I found a New Zealand woman’s blog about moving to France six years ago and I can relate, in so many ways, to the various struggles she had.  She’s still here six years later though, so I have faith that I can survive too!

I’m not going to sugar-coat it – there are tough moments.  The moments when you can’t figure out how something works and the instructions are all in French.  The moments when a waiter babbles something at you in VERY fast French and it is outside of the list of things that you readily understand, so you stand, head slightly tilted to one side hoping your brain will slowly process it and come up with a reasonable suggestion as to the meaning.  The moments when your brain doesn’t offer a solution, so you sit and a very annoyed waiter comes back and gestures at the other section of (full) tables.  Am I supposed to move there?  Clearly, I can’t because they’re full?  Ok, I’ll leave and try somewhere else?

There are also little moments of victory when a question is asked outside the basic range and you DO understand.  The times you realize that you don’t understand the whole menu, but you understand enough to order a full meal that you’ll enjoy.  The moment you realize you’re reading a sign or pamphlet and you understand enough to make out the general message, if not every word.

While things may not be perfect here for me, the other blog and various ex-pat boards have made me aware that many people moving to France have to deal with several other problems that I will avoid because of how my company handled my transfer.  So, the list of things related to my relocation that I am grateful for right now:

  • My work permit was processed in a week, and I was assured that it would arrive at the Consulate before my appointment, because I had immigration attorneys in France who made calls and handled everything.  They’ll also escort me to the prefecture to ensure there are no issues getting my residence permit and no “language barriers,” which is apparently a common problem with the government staff who issue the permits.  In contrast, I will note that the speed of the French government ended the day I arrived – my visa expires in December, but they have no appointments until FEBRUARY!!!

  • The General Manager (GM) {aka PB} of the plant has been really proactive about helping me to get my social insurance number.  Originally, we were told that I couldn’t have one until my prefecture appointment (they’d still be taking the taxes from my check), but he asked our HR person to call back and I will be issued my number for temporary use until I get my Carte Vitale at the appointment.  If they hadn’t found a solution, he was going to go with me on walk-in day to see if he could impress upon the government that they were hurting a French company by not resolving this.
  • While I only have a few suitcases of my own things now, my company provided a 20′ container and everything that I really, really wanted to bring is on the way and will arrive in December.  It’s hard to be without certain things now, but it would have been much harder if I could only bring what I could afford to ship.
  • For things it didn’t make sense to bring (awkward shapes, electrical 110 volt devices), I was given an allowance to replace them.  It’s really nice that my company didn’t make this move a financial hardship for me.  Let’s just hope all of the manuals aren’t only in French!  I’m going to be in serious trouble if I can’t make myself some coffee.

  • While my base pay is lower due to the leased car I picked out, I had the pleasure of designing my own car online with the features that I really wanted (back-up assist, GPS, cruise control, fog lights).  This also saved me the hassle of negotiating my own deal and it includes insurance and maintenance, which would have been a challenge to obtain myself in French.  Work also arranged for a temporary rental car until mine arrives – this is close to what I’ll be driving, but mine will be blue and I’ll have the 4-door “business” model.  It’s honestly the closest thing I could find to my Fit, which I love.

  • On the work front, I’m also lucky (for the most part).  Last week was much better than the week before!  Also, PB has asked HQ to ensure I’m included in the corporate training for managers next year.  It’s great to know I have a lot of career support, not just in Portland, but locally as well.