Living, Studying, and Working in France: Everything You Need To Know To Fulfill Your Dreams of Living Abroad

Living, Studying, and Working in France: Everything You Need To Know To Fulfill Your Dreams of Living Abroad

by Saskia Reilly, Lorin Kalisky

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The essential book on how to make a life in France.

More than 90,000 Americans live abroad in France, making it home to one of the largest expatriate communities in the world. This is a savvy and insightful book full of hard-earned advice on how to make the most of your overseas experience in France.

Following in the footsteps of the successful Living, Studying, and Working in Italy, this international guide will help Americans grow into French culture and help them feel at home in a country famous for its cultural and social particularities. Saskia Reilly and Lorin Kalisky, two Americans who have spent extensive time in France, provide detailed information ranging from health care procedures in France to how to put together a résumé (known as a CV in France). With material on networking, jobs, choosing the right study program, and navigating the French Internet, Living, Studying, and Working in France is the essential guide for anyone who wants to live, study, or work in France.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466869103
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/22/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Saskia Reilly and Lorin Kalisky spent more than five years living and working in publishing and journalism in France. Reilly worked as a journalist in France at World Media and Europe Magazine. Kalisky was an editor for Paris City Magazine, Agence France-Press, and World Media.

Saskia Reilly, coauthor of Living, Studying, and Working in France, spent more than five years living and working in publishing and journalism in France. Reilly worked as a journalist in France at World Media and Europe Magazine.

Lorin Kalisky, coauthor of Living, Studying, and Working in France, spent more than five years living and working in publishing and journalism in France. Kalisky was an editor for Paris City Magazine, Agence France-Press, and World Media.

Read an Excerpt

Living, Studying, and Working in France

Everything You Need to Know to Fulfill Your Dreams of Living Abroad

By Saskia Reilly, Lorin David Kalisky, Joshua Lippard, Monica Larner

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 1999 Saskia Reilly and Lorin David Kalisky
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6910-3


A Place to Call Home

It is now more than a half century ago, back in the opening 1920s, that for the first time Paris began being included in the memories of a small contingent of youngish American expatriates, richer than most in creative ambition and rather modest in purse. For the most part we had recently shipped third class to France across the Atlantic, at that date still not yet flown over except by migratory sea birds. We had settled in the small hotels on the Paris Left Bank near the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, itself perfectly equipped with a large corner café called Les Deux Magots and an impressive twelfth-century Romanesque church, with its small garden of old trees, from whose branches the metropolitan blackbirds sang at dawn, audible to me in my bed close by in the rue Bonaparte.

—Janet Flanner, Paris Was Yesterday, 1972

Americans have long had a love affair with France. In the 1920s, young writers and artists were drawn to France in search of inspiration. Today there are still some Americans who move to France in hopes of retracing the path to literary success taken by such writers as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But these days, not only artists and writers move to France. American expatriates living and working in France run the full spectrum of professions and cultural groups. Thousands of American businesspeople, lawyers, journalists, soldiers, diplomats, teachers, doctors, nurses, and entrepreneurs have all moved to France in search of that special French je ne sais quoi, and the numbers are ever rising.

In 1997, nearly 26,000 Americans were registered as permanent residents in France, not to mention the expatriates that are not on the books. More than 14,000 of them live in and around Paris, making up one of the largest communities in the world of Americans abroad.

All Roads Lead to Paris

One of the first things newcomers discover is that France is far more centralized than the United States and more than many of its European neighbors. Public education is controlled from Paris and all French schoolchildren follow the same curriculum. All social services and policies are conceived and coordinated in the capital. Even the network of trains that crisscross the country use Paris as a hub. It is nearly impossible to travel from Brittany to Provence without passing through Paris.

For much of its history, France was a monarchy. Louis XIV, better known as the Roi Soleil (the Sun King) for whom Versailles was constructed, epitomized the centralization of power when he declared, l'État, c'est moi (I am the State). Much of this centralization survived during the French Revolution, long after Louis XIV's death, and was strengthened under the rule of Napoléon Bonaparte.

By the late 1700s discontent had swept across France. The Sun King's extravagance had nearly bankrupted the State. A group of philosophers and writers led by Denis Diderot published the Encyclopédie, which challenged many widely held beliefs. The nobles, the middle class, and the peasants were all dissatisfied for different reasons. In 1789, the combination of new ideas, social unrest, and the financial ruin of the government exploded into the Revolution and the following ten years were a time of bloody struggle and turmoil in France. Thousands of French aristocrats—including King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette—lost their lives on the guillotine. Later, when the tide turned, thousands of revolutionaries lost their lives as well.

Much of French culture was destroyed. The revolutionaries decided to dispossess the nobles and the Catholic Church of their property. Monasteries and abbeys were burned or desecrated. Their contents were often destroyed, including thousands of books and manuscripts. Any intellectuals who spoke out against the Revolution were killed.

This mayhem was not destined to last. During the French Revolution, Napoléon Bonaparte rose through the ranks of the army. In 1799, ten years after the Revolution had started, he overthrew the revolutionary French government and took control of France. He remained in power until 1814 and then returned to power again for a hundred days in 1815 before he was defeated at Waterloo and sent into exile on an island off the coast of Africa.

During his time in power, Napoléon set up a very well organized system of governance that relied heavily on a centralized administration and set the stage for the modern French state. His government drafted and implemented groundbreaking legislation, including the Civil, Penal, and Commercial—Napoleonic—codes that have lived on not only in France but in other countries as well. He divided France into the administrative départements that still exist today and appointed prefects to manage them. He also redesigned and centralized France's educational system.

After Napoléon, later regimes including absolute monarchies, parliamentary monarchies, and the current Fifth Republic have all, for different reasons, preferred to maintain the centralization of power.

France and Her Colonies

France grew in strength and prosperity until World War I began in 1914. By then, French explorers and soldiers had claimed an enormous colonial empire in Africa and Asia. Their colonial dominance lasted through World War II and included a vast measure of cultural imperialism as well. French remains the second language in many Southeast Asian and North African countries.

The disintegration of this empire would cause French leaders headaches for decades to come. The first colonial revolt began in French Indochina in 1946 and the territory was eventually divided into Cambodia, Laos, and North and South Vietnam. The French withdrew from Indochina in 1954, after suffering heavy losses and leaving behind four unstable countries. This instability would eventually lead to the Vietnam War.

Several months after France's withdrawal from Indochina, revolution broke out in the French colony of Algeria, the home of close to a million French settlers. France granted Morocco, Tunisia, and other French colonies in Africa their independence to prevent further revolutions but refused to give up Algeria. The French Army fought a costly revolutionary war in the territory until 1961, when it became clear that only Algerian independence would end the war. Under President Charles de Gaulle, France and Algeria agreed to a cease-fire and French voters approved Algerian independence in the spring of 1962.

France has not been able to escape its colonial heritage. The country's responsibilities vis-à-vis its former colonies have been a source of conflict both within France, as waves of immigrants from North Africa attempt to make their way in French society, and with other countries that oppose preferential trade agreements that France has granted both to former colonies and its current overseas territories.

France Today

Today France is a country of contrasts. Newcomers are constantly surprised by the differences between the sophistication of Paris and the simple life of the countryside. The French have pushed to structure the European Union's agricultural regulations to ensure that they can continue to produce wine in the traditional ways, yet they pioneered the high-speed train. As a people, the French are at the same time strongly independent as individuals but fiercely patriotic as a group. Yet it was a Frenchman, Jean Monnet, who conceived of the European Union, and the French have been among the staunchest backers of European integration.

France's Role in the European Union

Under the guidance of Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, and Charles de Gaulle, France was one of the six founding members of the European Economic Community in 1957, along with Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. Two of the most vocal supporters of European unification—Jacques Delors, who held the European Commission presidency for nearly a decade, and François Mitterrand, who was president of France from 1981 to 1995—were Frenchmen.

These days the French see France as leading Europe toward economic and political union. Despite national pride, they have endorsed the Maastricht Treaty for European integration and are poised to participate in the common currency at the turn of the millennium.


Thanks to favorable policies toward residents of former colonies and current territories, France has seen a marked increase in immigration in recent years. Immigrants from North Africa, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and Asia have changed the face of French society. Paris alone has absorbed several hundred thousand immigrants. Some neighborhoods are filled with North African and Caribbean shops, restaurants, and night clubs, contributing to the truly international flavor of the city.

But the increase in immigration has not been a uniquely positive trend. Many French have felt threatened by the differences, particularly by the rise in prominence of Islam. The sight of young women wearing head scarves to high school and the construction of minarets and mosques in one-church towns have provoked a group of traditional French to organize in protest of immigration. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the head of le Front National (the National Front [FN]), has created an entire political party by rallying people's nationalist spirit and calling for tightening immigration controls and limiting the rights and civil liberties of many immigrants. It is not a side of the country that most French are proud of, but it exists and is gaining power. At the time of publication, the FN held two mayorships and had a handful of seats in the National Assembly.


France is primarily a Roman Catholic country although there are small Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim minorities. About 90 percent of the French consider themselves Catholic. From 1801 to 1905, the French government recognized Catholicism as the religion of the majority of the people. Bishops and priests were state officials and the government paid their salaries. Today, although most holidays and festivals are closely connected to the Catholic Church, young people are moving further and further away from the Church. Churches are half-empty, filled with aging congregations. That said, France is being forced to adjust to a rapidly changing religious identity. Immigrants from former colonies around the world have transformed the French religious landscape.

The Economy

France is one of only four West European countries to have a trillion-dollar economy. In 1997, the gross domestic product, which measures purchasing power parity, was close to $1.5 trillion. At the same time, the French government has retained control over a number of industries including the railways, airlines, electricity, and telecommunications. The inefficient management of these state-owned monopolies has led to high prices in these segments for French consumers. At the time of publication, there were plans to privatize some of these industries, namely, telecommunications and air transportation, but powerful union opposition has made the transition a slow one.

Farming and agriculture still comprise a very important component of the French economy. France is largely self-sufficient in agricultural products and is a major exporter of wheat and dairy products—selling anywhere from 20 percent to 70 percent of its production abroad. The French treasure their agricultural landscapes and the government has consistently provided high subsidies to farmers in order to enable them to preserve their way of life.

Although at one time France was heavily dependent on OPEC countries for oil imports, it has been a pioneer in developing nuclear power plants that now cover nearly 70 percent of domestic needs.

When it comes to work, persistently high unemployment is France's most challenging economic problem. Currently at 12.7 percent, French unemployment has proven difficult to reduce. The young make up the largest segment of the unemployed and the government has taken steps to create an environment that would make young workers more hirable, through special youth contracts and other incentives for French companies. France must reduce unemployment still further in order to be able to qualify for the European Economic and Monetary Union, which launched the euro, the common European currency, on January 1, 1999.

Making France Your Home

I was in love with the idea of France before I had ever even visited the country. Perhaps the images I had seen of French art, monuments, and the countryside inspired me. Or perhaps it was the thought of French food, culture, and traditions. Or perhaps it was a love of the language and French literature. Whatever it was that moved me to pick up and start a new life in France, I was not alone. All the Americans and other expatriates that preceded me had created an incredibly helpful network of resources to make the transition to a new life and culture easier. And while there are some Americans who move to France and become more French than the French themselves, most find themselves living divided between both cultures, constantly contrasting and comparing the two and choosing the best of both to create a world as unique as France itself. Bon voyage et bon séjour!


Getting Ready for Takeoff

I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes and accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan.

—Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography

Congratulations! You've taken the first step. It may not have been easy but you have decided to move to France. Benjamin Franklin, the first American ambassador to France, knew that one way to avoid a lot of hassle, anxiety, and expense was by thinking ahead. With a little planning, you can make leaving home and dealing with your affairs a lot less complicated.

It may seem obvious but before you can even contemplate a move abroad, you must be sure that you have a valid passport. In the United States, you can file passport applications at most local post offices, with U.S. Passport Agencies, and in some state and local courts. It is a good idea to make several photocopies of your passport and keep them in different places. It can make a world of difference in the time it takes to process the application for a replacement passport if yours gets lost or stolen.


With a valid passport in hand, you can now begin to think about your visa. As with most European countries, France and the United States have an agreement whereby Americans traveling to France as tourists for a period of less than three months do not need to apply for a visa. Your passport will usually suffice, although the authorities have the right to ask for a return ticket, proof of hotel accommodations, proof of health insurance, and/or proof of financial means (cash, traveler's checks, or credit cards). If you have decided that you would like to live in France for more than three months, or you plan to come to France for reasons other than tourism, you must have what is known as a visa de long séjour. This visa does not in itself give you the right to work or study, but it is during this application procedure that you will decide what type of work or study privileges will best suit your needs. You will learn the likelihood of obtaining your desired visa.

This is the time when planning ahead really matters because according to French law, it is not possible for an American (or any non-EC national for that matter) to come to France as a tourist and then change his or her status to that of a student, worker, or long-term resident. As many of my friends have been discouraged to find out, the French authorities will require you to return to your country of residence to apply for the relevant visa, which can prove to be both inconvenient and costly. Thus, if you know you are planning to make France your home for some time, think ahead and request a visa de long séjour.

To obtain a visa, you will need to go in person either to the French Embassy located in Washington, D.C., or to one of the eleven consular offices located across the United States. There are French consulates in the following cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. France also maintains consular agents or honorary consuls in many cities in the United States. The closest French consulate can provide you with addresses. These agents can perform certain consular services, which sometimes includes the processing of visa applications.

The consulates are generally open in the morning, but accept telephone calls in the afternoon and are also often very busy. It is best to come prepared with all the necessary supporting documents and avoid the miserable prospect of queuing up multiple times.


Excerpted from Living, Studying, and Working in France by Saskia Reilly, Lorin David Kalisky, Joshua Lippard, Monica Larner. Copyright © 1999 Saskia Reilly and Lorin David Kalisky. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Before You Go,
1. A Place to Call Home,
2. Getting Ready for Takeoff,
3. Bienvenue en France: Making the Adjustment,
4. Understanding Paperwork,
5. Money, Banking, and Taxes,
6. Setting Up House,
7. Santé!: Health and Health Care in France,
8. Shops, Shopping, and Shopkeepers,
9. Les Transports: Getting Around in France,
10. Renoir, Rimbaud, et Côtes-du-Rhône: Making the Most of French Cultural and Sports -Related Offerings,
11. La Vie Virtuelle: Navigating French Cyberspace,
12. Student Life,
13. American Universities,
14. French Universities and Other Programs,
15. Language Schools,
16. Primary and Secondary Schools,
17. Bookstores, Libraries, and Research,
18. Job Hunting,
19. Business Etiquette,
20. Working in the Public or Private Sector,
21. Teaching,
22. Freelance, Part-Time, and Temporary Work,
23. Starting Your Own Business,
24. Internships and Volunteering,
For Further Study,
Appendix: Technical Information You Should Know,
General Information,
Main Political Parties,
Major Media,
The Four Branches of the French Police,
General Measurements,
Body Measurements,
Cooking and Baking,
Electrical Standards and Electronics,
Telephone and Mail,

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