How to survive living in France

Moving countries will always be a challenge, enjoyable but a challenge none the less. One thing that every one who has moved abroad will experience is culture shock. I remember being warned about this before I started my erasmus but I still wasn’t prepared.

When moving to a new country you may have to learn a new language, how to get around the city.. Find a job, start studying. What makes settling down difficult is the small things that are different in your new home town. I have only experienced the culture shock of moving from Ireland to France.. Then back to Ireland and again back to France! (I’ll save that story for a separate post!). So I’ll share some things I have learned that may make it easier to settle into la vie française.


1. Don’t let bureaucracy stress you

The most important thing to keep in mind if you come to live in France is that administration, paperwork, bureaucracy will be slow. It will be very slow. The office you need to find won’t be convenient to get to, it will open late in the morning, close early and be shut for a few hours at lunch. Paperwork will have to be filled out numerous times and there won’t be an online option.

These things are out of your control, the French won’t stress so neither should you. Things get done, eventually, and you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll find someone who understands your struggle and gives a bit of extra help.

2. Always say Bonjour

Or bonsoir, bonne journée, bonne appétit… It can be difficult to remember which to say at what time. I have lost count of the number of times I have said bonsoir only to be corrected with ” bonjour ” . However it’s the effort that counts. Not saying bonjour to the girl at the boulangerie or bonne journée when you leave is a definite no-no. Forgetting to say these polite words gets you treatment which is definitely… Different.

Knowing small things like this will help prevent that culture shock.

3. Appreciate the food

You’ll start to love French life when you realise how good the patisseries are. Of course there’s Irish things that you can’t help but miss, like tea and Dairymilk. (definitely bring these things to help with homesickness). However don’t try replicate what you have at home here in France, appreciate the variety and stop comparing. Supermarkets are difficult when you can’t find your trusted brands but try something new and you’ll develop new tastes.


French Picnics

4. Take timetables with a pinch of salt

If you’re in college, classes will be cancelled, teachers won’t show up… It’s part of the experience. French universities are definitely an experience. Fees in France are much lower than ours, around €400 a year. This means everyone can go to college, however it also means that there isn’t the same funding available for new buildings and modern online systems such as blackboard. As a result every thing isn’t as smooth as at home. College life is easier here when you don’t get annoyed over classes being cancelled but just accept it.

5. Get used to constant strikes

Strikes are a regular occurrence here and they really disrupt everything. Trains stop, the metro is down… It can wreak havoc. Again it’s not something to stress about, everyone is in the same position. It all gets resolved… Eventually.

There are definitely things about this country that take some getting used to, however the perks of living in the south of France win. Sunshine, beautiful buildings, delicious food and wine are what make this part of the world so special.


If you’re planning on moving to France to study feel free to get in touch!

Happy Friday



3 thoughts on “How to survive living in France

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