperwork and patience.

Your patience will be tested. The French bureaucracy is confusing and will often lead you in circles. You will somehow always miss one random document, even though you thought you brought more than enough. And if you need help, people will give you a disinterested shrug and keep on sending you to someone else. There is never a “person in charge” you can speak to and catch 22s are all too common in France. Still, you should not despair. At the end of the day, you will likely succeed in what you’re trying to do. Just know that it takes forever. 

If you show good intentions, and honestly try to follow the rules, even if you’re missing a document, as long as you show pure intention, someone will help you out in the end. Intention and word-of-honor mean a lot to the French. In fact, many important business documents must be signed under “on my honor.”

It will be up to you to navigate the French systems, the government websites and the whole process to the best of your ability. It is not for the faint of heart. But fear not, it is SO worth the time and energy put in!

You can find more info about visas, health insurance, taxes in France in my blog post here!

Getting a Visa

First thing’s first: make a visa application appointment online for your nearest local French consulate, in whatever city is closest to you, the minute you decide to want to move to France. Appointments are often booked months in advance. You can’t apply for a visa online, you (and your spouse/family) have to go in-person to give them your dossier (documents) and chances are you may need to return. The sooner you make that visa application appointment, the sooner you can move forward to the next stop. Right before my husband and I moved to France, the consulate asked us to provide proof of traveler’s health insurance after they already took in our application, and it delayed the process a bit.

It’s quite tricky to navigate the French visa website. My husband ended up finding the correct visa for himself only upon applying for the wrong one. But fear not – the person working at the consulate will guide you to the visa that’s right for you!

Visa Options

There are lots of options for getting a visa in France. If you work with a company that has an office in France, that’s the easy way. But if you’re like the majority, you’re going to have to find a visa that allows you to live and work in France. Personally, I am living in France only because my husband was offered a job contract teaching English at a university (first it was University of Strasbourg, then it was Pascal Paoli University) that allowed me to live on a long-stay visitor’s visa. A long-stay visitor’s visa is not ideal for me as I enjoy working but it was the only visa he was able to get me.

English Teaching in France

Curious on how to apply for English teaching jobs in France? My husband wrote a 50+ page easy-to-read guide here:

 

Studying is a great option for moving to France, and it’s one of the easiest ones! There are several universities that offer free or nearly free education to international students. Most of them require you be at B1 level French, so if you want to go to university here, make sure you study up on your French. There are also language schools you can study at in France and if the course is long-term, you can qualify for a student visa.

For creatives and entrepreneurs, there are two visas I know of: auto-entrepreneur and talent visa. The auto-entrepreneur visa is great but you have to prove that you make a lot of money consistently with your business. You have to prove your income with bank statements and provide a business plan with five-year forecasts, predictions, analysis, etc. You can learn more here. A talent visa is more difficult to get as you basically have to be a celebrity, artist or have a really large following. It’s a rare one to get but the golden egg. If you’re rich, famous or highly-skilled, you may qualify, and it’s the best one because it’s a 10-year visa and your spouse can work with it, as well. I know of an artist who is living in France on a talent visa and they are pretty famous for their career in their home country, which allowed them to get a visa here. Everything has to be proven, of course, and as you know, the French government love their paperwork.

For fellow Americans, first, note that you can enter France for only 3 months on a tourist visa. Depending on where you live and if there is a holiday working visa available to you, I would first start out by looking at holiday work visas. For Americans, we can take holiday work visas in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, I believe. I would google “holiday working visas for Americans” and see what pops up. There are working holiday visas in France for those living in certain countries and some allow you to work for longer periods.

But if you’re looking for the easiest, simplest way to get a visa in France…..

The easiest way to get a French visa is to be an au-pair.

The second easiest is to teach English.

The third is to enroll as a student.

If you’re interested in learning how you can teach English in France as well as how to settle in France, my husband recently wrote an ebook all about the process. He made all the mistakes and learned all the hard lessons so that you don’t have to.

Move to France ebook

Have you ever had the dream to move to France but felt it was too difficult or complicated? Have you ever wished you knew someone who did it and could give you some honest advice? It can be hard to know where to first begin the process; it seems like such a fantasy! But it’s actually simpler than you think. And this guide will show you how to do it. 

Alex is an English teacher and after 3 years of living in France, he’s written this guide for you. In this 50+page easy-to-read digital eBook, you’ll learn step-by-step how to apply for English teaching jobs, get a visa, and settle in France. PLUS, it includes personal anecdotes of his and Helena’s adjustment to life in France and a list of resources, websites and networking groups to support you in your journey! This eBook is designed to motivate, inspire and provide practical tools to assist you in your move to France. It is a digital product and you can read it on your digital device or print it out!

In this eBook, you’ll learn:
– How to find an English teaching job and apply for a French visa as a teacher
– How to find and secure an apartment in France (step-by-step)
– Navigating French banks, telephone providers and other essentials
– What some common mistakes to look out for are and how to avoid them
– How to responsibly secure health insurance and getting a French driver’s license
– How to adjust culturally and make friends

I hope this information helps you at all in your journey towards moving to France, kindred spirit! I’m sending you all my love and a big hug 🤗

Love,

Helena!

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I'm Helena, your new kindred spirit.

Sunny free-spirit, writer and creator in love with documenting the simple joys of life. I am passionate about noticing light and truth around me and reflecting it back to others.

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