Hello everyone ! :]
My name is Michelle I am American I live near Saint Emillion.
I moved to France almost four years ago completely not planned.
We arrived on our honeymoon to visit my Husbands family so I could meet them. And of course enjoy France..
Well his Grand Mother died whilst we were here, and his family needed his help. He had not lived here for over 25 years, coming only to visit the summer and then returning back to the United States. I seriously mean this was a new country for him, he had lived here before the euro existed in the country or the E.U. had happened.
Coming on vacation is completely different then actually living somewhere.
Are first two years here were absolutely tragic. I realize looking back now how ignorant we were.
My husband was born in France and received American nationality a few years after.
What a mess it was for me. First we thought I could easily get a Visa to stay. Well we never registered our marriage whilst in the Unites States with the French Embassy. I had gotten pregnant by surprise and I do mean surprise as I was told in the United States I could bare no more children. I swear something is in the water here in France..LOL
So my Husband was an accredited pastry chef so he found employment very quickly. What an eye opener for him!
He received a CDI immediately at the time it meant nothing to us. CDI, CDD, meant absolutely nothing.
And for both of us the horror began for my side of things. First off since we did not properly register our marriage France did not recognize it and would not recognize it until I returned back to the United States.
At the time financially that was impossible also I was a high risk pregnancy.
So here is where things get very bizarre from my point of view.
We went through every channel possible until finally hiring a immigration attorney.
The attorney literally says to us .. That because I am American and pregnant just wait it until I reach my second trimester then France will recognize my pregnancy and I will have permission to stay.
AND HE WAS RIGHT !! As soon as I was in my second trimester my hell with the Prefecture began. LOL
Now please keep in mind once again we had no plans initially to stay. The only French I took was in my senior year in high school. My Husbands family lives in the country and we decided to stay close to them because they needed his help and he was offered a stable employment.
And so my co dependence began. No one in our area spoke English or wanted to try. I started taking French lessons and also bought a program online. My Husband was working hours from one am to begin and coming home sometimes as late as three in the afternoon.
I spent many hours online or on the phone connected to America still connected to family and friends there and because of the time difference I was able to keep schedule with my Husband.
Due to the language barrier I became completely co dependent on my Husband from such tedious things as making doctors appointments You would think that the immigration offices.. O.F.I.I. or the prefecture would speak both French and English. Yes good luck on that. I spent many mornings every three months beginning at 6 am waiting in line at the prefecture to renew my recipe Titre Se Jour.
On top of that I was quite lonely I spent time on web sites looking for English speaking friends.
I adopted a dog. LOL
I wished so much to speak to my new French family and for my Husband it was also quite frustrating working and living here. It is nothing like the United States. Many days he would come home so tired and over worked wishing we could afford to go home. Plus the language barrier for me put him in a position where he became my care giver and literal translator for life events and even social events.
By the time my son arrived I could read and write basic French and would try to speak French but I moved here from the high mountains of Colorado and my accent was very thick.
When I made my first friend here I was basically as we say in slang in America about foreigners right off the boat.
Thank God for her she enlightened me to many things in France and made my life easier.
I began to work which was quite humbling because I have a Bachelors Degree and formations in massage which is an industry I spent half my life working.
Well now we get into the bureaucracy of France of where I fit in with my degrees.
First and foremost I needed to speak and read better French and I also found out I needed two more years of school because for France I am either a kini or osteopath.
So I went back to school for awhile and put myself in the job market. How humbling. I felt like I was 16 again looking for my first job.
Since I paid for my university myself I had around 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.
So I worked as a barmaid and server and many times in the vines since they surround where I live and are always looking for help.
A few positive notes.. I speak french fluently now and I quite enjoy the peace I have here in France. I appreciate the socialized medicine as I have recently come down with a major medical problem and insurance is a huge issue in the United States.
I love the fact that the children start school here at 3 years old, my son has progressed quite quickly and speaks French, English and Spanish.
I am currently awaiting my double citizenship and yes I am still living on my Carte Se Jour. I finished all of my formations finally dealing with that situation so I can breathe a bit.
After moving a few times I have found a little village close enough to the city where I can still enjoy the benefits of living in the country but I can also hop to the city within a few minutes.
I have made some very interesting friends over the last few years and I have slowed down quite a bit. I actually feel I was quite censored living only in the United States and quite blinded by many things.
I love the summers in France with the ocean so close the culture once you come to understand it is quite wonderful.
I am always looking to meet new friends. And I have found myself working as a teacher in an area I never had interest in.
So that is my story so far. I suggest for persons new to France to check such things as there is an application for your phone called Meetup you can download it chose your interests and your location. It will show you what is available in your area or close to your area. Since I am in the country I tend to spend time in Bordeaux where there are more events.
There are many new groups on Facebook which did not exist when I first arrived and the groups interest are very large from gardening to social groups for Mothers to have play dates for kids, buying and selling items in your city, region etc.
Feel free to contact me if anyone needs any ideas or help.
I remember what it like when I first arrived here and surprise it was to me to the culture shock, becoming a new Mom dealing with the Prefecture, CAF or MSA, job searching, finding housing etc.
It is funny to me now how people think because I am American it should be easy for me here. Not at all.
Thank you for letting me share I hope possibly my story has alleviated some stress for one person.
Thank you for letting me share !