• France's news in English
Guest blog
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Archive photo: AFP

Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'

The Local · 12 Oct 2016, 10:00

Published: 12 Oct 2016 10:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A recent survey concluded the majority of expats who come to France testify to an improvement in their quality of life, for a whole number of reasons, which our readers point out.

But for others, the dream move does not go as planned and often leaves them feeling like a bit of a failure, especially when others are enjoying la belle vie in their new country.

For New Zealand born Frances Harrison, who lives near Chartres in central France and works as an English teacher, her time in her "beloved France" has been one big struggle since she came in 2010 and she says it's OK to talk about regrets.

Harrison who has published a book titled "Follow My Heart: Risking it all for a life in France" had this to say.

"Opportunities and experiences are not created equal and for some expats arriving with excitement and a heart full of hope, life turns out rather less than hoped for. It's not helped by the 'Living the French Dream' genre of books available to water your mouth about a blissful life in France. 

For many expats the unspoken realities are painful, disappointing, and even heart-breaking. Some feel like failures because their personal experience doesn't measure up to all the success stories of doing up a gite and falling in love while sipping a glass of rosé in the South of France.

You think you've done your homework on your new job but it may end up being a hell-hole garbed in pseudo respectability. You may make every effort to learn French and fit in with their seemingly illogical systems but you find you can't get your carte vitale in time for that hospital visit.

Maybe you're waiting in a sweat at the prefecture for the sixth time this year trying to renew your sixth carte de séjour. You just want to scream when yet another shop assistant gives you the Gallic shrug, c'est comme ça, and walks off.

Making friends can be problematic. The French are often shy and reserved and don't feel the need to include strangers in their social circle.

They tend not to mix professional and private lives which makes it tough trying to make friends at work or get an invitation to their home.

Often the employment systems' rules and regulations seem to obstruct far more than encourage. They seem hell-bent on stopping many of us who are keen to work as much as we want whenever we want. Some of us are totally thwarted from earning a survival living by more than 3kgs of regulations.

Non-EU members face serious obstacles which will never end until they have achieved the grail – naturalisation, if they survive the employment gauntlet that long. Expats married to French nationals can take the cruise lane.

The rest of us find ourselves in permanent panic; an ejecting sword of Damocles hanging over us if we don't find the right sort of work with the right sort of income, because we don't come from the French system or have the right status. How can we put down roots if we are forever worried about our next CDD?

Story continues below…

Despite the very real magic of France – its diverse customs, food, the elegant language, those wonderful countryside and historical monuments, you might wonder why you are feeling lonely, like a failure. Where's the time and money to explore what France has to offer? It's a crossroads of Europe but you can't afford to see it.

You ask yourself why you are here. Regrets start to intrude because that dreamy, sparkly and successful, or at least contented, expat-in-France lifestyle as promoted by Peter Mayle and so many others just hasn't happened for you. Welcome to the flip side, the other expat life which is as valid as any other."

Frances Harrison (aka Frances Lawson) is the author of a book on expat life in France entitled Follow My Heart: Risking it all for a life in France. She is also a devoted blogger on her experiences of life in the French Republic as a non-EU citizen. Visit her blog at http://francesbigadventure.blogspot.fr/ to explore the highs and lows, twists and turns of adventures in France.

SEE ALSO: Ten ways expats' French dreams can become a nightmare 

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available