Settling in

Moving home is both an exciting and stressful experience

Moving home is both an exciting and stressful experience, as I think we all know; moving abroad is the same, only more so! It takes time, serious consideration for the whole family and a great deal of planning. The key to a successful move lies in early and thorough preparation. Once you have decided you are going to move to France, have researched areas and found your property, you need to give yourself a big pat on the back, relax and realise it will take time to settle in to your new life.
Having said all that, I have always believed that most human beings are pretty adaptable and so however unfamiliar and new everything may seem at the start, my advice is to go with it and accept this: it’s entirely normal to feel perhaps a little out of your depth or like a fish out of water at the start. 
Although generalising is not always to be recommended, it is certain that life in France – particularly in rural France – has a distinctly more laid back attitude. Where we live in the south for example, people are not always punctual, but as a result are less stressed out. Wherever you go you will find more space, and I have always thought that this alone gives one a feeling of breadth and calm.
When you are first in your new home, don’t feel you have to unpack all those boxes or put pictures up; rather, get out and about in your village or town and breathe it all in. There will be plenty of time to sort out the practicalities. It’s important at the start to get a real feel for your new home and its environment. So explore your area, stop for a coffee, talk to people and take advantage of any new acquaintances you may make along the way. People love to give advice so don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will probably find some fellow expats along the way, and many areas now have expat societies where people give and receive advice on anything from finding a local plumber to where the nearest chiropractor is!
If you are in a village or town, talk to your neighbours and invite them in for an “apero”. We have found that our French neighbours are very friendly and keen to meet new people.
If you have children, you will no doubt have researched schools in your area. This gives you a head start, as you are bound to meet other parents, and simply chatting to them at the school gate or attending your child’s school activities will give you a big head start into socialising.
If your French is rusty, don’t worry: no-one minds if you make mistakes and the very fact you are trying to speak the language will gain you several Brownie points. 
Don’t forget you are bound to become extra popular with family and friends back home in the UK, who will naturally want to come and visit you. Everyone admires someone who breaks away and decides to do something relatively unusual with their life, whether it’s buying a boat and sailing around the world or simply moving to a different country. And let’s face it, France isn’t very far away! You can easily jump on a plane and visit the UK regularly.
Keeping in touch with friends back home is important so make full use of Skype or Facetime so you can maintain your relationships from a distance.
France is a country where everything stops for lunch: many shops are closed between 12 and 2pm, which may be frustrating at the start, but I can guarantee you will soon get used to this – and to being wished “bon appetit” at midday. Café society still exists: you will find plenty of bars and cafes with tables outside where people sit and watch the world go by. 
In summary, my advice is to go with the flow and give yourself time to embrace your new life in France. There may be moments when you wonder what you have done, but the life here is something which us Brits have enjoyed over so many years and continue to do so: we cannot all be wrong! Vive La France! 

Further reading for Living In France


Finding work in France

There are a number of ways that UK expats can fund their lifestyle in France.


Education in France

Are you emigrating to France with school-age children?



Social life in France

The best way to get settled in France is to find out as much as you can about your new community.



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