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If you could live in France for a year, would you a)......

If you could live in France for a year, would you a)......

Old Aug 12th, 2012, 05:22 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 3,030
If you could live in France for a year, would you a)......

a) stay in one town/area the whole time (somewhere central)
b) move around every three months or so
c) live six months in one area and six months in another

I am hoping to go and live in France for a year - not just yet but hopefully within the next four years. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time. I have an EU passport so don't have to worry about staying for this length of time.

I want to see as much as possible but also want to try and live in a community and really get to know an area and hopefully people as well. I am interested in what Fodorites feel would be the 'best' solution. What would you do and why? This is for research purposes...I can see the pros and cons of all the above choices. Also for those who have done a similar thing or are currently living in France what would you suggest. Any ideas for towns/areas would also be appreciated. I prefer the countryside to the major cities, but understand the limitations of living in rural France.

I have travelled a fair bit in France but of course there are so many areas I still haven't discovered.

Thanks for any input
schnauzer is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 05:30 AM
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What do this have to do with France, specifically? I'm serious, it has nothing to do with France, it just has to do with what you want to do and what you are going to be doing in France. Obviously, anyone who has a job cannot just be traveling around a country they move to. The issues would be the same for anyone who moved to any country as an outsider.
Christina is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 05:40 AM
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What are your goals? To see the country? To learn the language? To become a part of a community? It would be hard for a complete stranger to choose a, b, or c for you. That is entirely up to you and each of us would have a different answer based on our own preferences. If I had a year to spend in Europe, I would spend 3 months in 4 different places, not necessarily all in France, so I could see several areas in depth. But that is me, not you.

Actually, I think I would spend the year in Paris and take a monthly one-week trip to 12 parts of Europe.
mamcalice is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 05:52 AM
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If you want to live in a place and get to know the people then you need to choose a small area. If you're leaving in a year how likely is it that you will form friendships. It takes more than a year to form friendships at home. If you're only looking to be acquaintances and say hi over the fence then any place is fine.

Do you want to get to know French people or English/American expats? You might go someplace where you have an introduction to others.

You need to talk with people who have done this sort of thing to get their perspective on how likely it will be that you will get to know people. Getting to know an area is easy.

I would stay in Paris for 6 months and then choose 2 or 3 other locations for the rest of the time. In Paris you can definitely join an expat community so you won't be lonely.
adrienne is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:03 AM
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'In Paris you can definitely join an expat community so you won't be lonely.' Uggggh Exactly the wrong reason to come to France, to my mind. Why come here so that you can speak English and associate with non-French people?

I would suggest spending a lot of time working on your French. Even if you're still working during the day, this should be possible. I have several times got off a business flight to head directly to my 3 hour grammar class. (In fact I found it was a great way to get rid of someone sitting next to you on a flight who wanted to hit on you - 'what are you doing there? ' 'My French grammar homework.' Works every time.)

Then once you arrive, get involved with something - an association, classes, whatever. And go out looking for people - invite neighbours in for a drink, join a gym class.You're not going to meet people just by standing around, especially if you dont speak the language. You need to participate. Which probably also means that you need to spend more than 3 months in one place.
Carlux is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:04 AM
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Personally, I would go somewhere and not try to link up with the ex-pats.
Dukey1 is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:10 AM
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As someone who has done something similar, my opinion is that you should base yourself somewhere for the year. Be a part of that place, neighbors , shops etc. That gives you more of a feeling of being there, being a part of everything. Get to know your neighbors, the neighborhood, join in any celebrations/holidays with them .. you will feel more like a "local" or just a part of the place rather than someone stopping by/a tourist.
From that base you can go anywhere, I have friends who stay in an apt in Provence each summer and they rent a car and drive all over, exploring, staying here and there. I would stay in Paris and do the same thing ..
Learn as much of the language as you can, this is so very important in being a part of a place and not just being the outsider looking in.
I have lived outside of the US for over 5 years now and I never have anything to do with ex-pat forums, groups etc. Personal opinion.. I am here because I wanted to be and love it.. I don't want to sit around with a group of people who meet to complain about everything here, wishing they could find things that are not sold here, etc.
I hope you manage to do this, I wish everyone could take a year or so off and just go live somewhere totally different .. it does amazing things for you
Scarlett is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:30 AM
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Having spent considerable time pondering a similar decision, My first choice would be to find one place to base. We fell in love with Languedoc-Roussillon. I would like to know there is an ex-pat community I could connect with as needed, but I wouldn't want to make it my lifestyle. I would like to have both ex-pat and French friends, so I would chose a town that offers a thriving life to it's current inhabitants. (In other words, not just a place where lots of folks have vacation homes, and the restaurants close up from November til March!)

You should look for a place that has good local and regional bus service and nearby national train service, to maximize your ability to explore. If you can live a daily life without a car, you might get by easily just renting one once in a while. A decent sized Carrefours is probably more important than a once-a-week market, but those markets do seem to have a decent schedule of hitting good towns on a continuous schedule. A good bakery and a local cafe is essential.

If you are concerned about it, take a month -- or at least two weeks -- in winter and stay there to be sure you can do all you would like (another reason we like the SW, more days of sunshine than anywhere else in the country.)

My second choice, would be two bases, for 6 months each...but I really think a full year would give you more of a connection with the community. If I were doing two bases, I would pick a good town (Ceret, Perpignan, Olonzac, Capestang or Uzes made our short list) and one city (Paris, Montpellier or Lyon). I guess it might depend on the budget available! One base would maximize the budget, two would be a bit more costly.
uhoh_busted is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:40 AM
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I'm with uhoh_busted here. we've idly thought about this, and the ideal place [for us] is somewhere with enough life going on that there are things to do all year round so that you can meet locals on a daily basis, but not so big that you don't keep meeting the same people.

a huge city would be very difficult IMHO - people just aren't interested enough to make the effort, whereas in a smaller place you will have novelty value. but all of that will be wasted if you can't speak the language.

I also like the idea of staying somewhere for a year and using it as a base for travel, so it would need to have good communications to places you think you'd like to go.
annhig is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:49 AM
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Hi S,

I would live in Paris and take occasional trips to the outside world, like the Parisians do.

ira is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:49 AM
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I'd spend a year in one area. You can always go on holiday to another area for a week or two, several times during your year.

You need to learn French, and avoid ex-pats , of any nationality, as much as possible to get the most from your year.

Languedoc-Roussillon is chock-a-block with Brits, as are several other areas of France.

One very important thing you must do, regardless of your EU passport is to sort out health care insurance for your year - you will not be entitled to free health care.
hetismij2 is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:55 AM
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annhig brings up another aspect of being an expat/visitor that we don't always consider until it actually happens. Living in a foreign land and not knowing the language can result in various things.. being ignored, being spoken to like you are dear/an idiot or someone being helpful/speaking English.
Where we live, people apologise to us ! for not speaking English .. we butcher the language every day but they do appreciate the effort. Do not expect anyone to speak English, then things will be easier for you.. it will be a nice surprise when they do.
Big cities actually can have more people who 1- speak English 2- are more open to strangers among them. Small towns/villages can be sometimes a bit closed/wary of strangers.
And living in a city, you are bound to meet people from all over the world, so your scope of experiences and who you meet will be a little bigger/ less closed as in a small village somewhere.
I have heard it jokingly said that you don't have to worry about speaking French in Provence, everyone is English :- )
hetismj2 brings up an important point- We live outside the US so we had to buy insurance here, it can be just as expensive as in the US so count that into your expenses.
Scarlett is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 06:58 AM
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We have friends to decided to spend a year in Europe (and actually did 11 months) by living for one month in each place all across Western Europe. As I recall, three of the places were in France. Of course, they were a couple, not just one person.

The husband wrote a book about it: Ed Webster's "A Year of Sundays." Their experience might help you figure it out.
d_claude_bear is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 07:41 AM
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Expats must be avoided like poison as they pull you in all of the wrong directions.
kerouac is online now  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 08:12 AM
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d) If you live in Manhattan and could live in New Jersey for a year would you??

Why on earth would anybody want to move to France for any period of time. Interesting question, but I can't imagine any reason. A holiday at the sea, nice but actually living there? What an idea.
logos999 is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 08:22 AM
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Okay, I'll dream along with you. I would try four different places, moving with the seasons to try to maximize good weather. I'd pick the four locations based on how many interesting places are nearby. I'd make overnight trips in the area, so I'd want a car . Even though we always prefer the countryside, for a longer-term stay I'd want to be in a mid-sized town. 5000 population is too small; 10,000 may be too big (for me). I'd want the town to be fairly prosperous.

We think the Orne, Mayenne, and Sarthe are beautiful and not crowded. I'd make that one of my stays. Maybe somewhere south of the Loire too.

Schnauzer, what places have you seen in France that are on your list to return to?
Coquelicot is online now  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 08:32 AM
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DH and I tried to choose a place (in Italy) to buy but could never figure out what we loved the most.

In France, we were just getting started but also had a difficult time choosing where we'd want to have a permanent base if we could. So your question is a difficult one, schnauzer!

That all being said, I'd go for a town with a university and good transportation and stay there. We enjoyed Montpelier as a base. Although not quite so convenient for trains, we liked Aix as well.

Paris would be my first choice though. You can make your own neighborhood even if you're in a big city, eh?
TDudette is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 08:33 AM
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It's difficult to answer without knowing your objectives and likes and dislikes.

All things being equal, I would choose one or two places I either wanted to explore more in-depth or areas I had not been to before. If you want to do a lot of exploring, obviously in or near a transportation hub would be ideal, few places are very far from one.

I would join one or two local activities. Yes, you meet other ex-pats in French classes but in my experience they are from highly varied countries and backgrounds, not a bunch of self-satisfied English and American retirees such as moi-même.

So, a few more clues would be good!
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 08:48 AM
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For purely practical reasons I'd recommend picking one place for the entire year. This helps you to feel part of a place, but I also recommend it because short-term rentals are less common (and tend to be more expensive) - plus, moving repeatedly is a hassle even with relatively little luggage due to having to give months' notice on an apartment and pay a frequently hefty deposit on another. You should also pick a place with good transport links (as mentioned above - whether this is train or bus or both) so that you can travel at the weekends if you want. I'd recommend Paris, Lyon or Bordeaux (or their suburbs). I'd agree with the recommendations to get your health insurance sorted and to stay away from other expats! Out of interest: what kind of job would you be looking to do here? How is your French? And how old are you? I ask these questions because their answers will affect the advice that others are able to give you. FWIW, I'm in my mid-twenties and have lived in France for 4 years (am also from Europe if that helps).
Bianca_P is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2012, 09:09 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
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Thanks for posting the book,"A Year of Sundays." It's just my kind of read and available used on Amazon. All I had to do was read the flap and I was hooked.


Spending a year in France instead of 2 weeks every year would be a dream come true, but just not possible for us. So, I'll just have to live through books and Fodorites posts.
TPAYT is offline  

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