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A new way of life

‘Work to live' not ‘live to work' is the general wisdom in France —the work-life balance is a good one with a relatively short average working hour week and generous holiday allowance for both businesses and schools.

The French also love their public holidays, of which there are many. Much importance is placed on family, and allowing time for that is integral to the French way of life. Bear in mind though that if you’re moving with young children, or planning to start a family in France, there can be long waiting lists for nurseries. 

Many expatriates move to France not to further their careers but to enjoy the smaller things in life. That said, if your dream is to renovate a chateau and open it up as a B&B or to transfer to a high-octane job in the city, both are possible too. Acclimatising to the slower pace of life will involve adjusting to most shops being closed on Sundays and often having long lunch breaks from 12 to 2 pm.

Whether in a rural or urban area, though you are likely to be made to feel welcome and treated hospitably, it can take a while to feel accepted a part of the wider community. Remember that despite some opinions, expatriates are welcomed as a good thing, as they generate income for schools, local facilities, and taxes.

Etiquette is vital in France — reports of the French being offhand can often be a result of not understanding subtle social conventions and manners. Being discrete, well-mannered, and open to learning the language will get you far. Since becoming part of the Eurozone, France is adjusting to the wide array of languages spoken all across its regions, not just in the most tourist-heavy areas. But learning the language should still be high on your list of priorities to fully enjoy life in in the country. Demonstrating you’re willing to respect the culture and learn the language will aid you in settling in, even if you are living in an area with many other expatriates.

Being loud and raucous in public is frowned upon and may be met with ‘on ne fait pas ca’ (we don’t do that). You may also find that the French can be quite restrained and reserved — getting to know your neighbours may take time and patience. They can also be very direct when they talk, which can sometimes be taken for rudeness.

Although networking in a business environment is important, the French seldom mix their professional and private lives so don't expect to go out for a drink with colleagues after work. If you’re invited to dinner, it’s acceptable (in a non-work environment) to arrive 15-20 minutes late. Be sure to eat everything on your plate as a gesture of appreciation. Cooking is often a labour of love, and it can be offensive to be too fussy. Expect to enjoy a glass of wine along with lunch and supper — alcohol tends to be imbibed to complement a meal rather than in excess.

In fact, one of France’s major draws is the quality of its wine and food. Almost every town, city, and village will have a market at least once a week where you will be able to find local, fresh and excellent quality food, as well as a local boulangerie, butcher, cheese shop, and grocer.

France is noted for being a very safe place, though recently there have been incidents of terrorism, most notably in Paris. And you should prepare yourself for the sheer amount of bureaucracy prevalent in throughout the country known for its ‘red tape’ — whether buying a house or changing your driving license to a French one. There will often be long queues at government offices, so you will have to be patient.

Climate and scenery vary depending which region of France you're in, but what remains consistent is the opportunity to live life at your pace. Whether that's taking long, lingering lunches in the cool shade of your terrace, impromptu trips to the beach, or adrenalin-fuelled sports activities — it’s all for the taking.

There’s something very appealing about a laid-back lifestyle but don’t make the mistake of being laissez-faire about health care cover — you could be putting you and your family at risk. We’re experts at arranging insurance, so put your mind at ease and talk to us today.

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