As most of my followers and friends know, I recently moved to Paris from New York City. I came over with my husband, Léo, who is French (from Orléans, France). I was fearless and excited, but four months later there are some things I wish I had known. I don’t regret moving at all, but I could have been more prepared.
1. Save more money than you think you need. This is easier said than done, obviously, and is the number 1 tip for a reason. As a professional baker I’ve had trouble generating income in Paris. Unheard of? Not when your French is lacking. Opportunities come and go. Finding your ideal job is next to impossible, and you should be prepared. French employers often have to prove that they tried and failed to hire a French native before they can hire someone from another country. Don’t be afraid to get crafty and try alternative methods of earning money. If you’re a writer, writejobs.info is an excellent resource for remote, freelance writing work. Craigslist is also surprisingly fruitful if you use a site like searchcraigslist.org to search EVERY city’s database. FlexJobs also has some great remote work. Gumtree is a great resource if you’re in/near the UK. Au Pairing is always an option, but keep in mind that to be an official Au Pair you must meet several requirements: you’re not married, you don’t have children, and you sometimes have to fit in a certain age group.
2. The language barrier is not waist high. It’s much, much taller than you, and it will smash you, scare you, and make you anxious. Don’t be afraid! In 2015, there are great resources for learning languages, and they are growing by the day. A few I can recommend: FluentU and SkillShare. Of course DuoLingo is also great for time spent on the metro. The moral of the story is: learn the language of the place you’re going to! It’s crucial. This has been the most difficult part of my move, hands down.
3. The second you leave your country, you are now an expatriate. Everyone knows that’s a friendly way of saying “immigrant.” You are no longer the main concern of your country, nor the priority of the new country you’ve moved to. You are very fortunate to be living in a country that you were not born in. Be prepared for complications. Have all of your paperwork organized. Do things as far in advance as possible. In France in particular, be ready to make a lot of copies. 😉
4. You’re going to be lonely. I came here with my husband, and I still find myself feeling really lonely sometimes. The best way to cure this is to make other expat friends. Most expats are also looking for the same thing you are. There are numerous groups on Facebook devoted to Expats from Country X in Country Y. They are an incredible resource for jobs, friends, and general expat info. Example: does anyone know where can I find brown sugar?
5. There will be ups, and there will be downs. You are in a beautiful new place. You are having the experience of a lifetime, exposing and immersing yourself in another country’s culture. These experiences are priceless and will leave you changed forever, but that doesn’t mean every day is going to be rainbows and butterflies. Some of the experiences may not be so good, but you will learn from all of them.
6. Your new time zone may be inconvenient to your friends and family back home. Typically I find myself calling everyone in the US in the morning, which is my evening. This is not a deal breaker by any means, just something to consider. Also, when choosing a cellphone provider, for your own sake please look into their international calling plans. Some carriers offer it free, while some charge more than you could believe. My phone calls back home always end up lasting longer than expected.
7. There’s no place like home. It’s true! Living abroad is exciting, adventurous, and eye-opening. But that doesn’t change the fact that home will always be there for you, waiting with open arms for a visit, a return, or just a quick message letting everyone know you miss them.
* This post is based solely on my personal experience moving to Paris. My friends have had different experiences. Some have had it easier, some have had it harder. Obviously it all differs from person to person, I just wanted to state that these are my personal opinions.