How to adapt to life as an expat in France

26.10.16
3 minute read
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There are good reasons to move to France for work or study. For a start, there’s the good food. And the good wine. And the good weather. What's not to love?

You’ll have more time to enjoy them too. France has long lunch breaks, short work days and generous holiday allowances.

But not everything is that simple. Here are some things you’ll need to know about living in France.


Greet people with ‘la bise’

french kiss

There are complex rules about how to greet people in France. Unfortunately, no one agrees what they are.

It definitely involves kissing. However, the number of kisses and which cheek you start kissing depends on where in France you are.

Check this database to see which techniques are most common in your area.

And be prepared for a few awkward incidents.


Learn the Lingua Franca

speak english

French is THE beautiful language. It’s also the world’s most important, at least according to the French.

As a tourist, you could get away with pointing and shouting English words here. As an expat, that’s just embarrassing. It won’t help you make friends either.

Fortunately, the French are always happy to help you learn the language by pretending not to speak English.

Check out these apps for learning a new language to get started.


Drinking in France

wine glasses

The most important French word is santé, which means health. It’s the equivalent of cheers so you’ll use it often with your new French friends.

There are a few rules to remember when clinking drinks. Include everyone, make eye contact, don’t cross arms and take a sip before putting your drink down.

Failure to do this will result in 7 years of bad sex. Apparently.

Oh, and do not ever put ice in your wine. It’s sacrilège.


Leave your desk for lunch

french meal

You might be used to eating a quick lunch while hunched over your desk. The French are not.

Almost half of all French people take more than 45 minutes for lunch. Two hour lunch breaks are not unheard of either.

So put your to-do list aside, switch off your computer and go join them. Sandwiches and a packet of crisps are no longer acceptable.

You’ll not only be eating better food, but also making valuable use of your time to bond with colleagues.


Opening a bank account

bank account

You’ll want to set up a French bank account as soon as possible. That involves a lot of paperwork and can get quite confusing.

And don’t try doing it on your lunch break as the banks close for lunch too.

For more info, we put together this complete guide on how to open a bank account in France.


Dress to impress

french fashion

‘Dress down Friday’ isn’t really a thing here. Actually, dressing down is rarely ever a thing in France.

You might need to update your wardrobe in order to fit in. No, we’re not talking about berets and black and white striped t-shirts.

The French pride themselves on their style. Even popping to the shop for fresh baguettes can feel like a walk down a catwalk.

At the very least, leave the shorts and flip flops at home.


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