things i like

What Is It Like to Move to France?

I wrote a little bit about how I’ve been feeling about our move in my last post, but I thought I would share a little more about what it’s been like for us to move to Paris.

This might be interesting for people thinking about moving overseas, or just for those of you who are curious about what’s been going on in our lives the past few months!

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I think I will share in list form so this doesn’t get too wordy πŸ™‚

First, a few fun facts:

  1. Neither Whit nor I had ever visited Paris before we moved, nor had we traveled through Europe
  2. I lived overseas (Venezuela) for 8 months after graduating college, so I’ve had some experience in living in a foreign country
  3. We travel a lot with our jobs and have spent significant chunks of time away from home (i.e. 5 weeks in Australia/New Zealand, 6-7 weeks away from home in the United States, 2 months in Southeast Asia)
  4. We had significant help from Whit’s organization (and our families) that made everything much more possible

So, what has it been like to move to France?

Making the decision

  • It’s a huge decision! We committed to living here for 2 years, which isn’t that long in the grand scheme of life, but it’s still a really big decision. We spent a lot of time in discussion, thought, prayer, and conversation with others before deciding that this was the right move for us.
  • We didn’t really have any “no’s” or obstacles standing in our way. Whit found out about the opportunity at work (I had encouraged him to ask about it), and all of our mentors and wise family and friends said it would be a great life experience and good experience for moving forward in our careers. Everyone said that we should go for it, because now is a great time to do something like this!
  • Our families are sad for us to miss out on life together (we have an almost one-year old nephew, a newborn niece, and two slightly older nieces), which is probably the hardest part. Honestly, we are sad about that too, but we knew that no matter where we lived, it would be far from family, likely requiring a long/expensive plane ride. This was a better, more feasible opportunity than the options we had in the United States, so that didn’t hold us back. We are also hoping that our families will visit us throughout our two years here πŸ™‚
  • We don’t have any kids right now which makes this move a lot easier logistically, but it does delay us from feeling like we are settled somewhere and ready to start trying to have children. So this one kind of goes both ways. But we are both adventurous and France is a great place to have children, so who knows, maybe we will want to while we’re here!?
  • My favorite advice that I got was from a wise friend who recently moved to Germany with her husband and young children. She told me, “Europe is as great as everyone makes it out to be. Even if you ONLY go for the proximity to other European countries, it’s worth it!” That kind of settled it in my mind. Our main reasoning for moving is to follow God’s calling on our careers, but we might as well enjoy it while we’re at it!

Preparing for the move

  • Any kind of move or career change requires a LOT of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strength and energy – even more so when the move and career change are overseas. It was a lot of work to prepare for the move, and I will quickly tell you that I didn’t do hardly any of it! Whit handled most of the logistics leading up to our move, and I am so thankful for that. (See two bullet points below for more on this!) We had a ton of support, advice, and guidance from his company, too, which made it much smoother; it would be much more difficult without having such guidance.
  • We were really excited. I took French on and off from middle school all the way up until graduate school just in the past two years, and a few years ago I started learning about France and French culture. I was fascinated by everything French and, to me, it all sounded like something that would fit very closely with Whit’s personality and our lifestyle. (Sidenote: I had always imagined living outside of the US for much of my life, while Whit does not do well in countries that don’t have smoothly operating systems for transportation, business, etc. After learning more about France it sounded like a place that would fulfill my desire to experience a new culture with Whit’s desire to live somewhere where things work and operate smoothly.) Once we decided we were going, we enjoyed fantasizing over exploring Paris together, researching travel tips, and ogling over pictures of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Because our life was so packed with logistics and stress related to moving and traveling before the move, I wasn’t able to finish my thesis and put my graduate studies behind me before arriving in France. This was hard for both of us because I wasn’t able to jump into figuring out logistical details OR emotionally prepare for the excitement of moving to France. I live for travel, and every detail related to travel is fun for me; whereas for Whit, it was work and felt like work to him. I wished that I could have been more involved on the front end, but it just wasn’t possible. This was something I had to give up, let go of, and be okay with. I told myself that it’s just how life is, and I could still enjoy it without it being the perfect, ideal situation where I would get to spend my free time planning and prepping.

Packing

  • Everyone wants to know how we fit our life into an airplane!
  • First of all, we live pretty minimally. We don’t buy more than one of a “thing,” we discard things we don’t use, and we purge often. That being said, we still had a lot of STUFF and it took a lot of time to purge and pack it. We had about 6 months before we had to move out of our house in Virginia, and often when I had a spare chunk of time I would go through a section of our belongings and try to think about 1) what we didn’t need even then, 2) what we might want to take, 3) what we definitely want to save, and 4) things that I could decide about later. We started listing bigger items on Craigslist, offering to friends and family, and selling on eBay 2-3 months before moving out to make sure we had enough time to deal with everything. We still have items that didn’t sell that we held on to and will hopefully be able to deal with sometime in the future.
  • Secondly, and most importantly, of course we brought Tela with us! Almost everyone we talked to asked if we were bringing our cat. My answer was, “Of course!” but I can understand why that isn’t as obvious as it might seem to me (she is a member of our family, after all). There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through to make sure Tela could enter the country, but in the end all the border guards wanted was to see her immunization records. Apparently France is pretty lenient with pets – so that’s good to know for the future!
  • Tela (the Princess)’s transportation: She rode in a soft-sided carrier with us on the plane. She gets frequent UTI’s due to stress, so I found a “calming collar” that she wore that really relaxed her, and I gave her a couple of calming treats on travel days. Overall it was a short flight so not having food and water wasn’t as big of a deal – I would feel really bad for animals who have to go much longer! She was really ready to use the litter box by the time we got to our apartment πŸ™‚ (Whit’s boss bought all her supplies and had them ready for us when she picked us up from the airport – I told you, I don’t know what we would’ve done without all the extra support!) By the way, Tela loves living in France… I think she finally feels at home as the fanciest cat in the fanciest city in the world.
  • Extra and overweight baggage is VERY expensive – at least on United, so we limited ourselves to 3 large checked suitcases, a guitar in a hard carrier, 2 regular carry-ons, my purse, and Tela (she counts as a carry-on). Technically that was all we were allowed, but no one minded that I also carried an extra bag full of snacks and various carry-on items. The first bags were either free or $50 (I can’t remember), the second were $100, and a third would have been an additional $200. Luggage weighing over 50 pounds would have cost an additional $200 (I think?). We weighed, re-packed, and re-weighed several times.
  • I’ve normally traveled during the summer, or only one season, and I will say it was MUCH (MUCH MUCH) harder to pack for a full year. I have to go back to the US to renew my visa before winter, so I left a lot of stuff at home. Last summer I was in Cambodia for 6 weeks and packed in ONE carry-on! Even when I moved to Venezuela I only needed summer clothing. I feel like a failure for not even fitting all of my stuff into 2 bags and a carry-on! Ha. I don’t know what I would have done if I had to have taken everything with me the first go-round! I guess bought more things here rather than in the US, or else paid the extra money.

Well, that’s about it! That was a MAJOR summary – in the future I’d like to write more and give more details for aspiring expats . Hopefully that was at least entertaining to read, and maybe somewhat helpful too! I will try to share more about our life here and settling in sometime soon. In the meantime, check out my Instagram for more pictures and tidbits of our live in France πŸ™‚

Ciao!

2 thoughts on “What Is It Like to Move to France?

  1. This is absolutely the best time for you guys to do this! You will never regret it. Being so far from family definitely is the hardest part. I hope you can travel home a couple of times in the coming years to get your fill of family time when you can.
    So much of your prep sounds like what we did before we moved to California; definitely not international, but a huge jump just the same.

    Like

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