Guide to the new expat experience in France

PARIS -- Author of new guidebook discusses how the Internet has changed the expatriate experience, offering tips and advice for those looking to make the move to France.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS – Moon has released an entirely revamped book in their Living Abroad series for those wishing to move to France.  The guide, penned by San Francisco native Aurelia d’Andrea, corners the market for future expats looking to start a life in one of the most desired destinations in Europe.

The modern travel guide was inspired by the likes of Eugene Fodor and Arthur Frommer who, in the 1950s, started publishing destination guidebooks.  Today, publications from Lonely Planet to Eyewitness Travel focus on the ephemeral flight to Paris or Provence, rarely delving into the intricacies of living in France.  D’Andrea’s book tackles the business of being an expatriate in a culturally-rich, but not entirely welcoming, nation.

Her task was not easy.  Under deadline, d’Andrea learned in four months what most expatriates learn in a lifetime.  She spoke with SmartPlanet about her experiences and how certain innovations, notably the Internet, have made expatriation both easier and more confusing than ever.

While many resources are available to all expat-hopefuls, few trump the Web, something that Americans take for granted but that has only recently really taken root in France.  During her first experience in France eight years ago, d’Andrea said she relied on local papers and English-language newspapers like the FUSAC for finding information and even apartment.  “There weren’t as many resources online in 2004,” she said.

Today, with increasingly-prevalent free public Wi-Fi and alarmingly inexpensive cellphone and Internet bundle plans, getting online is easy.  From finding out about rideshares across Europe, cheap apartments, or social meet ups, the Internet has changed the way expats experience France.  Gone are the days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald meeting in the café.  “Also unique to the expat scene in France is the proliferation of blogs,” d’Andrea said, “so find a blog you like and send the author a note of introduction and see if he or she is interested in meeting up. I’ve made good friends that way.”

D’Andrea discovered, however, that online activity, while accepted in France, can be a pitfall for some expats.  Eager apartment seekers have fallen prey to Craigslist scammers and French websites are as difficult to navigate as tight-lipped French bureaucrats.  Also, reactivity via the Internet is not a French quality.  Sending an email or submitting online requests in France can be about as effective as asking for something in English.  “To accelerate a process you want expedited in France, simply show up in person,” d’Andrea said.

Living Abroad in France offers 345 pages to help expats navigate these well-travelled, but still bumpy roads.  D’Andrea currently lives in Paris, which she said is the place to be, but knows it’s not for everyone. “France is more than Paris,” she said.  Prefering different parts for different reasons – Nice for food, Dordogne for its quaint towns – d’Andrea offers suggestions on France’s most welcoming regions.

"I want to help other people who have the same sorts of dreams to bypass a lot of the trials and tribulations," d'Andrea said.  The resource guide in the back offers an overview of offices, websites, and essential vocabulary that will hopefully help expats avoid headaches wherever possible.

Photo: www.SophiaPagan.com

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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