It was a year ago today that we moved from the United States to France. Part of those last few weeks “over there”, first in Georgia and then in Florida, remain a blur. There were so many things that had to happen in a specific order and within a limited time period, that there was little time to think about anything other than checking tasks off the calendar as the days flashed by. I still get anxious remembering arriving at the check-in desk at the Atlanta airport pushing two rolling luggage carts piled high with 2 backpacks, 2 carry-on bags, 3 checked bags, and a travel dog house with Heather sitting happily on top. We were about to find out if those 18 months of planning, preparation, and paperwork were going to pay off.
Since I’m writing this now from our new home in the south of France, the clear answer to that question is obviously “oui”! As is typical for us, fortunately, things have gone like clockwork but that’s not happenstance. We were once told to be more spontaneous, which might work for us when choosing a restaurant meal at our favorite eatery, but when it comes to moving to another country, you play by their rules or you don’t get to stay. For our application for our residence permit for this next year I was happy to use those color-within-the-lines skills we all learned in elementary school.
The main reason we started this blog was to help other Americans who were considering a move to France or already in the process. If we can make the transition easier for others, then we’ve achieved our goal. Along those lines, then, would we do anything differently if we had the opportunity? Yes–sell your house and move into some type of temporary quarters (short-term rental, for example) once you have definitely decided to leave the US. Your stress level that is already elevated from everything else associated with the move will drop dramatically once you are able to walk away from your accommodations at will. The same goes for your cars. We sold both of ours and for the last month drove a rental that Bill turned in at the airport after he dropped me, Heather, and all the luggage at check-in.
Step up your French language learning. For the year prior to arriving here, I listened to language instruction audio files while walking on a treadmill. That definitely helped to get me above the level that a casual tourist in a hotel, restaurant, or shop might need but fell far short when trying to communicate with delivery drivers, employees in government offices, or customer service representatives, especially if they are on the telephone. To their credit, every single person we have encountered here has gone out of their way to understand us and to be understood, but it certainly would have been easier if we spoke better French.
If you cook, bring measuring cups and spoons. Everything here is metric so you either weigh out the ingredients for your recipe or use a tall, cylindrical beaker with markings etched on the side that makes me think I’m in a laboratory. While you’re in the kitchen, pack some chili powder and some jalapeno peppers while you’re at it since we haven’t seen either here.
That’s not a very extensive list of what we might have done differently and, looking back, they mostly deal with preparation back in the US before the move. As far as our daily needs here, the market, the shops, the supermarkets, and the big box stores all stock almost anything we need and thanks to giant online retailers, everything else can be delivered to the house. Any regrets after a year? None. The best experience? The warmth of our French neighbors and friends. Any advice for would-be travelers? Our favorite expression that we learned upon arrival: Ce n’est pas grave or as I think of it, Don’t worry about it. Enjoy!