Five mindfulness practices for expats

Moving abroad offers an exciting opportunity to live a happier and healthier life. But how can you make sure that you’re enjoying the experience to its fullest? That’s where practising mindfulness can help.

Five mindfulness practices for expats
Photo: Pixabay

According to psychological health expert, Eugene Farrell, mindfulness is all about being fully present and aware of your surroundings. By practising mindfulness daily, you can enjoy the scientifically-proven benefits it can have on your overall wellbeing. 

“Being mindful is one of the most ancient practices around the world and is practised by Buddhist monks. Its simplicity and effectiveness make it the perfect antidote to the demands of 21st Century life. Some small steps in the right direction could be a step change in your life,” says Eugene.

Here are five top tips on how mindfulness can help you make the most of your new life abroad, brought to you by AXA – Global Healthcare and The Local.

1. Mindful walks

Photo: Clem Onojeghuo/

Living in a new country means there are a lot of new places to discover. Mindful walks are a great way to explore the natural scenery or appreciate the culturally-rich architecture of your new home. Mindful walking is all about shifting your focus from stresses about the past and future, to the present moment. There are many ways to take a mindful walk, and as long as you are focussed on the moment – you are doing it right. 

One method of mindful walking is to take notice of the sights and sounds around you: “Focus on the colour of your surroundings, the movements of your body and any noises you can hear. Can you hear people, animals or children? Can you feel the sun or a breeze? Do you notice any smells? Notice how you move into different spaces,” suggests Eugene.

Find out how AXA’s health plans can give you peace of mind abroad

2. Mindful check-ins

Practising mindfulness can improve both our mental and physical health, which in turn can help us to improve our overall life – but it’s still important to have a sense of self-awareness and seek professional help when you need it. 

Regular doctor check-ups are important, even if just for peace of mind. With AXA – Global Healthcare, you can have access to the virtual doctor service, whenever you need it. Speak to a qualified doctor online or over the phone, 24 hours a day, from wherever you are.

3. Mindful eating


One of the best parts of moving to a new country is trying the local food. Although enjoying a meal is important, mindful eating helps ensure you are eating right and making healthy choices. 

According to nutritionist Georgina Camfield, it’s important to listen to your body: “Eat when you feel hungry and stop eating when you’re starting to feel full. By only eating when you need to, you’re giving your body the rest it needs to regenerate cells and boost healthy gut bacteria, both of which will help digestion in the long run.”

4. Mindful sleep

Getting enough sleep can have a positive impact on your day by improving your mood. To ensure you get enough sleep, start by creating a sleep routine; this can be done by setting an alarm clock to remind you to get to bed, and try to avoid screen time at least two hours before bedtime.

Sports nutritionist Thomas Rothwell says: “Sleep should be spoken about in the same light as physical activity and nutrition when it comes to our health and wellbeing. To put this into perspective, poor sleep is associated with fat gain, diabetes, heart disease and reduced productivity and mental skills.” 

Get a quote for international health insurance with AXA

5. Mindful breathing

Photo: Kelvin Valerio/

Adapting to life in a new country can be difficult. There’s so much to take in and at times this can be stressful. Mindful breathing is an easy and effective way to deal with stress and anxiety.

“The solution is to take time each day, say 10 minutes during your commute or with breakfast – to focus on your breathing. This will allow you to calm your mind and body from the daily grind, clearing your head to think differently,” says Eugene.

Looking after your health should always be a priority, especially when you’re adjusting to a new environment. Finding the right health insurance policy can put your mind at rest, making the whole process a little easier. To find out about AXA’s international health insurance visit their website today.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.


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Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

Whether you're a resident, tourist or second-home owner, here's what to do if you need non-emergency medical care while you are in France.

Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

You might be curious what to do in France if you’ve ever suffered from a stomach virus that hangs around a little too long, wondered if you’ve came down with a case of strep throat, or worried about a minor allergic reaction.

Obviously if you have a major medical event you should either visit a hospital urgences (Emergency Room) or call an ambulance (more on how to do that below) – but if your problem is not quite an emergency but still something that you need help with, there are several options.

Here are the services available and how they can be accessed by French residents, tourists and second-home owners.

SOS Médecins

This is the ’emergency doctor’ service and will connect you with a general practitioner, available 24/7. You can use it if you’re a visitor to France, you’re on holiday in a different part of France, you’re not yet registered with a doctor or simply if your own doctor is not available (either because it’s out of normal hours or your doctor is on holiday).

SOS Médecins is most known for their house-calls, as they will come directly to your home to give you a consultation. However you can also visit their local office or request a téléconsultation (online appointment). In either case, the person you see is a doctor and they will be able to diagnose you and prescribe medication, as needed. 

The SOS Médecins website gives three options: make an appointment by calling (the number is 3624), make an appointment online, or walk-in for a consultation (hours will vary for this depending on the location).

When making your appointment, you can request an English speaking doctor, but it is not guaranteed you will get one. 

When calling to make the appointment, you will need to know your département number, your phone number, the patient’s first and last name, the exact address (including the building code, floor, and any other relevant apartment-specific information), the reason for the call, and the age of the patient.

Cost – SOS Médecins varies in price depending on the time of day and location (whether the consultation is at the centre or at your home). For a house-call on holidays, weekends, and nights you can expect the fee to range between €50 to 80, which may be in part reimbursable by Assurance Maladie if you are registered in the French medical system.

Maisons Médicales de Gardes

These are community health centres that are intended to stay open after working hours and on the weekends. They are intended to ease the burden on emergency room by offering a place for people with non-life threatening emergencies to go outside of normal operating hours.

You can look online to see the closest Maison Médicale to you, or you can call your regular doctor and listen to their voice machine – usually they will list your after-hours options. For more information, you can visit this website.

Before walking up to the centre, you can call to allow the operator to assess your situation and give you a recommendation regarding whether you need emergency treatment or whether you can be treated at the Maison Médicale.

Cost – you can expect to pay between €40 to €60.


Pharmacists in France are highly qualified (it takes between five and seven years to complete the training) and by law all pharmacies must have at least one qualified pharmacist on the premises.

Although they cannot prescribe medication, you can go to a pharmacy with a minor medical problem, to ask advice or for treatment for less serious injuries, or to get over-the-counter medication such as cough syrup or painkillers. You can visit on a walk-in basis and there is no need for an appointment.

If the pharmacist cannot treat you, they will tell you whether you need further assistance from a doctor or whether your medical issue is urgent enough to warrant an ambulance or trip to the hospital.

If you suspect you have Covid-19, you can get a test at a pharmacy. For strep throat or tonsilitis (une angine), you can ask for a rapid test (TROD or Test Rapide d’Orientation Diagnostique) at any pharmacy. If it is a positive result for bacterial strep, then you’ll be referred back to a primary care doctor in order to get a prescription for antibiotics. This test is covered by Assurance Maladie if you are registered in the French system.

READ MORE: How to get the flu vaccine in France

You can find a ‘pharmacie de gard‘ (a 24-hour pharmacy) by also going on the SOS Médecins website and using their locator tool.

Cost – Seeking the assistance of a pharmacist is free, but if they recommend medication or treatment, you will likely have to pay, although some treatment types are reimbursed if you are registered in the French health system. 

Make a doctor appointment

Oftentimes, foreigners or tourists do not think they can make an appointment with a general practitioner in France if they do not have a carte vitale or are not registered in the French healthcare system.

In fact, anyone can make an appointment to see a French doctor, there is no need to be registered with them. One of the easiest ways to do this is by going to the website Doctolib and signing up for an appointment.

On Doctolib, you can see the medical professional’s qualifications and languages spoken, so you can filter based on the doctor’s English abilities. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt because not every medical professional with English listed on their Doctolib page speaks fluent English. 

On the Doctolib website, you can set a preference for Aujourd’hui (today) or Dans les prochains trois jours (In the next three days), and you can also set your motif de consultation (type of consultation) to an online appointment, if you are not looking to make the trip to the doctor’s office (not all doctors offer these).

Cost – Everyone who visits a doctor in France is expected to pay, the standard rate is €25. If you are registered in the French medical system part of the cost will be reimbursed through your carte vitale.

If you are a tourist or second-home owner you may be able to claim the cost back on your health or travel insurance, depending on the policy.

If you are still in the process of registering for your carte vitale be sure to ask for a feuille de soins – this is basically a receipt, and when you get the card you can claim back medical costs incurred while you waited using the feuille de soins.

When booking the appointment, check to see whether the physician is ‘Secteur 1’ or ‘Secteur 2’ – this will determine if they are allowed to charge additional fees. A sectuer 1 doctor must apply the basic rate set out by the medication convention. For a GP, the fixed price is €25.

For an emergency 

If your situation is a life-threatening emergency, you should seek immediate assistance.

READ MORE: Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Call 15: You will be put in contact SAMU who provides ambulances and emergency medical care. 

Call 18: You will be put in contact with the fire department (les pompiers) who are trained to provide emergency medical assistance.

Call 112 (or 114 for people with hearing and speaking difficulties): This is the EU-wide emergency phone number. You might be more likely to reach someone who speaks fluent English on this line. 

Cost – emergency medical treatment is open to everyone including visitors. If you go to the hospital and receive treatment without being admitted, you will be charged a one-off fee of €18.

If you are admitted to hospital you may have to pay, depending on the treatment you receive and the nature of the problem – more details here.

Although hospitals will ask for your carte vitale as standard, you can still receive treatment if you don’t have the card.