Living in France

I am back in the United States now and cannot pretend that I am unhappy about this fact. However, I do miss Paris and all the friends I made. This morning as I was unpacking my suitcases, I would catch sight of something especially memorable and feel the rush of emotion. Although I was certainly ready to come home, this emotional connection to my life in France has prompted me to consider the options for an American staying in France long-term.

If you wish to visit France for the summer, or the winter, or any of those other seasons, you will not have an issue. We are allowed staying in the EU for up to 90 days on just a regular passport entry. Had schedules worked out differently, I could have stayed for a few more weeks. If you plan to stay longer than 90 days or will be working at any point during your stay, then you are required to obtain a visa. Depending on your reason for living in France, there are 3 types of these visas: student visa, long-stay visa, or work permit visa. I have no personal experience on the matter and certainly not a lot of information to give, but friends living in France recall that the red-tape and paperwork of the French government is absolutely miserable to deal with.


In the area where I lived, there are a lot of long-term au pairs as well as short-term English tutors like myself. The au pairs can stay up to one year with their visa and then are allowed to renew the au pair visa one time. After their two years are up, they must return to the States or have another full-time job lined up in France. Having a job ready and waiting for you is a great way to stay in France long-term (so long as you keep that job of course), however this is not an easy proposition. Finding a job in France is a challenge for a foreigner because of the high unemployment rate and the fact that most companies would rather give jobs to qualified French citizens. In addition, to work in France, you must obtain the afore-mentioned work permit, which is also hard to obtain. You are supposed to have the job first to apply for the visa but most companies won’t hire you without already having a work permit. Catch-22 to say the least. The work permits are difficult to obtain for the same reason, high unemployment mixed with a government who wants to protect their citizens from immigrants taking all the available jobs. In order to really succeed, you must prove that you can do this job that no French citizen is capable of doing. Or get hired by an international company with a branch in France and beg to be transferred there. I know this data is old but in 2003, France issued only 6500 visas for permanent employment, of which 313 were to Americans. There are your odds.


One American friend I met in Paris (a Clevelander no less!) discussed her history of working in France. She has been there for seven years now but at the beginning her visas were only valid for 12 months so she would have to reapply each year. She works as an English teacher, a great way to earn a living in France. She now has a full-time long term English teaching position with a university in Paris and will be fine to stay in France as long as that job holds up. She jokes about how a good way for her to obtain citizenship in case the job falls through is by marrying a French man. She did, coincidentally, fall in love in Paris and is engaged to be married. Only problem, he’s American too.

If you are planning to live in France, then you better understand the cost of living. I only have knowledge about the Paris area, obviously smaller towns are much cheaper. Paris real estate is expensive. Bring several hundreds of thousands to millions of euros or you won’t have much more than a one-room attic closet. Feel lucky if you have an elevator, feel like you won the lottery if you have air conditioning. The restrictions for renting properties in Paris can be steep. As a rule, you should be able to prove that you make at least three times the monthly rent. If you plan to buy, you MUST have at least 20% cash to put down. And forget about the 30 year mortgage; 10, 15, 20, or 25 are the options in France. Again, you must prove that you make three times the monthly mortgage amount. My host dad worked for a bank and was astounded to hear how little down payment was necessary to purchase real estate in America. Don’t expect that in France.


Utilities are also more expensive in France. My host mom mentioned numbers although I cannot recall them now, but the water and electricity bills were outrageous. I already discussed in a previous post how expensive gasoline is, roughly $8 per gallon while I was there. Food is not cheap either. There are some things, products of France, which can be obtained for great prices. One such item is wine. I was surprised to see how cheap wine is to buy by the bottle in a grocery store and even by the glass at a nice restaurant. I understand that living in Ohio means the cost of some items are lower just because our cost of living is relatively low. However, I was surprised and frightened by the price of some necessities in Paris. A regular package of band-aids were around 5 euros, as was a bottle of shave gel. No wonder the French have the stereotype of not shaving, at 5 euros a pop, it’s an investment!


While I love to visit Paris and living there for 2 months was an awesome experience, I am not planning to move there anytime soon. I hope my travels take me back at some point in the future; and the great part is, now I have some long-term visa friends with whom to stay!


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