This holiday season marks 10 years of living in France for me and there are certain aspects of life here that I absolutely adore. Life feels comfortable here at this point. I have Tom, Dagny, a house, a job. But as I look back, let me share some of the best parts of living in France as an American. These aspects below pop up time and time again and are worth repeating!
Things I love about living in France as an American
1. The food scene. I love so much of the food itself not to mention the market culture and eating out at restaurants that serve local and lovingly prepared cuisine. France has some of the best food in the world and even casual restaurants serve up delicious, praise-worthy meals. Discovering the food scene in France has been one of the delights of living here. Don’t even get me started on the bread and cheese!
Regarding market culture, I’ve gotten to know certain types of produce I wasn’t too familiar with back home. Things like leeks and endives are more popular here, so I’ve learned new ways to prepare them. Even the strawberry varieties are smaller and more flavorful than ones from back home!
2. Vet care. My dog Dagny is my life and knowing she is taken care of is incredibly important to me. Not only is French vet care affordable (when compared to American vet costs, that is), but the care she has received has been top notch. That includes her own vet team locally, emergency vets when we’ve had mishaps while on the road, and specialist practices.
I find French veterinary care to be very community oriented, hands on, patient and just excellent. That’s not to say that you won’t find an incompetent vet in France, but I want to share that our experience overall has been positive.
UPDATE: Dagny sadly passed away March 5, 2022.
3. Given me the experience of being “other.” As a white American living in America, I fit in. People understood me and I always felt I belonged. But here, I may look like everyone else but the minute I open my mouth, they know I’m not from France.
Although it doesn’t always feel like it in the moment, being “other” has been one of the best things about living in France as an American in terms of my personal growth. Until we get some distance from a place or situation, sometimes it’s hard to look critically at ourselves and learn about the world and how other people live in it. In this case, the distance was physical distance and living in France has let me experience life as a foreigner.
You don’t always feel like you belong when you’re the foreigner, and while uncomfortable, being out of our element is something we should all experience. It only helps us to be more empathetic, forgiving, and patient as we interact with people at different stages in our lives.
I’ve personally noticed positive changes in myself that have come from this and have spilled over into how I live life and interact with others.
4. Not having to worry about healthcare bankrupting us. This is not to say the healthcare system in France is perfect by any means, but the financial burden of medical bills and tests and surgery is pretty much nonexistent. That is a huge weight off my shoulders.
Medical insurance isn’t tied to one’s work status here, so if Tom lost his job, we wouldn’t lose health insurance. Yes, we pay heavily into the system, but affordable, low-stress healthcare is worth it.
Myths about French healthcare to stop believing! >>
5. The wine. I LOVE FRENCH WINE! Wine out by me is affordable and fabulous. Living in the Loire Valley with world-class wineries just a stone’s throw away has spoiled me and if I ever find myself living back in the US, I know the availability and affordability of French wine is something I will majorly miss.
My favorite wine is Muscadet, for the record, and a wine I had never even heard of until I moved into the area where it’s grown (not to be confused with Muscat). Muscadet is a verrrry dry, pale white wine with crisp citrus and fruity notes that’s made from the melon de Bourgogne grape. Fantastic always.
Tips for visiting a French winery >>
6. I speak French. Sure, we can learn a foreign language in our home country, but it’s a whole different ball game when you need that language to get by in your day-to-day life. It hasn’t bee easy at all and I will always have so much to learn when it comes to French, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn and always do better.
Living in France in and of itself won’t automatically make you a master at French, to be clear, but it will force you to learn the language if you’re willing and put in the time. Learning a new language can be extremely frustrating, but it can also be a source of laughs and something that will challenge you and help you to integrate. That’s the ultimate reward.
7. It’s made me look at my own country and culture with a critical eye. I feel like it’s easy to fall into the trap of living in an echo chamber where everyone around you is similar to you in terms of beliefs, upbringing, morals, and more. Moving abroad and seeing how others perceive Americans and the US has opened my eyes to a perspective I wouldn’t have been exposed to back in my everyday American life.
Learning about a new culture because you now live in it is great way to take a critical look at where you come from and how things are done, both for little things like shutters on windows and harder hitting issues like healthcare reform and immigration.
8. Travel to other areas of France. I’ve visited so much of France over the years and love the diverse landscapes, natural beauty, cities, and small villages alike. I hope to see the Riviera one day. That’s one part of France I’ve never been anywhere near. And the Alps. Preferably during the winter. And the Alsace Christmas markets.
Living in France has allowed me to travel a bit and I’m so grateful for that. I’ve traveled by boat and train and done some fabulous road trips. I’ve seen the French way of living in so many different areas of France and am always learning something new, often with beautiful scenery to boot.
9. Cultural exchange. Yes, sometimes French people say weird things, but I love talking to French people who are curious about American places and people. I’m often the first and only American people have met in person out in small-town France.
The French are often delighted to hear about American culture and our way of life, as am I with the French way of doing things. It starts when they hear my accent, ask where I’m from and then break out in a big smile when they hear I’m American. It’s a great ice breaker.
The French are often curious about us and just the other day, the ladies at the deli who know me a little asked about how we celebrate Christmas in the US and we had a nice little chat about American holiday traditions.
Contrary to popular belief, no, we all don’t love guns or Trump. We’re not all obese. We all don’t eat fast food daily. We all aren’t like you see on TV and in the movies! Although the French don’t really do smalltalk, they are happy to chitchat once you get to know them a little bit.
Despite everything on my list, let me point out that France is not a paradise where life is perfect all the time. Living in France is very different from vacationing in France and has its fair share of challenges. There are many reasons NOT to live in France.
That said, I think the pros absolutely outweigh the cons.
Tell me, what are the best parts of living abroad in France for you?
PIN my best parts of living in France as an American post:
Hi Diane. Is it true there is no legal drinking age in France? I like wine too, but my favorite is red. I hope you, Tom, and Dagny have a merry Christmas.
Hi Avery, things were different before 2009 but these days the legal drinking age I believe is 18. At least to buy alcohol. Thank you and have a very merry Christmas too!
I just wanted to tell you that I love all your articles about France.
I was born in France but I have been living in the US for a very long time and i truly relate about everything you write about France.
I really miss France but my life is here now. and I cannot wait to go back for a visit.
Joyeux Noel et Bonne et Heureuse annee.
Thank you so much Geraldine! I appreciate your support! Merry Christmas too!!
I lived in France for a year in the sixties (my Junior year abroad), and have visited many times since then. I never knew food and coffee could be so incredible. The American food scene then was nowhere what it is today (Swanson TV dinners were a thing), and my mother was making instant Yuban coffee. And don’t even get me started on the tomatoes. They were a revelation! As was the healthcare system. I really think if people in the U.S. actually experienced that level of access to healthcare without the financial worry–well, there’d be no going back to our current system. I really enjoy your channel and your very evenhanded approach to discussing your life in France.