Ming the Mechanic:
Books about Moving to France

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Books about Moving to France2003-08-24 15:42
picture by Flemming Funch

Below is a list of books that I found useful in preparing to move to France, and figuring out what to do. Just to put it in one place for others to find who might be in the same situation.

There's a lot one can learn in advance by studying. But, well, not everything. Reading books can provide a good foundation, but there will always be things one won't know before one arrives at one's new destination.

And books don't necessarily tell the right story either. We were maybe over-prepared in terms of having studied how French people think differently, and how they have different norms for behavior, different patterns of doing things, and different motivations. Well, they do, if we stereotype it. But the books had prepared us for a bunch of difficulties which we didn't particularly find to exist when we got here. It wasn't nearly as bad as it was laid out to be. It wasn't such a great problem to just be yourself and do what seemed natural.

The stereotype is that French people are very private, and suspicious of strangers. Well, yes, they have a different rhythm in how they get to know people, but it isn't a big problem, and many people are very open to others right away.

Some pieces of information were mainly met with laughter when we asked people if it were true. Like, when you're invited to somebody's home, even for a five hour dinner party, don't ever expect to be able to use the bathroom, as your hosts would be shocked, and they probably hadn't even cleaned it. So you'd better go to the bathroom just before you arrive, and you better find some bushes right after you leave. We didn't find anybody who had even heard of such customs. I dont' know, maybe that's how it used to be in Paris 30 years ago. But it doesn't seem to apply to us.

France is a big country and many things are probably different amongst the different regions. We're in Toulouse in the Haute-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrenees region, South-Western France, just above Spain. This is a relaxed and friendly place, accepting of foreigners, and not appearing to have any terribly strict norms for behavior that we're likely to violate all the time. You say "bonjour" to people when you meet them, and "au revoir" when you leave. If you can manage that, you're already doing fine.

People here tend towards a negative opinion of Parisians, as being more snobbish, rude and cold. I don't know if that fits, as I haven't met anything but nice Parisians either. But maybe all those rules and warnings might be more appropriate to know in Paris, and not here. ...

Anyway, here are some books on my bookshelf, which I've found useful:

"Living and Working in France - A Survival Handbook" by David Hampshire. Cram-packed with information about just about everything. It is from a series of survival handbooks for different countries, so one can find the same thing for a bunch of other countries. A densely packed reference for everything about work, housing, paperwork, education, getting cars, telephones, insurance, and much more. Very useful.

"Paris Inside Out - The Insider's Handbook to Life in Paris" by David Applefield. That is another book filled with useful information concerning moving to and living in France. It isn't just about Paris as the title says. It is less hard-packed with data than the first book, but maybe more readable and very useful.

"Chez Vous en France - Living and Working in France" by Genevieve Brame. Same subject again. This is, I think, a more official guide, done in collaboration with the French foreign ministry. For one thing, it gives good information about business matters and laws. Types of businesses one can set up, and tax issues. Several things that we only covered in general in the other books.

"French or Foe" and "Savoir Flair" by Polly Platt. These are a very enjoyable read, and enlightening in terms of better understanding the differences between French culture and, say, American culture. As it says on the back, they're more about "why?" than they're about "how?". Like, what lies behind the way the French act? So, what might otherwise be annoyances becomes "Aha, now I understand!". These books were helpful in feeling prepared, but they're also the ones to take with a big grain of salt. Because several things that we had dreaded to run into after reading them were just not so in real life. So, I must say they're most useful for Americans to be able to see parts of French culture in a positive light that they might otherwise feel at odds with. But don't believe all of it.

"A Year in Provence", "Toujours Provence", "Encore Provence" by Peter Mayle. These bestsellers are the delightful account of the experiences of an Englishman who moves to an old country house in Provence. Well, we didn't end up living in Provence, or in the country, but these books are quite likely to make you love French country life, quirks and all. Full of colorful characters and good meals on long summer days. Things always take longer than planned, and might not turn out like one had in mind, but it is always worth it.

"Insight Guide Southwest France". As to travel guides, I like the Insight Guides, as they have lots of pictures, so it is easier to get a sense of the area.

"The Expat's Guide to US Taxes: 2001/2002". Now, that's not the most exciting part. But if I want to keep our U.S. greencard status active, we surprisingly need to file U.S. income tax returns, as well as French. In brief, the tax paid in France would essentially be subtracted from anything due in the U.S., so it ends up about the same, but there's a lot of extra paperwork. This book gives an overview of what is involved.

Now, for the language. Learning French would be the most important piece of preparation for moving to France, so that is important. I had a year of French in highschool 25 years ago, which I had largely forgotten, but I still managed to get reasonably well prepared with the help of a couple of books, and watching French movies and TV news.

"The Ultimate French Review and Practice - Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication". This is an Intermediate to Advanced grammar book. Great if one already has learned the language at some point, but forgotten. Doesn't teach vocabulary, but methodically goes through all the grammar and has exercises with answers. It is excellent. A couple of times through that and I think I've got it made. But it is a lot of work. I'm about 1/2 through the first time.

"The Big Blue Book of French Verbs". A verb conjugation book is a must. There are many irregular verbs, and seeing a form of a verb, you can't always easily guess what verb it is. This book fully conjugates 555 verbs in all forms, which just makes things much easier. And it gives examples of the use of the verbs. I'm sure there are a bunch of books like that, but this one I certainly like.

A dictionary. I didn't find any French-English dictionary that I found really satisfactory, so I'm not going to link to any. The smaller ones don't have all the words, and often will just give an obscure English synonym, rather than saying what something means. There a French-French dictionary is much better, like Le Robert Micro. But it would be very hard to use unless one has a good foundation in French already.

And a French Slang dictionary is necessary too. I like reading French comic books, and I would get stuck constantly without a slang dictionary. There are lots of words not appearing in a normal dictionary, and some of them are even irregular verbs.

For kids as well as grown-ups, a picture book such as "My First French Word Book" is fun and useful for developing vocabulary. You know, pictures of everything you find in a home, or in a school, or out in the country.

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26 Aug 2003 @ 00:33 by rainbowfish : Thank you
We are thinking of moving to France from the UK and this is very very useful. Thank you.  

28 Aug 2003 @ 14:16 by skyclad747 : Thanks indeed
I am thinking of moving to France with rainbowfish, this information is indeed very useful. Does anybody else want to come?  

24 Sep 2003 @ 23:12 by rainbowfish @ : Decision made
We have made the decision and hope to be off to France around next Spring/Summer time. skyclad747's offer is not an empty one. We hope to find a place that can accommodate others in addition to our family, sharing skills, land and lifestyle.

Anyone interested?  

2 Dec 2008 @ 16:01 by Courtney McLaughlin @ : A great book about moving to France
French-born author Genevieve Brame's Living & Working in France is a survival guide for anyone planning to work, live, visit or study in France. This primer on the minutiae of everyday French life, including government, communication, media, real estate, weather, shopping, schools, driving, and healthcare puts France under a microscope while teaching new expats how to accept and be accepted in French culture. Available at amazon.com  

30 Apr 2016 @ 01:19 by Ryne @ : CeGOdzdbJjWajuSAa
aku ska banget puisi nya……setelah aku baca aku jdi terharu…..paisi ini the best dechhhh…………..ajarin aku donk pak buat puisi nya karna aku ska bngat sma pu(*&..>>>>>>igt;>.i^_^)!!!!*s*  

Other stories in
2012-05-03 00:04: An evolving path
2012-01-02 13:52: 2011 Accomplishments and 2012 Aims
2011-11-17 02:20: Your inner piece
2011-02-01 00:05: Slow Mo Flow
2011-01-22 18:40: Recognition
2010-08-23 00:36: Where's Ming?
2010-07-20 14:24: Getting other people to do stuff
2010-06-22 00:27: Inventory
2010-06-19 23:10: Conversations
2009-10-28 12:31: Then a miracle occurs

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