For some intrepid souls, moving to a foreign country, even for a few months, is like a walk in the park. It’s a wonderful adventure and nothing fazes them. Everything falls into place perfectly, and nothing goes wrong. Or, if it does, it’s just a blip on the horizon and they take it in stride.
Then, there’s the rest of us. Not everyone thrives on the unknown, on walking into a new environment and making the best of it, come what may. A city like Paris can seem truly intimidating, especially if it’s your first time going anywhere outside the familiar. That’s when you need outside help, and becoming involved with an expatriate community is the best thing you could ever do for your sanity.
1. Sacre bleu! You don’t speak the language.
I get it. Your friends went to Paris for their honeymoon, they showed you pictures of the Eiffel Tower and kisses on the bank of the Seine, and you thought, “yes, I want to do that, too!” Well, not the married part, but everything else. So, you did. And forgot that you don’t speak French and can’t communicate without a dictionary and lots of hand gestures—none of which is a bad thing—and someone cute caught your eye and you can’t say more than “oui.” That’s where expat communities can be very helpful. There are lots of language resources available, and you could take classes, do a language-learning exchange of sorts with a new friend, and find yourself speaking French in no time at all.
2. You’re having trouble navigating French bureaucracy.
Image courtesy of Prêt à Voyager
Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Even the French hate their own red tape. But making sure you have the right papers to stay in the country, whether temporarily or on a permanent basis can give you a headache. And let’s not even mention the process for the carte vitale which is recommended for all residents in Paris. Did you know that your birth certificate must be translated into French by a court-certified translator in France? It can be quite daunting, having to navigate this strange world, but there are other expats who’ve been where you are and can help, or at least point you in the right direction. Even just having a shoulder to cry on is better than nothing, right? And seasoned residents can share the pitfalls and shortcuts—well, there aren’t any shortcuts, but you can learn what wine to drink before braving the system—and help make the process, if not easier, at least tolerable.
3. Culture shock.
It seemed easy when you planned it, yes? You were going to live in Paris for six months and get the full French experience. End of story. But you arrived here, and your bubble burst. You don’t like the food, some of the customs don’t make sense to you, the language is a chore, and you’re down in the dumps. An expat community will help you adjust to your new life in the city. Finding others who understand what you’re going through and can commiserate is a balm to the soul.
4. You hate where you live with a passionate hate.
It can happen to anyone. You thought you found the perfect apartment within walking distance of your favorite museums. It’s even above a patisserie, and dear God, the croissants are divine. Except: your landlord is mean and won’t fix anything, and you can’t get any sleep at night because it’s loud at all hours. Your roommate is a slob and his favorite music makes you think he has a death wish. Never fear! Many expat communities have forums and classifieds where you can post, or search for your new place to live. Now, such gems are highly coveted, so you might need to be a little patient—i.e. don’t kill the roommate—and invest in some earplugs (and buckets for the leaks), but you will find what you want, guaranteed.
5. You miss people from your home country.
As much fun as you’re having in Paris, there may come a time when you miss home, whether it’s the food, people or language. It can hit you hard, that nostalgia for the comfortable and familiar. But France has a really large international population, and the variety of immigrants is astounding. A great place to find people from your part of the world is through a meetup. There, you’ll find comrades who can likely provide solace and help you through a hard time. You’ll be glad you did.
6. You’re bored.
At this point, perhaps you’ve seen all the sights and the touristy nick-nacks that tend to make most visitors to Paris happy for a lifetime. But not you. You want more. Expats who’ve lived in France for a long time are the most likely to have information about delightful, off-the-beaten-path activities. And there are get-togethers and meetups that are likely to inspire creativity and new ideas for things to do and pursue. Doing them with a friend is always better, wouldn’t you say?
7. You have no friends.
I hope that’s not the case, but if so, then find an expatriate group right now! Getting along in a new place is always better with a friend by your side, especially one who might be in the same boat you are. Think how much more fun it would be to complain about the hours you had to wait at the OFII office in your arrondissement if you had a friend with whom to commiserate. You could both opine over an espresso at a trendy café and life would be so much the better, all of a sudden.
8. Finding a job.
You came to Paris to either study or just breathe the French air. But now, you want a job. First of all, know that working in France for a French company typically means you need to speak the language. However, expat communities typically have job listings, too, and you can check with your fellow residents to see if they know of any opportunities that might be helpful, and in a language you speak. You might even be able to fill a niche. Perhaps you can even learn about the Pôle Emploi and how to utilize it, and other programs that might be helpful in your search for employment.
9. Service providers.
A screenshot of the Expats Paris service providers listing
As a new arrival in France, it can be hard to get a handle on all the little things you need to have in place as you’re settling in. And once you’ve braved the world of landlords and rentals and secured an apartment, now you have to deal with utilities and service providers and possibly doctors and childcare. Expat communities have lists of providers, and you can talk to people about their experiences and issues that might come up which you might not have considered.
10. You think you know everything there is to know about Paris.
Are you nuts?
Not even the French can claim that.
In all seriousness, there’s so much to see and do here, it boggles the mind. And it’s worth the effort to seek out a meetup or three and explore what else is out there. Expat communities are a melting pot of people who have experienced things that you might not have. I mean it’s possible, right? And wouldn’t you like to be surprised and amazed by discovering something new about your adopted city?
Over to you.
I hope you enjoyed these tips.
Is there anything I missed?
Are you a part of an expat group? What do you love about them? What doesn’t float your boat? Please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.