Tag Archives: moving abroad

French bureaucracy… Hate to say it, but you told me so!


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Our container finally made it to Point B!

Ha, ha, ha…. Sometimes you just have to laugh!  How did I think it would be any different for us?  I guess it’s just one of those things that you hear about, but never believe it can happen to you.  Everyone I know who has moved here, and especially those who have written or blogged about their experience, has wished us good luck with the “French red tape”.  It’s basically a seemingly endless Catch 22.  I’m choosing to remain positive, and believe that by the end of August it will all be worked out.

For the moment we are living at my sister and brother-in-law’s house while they’re away on vacation, so it’s really nice to have some extra time  to finish up paperwork and get our apartment cleaned up and fixed up the way we want it.  As you can see in the picture below, it’s not such a bad place to be spending the month of August.  The only thing is that it is out in the countryside, and it’s not really possible to get a good Internet connection.  I’m so looking forward to getting the Internet set up at the apartment so that we can easily go there to get some work done.

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Here’s some exciting news!  A young English woman who is living in Barcelona teaching English and studying French and travel journalism at the same time found my blog and Love Learning French Facebook page, and she’ll be in Béziers this weekend.  She’s asked me to give her a few hours of immersion classes around and about town on Friday and Saturday.  I’m really, really looking forward to doing that, so fun!

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We may have found an apartment in Béziers!


I’ll begin the  official 10 day countdown tomorrow, but for today, it’s worth noting that I’m leaving for France in 11 days!  I’ll be there for about a week before heading down to Montpellier to start my summer job with Oxbridge Académie de France.  François and the kids will follow, but not for a few weeks.  They’re staying here to tie up some loose ends and to deal with the shipment of our container.

Originally I thought the container would take months to arrive in Béziers, but now they’re convincing me that it will be there in 30-35 days (!)  and they need an address for delivery.  We were planning to take the month of August to look for an apartment, but now it looks as though we’d better have one by August 1 when our container arrives.  This may seem a bit stressful, but it’s not!  It’s really very exciting, and this is when I realize (once again) how very fortunate we are to have family who are happy to help.

My sister-in-law in Béziers has found an apartment for us, and it seems like it will be the perfect place.  What’s really nice about it is that the owner’s are friends of friends, and they’re willing to reduce the rent by €50 and not charge us a deposit.  That’s great news, and the apartment is in a nice and safe part of town.  It’s right across the street from the university and médiathèque, and it’s only a 12 minute walk from the school where our kids will go.

I asked my sister-in-law to give me the not so good news about the condition of the apartment first.  Basically, there is a lot of painting to be done, and some of the windows don’t close very easily.  But now for the good news!  It’s HUGE!  The apartment measures 167 square meters, or 1800 square feet.  There are four large bedrooms, an office, living room, dining room, kitchen, three small balconies on the back side and one large one all across the front.  There’s only one “toilette”, and it’s separate from the bathroom, and that’s all fine with us.  There’s a nice size kitchen, but it doesn’t come equipped with a stove or refrigerator or any of that good stuff.  From what I hear, that’s very typical in French apartments, and it’s what we were expecting.  There are fireplaces in all of the rooms, and though I’m sure none of them are functioning, they’re still pretty.  There are 13 foot ceilings.  Yep, that’s right.  When you walk into the apartment, you enter a large (wide) and very long hallway, and you enter all of the rooms from either the left or the right of this hallway.  It’s big enough to furnish and serve as a sort of foyer.  The “toilette” is at one end, and the bathroom at the other.

To give an idea of what the place looks like, I’ll show a few pictures.  It’s obvious in the pictures that the place needs some sprucing up, but at the same time I can see it’s charm.

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Here’s a picture of one of the bedrooms.  This one is on the front, and the windows open up to a balcony and view of the university and library below.

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This is the big hallway that I mentioned earlier.

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This is the living room, the picture’s taken from the balcony.

It’s all very exciting, especially now that we can visualize our new home.  Having spent a lot of time in Béziers, and with the help of Google Earth, it’s easy to imagine exactly where the apartment is located.

Yoo-Hoo, Expats? I Need Your Advice.


Unknown-1If you’ve even started to read this post, I’ll assume       you’re willing to maybe give me a little advice.  As the title suggests, it’s mostly for people who have had the experience of moving abroad.  However, I would sure like to know how you all feel about this.

Last summer (when we THOUGHT we were moving to France, but it didn’t work out:   Putting France on Hold…. Hanging in there in St. Louis), we reserved a 20-foot container:  What we’re going to put in our 20-foot container .  We put down a deposit, and it will be applied toward our balance even a year later (it doesn’t expire).  The problem is that it is still going to be very, very expensive.

Now we are just wondering if we really need a 20 foot private container.  Would a shared container be enough?  It sure would be a lot cheaper.  If we shared one instead, we would have to be very selective with what we bring, and we hadn’t planned on that.

UnknownHere’s the big question:  

Should we bring less (and pay less), ultimately having to purchase a lot of what we will need once in France?

Should we pay more and have pretty much everything we will need to set up house?

Please tell me what you think.  It’s a hard decision to make on our own, so I’m depending on you 🙂

Here’s a short list of what we were planning to bring: What we’re going to put in our 20-foot container .

House has sold, and we’re really moving to France.


After seven months of pursuing our dream of selling our house then moving to France, today it has officially happened.  We closed on the sale of our house in St. Louis!  Neither of us was quite ready to believe it until all of the closing papers had been signed.  Until the last minute, we were living in doubt.  Since putting our house on the market back in March, 2012, we have had six different contracts fall through for one reason or another.  We really wanted to move to France this past summer, and it was a harsh reality to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen, not exactly the way we wanted it to.  Looking at the big picture, we can both see that leaving next summer will be much more practical on many levels.

We will be staying on in St. Louis until mid-June 2013 due to the nature of our jobs (we are teachers), and also to avoid interrupting the school year for our children (ages 5 and 8).  This wait will also give us the opportunity to save more money, as we will now be paying to rent an apartment rather than paying a home mortgage!  In addition, we won’t feel rushed and unsure about everything as we did last spring.  Not knowing if we were going to move put us in a position where we couldn’t really talk to  many people about our grand adventure.  This time, we will be able to share our dream coming true with friends, family, colleagues.  There will not have to be any secrecy about it now.  In the spring, when we were hoping to sell our house quickly, we still knew that there was a huge amount of uncertainty involving our move.  We couldn’t inform our employers of our move, just in case things didn’t work out.  We knew that if the house didn’t sell, we would need to have our jobs in the fall.  That was good thinking on our part, even if it was very difficult to stay quiet about it all.

Our first step now will be to find an apartment to live in for the next seven months, and it shouldn’t be hard to find one right in our neighborhood.  The next step will be to eventually inform our employers that we will not be returning in the fall.  I think that can wait a few months, still giving them time to find our replacements.  Beyond that, there’s everything we need to get done logistically speaking for the big plunge:  French nationality for me, and American nationality for my husband being the two main tasks at hand.

As the months go on, we will plan out (as best we know how) our first year of living in the south of France.  We need to find jobs, some reliable source of income to support our family.  I feel very optimistic about this as we are two very marketable professionals with many talents, and we have some pretty good ideas already.  My husband is a little less optimistic, but I think that’s just a result of (1) being a husband and father, and (2) being French!

It does help to know that we are moving to a very familiar place where we have family, and we have also already spent a year living there (14 years ago).  We have also spent the last 14 years spending the whole summer over there, so we feel comfortable.  The kids and I already speak fluent French, which I’ve read all over the Internet as being one of the main obstacles of other American families who have the same dream of living in France.  Here in the US, I’d say we already  live as much of a “French lifestyle” as possible.  It’s just the way we are.  The way we live daily and the way we raise our children corresponds much more to a French norm than to the American way.

Over the next seven months, I’ll do my best to record the steps we will take to get prepared.  Hopefully this blog will serve to help others in the same boat (we can’t be the only ones doing this, right?).  So now, let the fun begin!  Thanks for reading, and I’d love any comments or questions that my readers may have.

Let the French adventure begin!


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It’s kind of hard to believe that this is really going to happen for us.  All of last year we were getting our house on the market, thinking all the while that we would be moving to France during the summer (after the successful sale of our home, of course!).  By now we would have been settled down in the South of France, children would be learning lessons in a French school.  Things sure don’t work out the way we sometimes imagine, do they?

After the heartache of six failed contracts on our home, we now have a rather official looking “sold” sign in the front yard.  The closing won’t be until next week on the 19th, but at this point there’s really no turning back for either parties.  This is going to happen, and we need to find an apartment to live in for six months.  We have negotiated staying in the house until the end of November, giving us time to pack and find a place to live.

Everything now seems so official, and we both hope that we’re making the right decision.  It’s going to be very hard to leave the house where our children have grown and continue to grow up.  We have many, many memories after ten years in our little nest.  The truth is, we really love our house, our home.  I hope I won’t be too emotional on moving day.  After ten months of really being proactive about moving to France, now it seems rather surreal to me.

In many ways I consider us fortunate to not have sold our house in a rush during the summer.  Selling it now will give us the proper opportunity to enjoy our last 6-7 months here and to live through the different emotional stages of such a transition.  It will also give us a chance to save some money, and I’m sure we will be very glad we did!

Putting France on Hold…. Hanging in there in St. Louis


I haven’t written on this blog since the month of May.  4 months ago.  I think I just spent so much of last year getting ready for the move to France that wasn’t.  We spent almost a whole year getting the house ready for the market, packing, taking care of administrative details, and just gearing up emotionally.  We’d decided 100% that moving to France was what we wanted for ourselves and for our family, and we never really put much thought into what would happen if our house didn’t sell.

We still are very fortunate in that we were able to spend two months vacationing in France this summer.  It’s a good thing neither of us quit our jobs, that we went ahead and enrolled the kids in school “just in case”, and that we booked round-trip flights.  Our flight back home was scheduled for August 6, and until the end of July we were still holding out for something to happen with the house so that we could stay in France as planned.

August 6th has since come and gone, and here we are back in St. Louis working and living our lives as usual.  St. Louis happens to be a wonderful place to live and raise a family, but we are still hopeful about our move to France.  We’re just putting things off for one year (hopefully).  The house is still on the market, and we even have a contract.  Closing date is supposed to be on October 19, but we have learned not to get our hopes up too high.  If everything works out with the sale of the house, we will move into an apartment for the remainder of the school year and make the move to the South of France next summer.

So I apologize for disappearing without a trace.  Something about writing it all down just made it not possible for me there for a few months.  Talk about an emotionally charged summer!  But I’m back now, and ready to keep on keeping on 🙂

Crossing all my fingers and toes


Contract #4, Let’s do this already!

My last post started out, “Moving to France in 24 days, and long-stay visa”.  That was on May 14, and two contracts ago.  The funny thing is that there are a lot of people interested in our house, but for reasons way out of our control (nothing to do with us or our home), the sale just keeps falling through for one reason or another.  We are now (or most likely will be tomorrow) on contract #4.  I think it’s a good sign that the people who want to buy our house are French.  They need a car too, so we’re going to throw in the Beetle for good measure (I needed to sell it anyway).  Everyone who has been crossing fingers and toes for me, please don’t stop now!  This is it; I can feel that this is going to happen now.

In seven days I’ll be leaving on a trip to Europe with my students.  I’m leaving François at home with the kids, and he still has to work until June 15.  It wouldn’t be very nice of me to leave him with two kids to care for and a whole house to pack, so that’s what I’m going to start working on tomorrow.  I guess we will go ahead and reserve the container, get everything ready to load into it, and if it doesn’t work out…. Well if it doesn’t work out then I just have no idea what to think about what the next step should be.

I did get to Chicago last week for my long-stay visa.  I was so nervous leaving my passport at the French consulate, knowing that I need it for my trip next week.  They pretty much assured me that I’d have it back in time.  I sure hope so!  Say what you like about French bureaucracy, but I had a great experience once I actually found someone willing to answer my emails.  In the course of one day, about ten emails were sent between us. She helped me locate the documents I needed and assured me that when I came to my meeting in Chicago everything would be fine.  Guess what?  My meeting was scheduled for 10:20.  They called my name at 10:10 because I got there a bit early.  By 10:14, we’d completely finished and I was out the door.

Now I have to psyche myself into believing that we’re really moving, and that this time next week I’ll be on a flight to France with my students, and I won’t be coming back (not to live here, anyway).

Checklist for the next week

1.  Reserve 20-foot container for a date in late June.

2.  Pack up everything François and the kids won’t need over the next few weeks and get it ready to ship.

3.  Empty my classroom and desk at work.

4.  Put finishing details on student tour of Europe.

5.  Inform my friends and family that this is really happening and somehow manage to say good-bye (???)

6.  Organize a big, huge play date in the park with kids and their friends who they may never see again… That’s going to be rough.  BBQ maybe?

7.  Quit my job…. No, I’d better wait till after closing to do that one.

8.  Get banking in order….401K thing may need to get done after we’ve moved.

9.  Purchase one-way flights for François and the kids…. at the last minute just to be sure.

10.  Stay calm, cool and collected (this may be the hardest part).

 

Looks like we’re moving to France!!


Moving to France in 24 days

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Visa long séjour

 

The best news is that over the weekend, we received an offer on our house and signed a contract.  Now we’re just waiting for the building inspector to come through, and if there aren’t any major problems with our house (God, I hope not!), we’re going to close on June 1.  Our buyer said he would only walk away if the inspector found something really bad.  I don’t think that will happen.

But wait…. It’s already May 14!  June 1 is only 18 days away! I’m not complaining.  Just trying to figure out the logistics of the thing.  Departure date for us will be June 7.

1.         Reserve a 20′ container to be at our house by May 27.

2.         Pack up everything in the house, get ready to ship.

3.         Purchase one-way flights.

4.         Sell my car.

5.         Get banking in order.

6.         Figure out how to get a long-stay visa (it takes 21 days apparently, and you                                 have to do it in person at the French consulate in Chicago….. and I don’t have all of the necessary documents…)

7.         Quit my job…..

 

I’m not sure how it’s all going to happen, but the important thing is that it IS HAPPENING!

Round-trip or one-way flight to Paris?


Pour mes amis francophones:

En ce moment j’essaie de prendre une décision importante.  Le moment du départ arrivant, je ne sais pas si on doit acheter des billets aller-simple ou des billets aller-retour (deux fois le prix).  Si on achète l’ aller-simple (très tentant), on risque de ne pas vendre la maison avant de partir et on sera bien embêtés du coup!!  Et bien sûr, dès que j’achète l’aller-retour, la maison se vendra sans doute et on aura perdu des milliers de dollars pour rien.  Mais il faut positiver, n’est-ce pas??  Je crois qu’on attendra encore quelques semaines avant de les acheter.  Que ce serait chouette d’être plein de fric et de ne pas avoir à réfléchir comme ça!  Si jamais vous avez des idées de génie, dites-le-moi!

For my English-speaking friends:

Trying to make a very important decision.  Our departure date is quickly approaching, and I don’t know if we should buy one-way tickets or round-trips (twice the price).  If we buy the one-ways  (very tempting), we risk not selling the house before leaving et as a result will be really bothered!!  Of course, as soon as I buy the round-trips, the house will sell and we will have lost thousands of dollars for nothing.  But we have to stay positive, right?  I think we’ll wait a few more weeks before buying them.  How great it would be to have lots of money and not have to think about things like this!  If ever you have a brilliant plan, let me know!

French “livret de famille” and Double Nationality


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After what seems like months of sending papers and documents back and forth to the French Consulate in Chicago, we finally received our new “livret de famille” via Express Mail yesterday!!  We also received French birth certificates for our two little ones, and now it’s time for a celebration because they are now officially both FRENCH and AMERICAN!!  This is progress.  Time to order the French passports.

Now I just have to work on French nationality for myself…. I really should get started.  All of this should really be helpful once we get to France.

French Consulate in Chicago

On another note, we had a showing of our house on Saturday, and another one tonight (everyone cross your fingers for us that these will be the people who fall in love with our house and put down a contract right away).