If you’ve read our About page you’ll know that Carole wasn’t as excited about moving to France as I was. This has always been my dream, not hers. It took me over 25 years to convince her to move to France and even then with more than a little reluctance. I think it’s important to share stories like ours because not every couple that moves to France (or any other foreign country) are in complete agreement about the enormous changes that they are embarking upon. That can add even more difficulties and complexities to something that is already very challenging in many ways.
I don’t take any of this for granted. I know that my wife made a huge, life altering move for one reason and one reason alone: me. I do everything I can to make her as happy as possible, to smooth things out when I can, to take her on adventures I think she’ll like. But, at the end of the day I always remember that she gave up a life in the U.S. that she was perfectly happy with so that I could live my dream. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.
As most of you reading these articles have probably figured out by now, I (Steve) do all of the writing. Carole reads the articles and sometimes offers me advice and insights, but the website is my doing and she’s fine with that. She is pretty active on Facebook though and belongs to a lot of groups that deal with Americans and other “foreigners” living and retiring in France. When someone posted in the group “American’s Retiring in France” asking if anyone regretted retiring in France (and if so, why?) Carole posted the following that I thought might be of interest to some of you.
“Someone pointed out that most of these responses are positive. I’m guessing most of these people chose to move here. So here’s the viewpoint of someone who did not want to move. Nothing against France. I like France fine to visit, but I liked my life, friends, job, home in Nashville. I had my own plans for what I’d do (in the U.S.) with my time when I stopped working.
“Finally giving in to my husband’s life long dream to live in France, we made the move at his usual breakneck speed. (I think he was afraid I’d change my mind.) In 4 months we both quit our jobs, sold two cars, sold our home of 18 years, found and made the promise to buy an apartment in France and sold almost all of our belongings except for twenty boxes / suitcases.
“Most people think, what a romantic adventure! Well, I guess it is that, but it’s also a lot of work and stress. During the first 6-8 months here in France I had a number of meltdowns and murder was threatened more than once. (But my husband is still alive, folks.)
“So many things are different in this country and culture – some good, some not so much, some both. And of course, these will vary depending on whether you move to a village or big city, which part of the country, how much money you have, if you’re still working or retired, have children or not, etc.
“The French do not seem as money driven as the U.S., they take their time to take care of you and get to the next customer, businesses close for long lunches and do not stay open late – good except when you’re trying to get something done quickly. And do not move during Europe’s vacation month of August, as we did! Then it’s exceptionally difficult to get anything done.
“The biggie of course, is the language. My husband had been studying in preparation for his dream, but he is still not what you’d call fluent. I, in my resistance, did not learn any. (I showed “them”!) Learning a new language is a lot of work and I had not planned on all of this work in my retirement! However, the lack of the language has caused many of my frustrations and difficulties.
“As a gardener, many of the plants are different. Even different breeds of dogs here.
“More differences you need to adapt to are:
- Money is in Euros
- Time is in 24 hours rather than 12 – 14h30
- Month & day is reversed in dates – 25/08/20
- Temp is in Centigrade rather than Fahrenheit – 0 C = 32 F
- Measurements are in metric, which effects so many things – distances, cooking, weights, clothing sizes, gas, etc.
- Small shops rather than Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. I like that it’s not so cookie cutter like the US, except when you’re trying to furnish an entire home. Even Amazon France has much less selection than Amazon U.S.
- Property purchase takes an average of 3 months to close rather than 30 days in the U.S.
- It can be difficult for Americans to open a French bank account and/or obtain a loan due to FATCA.
- Credit cards are considered a negative, they use debit cards.
- No FICO score in France and is of little importance to anyone here.
- Renting a home can be difficult for older American retirees due to the protections meant to protect you, but they can work against you.
- Lots of bureaucratic red tape for us immigrants for obtaining visas, national health cards, drivers licenses, etc. Although, I’m sure it’s true for moving to the US, also.
“All that being said, there are so many good things here – in our town of Vence, the people have been so welcoming and helpful (expats and natives), the climate is more temperate (I lived in MN, TX, TN), healthcare is universal & less expensive, food is fresh and less processed, we’re able to walk most places. And France has a sane president!
“I do miss my friends & family, some foods, good music, my larger home on a wooded acre (we chose an apartment in old town), but considering the state of the U.S., I have to say I’m glad to be here this year.
“After being in France only one year, if my France loving husband weren’t in the picture for some reason, would I stay? Hmm. I would probably go back to the U.S. (Depending on the election results.) But… who knows.”