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Moving to Paris: Tips for a Smooth Transition
Moving to a different city will typically come with a bit of a learning curve, but moving to a different country is an entirely different ballgame. When moving to Paris, there is certainly going to be a lot to learn. From language, to culture, to simply understanding where things are, preparation will go a very long way for an American (or any non-French person) looking to call Paris home. While experience is the best teacher of all, building a strong foundation of knowledge before taking off will help you hit the ground running upon arrival.
Research the Area and Find the Right Real Estate Agent
Knowing the layout of a city is an important first step regardless of wherever you plan to move. Beyond this, everyone has their own preferences, and you’ll likely want to find an area that works for your needs. Researching the area can help you find just what you’re looking for as well as identify just how you’ll plan on enjoying the city. Paris, although relatively small, has a lot of different experiences to offer its residents. Working with a qualified real estate agent can make this process a lot easier, and can ensure you find the right home as well.
Brush up on Your French (and Consume French Media)
If you don’t speak any French yet, now is the time to start. You can take courses at your local college or online. You can also learn a great deal of language through watching movies or the news in French. It may be difficult at first (especially for those that have never learned another language), and it might not all stick until you’ve lived in France for some time, but knowing the basics will go a very long way when you first arrive.
The more French you speak the more comfortable you’ll probably be, but don’t panic if you don’t feel completely fluent yet. Do the best you can, but don’t be afraid if you don’t know the language like a native. Once you make the move and settle in, you’ll be much more immersed in the language and culture, and that will help you pick up the words, phrases, slang, and subtleties that you might not have completely figured out yet. Learning a language takes time.
Get to Know the Culture
Do you know about most of the faux pas unique to France? Are you sure what Friday nights look like for most people in your age group? Where do people gather, and what’s appropriate to wear to different kinds of gatherings? If you don’t have the answers to these things (and that’s fine), it’s time to do some more research. Much like the French language, to know and understand the culture as much as possible before you get off the plane. If you’re watching or reading French media to learn French, you may be able to pick up on some of these customs – although they may not be apparent at first.
You aren’t going to be perfect, and most French people won’t expect you to be. You might say the wrong thing, or make a gesture that means something different than you intended. Have a good sense of humor and keep making an effort. With enough time and experience, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll pick these things up!
Make Some Friends
There are a number of expat groups that will ease your transition to life in Paris. Most have a diverse international membership and offer both social and cultural activities to help you make friends and feel at home. The American Women’s Group in Paris, WICE, British in France, and The American Club to name a few. There are also parent groups associated with most schools, and more loosely organized Meet Up and Facebook based groups. A search of the internet is certain to turn up numerous options for creating an enjoyable and meaningful life in Paris (or elsewhere in France).
Have All Your Paperwork in Order
Your passport, visa, and other important documents should all go with you. It’s a good idea to have your ID, your birth certificate, your marriage license or divorce papers, and other official documents on-hand. If you’ve ever changed your name or gender, or you have other official papers, take them along. It couldn’t hurt to get an official French translation of them, too.
The more you have your paperwork ready, the easier it will be for you to get through customs, get anything that you’ve shipped to your new place, rent or purchase somewhere to live, get a job, and more. This is an area where it can’t hurt to be over-prepared.
It’s natural to want to get everything right on the first try, but don’t try so hard that you end up making more mistakes â€” and don’t be so afraid to make mistakes that you don’t interact with others. If you’re trying to be respectful and kind, most people can spot that you’re making a genuine effort to fit in. Over time you’ll learn ways to feel more included and connected to your surroundings, but it’s still okay to experience a learning curve as you settle in. Moving to a new country is an adventure, and the best adventures happen when we step out of our comfort zone.