For many, moving to France is a lifelong dream, but moving abroad often poses many challenges. Here’s a guide for expat women living in France.
When you first arrive in France, it is fun to explore the bright city lights of Paris, the enchantment of French seaside and ski resorts, as well as the tranquility of the lush French countryside.
However, if you are not employed, once the initial excitement of your relocation fades, you might start to question your role here and how you can keep both your body and brain stimulated long-term. This is especially true if you were working elsewhere before arriving here.
Here are six top tips for expat women to make the most out of their time in France:
1. Stay positive and keep motivated
Whatever the reason that you moved abroad, the most important piece of advice is to stay positive and keep motivated. Do whatever it takes to keep a smile on your face when you are feeling lost, homesick or frustrated. Exercise, join a French sports club, socialize with new people, travel and explore, start a new hobby, write a blog, attend motivational seminars. Find a way to keep your brain active.
Inspiration is also priceless. Soak up some interviews with women like yourself, on Expatica.com and ExpatWomen.com, doing a range of amazing things in their new lives abroad. Read the monthly magazines of local expatriate groups, grab some books about women abroad, read local expat blogs, and join local Facebook, LinkedIn, and Meetup groups to meet new friends in your local area.
2. Think creatively about work
If you do not have a ‘job’ but think that you would like to work in some way, think creatively about what you can do. Too many expats seem to limit their ideas or work abroad by what they knew before. If you cannot work here in your field of choice, consider working virtually, volunteer (there are so many worthy organizations here that need volunteers), study, learn a new area of work, or if your visa permits, start a business here doing something fun. You never know how the pieces of the puzzle will come together later.
Toma Haines of The Antiques Diva agrees. Toma is an American who has lived here in France, the Netherlands, and now resides in Germany. Rather than looking at the loss of her traditional career as a sacrifice to her husband’s career, she looked at her time abroad as the perfect opportunity to pursue her ideas and passions – even if it took her a while to decipher what these really were. To illustrate, before starting The Antiques Diva, Toma thought about teaching gourmet cooking lessons, becoming a certified picture-framer and teaching English as a second language. But, when she realized that her cooking efforts never came out the same way more than once, she hated measuring things and that she would pick up the grammatical habits of foreigners rather than correct them, Toma created her antique shopping tour business that now runs in four countries.
3. Build your identity
Everybody needs to be ‘somebody’. If your move abroad has stripped you of a lot of the identity that you enjoyed at home (from your workplace, school community, family ties, and so on), it is vital that you re-build your identity abroad as soon as possible so that you again feel like a valued ‘somebody’. If you do not own business cards, get some made. They can be just for your name and contact details, or they can also include details of your profession, or desired profession.
Expats need networks and they need them fast. Expat executives need to network to facilitate business and gain local credibility. Non-working expats, need to network so they know who to call for X, Y or Z – especially if they (or their children) are rushed to the emergency room and need a translator and/or moral support at 2am. Make it a priority to get involved with some of the wonderful social, professional and/or women’s organisations here. France has a very supportive expatriate community and new expats here will feel very welcomed.
- American Catholic Women’s Organisation
- American Women’s Group in Paris (AWG)
- Association of American Wives of Europeans (AAWE)
- British and Commonwealth Women’s Association
- Daughters of the American Revolution
- Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO)
- Message Mother Support Group
- Paris Professional Women’s Network
- Women’s International Club (Le WIC de Paris)
- Women of the American Church (WOAC)
5. Find mentors
In addition to friends, seek mentors. These are people that can offer priceless knowledge gained from years of living here in France. Mentors can be the heads of local business associations, presidents of local expat clubs, community liaison officers in your organisation, independent entrepreneurs who might provide the necessary impetus for you to start a business here, and/or expat life coaches, who are typically longer-term, very well-connected expats who know all about the local culture, expectations and challenges.
6. Go forth and enjoy
Whether you came to France for work, business, love, the adventure or just the chance to start a new life, this dynamic region offers a wealth of opportunities for you to recreate your life and identity here. So, make the most of your time here: be open to new ideas; think creatively about what you can do; try new things (online dating as a woman is a great way to activate your local love life at your own pace); believe in your abilities; and above all else… go forth and have the time of your life!