So you’ve finally made your decision to follow your dreams of getting out of the rat race once and for all and hopping off to France. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to admit that dreams can inspire world-moving projects. And we often need them to get us through the daily grind. But I probably don’t have to remind you that it’s dangerous to be guided by them alone; for sooner or later reality will raise its ugly head: those dreams of converting an old village farmhouse into a splendid gîte rurale could end up costing you far more than you’d bargained for, not to mention all those sleepless nights. And even if you can’t think of anything more glamorous and romantic than living in the City of Light, you should be aware that many Parisians have got perfectly valid reasons for wanting to get out. What’s more, it does actually rain in France, winters may be extremely cold, and it can snow – even on the Mediterranean coast!
As a budding expat the first thing you must realize is that your initial period of honeymoon elation will quickly wear off and that, if you haven’t carefully prepared your future move, the disillusion can be so painful – even traumatic – that you might find yourself joining the ranks of those two out of three who throw in the towel and hurry back home … less than three years after they came!. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, so it’s important to understand before you set off that you’ll find in France very little of what you’ve left behind, and that living in a country whose customs, culture, and institutions are significantly different to your own will make everyday life a permanent challenge where the simple things you took so much for granted at home can become almost insurmountable obstacles, and even a simple telephone conversation in French can be an ordeal.
So, those things you’ll have to do detailed research on months ahead of your planned departure date concern, above all, practical, everyday living issues, and must include, among others, such areas as visas, residence permits, banking, taxation, schooling, transport, insurance, property prices, work, health care, and even the history, geography and political system of France. You’ll also have to make a realistic assessment of how much your move and establishment is going to cost you, and how you’re going to survive financially in the years ahead. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent expat websites which will give you assistance and up-to-date information on all these subjects.
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