Moving to France: Reflections from My First Year in France

If you have been following my series on moving to France, you will know that I have been living here since November 2021. I wanted to share my reflections on moving to France as I came upon my first anniversary of living in France full-time. Here is the series:

The ‘Moving to France’ mini-series

1. Taking the plunge #1
2. The first-month #2
3. Buying a car #3
4. L’Assurance Maladie #4
5. How to let go #5
6. Sorting what to take #6
7. What I brought to France #7
8. Building Connections: Housewarming #8

Reflections: Moving to France -  My First Year in France
Rue du Petit Fort, Dinan, France

Reflections: The best part of establishing a new life in France

There are honestly too many to list here. And I would like to go beyond the usual “boulangeries on every corner” and “long lunches on a Parisian terrasse” stereotypes. While those things ARE amazing, let’s dive into some that are perhaps less discussed in other articles.

1. Stressed about being late? “Non, c’est pas grave”

I arrived 8 minutes late to an appointment last week due to missing my turn on two of the dozen roundabouts between my house and the insurance agency. In my defense, I had only been there once, a friend drove that first time, it was long ago, and we have few roundabouts in the U.S. While I felt terrible about being late, the agent merely smiled and said not to worry at all, that she had not been looking at her clock because “I knew you were coming… It doesn’t matter if you are five minutes early or five minutes late.” She offered and prepared a cup of coffee – which I gladly took – and we proceeded to have a lovely conversation about life before diving into the costs and benefits of the mutuelle, or “top-up” insurance policy.

I often hear the expression “C’est pas grave” regarding just about any inconvenience. It’s just not a big deal, these little challenges that life throws at once. Living here, I am frequently reminded that in the grand scheme of things, these daily frustrations don’t matter.

2. They think of everything

When I purchased my top-up insurance policy from AXA, I was told that I will receive a 20% discount as an auto-entrepreneur (this is their “thank you for being an entrepreneur” not the general rule). That was great news, to be sure.

Reading over my policy, I noticed that amongst the many benefits of the package, one included a “once a year limited to 250 euros for pet care during hospitalization for more than 24 hours.” Genius. To state the obvious, there is also child care available should the same fate fall upon you.

3. It’s all about ‘Slow Living’

reflections - Moving to France
River Rance with Stella, Dinan, Brittany

I was blessed to have found a contract with a local enterprise just after I created my consulting business. This contract has been renewed a few times since, a delight as they are truly wonderful to work with. I have an additional contract with an American woman who also pursued her dream and created a successful business in France. I am very proud of the work I am doing for these clients and hope they know how much I appreciate their support.

Being a small business owner equates to a lot of paperwork and with that some headaches. But it is the ability to set a schedule that works for me in this new life that makes it all worth it. I do most of my work from 10 AM on, including some evenings and weekends. This means that I can have a slow wake up then take my dog for a long walk before easing into the work day.

In my old life, I had a 30-minute commute each way (quite short by most standards) on a busy highway, arriving at 8AM sharp. Double or triple that commute time in the dead of winter with several inches of snow and a bit of ice for good measure. An absolute nightmare. Now, my commute is 10 minutes maximum and mostly along a lovely country road.

Reflections: what’s difficult about moving & living in France?

It is harder than I anticipated

I have been coming to France for more than three decades, for short visits of 10 days to stays of 11 weeks.

Before settling here, I had come to this same town for over 6 years, had made several good friends, had found an apartment to rent after my move, and opened a bank account and utilities. I thought I would simply move the rest of my things in and voila! Easy. I realized fairly quickly that it was much more than a physical move across the pond. Living as a working resident is vastly different than being a tourist. The administrative tasks are never ending it seems, for one.

Being over 4,000 miles away from my friends and family has been quite intense. From my extended stays, I had some vague understanding of what that might feel like, but I did not fully comprehend the magnitude of it all.

As fall approached, for example, I found myself missing Sunday brunches with girlfriends, drinking our Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and catching up on the latest news. I missed fall walks in the woods with my friend Sarah. At Christmas time, I missed watching cheesy but soothing Hallmark Channel holiday marathons with my mom. I miss meeting my dad and stepmom for lunch. I miss my 30-year-old son saying “Ugh… mom!” when I try to smooch his cheeks like I did when he was a baby.

It has not been easy, but thanks to the wonders of technology and video conferencing it is bearable. The first Christmas was very hard. Luckily, this last one was full of fun, festivity, and good cheer.

Final reflections about living in France

It’s challenging, but also better than I imagined

With the above said, there are certainly moments when I look around and cannot believe that I actually
live here.

  • Driving through quaint French village after village on the way to the beach at the beginning of January, for example.
  • Or a morning spent kayaking on the Rance River followed by a delicious, freshly prepared galette for lunch. When my dog stops to sniff at a centuries-old stone wall and I see a dainty flower poking out of nowhere.
  • Morning fog rising up above the river or the clearest blue sky scattered with fluffy white clouds puts me in an incredibly good mood.
  • The smiles and “Bonjour” from complete strangers during my morning walk.

These are the little moments that continue to take my breath away and make me so very happy to be here.

Reflections:Moving to France: My First Year in France
Huelgoat lunch galette, Brittany, France

What do you think would be the most challenging part about moving and living in France? The most exciting?


Image credits:
all images copyright Amy Gruber

About the Contributor

Amy Gruber

I was first introduced to France as a child during a family trip abroad. I have since studied in Paris, traveled throughout the country, and I fell in love with France and the French.  Brittany is where I call home part of the year. Read more on my blog and Instagram @agruber17.

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  1. Elisabeth Sauvage-Callaghan Feb 5, 2023 at 11:38 PM - Reply

    This is a sensational series, dear Amy. So glad that, overall, your experience has been positive!!!

  2. Patricia Feb 13, 2024 at 6:20 PM - Reply

    Just a delightful journey you have given us through these articles. Living in California, I miss my NY days when it was so simple to just pop over and get my France fix.

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