I wasn’t sure how I was going to start this blog post, but I knew I had to start somewhere. So, here it goes. First, I’m going to start with this: I love living in France. There are some pretty exceptional things about this country, not to mention the crepes, cheese, bread, and wine.
Most of all, I love speaking French. It’s just something I’ve gravitated towards ever since I was a teenager. When I was 16, I made a PowerPoint to convince my parents to send me to Paris. It was heartbreaking when they told me “no”, but I knew I’d make it to France someday.
As some of you may know, I’m back working in France, and the transition was not as easy this year as I expected it to be. Last year, I spent 8 months in a town called La Roche sur Yon, about 45 minutes outside of Nantes. While finding housing wasn’t easy, it was doable. I had an incredible year, made a ton of new friends, and traveled almost every other weekend. It was hands-down the best choice I’ve ever made. From that experience, I knew I wanted to spend another year in France. So, I renewed my work contract and was placed in central Nantes.
When I received my placement in June I was stoked.
Nantes is one of the most charming cities in France. And if you want to see some real Art Nouveau decor, the birthplace of the famous science-fiction author Jules Verne, or a machine elephant, then look no further. It’s a creative and vibrant city, and not to mention the rent is way cheaper than Paris. However, since Nantes is growing with new business opportunities and has lower housing prices, many Parisians are moving here too now…le sigh. That said, housing has been much harder to come by this year.
Last year, my friends found an apartment probably within a month, or stayed with colleagues until they found something. This year, I wasn’t so lucky. I contacted over 100 people between the end of June to mid-October to find roommates. It was a total nightmare.
Since I came back at the start of the school year, there were a ton of French students also looking for housing at the same time. Furthermore, a French landlord is much more inclined to approve a French or EU citizen to live in their flat than an American.
Just fyi, if you ever need to find an apartment in a big city in France, generally you must have a French guarantor to sign the lease. Additionally, you’ll need to have (or your guarantor) a salary that’s three times your rent, with preferably a CDI contract, not CDD. We don’t have these distinctions in the US, but it’s basically a permanent vs temporary work contract.
The reason why landlords have to be so strict is because the rent laws favor the tenant, not the landlord. For instance, there’s a law in France called la trêve hivernale. It basically means a landlord can’t evict a tenant out of their apartment, even if they’re not paying rent, during the winter months. So, that’s why it’s super important that they have a guarantor in case you default etc. Not like you needed to know all of those details. However, if anyone is thinking of moving to France, feel free to ask me whatever questions you have.
All of this to say, I haven’t been blogging for the past month because I’ve been backpacking through Nantes, working, and searching for housing. For the longest time I couldn’t organize my thoughts on paper, but I just wanted to share a thoughtful post to paint an honest picture of what it’s like to work abroad and navigate a world in your second language.
For my sense of personal fulfillment, belonging in French society is essential, and one of the reasons why I decided to move to France. I wanted to fully immerse myself in French culture, speak the language like a native (still working on that one) and gain experience working abroad.
To say I felt discouraged by the difficulty of finding housing or the struggle searching for roommates would be an understatement. Given the circumstances, I was extremely homesick and felt like my sense of belonging in France was diminishing. While it’s taken me a long time to fully identify the range of emotions I’ve felt (shame, frustration, loneliness, to name a few), I remembered something Brené Brown articulated in 1A interview that comforted me so much throughout this process: “Stop walking through the world looking for evidence that you don’t belong, because you will always find it”. Not to sound too preachy or woo woo, but I really needed to hear that.
Yes, it was a super frustrating, never-ending process to find housing and I acknowledge that. However, at the same time, I’m truly grateful for all of it. I had the perfect opportunity to meet so many interesting and awesome people around Nantes, many of whom I still keep in contact with today.
I was also very lucky to have a loyal, helpful, and caring group of friends by my side. My roommate and her friends were always there for support in La Roche. One night, when I was feeling particularly homesick, we all made fajitas together and played a game singing and guessing the titles of famous French songs from the ’80s. It was the little moments like these that made me feel reconnected and reassured about staying in France. And to the friends and family who sent so much love and support from home, it seriously meant the world to me.Despite all of the challenges, I finally found a wonderful host family to live with. We live in a lively, central part of Nantes near the château. We always have dinner together during the week and eat homemade, traditional French meals (gratin dauphinois anyone?!). Also, my host mom was a former French teacher, so I have French lessons with her on Monday nights.
While I was super nervous to return to France, this new experience has reaffirmed all the reasons why I came back. It’s not always easy working abroad, especially since there is no built-in plan for you after college. Still, it’s always been worth it to me. If you have any questions, or want to share some love, feel free to leave a comment below! That’s all I’ve got for now, but stay tuned for more (regular) updates from abroad on the blog!
Bonne journée à tous!
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