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By Melissa Schulz

I have always had a deep yearning to travel, learn languages and discover a different culture from the inside.  There is a difference between high school French and talking French in France to a real French person, over a really good French wine.  There was only one way for me to cure my desire and that was to pack my bags and go, but not as a tourist, rather as a resident. 

Actually, to get your papers-Carte de Sejour-you have to go through incredulous mazes of bureaucracy littered with incompetence.  The Ministry de Travaille- Ministry of Work- is understaffed so don't try and call.  You would have better luck finding someone to answer your call at the North Pole.  Even if you succeed, with out having a nervous breakdown, there are long waiting periods up to three months, so start long before your departure.  The best way to get a job and a visa is to search for American companies in France. They have lawyers and can take care of the process for you.  Another route is to apply for the student visa which allows you to work part-time as well.  This way is easier than the previous, check with your local French Consulate for visa applications and a list of schools. 

It is a big headache so you better make sure that this is what you really want.  I suggest staying as a tourist for three months to decide if you really want to make the break.  This gives you time to make contacts, learn some French, and as difficult as it may be at times, learn to appreciate the cultural nuances. 

So, lets say you made the move to Paris.  After the first three months of you getting drunk on the vie de cultural you wake up with a reality hangover.  You realize that you can't speak past bonjour, you don't have so many friends, and your job opportunities are limited.  The stress of the adjustment can be fatal ro your wanna be French side. This is when most people decide that it was a fun adventure and go home, but I fell in love with a French man and found the motivation to stay.

So, what next?  The French can be difficult to make friends-read the book "French Toast" by Harriet Welty Rochefort for a in depth  look at the French from an outsider's perspective.  Try to be surrounded by French people  as much as possible.  I know  a few Americans that have been in France for over  a year who barely speak the language because they don't have French friends.  Buy books, tapes, see movies and watch T.V. for once it is a good learning tool.  If you have the time and money take a class.  There are many French schools for foreigners from budget to pricey.  Check out for listings.  When your language level increases you find the barriers between you and the French start to crumble.  A little anyway.

Taking a French class also helped me build a social circle.  I met interesting people from all around the world who were dealing with the same issues as myself.  Usually, after class, we got together over a drink or dinner and compared stories.  I even found a softball team to play with.  What if you really miss Anglo-Saxons?  People that understand your culture?  Your slang?  Your beer drinking? There are plenty of English, Irish and American pubs in Paris.  I found one that became my cheers.  The friendships you form over seas can be truly rewarding since you are already connected by the travel spirit.

Job opportunities are limited in a country with a 10% unemployment rate. The process of hiring a foreigner outside the E.U. is difficult.  However, there are many teaching and Au Pair positions available, but make sure that you have your papers in advance as you can NOT make them after you are in France.  For job listings check out the and

Once you settle into a fairly normal life with friends, hobbies, and work, the stress begins to fade away.  After all you are living in Paris, surrounded by the Louvre, the Notre Dame, not to mention all places to escape via a train ride.  Even if the road is not an easy one, the benefits of discovering a country outweigh the adversities.

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Email: (Melissa Shulz)

Melissa Schulz is an American living in France. She has been traveling over a year to various destinations like Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece.


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