Let me start off by saying I love living in France. I really do. So many things about living in France have changed my life for the better. We get one life to live and I am doing my best to make the most of mine. Remember, I chose to come here and I think that plays into my overall happiness. But we all have bad days. It’s not always easy adapting to a new place.
Here are the things I hate about living in France
(Not all are France-specific)
- You miss things from home. Duh. Friends having babies, birthdays and weddings all pass and seeing pictures of the events without you in them can make you teary-eyed. Even the mundane Starbucks runs and mall trips all seem so special now that you’re not there. I even miss cans of pumpkin and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! Life is a trade-off though and every decision has consequences. Although I know I made the right one in coming here, it’s not all good all the time.
- You feel like an outsider in France. Maybe it’s the fact that people comment on you accent or the fact that I wear a North Face fleece to walk the dog, but it’s clear I’m not French on most days. It’s hard to make friends as an adult in a small town! Thank goodness for Tom and Dagny (husband and dog).
- It’s impossible to adapt to certain things that seem nuts. For example, why are stores closed daily for two hours at lunch, why do they close so EARLY in general , why is NOTHING open on Sundays?
- Not knowing what’s next. I like having a plan and while being spontaneous is fun as well, it can be anxiety inducing to just not know when/if you’re moving back (or somewhere else in France) and what happens next in terms of jobs and life in general. In your own country, having a plan seems so much easier.
- The constant challenge. This is mostly a good thing. Living in France forces me to push myself pretty much daily in terms of language learning, cultural expectations, and so much more. Most days I relish the challenge. But when life already has me down and I’m in a funk, the challenge is more of a hate thing. Sometimes you just want your day to be easy and as a foreigner abroad, that’s not often the case.
- When people speak English to you. Tourists find this helpful, but as someone who speaks French and busts her butt to improve, it can come across as insulting when the exchange turns to English. I know the French mean well and like to practice so I try not to take it personally (this gets on my last nerve). No, I’m not talking about when someone asks where you’re from and then wants to speak a little English. I mean when someone just hears an accent and decides it would be better to speak in English although this person’s level of English is horrendous, and despite your responding in French every time, they persist in English. After the first few times (always in big cities), it gets so annoying. So now when this happens, I respond in French and say, “Sorry, I don’t understand. I don’t speak English.” This was more common my first couple of months here and now never happens out in the country, since most people don’t speak a decent level of English anyway.
- No one really understands what it’s like until they’ve been there, too. No, it’s not a vacation. Once the allure of a new place wears off, that “honeymoon” stage disappears too and France is just like any other place with its own share of problems. No, I’m not lucky to live in France. Luck had nothing to do with me moving here. It was a deliberate choice. And yes, it can make you homesick and feel isolated. Life in France is not a magical dreamland.
The point of this post (and reasons why I love being an expat in France) was to paint an accurate picture of the expat experience through my eyes. Most days are great (like they were back home), but these reasons are entirely valid as well.