How to change career when you don't know what to do

How To Change Careers When You Don’t Know What To Do

How to change career when you don't know what to do

It’s hard enough making a career change when you know exactly what you’d rather be doing but what if you have no idea what you want to do? Same is true if you want to move abroad but need to make a career change to make it happen- what can you do? Here are some ways and resources to help you discover a fulfilling career path more efficiently and more quickly than if you try to wing it and figure it all out on your own.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I was a kid, I had lofty career goals. First I wanted to be a ballerina, then an airline stewardess, a CIA or FBI agent, an actress and a slew of other romanticized jobs. I never considered the economic consequences of these jobs let alone if they would make me happy.

When it was time to attend University, I took a less romanticized approach to my career planning. I chose to major in Economics-not because I had any particular love for Economics but because I thought it was the prudent thing to do in order to land a good paying corporate job after graduation. It seemed like a good idea at the time based on the information I had about the workforce- which was close to nothing.

8 years into my career, I was making a good living working mainly in corporate finance and accounting but…..I felt unfulfilled. I knew in my gut that if I didn’t change career paths soon, I would eventually begin to loath my job and my life. I didn’t want this regret looming over my head.

My career change mistakes and successes

image.pngFor one of my career changes, I decided to open up my own eCommerce shop selling adorable forest themed sleeping masks which I made by hand. In addition to my online shop, I also sold my sleeping masks on Etsy, small specialty retail stores and at local craft fairs.

It was a lot of hard work but for the most part I enjoyed every aspect of my business until it came time for a little vacation. I realized my handmade business, which requires a sewing machine, bolts of fabric and sleeping mask inventory at all times isn’t exactly the best business to run for someone like me who loves to travel and wants to travel more often.

Although it wasn’t obvious to me at the time, my e-commerce shop was a stepping stone and just part of my zig-zag career path journey that would eventually lead me to my idea career and job in digital marketing.

Digital marketing or web marketing as some like to call it, is perfect for me because it takes many of my skills, my interest and passions and combines them under one umbrella. Things like analytics, HTML coding, web graphics, writing and research. I don’t need a physical inventory and I can do my job from anywhere including remotely from France as long as I have a computer and an internet connection- perfect for wanderlust heart.

shark_domo_sleeping_mask_lenekonoir_008.jpg15 years and a couple of career changes later, I’ve figured a few things about career changes mainly from trial and error.  I’ve made a bunch of career mistakes along the way so I’m no expert by any means but I learned from those mistakes. At the same time, some of the mistakes I made could have been avoided and I probably could have arrived at my idea career choice faster had I done a few things differently.

If I had to do it all over again and time was of the essence, here are some of the tools and resources I would use to find the best career path for me.

5 ways to find your idea career path or the perfect job when you have no idea what to do

Rosie the reveter changed her career path

A career change can take time but you can shorten that length of time considerably by doing a bit of self-reflection. Take it from me- you don’t want to skip this step, especially if you are unsure what new career path you want to take.

It can save you the headache of choosing a new career which you thought you would enjoy only to discover it doesn’t match your lifestyle goals, your interests or your abilities.

1) Take a test to see what jobs will make you the happiest

Depending on which career tests or personality test you take (also known as psychometric tests), certain factors are taken into consideration to determine the best jobs for you including your ambitions, your life goals, your motivations, your self-reported skills, your personality type etc. These all get mashed together and out comes a list of “best potential careers” for you to sift through and choose for further research. These psychometric assessment tests cannot however tell you which single job is THE BEST ONE.  Remember, these are tests which are question and answer based, and you may be well suited for several different careers. It’s up to you to figure out from the list which if any are the best match for you.

There are so many tests you can take but here are a few to get you started.

Personality tests which you can take right now.

Jung Typology Test

Finding Potential

Career tests which you can take right now.

Career Fitter

MAPP™ assessment

2) Work with a career coach / counsellor

In addition to or instead of taking a career assessment or personality test, you could work one-on-one with a career coach. Before you scoff at the idea, think about this.

Even the best golfers like Tiger Woods need an expert coach for continued improvement. Similarly, a career coach can help you improve your efficiency in searching for that perfect career change or job by providing you with expert advice on how to plan your career change.

A career counsellor can also guide you in making an action plan, deal with the emotional side of a career change, boost your confidence, re-define your career goals and recommend courses or training you might need. All things which a career test or personality test can’t do or can’t do as well.

When choosing the best career coach, make sure you choose one that is experienced and trained. Expect to pay anywhere from 100 to 500 dollars per session. Yes it is pricey however when you think of the long term ramifications- happiness in your future job vs staying in a job that you are not well suited for, it might be worth it for some individuals.

3) Research your potential jobs

Once you’ve discovered the best possible career matches, you’ll need to do some practical research about those jobs.

Either way, here are a few things you can do to learn more about the potential jobs which you might want to do.

  • Interview other people who are in the job role which you want to do.
  • Job Shadow someone who is in the role you want to do.
  • Search career websites for more information about the job you are looking into. You can discover things which career tests and coaches might not be able to tell you like salary, job culture, training etc.
  • Take some courses to see if you enjoy the subject matter. For example f you want to become a programmer, take an online programming class. www.lynda.com, now owned by Linkedin has great online training from business and marketing to coding and more. It costs about $19 USD per mont and the courses are all video based and professionally done.
  • Find out what if any further training you will need to do. Discovering you need to get a masters degree might be off putting to you and help you rule out certain careers.
  • Read career change websites. www.careershifters.com is a good place to start. They have an online community where you can talk with other career changers and get moral support. http://www.learnhowtobecome.org/ is another good site for career research. Enter in the desired career and it tells you a little about that career, salary range, education or training needed etc.

4) Training

Through your research, you’ve discovered the best careers for you. You narrowed down that list to a a few possible choices. Now it’s time to figure out if you need any additional training or certification?

If your current skill set is transferable than perhaps you don’t even need any training. If you do need training , you have options for any schedule and any budget. From traditional university degrees, distance learning, online certification or self training. Whicever way works for you, just make sure that any training you take will actually help you get the job you are trying to land.

Other things you need to ask yourself, explore and research are “can you afford it the training program. Will you take time off from work to pursue additional training or will you keep your day job and go to class at night?

You may be able to bypass formal education and get on the job training by taking a lower level job or entry level job and use it as a stepping stone. I found this method to be practical for me when I couldn’t afford to take time off work to get official training. Especially since at the time I was a single mom.  It was hard to take a pay cut but the way I approached it was, I was better off taking a pay cut than quitting my job and earning no salary whatsoever.

5)  Take action

Hopefully after all the self reflection and research, you’ve narrowed down your list to one maybe two careers. Now is the time to take action- any action big or small.

Have you updated your resume? Did you update you social media profile on linkedin? Did you network with your peers and let them know  you are looking for work?

Don’t struggle to find the perfect path or the ideal starting point and don’t let information overload give you analysis paralysis. It’s more important to simply get things moving because your path may not be linear but rather one big zig-zag like mine.

Other things to consider

No one should choose their next career change exclusively from online tests or the advice of others but they are useful tools for discovering if you’re well suited for that career change or not. Not to mention, it can be illuminating to get career suggestions that you might not have thought of yourself.

In the end, you have the final say in how to determine the best career path you want to take for your unique set of circumstances.

Good Luck and stay strong. You can do it!

jobs you can do from anywhere: 10 jobs you can do remotely

Work Anywhere And Support Yourself Abroad: 10 Remote Jobs You Can Do From Anywhere

jobs you can do from anywhere: 10 jobs you can do remotely

If you would love to travel or live overseas for an extended period of time but you’re not independently wealthy, don’t have a tonne of savings or a job lined up overseas, you’re only option to support yourself may be to find a job which you can do remotely. Here are 10 remote jobs which require skills you probably already have.

10 portable careers you can do from anywhere in the world

Thanks to the internet, video conferencing software and other modern technologies, more and more companies are becoming open to the idea of hiring remote workers.

Remote jobs not only benefit moms and dad’s who need to stay home with the kids but also people who want to live abroad or travel but need to keep working to support themselves.

Even if you’ve never considered it, you may already partially or wholly possess the skills necessary for certain remote jobs which you can do from anywhere in the world. Here are 10 remote jobs to get you started. Do you have any of these skills?

1) Do you speak English? -Teach English Online

If your an English teacher or if English is your native language than you already have the skill-set necessary to teach English.

People around the world are clamouring to learn English. Fortunately for you and for those wanting to learn English, video conferencing software like Skype make it extremely easy for teachers and students to connect at a distance – to see, hear and interact with each other.

Getting clients on your own can be a bit tricky. You can set up your own website to attract potential student or search classifieds for people looking for English teachers.

If setting up your own website it not your thing, you could teach at an online language school where teachers and students from all over the world come together to teach and learn through virtual classrooms using Skype.- like in a traditional language school, just online. Here are two online language schools where you can apply to become a language teacher.

Lingoda = 8.50 € / hour or about 8 USD depending on the exchange rate.

italki.com = Charge your own rate. Most teachers charge about $16 to $20 USD / hour

You probably need to get certified to teach English

If you don’t have a teaching or education degree, you will most likely need to get TEFL certified which stands for “Teaching English as a foreign language”. It’s recognized around the world and can open the door to thousands of English speaking jobs worldwide.

A TEFL certificate is not that dificult to get. You can get certified online and need about 120 to 140 hours of online training.

I highly recommend LoveTEFL also known as i-to-i.  They have been around for over 20 years and are very reputable. Their TEFL certification will cost you around 200 to 400 dollars. They have job boards listing English speaking jobs all around the world and even have paid internships you can apply for.  All of their courses can be taken at your own pace. You can get your TEFL certificate in as little as four weeks or you can take all the time you need.

2) Do you play a music instrument? – Teach Music Online

If you know an instrument well enough to teach it than you can join the ranks of other musicians who are teaching music online. Learning and teaching music online has really taken off in the past few years and is still in it’s early years. My friends daughter learned to play the fiddle through online lessons. I am learning guitar through Marty Scwartz Guitar lessons.

Getting clients is again going to require you to use the internet. Many musicians put videos on YouTube by offering free lessons with the goal of attracting students to sign up for either private lessons or an online music course.

Another option is to join or apply to an online music school. For instance, Guitar Tricks is somewhere you could apply to teach music online.

Creating a sustainable career teaching music remotely is going to take time. It’s something that you will need to start building now so you can reap the rewards later.

3) Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant (VA) usually provides professional administrative, technical, creative or social assistance to clients remotely.

For example you can become a real estate virtual assistant and do various things for a real estate broker such as update their listings, respond to their email inquires, manage their calendar and whatever else they need help with.

Many virtual assistants have their own website but many people find work on freelancing sites such Freelancer.com, Upwork and Golance .

4) Can you write? -Copywriter freelance writer

Like teaching English, freelancing as a writer or copywriter is not the best paying job but if you enjoy writing, you can earn around $15 to $20 / hour depending on how fast you can write. A growing number of businesses are hiring freelance writers and content creators to create news articles, blog posts and other web related articles rather than having in-house writers on site.  Look at traditional job boards and on the freelancing sites for work.

5) Can you write and do you know a specific industry? Technical writer

Similar to a copywriter, you can become a technical writer. You have to be somewhat technical in a specific field, whether it be software or science or some other domain. And you need to be able to write clearly about it.

6) Can you type fast? Transcriber

A transcriber listens to dictated recordings and transcribes them into written reports, correspondence and other materials. Many professional transcribers use a foot pedal to pause the recordings but many do not. You’ll need a computer and word processor to transcribe and be able to type fast since you are usually paid either by word or by the length of the recording in terms of minutes.

You can look for online transcription services and apply online like at this site https://www.rev.com/freelancers

 

If you are familiar with medical terminology, you can specialize in a certain type of transcription such as a  Medical transcriptionists. You’ll need to comprehend and accurately transcribe medical recordings and may need to know about anatomy, physiology or legal issues related to healthcare.

Although Medical transcriptionists are not required to have a university degree, many employers prefer to hire those who do. There are vocational schools and community colleges that offer degrees or certification. There are also online schools that offer medical transcription training.

Here are two certifications which you might want to look into- (RMT) Registered medical transcriptionist and (CMT) Certified Medical Transcriptionist which can take you anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete. Career-step is a good place to start your search for online medical transcriber certification and will cost about $3,000 USD.

7) Do you have good phone skills? Call-Center Representative

A growing number of businesses are going the route of hiring customer service workers who work remotely from home. This eliminates the need for office space and the need to purchase equipment for workers.

You will be responsible for answering phones- possibly at all hours, assist customers, process orders or deal with returns.

You’ll also need your own computer and may need specific software or equipment in addition to a pleasant phone voice.

There are dozens of sites that list job openings for call-center representatives, including Upwork.com and Freelancer.com however you should also look at traditional job sites including monster.com and even linkedin.com job listings.

8) Do you know your way around a 10 key pad? Data Entry

If you’re fast a data entry than you could try your hand at turning that skill into a job. There are a wide range of businesses that need workers to enter data into their systems.

According to the Bureau of labour statistics, the median salary for a data entry clerk is about 30k / year topping out at 44k per year. You can find many data entry jobs on Upwork.com, Freelancer.com, and SimplyHired.com, as well as dozens of other traditional job boards.

9) Can you speak another language? Translator

If you are bilingual or proficient in English and some other language, you could work as a translator. Many translating jobs are done remotely and also on a freelance basis. Look for translating companies, book publishers that publish books in multiple languages and websites that publish news stories and articles in multiple languages.

According the bureau of labour statistics, the median income for a translator is about $44K per year. If you work for the government, it could be even higher.

10) Do you  have a nursing degree? Telephone Nurse

Health insurers and other health management companies such as Aetna, United Health Group and Humana hire registered nurses remotely to perform duties such as case management, patient education and treatment authorization. Check out Indeed.com for  telephone nurse jobs.

Tips on finding and choosing tellecomuting and remote jobs more easily

There are so many other jobs which you can do remotely just however there are also some pretty scammy “work from home jobs” that just don’t pay a livable wage – remember envelope stuffers? They would get paid pennies for stuffing hundreds of nvelopes?

Always use reputable job sites for your searches or go directly to a companies website and search for the jobs they offer remotely if any. Check Glassdoor to get feedback about a companies work environment from other current and past employees.

Lastly, if you don’t have time to sift through all the job posting sites and just want to see jobs you can do remotely aggregated in one place than you should try FlexJobs. It does cost $50 per year but it’s worth it if you value your time. All the jobs are added in manually so you won’t see any scammy jobs on their site. Just the quality jobs.

Awesome Streaming video sites that are not Hulu or Netlix

Beyond Hulu and Netflix: Other Streaming TV And Movie Sites To Watch

beyond hulu or Netflix. 60 plus sites that are just as good or better. Cutting the cord

If you want more than mainstream movies from Netflix and popular shows from Hulu or if you live abroad and have been region blocked- dont fret. There is a sea of lesser known but worthwhile fish streaming video sites for you to check out. Here are over 60 I recommend-all with free trial periods of 7 to 30 days and a few totally free sites. You are welcome!

Why would anyone need more than Hulu or Netflix?

One of the things I love about living in France is watching French movies. One of the things I hate about living in France is watching American movies dubbed into French at the movie theatres.  (Dubbed American movies represent the bulk of films in French theatres).  This is how I came to rely on Hulu and Netflix- I was sick of watching dubbed lips out of sync. That and the fact that dubbed movies get lost in translation and sometimes sound weird. Check out Homer Simpsons voice in French. He sounds like a drunk Forest Gump. (play video clip below).

Anyways, I was blissfully happy with Netlix and Hulu until slowly I realized I wanted more than just mainstream Hollywood so I started a new quest to find sites not like Hulu and Netflix. Dare I say better?  Maybe.

What I found astounded me- hundreds upon hundreds of streaming choices online. Some great, some good, some really crappy. I whittled what I found down to about 60 or so streaming choices. Before I share them with you, I would like to point out other benefits to watching more streaming video services and less cable TV.

5 Benefits to watching streaming video

  • More Diversity in shows and movies:
    Give me Indie, give me off beat, give me quirky, scary and the classics. Hulu and Netflix just don’t cut it for me in this respect.
  • No need to wast time channel surfing:
    I can never seem to time it just right. I always end up tuning in halfway through a show or just watching whatever is on channel surfing. Screw that. Streaming on demand video is way more efficient.
  • Different slants on world news:
    When you live in one country, you get used to the local and national news but when you travel, you get to hear world news from a different perspective and you begin to see things in a whole new light. There are a lot of streaming news from different countries available online.
  • Cut the cord & save money
    Watching streaming video gives you an alternative to cable. You can essentially cut the cord and untether yourself from expensive cable tv and get more value for your money.
  • Get Access To Streaming Sites That Will Not Region Block Me: Hulu is blocked outside of the US. I have to use a VPN or a Smart DNS to trick the site into thinking I am in the United States otherwise I can’t play or watch any videos on Hulu. Lately Hulu and Netflix US have gotten smarter about figuring out who is faking their IP address through a VPN and blocking them anyways. Myself included. Other sites don’t go through the trouble so it’s good to have other streaming sites a a fall back.  I have used several Smart DNS services. The one I currently use is called Overplay and It works great with Hulu and unblocks loads of other sites which you can’t view outside of the US without a DNS or VPN.

See Also: Websites And Streaming Video Sites Blocked Outside Of The USA and How to watch Blocked Streaming Video Websites Outside Of The US

My best recommended alternatives to Hulu and Netflix (This is a pretty big list of 60 + choices)

Below is a list of streaming sites handpicked by me. Some are membership sites like Hulu and others à la carte sites. I also included a few worthwhile Free streaming sites which are good if you don’t mind the ads which are similar to what you would see on YouTube.

For those of you region blocked from Hulu and Netflix (USA) despite using a VPN or Smart DNS proxy, these are excellent alternatives that all work with a VPN or Smart DNS. Guess their technology is not as high tech. 

Fandor

What: Independent, international and obscure foreign films

Subscription Cost: $10/month or pay $90/year up frontFandor.com

Fandor is without a doubt one of my most favorite sites to watch these days. I honestly did not consider myself an indie movie lover until I started watching Fandor. There are over 8,000 handpicked independent, obscure movies and foreign films for you to choose from in every genre you can think of and then some. Many you won’t find anywhere else. Think of Fandor as the Indie version of Netflix. You’re sure sure to get your fix with Fandor. Try it free for 14 days. Have you seen or heard of the movie called Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst?

Shudder

What: Good and great handpicked HORROR FILMS

Subscription Cost: $4.99 a month or pay $49 up front per year

shudder streaming handpicked horror films

I was screaming from fear and for joy when I discovered Shudder because there is nothing but handpicked streaming horror films to die for from around the world and the price of admission is a scream at just $4.99 per month.  Shudder is backed and put together by AMC Networks (producers of Breaking Bad) and DramaFever. Yes you do see some of the usual free, public domain stuff but not the crappy quality and not the really bad crap because the sites library is curated by horror aficionados Sam Zimmerman and Colin Geddes.  If you’re not sure what to watch, there’s also a constant live stream of horror movies playing on the site. It’s almost like the old days of cable TV where you turn it on and see what’s playing. You never know when a movie is going to start or end, and you don’t know what’s coming next. There are plenty of foreign films too but you can easily switch on subtitles. I dare you.

Film Struck

What: Contemporary and classic movies from the criterion collection

Cost: Subscription price not published yetFilmstruck, streaming criterion movies, indie and more for film affecionados

If TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and the Criterion Collection had a baby what would they call it?  Film struck!  FilmStruck is made for die-hard movie enthusiast who love independent, foreign, cult and art house films.. It’s library will be constantly refreshed and as of Q3 2016, Film Struck will succeed Hulu as the exclusive streaming service for the Criterion Collection. I think this streaming video service may quickly become your favorite go-to site for always fantastic movies!

If you are not familiar with the Criterion Collection. It’s an American home video distribution company which focuses on licensing “important classic and contemporary films” and selling them to film aficionados.

Drama Fever

What: Asian TV shows and dramas, Latin American Telenovelas.

Cost: Starting at .99 cents /month with ads. $4.17 / month no ads.  If you want access offline its $8.33 / Month (7 day free trial)dramafever internation asian and latin shows with subtitltes

Watch Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish dramas, variety shows, films and kids programs all with subtitles and available in more than 20 countries globally. Drama Fever was purchased in 2016 by Warner brothers so you can be sure that this streaming video service is only going to get better.  Af first I wasn’t sure about this site but after trying it out, I think it is definitely worth checking out especially for $.99 cents a month for the most basic plan.

Warner Archive

What: Warner Brother timeless classics

Cost: $9.99 / Month (Free 30 day trial)warner archives watch the classic movies online streaming and on demand

I was initially really excited about Warner Archive because I love the Warner classics. The product of 3 major movie studios, Warner Brothers owns a massive catalogue (maybe the largest in the world) of American movies and TV shows including westerns, film noirs, musicals, comedies, pre-code classics and more. Many of which are not available for purchase any more. The site works like a revolving door for their content. Their massive collection of movies and TV shows get rotated in and out each month to keep the site Fresh I guess. I love the idea but I think 10 bucks a month is too much for what it is. If it had all of it’s library available or most of it available to me at any one time then I could see the value of paying 10 bucks a month but as it is Netflix is cheaper and Hulu is cheaper and they have HUGE libraries available all the time. There are usually only 13 or so TV shows and 160 movies available at any one time (as of 2016). I could not find Gone with the wind, Casablanca, A streetcar named desire, The shining and a bunch more that are in the Warner collection. *Sad face. Check it out for yourself. Maybe you’ll get more value out of it than me which is why I did not rule this site out.

HBO NOW

What: All the same HBO episodes, original programming, theatrical films, seasons, episode as regular HBO plus more.

Cost: $14.99 / MonthHBONow

I’m not ashamed to say that I luuuuuuv “Game of Thrones” which is on HBO. HBO now is for anyone who doesn’t have a monthly cable subscription but still wants to watch HBO shows online. You can watch HBO NOW on most devices including your computer however you can’t sign up using your computer. You have need to sign up through an app or through a subscription provider as an add-on like Amazon, Roku or Apple. It is what it is.

CBS All Access Now

What:Watch almost any show it airs live or on demand.

Cost: $5.99/ mo limited commercials or $9.99 no commercials (free 7 day trial)CBS all access now free trial

CBS All Access, like the HBO now does not require users have a traditional TV subscription: You will have access to most of the old shows as well as the new shows aired as soon as the next day. All you need is an Internet. There are well over 6,500 Episodes for you to watch on demand. Give it a try for 7 days with a free trial After that pay just $5.99 per month with limited commercials or $9.99 for no commercials.

Online Video, Movie and TV Show Sites (Pay as you go –rent or buy)

If you would rather rent or buy movies and shows rather than subscribing to a monthly plan, here are your best options.

VUDU

What: latest big-name movie releases and TV shows often released on the same day as the DVD release.

Cost to rent: $0.99 special rentals up to $5.99 usually in HDX 1080p.  Cost to buy: $4.99 to $24.99 to purchase.

Vudu rent or buy videos online

Vudu is a solid pay-as-you go streaming video website. No monthly subscriptions here- you can rent or buy the latest big-name releases on the same day they come out on DVD whereas Netflix waits around 20 days or so. Prices seem to be determined by how new or old a movie is with newer blockbuster movies costing around $6.99. For you basement bargain hunters, there are regularly reduced videos for as little as $0.99 cents. Vudu occasionally offers content the competition doesn’t.

FandangoNow

What: latest big-name movie releases and TV shows

Cost: $1.99 to $19.99 for newer releases.Fandango now rent or buy videos online

FandangoNow used to be called M-Go and uses a pay as you go model like Vudu where you can rent or buy newer big-name release movies fresh out of the theatre however you can only buy TV shows not rent them. Their library is massive, they claim to have over 30,000 movies and TV shows so you are sure to find something to watch.

CinemaNow

What: latest big-name movie releases and TV shows

Cost: $1.99 to $19.99 for newer releases.cinema-now

If you are looking for new films, old films, scary films, cult films, indie films, you name it than CinemaNow is the place to go. It has an extremely large and diverse media library collection but it is pretty standard. It sometimes has HBO show which you can only get via HBO so that’s a plus.

Anime

Crunchyroll

What: Anime and Japanese dramas

Cost: $6.95/month – $11.95/month (14 day free trial)Crunhyroll streaming anime online

For anime lovers and Japanophiles, Crunchy Roll streams anime videos and Japanese dramas (legally) with professional subtitles (not the illegal/ bootleged version created by fans). There is some free content but it is very limited. They have 2 subscription plans. The higher priced plan has no ads so you can watch Naruto Shippuden, Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, Skip Beat, and Shugo Chara and more ad-free.

FUNimation

What: Anime and Japanese dramas

Cost: $$4.95 / month (free 2 week trial)

Funimation streaming anime

Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z fan? Get access to over 8,500 streaming anime episodes and movies commercial-free in HD!

FREE

Crackle

What: Movies and TV, original web shows

Cost: Freecrackle free streaming movies online

Crackle is pretty descent for a site that is FREE if you don’t mind the commercials galore.  It has TV shows, Hollywood movies and some really good original web shows you won’t find anywhere else. It’s owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment which also means it’s library is going to work with Sony Platforms and devices. The site has expanded to produce and distribute originals since Sony has its own Hollywood studios.

Pluto TV

What: A little of everything, TV shows, movies, sports, cats.

Cost: FreeplutoTV

This site tries to mimic the TV experience. It has over 100 Internet channels instead of TV channels from mainstream news and stand-up comedy to TV shows, movies and and extreme sports. There is even a CAT channel. YouTube watch out.

Popcornflix

What: Independent feature films

Cost: Freepopcorn-Flix

– I believe this site has around 1,500 + independent feature films. You won’t see any current blockbusters here however it’s worth a look. It’s free to use and perfectly legal. The site makes money from ads.

LogoTV

What: New Music Videos, Reality TV Shows, Celebrity News, Pop Culture ..

Cost: FreelogoTV for gay and lesbian audience

Plenty of RuPaul here. This site focuses on lifestyle programming aimed primarily at LGBT.

ShoutFactoryTV

What: cult TV shows, movies, comedy, original specials

Cost: Freeshout factory TV

Here is an excellent alternative to major streaming services. The ShoutFactoryTV library has a fairly large curated library full of cult TV shows, movies, comedy, original specials and more. Think Godzilla, Elvira and Mystery Science theatre.

Watch most of your favourite channels on Amazon

Amazon is special and deserves a little explanation. It has 2 models. The pay as you go model, Amazon Instant Video where you can rent or buy movies on demand. It also has a subscription model which gives you access to thousands of movies and TV shows through Amazon Prime Video. Plus you get all the benefits of being a member of amazon prime. I’ve listed all the benefit below.

You can also add on certain channels to your prime video account like starz, shudder, Smithsonian Earth, Comic con and many more. I listed 48 addons but there are more. You get the convenience of watching all your movies, TV shows and various channels through Amazon rather than surfing to the individual sites. Pretty slick.

Amazon Instant Video  –

What: Rent or buy the latest big-name movie releases and TV shows.

Cost: Pay $3 to $20 for each movie or TV show depending on if you buy or rent the videos.

Amazon Prime members get Video plus + + + +

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial to switch from pay as you go to a monthly membership which gives you access to all of the following

  1. Amazon Prime Video: Watch unlimited streaming of thousands of movies & TV Shows Anytime with Amazon Prime. The selection is not as good as Amazon Instant but it’s still pretty good.
  2. Amazon Prime Music: Unlimited streaming of millions of songs with Amazon Prime.
  3. Access to borrow over 500,000 eBooks. You can borrow one book per month and never pay any late fees.
  4. If you own a Kindle E-Reader, Fire tablet, or Fire phone, you can rent eBooks for free
  5. Unlimited photo storage on Amazon drive (this alone is worth the annual membership fee).
  6. Free 2 day shipping (on eligible purchases in the US only).

Platforms: Computers, Amazon Fire TV, some smart TV’s, Roku, Kindle Fire, Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Android, iPad/iPhone

Cost: Amazon Prime is $99 per year which turns out to be $8.25 per month.

Subscription Channels you can add to your Amazon Prime Subscriptions

Pretty close to a la carte TV if you ask me. Sign up for a basic Amazon prime membership- $99 per year which gives you all the benefits listed above. Then choose an add-on subscription for a very reasonable monthly fee of 2.99 to 8.99 depending on which add-on you choose. You can subscribe through the website or through a mobile app.

Each individual subscription comes with a free trial, that ranges from 7 to 30 days. I have listed 48 channel add-ons below.

Horror

Monsters and Nightmares – $2.9 9/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
The creepiest, most terrifying horror films of the last decade.

Amazon-Monsters Nighmares

Full Moon -$6.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Horror, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, cult, and decades of bizarre genre films.

Amazon-FullMoon

Fear Factory – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
eerie, fun flicks that bring the bump in the night.

Amazon-FearFactory

Shudder –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Curated by horror aficionados devoted to all varieties of horror.

Amazon-shudder

Feature Shows

Starz – $8.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Captivating original series and hit movies.

Amazon-Starz

Showtime –  $8.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Award-winning Original Series, hit movies, sports, and more.

Amazon-Showtime

Cinefest –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free
A uniquely curated collection of films for the movie buff in everyone.
Amazon-Cinefest

Tribeca Shortlist $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Movies worth watching. a diverse selection of films and features handpicked by actors, directors and more.

Amazon-tribecashortlist

UMC- Urban Movie Channel  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Quality urban content showcasing feature films, documentaries, original series, stand-up comedy and more.

Amazon Urban Movie Channel

Educational

History Vault –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Hundreds of hours of curated historical videos.

history vault from amazon

CurisosityStream -$5.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Nonfiction programs exploring science, technology, history, and nature.

Amazon curiosityStream

Smithsonian Earth – $3.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Captivating nature & wildlife documentaries, stunning Nature Scenes, and fascinating shorts.

Amazon Smithosonian

Nature Vision –  $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free
Hours of uninterrupted footage of the world’s most beautiful and pristine places.

Amazon NatureVision

Spacerip – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Breathtaking collections of space and astronomy videos.

Amazon spacerip

The Great Courses – $7.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Video learning in science, art, and more.

Amazon great courses

Xive TV –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Exploring history, science, nature, adventure and mystery.

Amazon Xive

Documentaries

Docurama –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Award-winning documentaries.

Amazon Docudrama

Daring Docs – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Thoughtful and provoking documentaries on hot topics and social issues.

Amazon Daring Docs

Dox – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Award-winning documentaries from cutting edge filmmakers around the world.

Amazon Dox

Sundance now Doc Club – $6.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
A handpicked curation of award-winning documentaries.

Amazon Sundance

Quello Concerts – $7.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Thousands of full-length concerts and award-winning music documentaries on demand.

Amazon qelloconcerts

Fitness

AcaciaTV -$6.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Hundreds of fun and effective workouts for every fitness level.

Amazon acaciatv

BeFit -$5.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
The best workout solutions for every body. Transform Yourself.

Amazon Befit

 

Gaia – $9.95/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Yoga, meditation, documentaries, and original programming to expand your horizons

Amazon-Gaia

Video Game Comic Con Genre

Comic Con  –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free
Everything you love about Comic-Con, on demand and streaming online-anytime.

Amazon comic con

Contv –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free
TV shows and coverage from Comic Con events nationwide.

Amazon contv

Machinima – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Get Machinima – original series, gameplay videos, animation, gaming news, and more.

Amazon-Machimina

Humor & Comedy

Comedy Central Stand-up plus  – $3.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Original stand-up specials and series from your favorite comics.

Amazon comedycentral

Seeso – $3.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Original and Classic Comedy: Series, Stand-Up Specials and more.

Amazon Seeso

Kid

Hooplakidz Plus – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free
Nursery rhymes, yummy recipes, arts and crafts, educational videos, and lots more for parents and kids.

amazon Hoopla

Ameba – $3.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Kids shows, movies, music, and much more.

Amazon ameba

Family Friendly

Dove Channel –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Trusted and safe family entertainment.

Amazon Dove

Up Faith And Family $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
High-quality movies and TV shows for the whole family.

Amazon up faith family

 

Lifetime Movie Club – $3.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Featuring a great selection of new and classic Lifetime movies.

Amazon-Lifetime

Indie or Cult

IndiFlix Shorts – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Award winning short films from 50+ countries and 1200+ film festivals

Amazon indieflixshorts

Acorn TV –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
World-class TV from Britain and beyond.

Amazon acorntv

Drama Fever Instant – $3.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Hit dramas from around the world.

Amazon-dramafever

Action

Warriors and Gangsters – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
High octane action and adventure flicks that kick things into high gear.

Amazon-warriorsgangsters

All Warrior Network –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Military themed entertainment for Warriors, by Warriors.

Amazon all warrior network

Other

Cheddar – $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Tech, media, and business news and exclusives daily from the NYSE floor.

Amazon cheddar

Ring Tv –  $2.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free
Your all-access pass to world-class boxing.

Amazon Ring TV

Tastemade –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Food, travel, and lifestyle for the connected generation.

Amazon-Tastemade

Paula Dean Network –  $4.99/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Paula’s award-winning cooking shows, new lifestyle shows, vintage series, and more.

Amazon Paula Dean

Motorland – $2.9 9/ Mo – 7 Day Free Trial
Automotive anywhere anytime. The ultimate destination for gearheads.

Amazon motorland

Between the free trials and the free streaming sites, you should be good to go for a couple of months for free.

FB how to watch streaming video outside of the united states

How To Watch Hulu And Other Blocked Video Sites From Anywhere In The World

FB how to watch streaming video outside of the united states
Forget about watching Hulu from Halifax, Netflix from Nice or listening to Pandora from Paris. These and other sites are hiding behind locked doors the moment you try to access them outside of the United States. There are tools to get around these region blocked websites but before diving into those tools, it's useful to understand what is being blocked and why.

Who blocks websites?

There are thousands of websites blocked from being accessed by people around the world. Sometimes it's a country's government that censors websites and blocks it's citizens from accessing certain sites. Sometimes it's the sites themselves that block surfers outside a region from viewing their content and sometimes it's your company or school that blocks access to certain non-productive websites. I've discussed why sites get blocked here.

Over 25 countries worldwide block access to certain websites in their own country.

What do you mean blocked?

Let's clarify what it means to be blocked from these streaming video. In France Hulu is blocked to me because I am trying to view it from France or outside of the US. I will still see the Hulu website and I can surf around the site however the moment I try to actually play a video, the dreaded GEO-restriction popup message will appear. It usually says "Sorry, currently our video library can only be watched from within the United States. (see photo)

Websites that are blocked outside of the United States

The first time I saw the restriction pop up for Hulu, I was stunned. I had no idea what was going on. I actually thought it was a mistake until I contacted Hulu customer service and they explained to me that Hulu was not available outside of the United States. ​I cancelled my membership right there and then and forgot about it because I thought there was nothing I could do about it.

A few months later, by accident, I discovered that there was something I could do to watch websites like Hulu which are normally blocked to me in France.  More on that solution in a minute. 

HBO-Go-Blocked

Another scenario you may run into is a US based site which serves you up a localized version of the website. It may even be an inferior version of that site simply because you are located in another region. Take Netflix for example. 

Unlike Hulu, Netflix is available outside of the US in certain countries. As of 2016, it is available in over 190 countries worldwide. But the Netflix you see outside of the US doesn’t have nearly as many movies as the Netflix USA. Just ask Canadians who have half the amount of videos on Canada Netflix.

Netflix France

How do sites like Hulu know I am outside of the United States and block my access?

All your computers and devices that access the internet have an IP address. Your IP is kind of like your street address or GPS for your location.

In a matter of seconds, sites like Hulu, Pandora, HBO Now and Netflix are able to determine where you are located by using their sophisticated software to sniff out your IP address and your actual location. 

There is a way to fool those sites into thinking your in the US so that you can view blocked websites. 

How to access MOST blocked and region restricted websites from France, Europe, Asia and beyond

To access your favourite online streaming video website or any website that you are blocked from using for that matter, you will need to use a VPN or proxy which will essentially trick sites into thinking you are in the USA. 

  1. VPN (Virtual Private Network)
  2. Smart DNS Proxy​

Smart DNS and VPN are very similar however there are pros and cons to using one over another. Your needs will determine which one you should use. 

Is it legal?

I'm not a lawyer and I can't tell you if the country you are trying to use your VPN or Smart DNS from allows use of anonymizers and proxies to access blocked sites. 

Use a little common sense and research it. If I were in a country where the internet was censored by the government like Pakistan, North Korea or Mainland China, I would probably think twice about using a VPN especially since some countries might actually put you in jail if they catch you using a VPN.

On the other hand, I am pretty sure it's ok to use a VPN or Smart DNS in countries like France, the UK, Canada, the United States and many many more countries.  In fact many universities and businesses use them. I used to use a VPN to access my companies servers from home.

So yes, it is legal in some countries. Just make sure you don't do anything illegal while using a VPN or Smart DNS.

See Also: List of US streaming video sites which anonymizers can unblock for you))

Which one should you choose? Smart DNS or VPN?

As I mentioned before, Smart DNS and VPN are very similar in that they unlock region blocked websites however each one has advantages and disadvantages depending on what you want. The below comparison should help you decide. 

CHOOSE SMART DNS if:

If you are not concerned about encryption or securing your connection like me because you will be connecting to wifi at home with a password protected internet box and you simply want the fastest connection possible to access blocked streaming websites like Hulu, BBC iplayer or HBO NOW than a Smart DNS is your best bet. It's also slightly less expensive than a VPN. 

There is also nothing to install other than changing your DNS on your computer and devices. It's always on so you can set it and forget it unlike a VPN which is slower, needs to be connected and disconnected each time you use it. The Smart DNS which I currently use is called Overplay and I love it. 

smart dns is easy to setup

CHOOSE VPN IF:

If security is more important to you and you want to add a layer of security, identity & privacy protection or encryption security against the prying eye of the government and hackers than you should choose a VPN. Keep in mind that VPN's usually slow down your connection and you have to download software or an app which you need to turn on and off each time you use want to access a blocked website.  OverPlay has a VPN which is extremely easy to install and use. 

Below is a the same information as above only summarized in a chart showing you the pros and cons between a smart DNS and VPN.

What are the Pros and Cons between Smart DNS and VPN


Smart DNS

Unblock websites: Access your favourite sites from anywhere.


SMART DNS PROS AND CONS

  • No security online in public WIFI connectors and unsecured hotspots.
  • Surf is not private or incognito.
  • Not all blocked websites for a country are available only specified websites. (usually this is enough, at least for me it is because I only access a few blocked streaming websites like Amazon, Hulu, crackle etc).
  • Can see content from multiple channels/countries at the same time or switch instantly.
  • Much faster, no loss of download speed which is great for video streaming.
  • Works on all your devices unlike VPN. 
  • Nothing to download
  • Easier to setup than a VPN. No technical knowledge necessary. Simply follow directions to change your DNS settings on your devices. set it and forget it. Takes 5 minutes to get going.
  • Unlimited devices: Use on multiple devices as long as they have same external IP. Which you will have at home if you are all using the same wifi connection.

SMART DNS CONS

  • Usually cheaper than a VPN

VPN

Unblock websites: Access your favourite sites from anywhere.


VPN PROS AND CONS

  • Enjoy security online even on public WIFI connections and unsecured hotspots
  • Surf Privately incognito with no trace.
  • Unlock all every website for a country not just a specific streaming website channel. Good if you want to use VPN to get cheaper airline tickets on different country sites because it does matter where you are buying from price wise. 
  • Need to dissconnect and reconnect each time you use VPN and you have to switch from viewing one country content to another. Cannot have US Netflix and French Google for example.
  • DOES NOT work with all devices. Will not work with Apple TV, Smart TV, Roku and other boxes without a VPN router. (if you are technically savvy enough than it won't matter)
  • VPN's are slower than Smart DNS which might make videos choppy or laggy. 
  • Can only see content from one country at a time. You must dissconnect from from one country and reconnect to a different country to view different content. i.e. US hulu to Dr Who on UK BBC iPlayer. Not so with Smart DNS.
  • More complicated to get running. Need to download and install software to get it running. Can be technically challenging to get it up and running on a smart phone or tablet. Not so for smartDNS
  • Usually More expensive than Smart DNS

Conclusion

If you are heading abroad and want to watch your US based streaming video shows or listent to your streaming music on Pandora than YOU NEED to get a VPN or Smart DNS installed and running on your devices before you go. The last thing you want to be doing while on vacation is fiddling with your settings to get things up and running. You need to decide whether you want full encrypted protection (VPN) or just a faster connection to stream video (Smart DNS). Both of which will unblock region restricted websites.

Nothing is full proof. Results can vary based on your location, your connection the weather? I had to go through several services to find the ones that worked for me. I will list other services which I have tested and know work by linking to them here. (coming soon, I'm currently testing out a few dozen services. )

Overplay.net as I mentioned above, is the service I use at home and am extremely happy with. If you can't decide between a VPN or DNS of if you would like to have the option of switching between Smart DNS for a faster connection for streaming video at home and a VPN when connecting to an unsecured and or public hot-spot in hotels and airports, you can get both as a bundle package over at  Overplay for less than $10 USD per month. 

Websites that are blocked outside of the United States

Why Are Sites Like Hulu And Facebook Blocked Outside Of The US Region?

Websites that are blocked outside of the United States

Instagram in North Korea? NOT!    Hulu in France? PFFFFFT     Pandora anywhere outside of the US? In your dreams!   These are but a few of the websites which you are blocked from using outside of their region (The US). But where and what sites are being blocked and why?

Why are websites blocked?

If you live in the US, you probably take for granted the fact that you have access to websites that many people around the world wish they had access to but can’t. Not necessarily because they don’t have access to the internet but because they are being blocked from viewing those sites- like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and Facebook to name a few. Let’s explore why, what and where sites are blocked.

1- Government Censorship Of Internet Sites

Freedom of speech in China doesn’t really exist, at least not in the way that most westerners think it should. No surprise, the government of Mainland China censors the internet drastically by blocking access to over 3,000 websites including Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Wikipedia and the Wall Street Journal. Porn sites don’t stand a chance in China.

North Korea’s DOMESTIC ONLY intranet system called Kwangmyong offers no links to the outside world whatsoever. It only connect cybercafes, libraries, universities and various other institutions with websites and email. 

Then there is North Korea, described as one of the few remaining “internet black holes” which doesn’t allow it’s citizens access to the outside world at all. With the exception of a select few high ranking government officials and visiting foreigners, all North Koreans have no access to the world wide web.

But it’s not just Mainland China and North Korea that block websites.

British surfers are banned from viewing almost 100 websites, most of which are blocked because they contain or deal with illegal pirating of music and video or copyright and counterfeit sites.

France is also believed to block over 280 sites at the time of this writing. 60 or so are blocked because they relate to terrorism and more than 250 because they deal with child pornography.

Schools, universities and companies can block their users from accessing certain websites.

2- Streaming music and video websites that block their own content to anyone outside of their region / country for licensing or copyright issues

What you may not realize is that streaming video and music websites like Hulu, Pandora and HBONow are all blocked to you once you leave American soil. Blocked by the sites themselves usually due to licensing and copyright issues which do not extend past the American border. It makes no difference whether you are a US based paying customer trying to accesss Hulu while on vacation abroad. You will be blocked.

By the way, it’s not just sites from the US that block access to their content abroad. For instance, you can’t watch BBC iPlayer outside of the UK.

Related: How to watch blocked video streaming websites from outside the United States (legally). 

What does region blocked look like? The dreaded restriction pop-up

If you visit one of these region restricted websites outside of it’s region / country, you won’t get a scary notice with a menacing red hand threatening legal action. No one will come knocking down your door and take you away in handcuffs. Unless of course if you visit one of those countries where the gouvernement has banned that site. I’m just speculating here; my imagination goes a little crazy.

You will however get an annoying, and very frustrating geo-restricted message which looks different depending on which website you are trying to view. Here are a few examples of what you might see from Spotify and Hulu.

spotifyblocked.jpg

 

Websites that are blocked outside of the United States

Different version of a website (country specific version)

Netflix, Cartoon Network and a few other sites are the exception because they are available outside of their region (the United States) however the version seen in other countries is different.

For instance, in France where I normally access Netflix, I get the French version. I can still watch the shows in English if I want but I can also watch them in French if I want too. The main difference between the American version of Netflix and other country versions is the selection. There are far more shows available on the American version of Netflix than there are on the French version and other country versions. I am not sure how much more but it could be as much as 50 percent.

Websites that are blocked outside of the United States

Is there a workaround to access blocked US websites like Hulu and Netflix and is it legal?

Yes there is a work around which is legal in most countries except maybe in countries like China where the government censors the internet but I know people who still do it. However in most other countries like Canada, the UK and France, there are no law forbidding the use of tools/ software to access these sites blocked outside of their region. The US may have laws but I have never heard of anyone being arrested from accessing Hulu outside of the USA. In fact there are hundreds of services you can use to circumvent these restrictions which will give you access to most if not all region blocked websites.

If you want to learn more about how to watch region restricted and blocked video streaming websites abroad, you can read about it here .

Exactly which streaming video and music sites are region blocked abroad?

To keep this list somewhat short, I compiled a list of streaming sites which you can’t view outside of the United States. It’s in no way complete but it should give you an idea of all the sites which are not available to people around the world.

Read it and weep!

Online Video, Movie & TV Websites

Hulu
Netflix (USA version)
Fandor
Shudder
Amazon Instant Video
FandangoNow
CinemaNow
HBO NOW
Crackle
Pluto TV
Popcornflix
LogoTV
ShoutFactoryTV
VUDU

Anime

Crunchyroll
FUNimation

International TV & Movie websites

Drama Fever
Telemundo
MundoFOX
SoompiTV

Websites as part of cable package

FYI Network
Oxygen
USA Network
HBO
GO
HGTV
DirecTV
SyFy
Lifetime
Showtime
Showtime Anytime
DirectTv

TV & Cable Channels

ABC
Bravo TV
CBS
NBC
Spike
FX Networks
TNT Drama
TV.com
CWTV
TV Land
CNBC
AMC
A&E

News, weather traffic

CBS News
ABC News
FOX
WBTV

Educational TV And Movies

Smithsonian
History
National Geographic
PBS

Kids TV And Movies

PBS Kids
Disney
Cartoon Network
Nick
TeenNick
Nick Jr
Disney Junior
Disney XD

Comedy

Comedy Central
Adult Swim
Simpsons World
TruTV
ConTV

Music

CMT – Country Music Television
Pandora
MTV
Radio.com
Playlist
iHeart
Rhapsody
Spotify
Slacker
Samsung Milk Music
VH1
Vevo
ZUUS

Sports

CBS Sports
Eurosport
Tennis Channel Everywhere
FL GamePass
NBC Sports
PGA Tour Live
Golf Channel
FOX Sports
NCAA March Madness
FOX Soccer 2Go
ESPN
WWE
NHL Vault

Why you're screwed if you lose your prescription eyeglasses in France

Why You’re Screwed If You Lose Your Prescription Eyeglasses In France

Why your totally screwed if you lose or break your prescription eyeglasses in France

If you rely heavily on your prescription eyeglasses to see the world than losing or breaking them is an annoyance which you can fix rather easily and quickly if you live near a prescription eyeglass retailer like Lenscrafters. Not so easy in France. Discover why you’re totally screwed if you lose your prescription eyeglasses in France, plus learn what you should do if you lose or break them followed by a few of my most useful tips for travelling with prescription glasses.

Although this article is written for people travelling to or living in France, most of the tips and advice can be used for any trip you take.

Murphy’s Law: Stuff Happens

Things don’t always work the same way abroad as they do at home. Most people forget or ignore this simple truth until doomsday is upon them. That’s why it’s important to fight procrastination and think ahead especially when it come to your vision and travelling.

Scenario: Imagine strolling along the Champs-Élysées and some clueless tourist bumps into you knocking your prescription eyeglasses off your face which fall to the ground, break and shatter beyond repair. Even if you’re not completely blind without your glasses, it’s still stressful to be sight-seeing someplace or driving with blurry vision.

What to do? Assuming you speak the local language good enough to get by (a must in most of France), you need to somehow make your way back to your hotel or flat all squinty eyed, call an eye doctor and set an appointment to get new eyeglass prescriptions.

Right about now, you’re regretting not bringing an extra pair of glasses with you but you think “what’s the worst that could happen?. I lose a few hours of my life during the the eye checkup but I’ll have my fancy new French eyeglasses in a week or less.”

WRONG, You’re totally screwed because time is not your friend mon ami.

Why your screwed if you don’t have a backup pair of prescription eyeglasses with you in France.

It can take 6 months to 1 full year to get an eye doctor appointment

I know it’s hard to believe but it can take three to six months to get an eye doctor appointment and in some areas of France it can take up to a year to get a rendez-vous.

We were living in the South of France when my son broke his last backup pair of prescription eyeglasses. No biggy, I thought. I’ll just call up an eye doctor and make an appointment.

I called over a dozen eye doctors (ophtalmologiste or ophtalmo is what they are called in French) in our area and every single one of them gave me the same depressing response.

Désolé madame, pas de rendez-vous avant 6 mois.
(I am sorry madam, no appointments available before six months).

One particular doctor blew my mind when she said some eye doctors had a years waiting list to get an appointment while others (presumably the ones with no receptionist), don’t even bother answering the phones everyday because they are too busy with their existing patient load. MIND BLOWN!!

**I have heard but can’t confirm that some areas of France like Paris have a shorter waiting list.**  

7 Things You Should Know If You Are Travelling To France With Prescription Eyeglasses

I felt so stupid not knowing in advance about how impossible it was to get an eye doctor appointment but in my defence, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know which is why I’m here to tell you how things work in France.

Here are 7 of my best precautionary tips and sound advice. Forewarned is forearmed.

1) Bring an extra pair of glasses with you just in case!

My absolute best advice and easiest thing you should do is simply bring an extra pair of eyeglasses with you. Even better, bring 2 extra pairs. I always order 4 pairs of glasses for my son who is pretty rough on his glasses.

He is blind as a bat without his prescription glasses so it’s important he always has back-up pairs on hand.

2) Bring your prescription with you and you can walk into an eyeglass retailer to get your prescription filled.

If you can’t or don’t want to bother bringing an extra pair of glasses with you then I recommend you bring your official eyeglass prescription which you can then use to get glasses at one of the thousands of retail optician stores across France who will gladly fill your eyeglass prescription.

If you don’t lose your glasses no harm no foul but if you do lose your glasses, you’ll be glad you had your prescription with you because you won’t have to go long without your glasses or wait months to get an eye doctor appointment.

Opticians (Called “les opticiens” in French ) are not eye doctors and are not optometrists and cannot perform eye exams or treat vision problems. They can only fit and sell eyeglasses using your existing eyeglass prescription.

Bring your eyeglasses prescription with you and buy glasses whle travellingThings to note about buying eyeglasses from an optician in France

  1. Make sure your prescription is less than 3 years old otherwise by law the optician cannot fill your eyeglass prescription.
  2. Glasses can be extremely expensive to buy at an optician. There are huge markups on glasses in France as much as 250 percent.  Lenses can run you anywhere from 50 to 250 euros depending on if you get progressives lenses or other upgrades like ant-reflective,  anti-scratch or other coatings. Frames can cost between 50 to 500 euros depending on the brand you get.
    You will most likely spend about 200 on the low-end to 600 on the high-end in total.

3) Know your prescription and save hundreds of dollars by buying your spectacles online

For those of you who don’t have an updated prescription (less than 3 years old) or don’t have a backup pair of glasses, but you know your prescription because you wrote it down or have a photocopy of it you are in luck. Although you won’t be able buy your glasses at an optician’s office, you can order your glasses online at HUGE COST SAVINGS!

Don’t worry, it’s totally safe. I’ve’ been buying my son’s eyeglasses online for over 8 years and I have never ever had a problem.

To give you an example of the cost savings, I usually buy 4 pairs of glasses for my son for under 100 dollars with shipping. Shipping usually takes about 7 to 14 days depending on where I am. I have no idea how they do it but the quality of the glasses seem to be just as good as glasses I buy from local retailers.

Here are the details you need to know about your prescription if you buy prescription glasses online

Measure your PD so you can order glasses onlineWhether you have your prescription in hand or you have it written somewhere here are the things you need to know in order to buy your glasses online.

a) Naturally you must know the strength of your prescription for your left and right eye.
b) You must also know your pupillary distance (abbreviated as “PD”). This measures the distance between the center of your pupils in millimetres.
  • Doctors sometimes do not include this information on your prescription so be sure you ask for it.
  • You could try to measure it yourself in which case you measure from the center of one pupil to the other to get the distance in millimetres.
  • PD is generally between 55 and 65 for adults.
c) You should also have a front facing photo which you will upload and use to try on your glasses virtually.

I love this feature. It’s the next best thing to being there and physically trying on glasses. If you are worried about them not looking great on your face, get several pairs just in case.

try your prescription eyeglasss online virtually before you buy them

Where to buy eyeglasses online?

Just Google “buy glasses online” to find hundreds of sites willing to sell you glasses. If you are a bargain hunter like me, take a look at Groupon coupons first. They usually have online coupons where you can get an additional 10 to 25 percent savings off your order or free shipping. These additional discounts can usually only be had by going through the Groupon website vs going directly to the eyeglasses website.

Here are a few eyeglass sites I found through Groupon :

Eye Buy Direct

EyeGlasses.com

39DollarGlasses.com

GlassesSPOT.com sells higher end brand name glasses at a discount. Brands like RayBan, Burberry, Carrera and more. They even have Dolce & Gabbana!!!!!!

Armed Forces Eyewear is interesting because they offer exclusive pricing for US military, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters & their families as much as 50% off retail.

4) Bring a pair of prescription sunglasses to use as backup and to get a new prescriptionBring an extra pair of glasses with you just in case you lose your glasses while travelling

Your prescription sunglasses not only protect your eyes from the suns strong UV rays while sightseeing during your travels but can also serve as a backup pair. You might look a little silly at night but it’s better than nothing right?

A little known fact is you can get new glasses made from any prescription glasses (in France). All you have to do is walk into an optician’s office who will measure your prescription using the lenses from your existing glasses and make a new pair. Voila!

I believe you have to be over 16 to do this though.

5) Bring a hard shell eyeglasses case to protect your glasses from getting crushed

Take precautionary measures with your extra back up pair of glasses or when you’re not using your glasses to prevent your glasses from getting crushed in your nah or luggage by bringing a hard shell case for your eyeglasses.

always bring a hardcase to hold your glasses when travelling

6) Bring a clean eyeglass cloth and cleaning solution

You’re not supposed to clean your glasses with the bottom of your t-shirt because it is most likely filled with tiny dust and dirt particles that can leave tiny scratches on your lenses.

Instead try to clean your lenses with warm water and soap. If you are out and about, bring a dedicated cloth like one of those microfiber cloths otherwise clean cotton works just as well. Just make sure you don’t wipe your glasses when the lenses are dry. If water is not an option, use a cleaning solution.

7) Bring a small eyeglass repair kid

The last thing you want is for a screw to come loose or worse fall out leaving you with only one working arm forcing you to use nerd tape to hold your glasses together.

I really like the repair kits that have a bunch of extra little screws just in case you actually do lose a screw.

Bring an eyeglass repair kit

Better safe than sorry

I still think the best solution is to bring an extra pair of glasses with you as back up. If you end up not needing them no big deal but if you do end up breaking or losing your glasses, you’ll feel so smart and relieved that you did because not being able to see clearly for any amount of time whether on vacation or not is just plain stressful and annoying.

MdConalds In France: do French people eat at Mcdonalds?

Do French People Eat AT McDonalds? Fast Food In France!

MdConalds In France: do French people eat at Mcdonalds?

You might be surprised to learn that France, a country and a people known by most of the world for their fancy gourmet food and superior eating habits love their fast food and McDonald’s Big Macs but just how much do they love it compared to the rest of the world?

I don’t know who was more shocked! Me or them?

I could hardly believe that every single one of my (circle of mommy friends in France) took their kids to eat at McDonald’s.

But the kicker was that my French friends were equally shocked to learn that our 5 year old daughter had never eaten at McDonald’s. 

Why we believe French people don’t eat fast food

French kids eat everything bookThe book “French Kids Eat Everything” by American mom and author Karen Le Billon is one of many books which puts ALL French eating habits on a pedestal.

“The book ‘French kids eat everything” is right. They also eat lots of fast food from McDonald’s.

In “French kids eat everything”, Karen not only puts all French eating habits on a pedestal, she also talks about how she cured her kids picky eating by adopting more French eating habits and attitudes.

It’s no wonder the world thinks French people have superior eating habits all of the time. 

Do the French really love Mickey D’s? You bet they do. 

I was naive to think the peer pressure of eating at McDonald’s would not be an issue for our children in France.

Our daughter Catherine’s first foray into fast-food at McDonald’s was when her schoolmate Enzo invited her to one of those all inclusive birthday parties at a McDonald’s near our house. They provide the food and a small cake and then the kids play on those outdoor play structures until it’s time to go home. All for under 10 euros a kid. 

Out of 13 kids invited, Catherine was the only one who didn’t know who Ronald McDonald was or what a happy meal was (pronounced “Appy Mill” in French) but she learned real fast.

Between the toy  and the treats included in the cute little happy meal box, she was hooked before she even took her first bite into the fast food industry.

Everything was undone with that first bite.

She was been invited to several McDonald birthday parties since then and she constantly asks us to take her there but we told her it was only for special events like birthday parties which she begrudgingly accepted.

My then two teenage sons faced similar pressures from their friends who constantly wanted to eat at McDonald’s or Dominos. My eldest son resisted for the first 3 or so years but my middle child caved right away.

I knew I could not do much about this peer pressure and I suppose they would have eventually done the same thing had we lived in the US or Canada. I guess I naively thought that ALL French people were above eating at McDonald’s.

Silly me.

I know better now.

McDonalds far reaching hand knows no borders.

French people still eat better than most North Americans on the whole

20 years ago McDonald’s wasn’t as popular in France as it is today. 20 years from now McDonald’s may be as popular in France as it is in the US today.

I am in no way saying French people ALL have bad eating habits or that they eat like crap. Traditional French eating habits are alive and well however , with the invasion of super mega fast-food chains like McDonalds who have penetrated almost every international market and a generation of youth culture that is more open to Anglo influences , the food landscape is changing.

Mcdonald’s is much more popular in France than the world thinks.

The French are not always this perfect picture of fine dining and gourmet food either. Believe it or not, the French eat a lot of french fries and pizza. I know, shocking isn’t it?

On the flip side, I still think most French people eat better on the whole than most North Americans. The French also do a better job of institutionalizing better eating habits by giving kids excellent meals in school starting with preschool which I talk about in this article about our experience with preschool in France.

My daughter has never been served a revolving menu of pizza, burritos or tacos like my boys were served at their schools in California.  And you certainly do not see McDonald’s or Taco Bell being served at schools in France like it was served in some US High Schools.

Instead you will find things on school menus in France which you might find in a restaurant like Moules et Frites (mussels and fries), baked fish, steamed veggies, blue cheese and yogourt. At Christmas they even had paté. Oh and by the way, children are not offered milk on the school menu. Instead they have good old water.  

How popular is McDonald’s in France compared to the US and the rest of the world

McDonalds Per Capital WorldSee chart detail below. for data collected.

I set out to discover exactly how popular McDonald’s was in the world.

No surprise, the US had the most McDonald outlets in the world. Over 14K as of 2013 while France had only 1,300. Pretty big difference however it’s not a fair comparison.

France is roughly the size of Texas so comparing 14K US outlets in the US which has a population of over 315 Million people vs. 1,300 outlets in France with a population of almost 65 million is not meaningful. 

I needed to figure out how many McDonald outlets there were per capita or in this case per 1,000,0000.

McDonald’s serves roughly 68 million customers daily in 119 countries across 36,538 outlets. Almost half those outlets, 14k are in the US

My suspicions were confirmed. The French loved their McDonald’s.

France had the 5th most McDonald’s per capita in the world. (20 McDonald’s outlets per 1 million people). Maybe not as much as America which had 44 per 1 Million people but considering the US opened its first outlet 30 years before the one in France opened, the French are catching up fast.

The US , Canada and Australia are almost neck and neck with 44, 40 and 39 outlets respectively per capita. Then the number drops by almost half to 23 for Japan and finally 20 MacDo’s (as the French call them) for France until we reach the 10th country which is China. China has a mere 1.5 outlets per 1 Million people. 

Country/
Territory

Date Opened

First Location

# Of Outlets

Date/POP

McDonald's
Per 1M People

Rank

United-States

1940

San Bernardino, CA

14,267

2013/ 315,583,006

44

1

Japan

1971

Tokyo

2,975

2015 /126,818,019

23.4

4

China

1990

Shenzhen

2,000 +

2014 /1,393,783,836

1.4

10

Germany

1971

Munich

1,477

2015/ 82,562,004

18

7

Canada

1967

Richmond, BC

1,427

2014/ 35,524,732

40

2

France

1972
1979

Créteil / Strasbourg

1,300 +

2015/ 64,982,894

20

6


United Kingdom

1974
1984
1987
1991

England
Wales
Scotland
N. Ireland

1240

2015/ 63,843,856

19.4

6

Australia

1971

Yagoona, New South Wales

920

2013/ 23,630,169

39

3

Brazil

1979

Rio de Janeiro

812

2013/ 202,033,670

4

8

Soviet Union
Russia

1990

Pushkin Square, Moscow

553

2016/ 143,439,832

3.9

9

  How popular is McDonald’s compared to the rest of Europe?

If you look at just Europe, the only other European country which loves McDonald’s more than France is SwedenmcdonaldsMap courtesy of  https://jakubmarian.com/number-of-mcdonalds-outlets-per-capita-in-europe-by-country/

How we stopped eating fastfood

Fast Food Nation BookBEFORE: They say ignorance is bliss because before I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, I was blissfully content with my ignorance concerning McDonald’s and the fast food industry.

I knew intuitively it wasn’t healthy or the best choice in sustenance but it wasn’t compelling enough for me NOT to take my two young sons to McDonald’s once in a while. 

My reasoning was that it was bad to eat fast food but not ‘THAT” bad. Besides, it was cheap, it was fast and it was a treat for the kids- like giving candy to a little kid even though you know it’s not good for them.

AFTER I read Fast Food Nation,  I half wished I hadn’t because that is when my attitude towards fast food changed.

The book not only confirmed many things I suspected or already knew but didn’t want to believe, it also opened my eyes to other horrors I could not have imagined if I tried. It was like reading some kind of bloody horror story.

From animal cruelty to chemical additives in McDonald’s meat. Never mind all the tax shelters and other unethical things going on in the McDonald’s corporate giant. That book was the tipping point in my decision to leave fast food behind me forever- or so I thought.

If you want to convince your kids to STOP EATING McDonald’s read this to them

Chew on this bookMy boys were just seven and six years old in 2003 when I decided we would go cold turkey and quit fast food all together with the exception of an occasional visit to subways which was the lesser of two evils in my mind.

It was difficult for the boys to comprehend why mommy didn’t want to take them to get a happy meal anymore but I stayed strong.

A few years later when they were old enough, I read the kid counterpart of the Fast Food Nation book called “Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Foodto them. I hoped learning certain things about the fast food industry and McDonald’s might shock their little brains and hopefully create a lifelong habit to eat less fast food or NO fast food whatsoever. And it worked for the most part.

My eldest son refused to eat McDonald’s and our daughter who would be born later never knew what she was missing because we never went to McDonald’s. We left the US when she was 3 years old.

All that hard work ended when we moved to France within a year. 

How To Survive A Visit To A Prefecture In France To Renew Your Visa: Titre De Sejou

How to deal with the French prefecture to renew your visa (titre de sejour) without losing your cool

Want to live in France? Being a foreigner in a foreign country is harder than it looks. Here is a look at what we and other foreigners living in France have to go through to renew our visas and tips to deal with the prefecture to do it all.

I hate going to the préfecture- the place where foreigners living in France like me must go to take care of bureaucratic nuisances like visa renewals and other inevitable immigration issues that pop up at the most inconvenient times.

There is nothing you can really do to avoid the stress or frustration of dealing with the préfecture; however there are some things you can do to lessen the blows and bureaucratic obstacles when dealing with the infamous French bureaucracy. Here are a few helpful tips I’ve learned from over 2 dozen visits to various prefectures in my 5 plus years living in France.

THE UGLY TRUTH

Some French préfectures are worse than others. At some you need to queue up the night before and wait in line all night.

What I am about to tell you is not meant to scare you or deter you from moving to or living in France.

Instead, it is meant to prepare you for what you may have to deal with if you want to live in France. It’s what I wish I had known so I could have better prepared myself and adjusted my unrealistic and naive expectations about visa renewals and bureuacracy in France for foreigners.

It could be worse than you imagined or better -if you’re lucky.

All these people are waiting to get into the prefecture. More than half will probably never get their issues resolved on this day.

Like most bureaucratic offices, a visit to one of the 101 or so préfectures in France almost always means hours of waiting in line, frustrating amounts of paperwork and / or irritable civil servants (known as “les fonctionnaires”) who hold the fate of your life visa in their hands.

But that is where the similarities in bureaucratic organizations end because a trip to the prefecture IS NOT like a trip to the department of motor vehicle to get your driving permit.

No it’s worse. Much worse.

Like evil snowflakes, no two préfectures are alike.

Each préfcture has it’s own agenda, different procedures, processes and styles. Even the documents required from one prefecture to the next may vary.

Some French préfectures are worse than others. A simple trip to the préfecture to renew your visa, titre de séjour (resident card) or to change your address could mean queuing up the night before only to be told 12 hours later that there are no more spots for the day and to come back another day. Frustrating for anyone but even worse if you are elderly or have to bring your children.

This indignation many foreigners endure, the shame of France as some call it,  to be treated like cattle for the right to stay in France legally is not just my opinion. It is a known fact that the system in which French préfectures operate and treats foreigners is lacking. There are articles upon articles across the internet ranting about how frustrating it can be for foreigners. This is an example of what a titre de sejour looks like. similar to an American green card and credit card sized.The National Assembly of France has even ranked the top 10 worst prefectures in France . Our préfecture in Montpellier came up 5th worst out of 101 across France.

Maybe you will be lucky like we were for four years and live in the district of the Toulon préfecture which in retrospect has a pretty damn good system when compared to some of the other préfectures.  But again, we didn’t know how bad it could get until we moved to Montpellier.

Maybe you will get really unlucky and end up in the district of the Bobigny prefecture where people arrive as early as 1 am to queue up with no guarantee of being seen at the prefecture at all.

So now that you know how bad and how good it can get. Let’s get on to some general tips which may or may not help. The more you know the better prepared you will be.

Making an appointment

Here is a list of préfectures across France.

Generally speaking, smaller city prefectures are better, or rather less painful than big city préfectures. I think this may have to do with the fact that bigger cities have a bigger influx of foreigners which taxes the system and the workers more than in smaller city préfectures. There are only so many people the prefecture can handle in a day after all.

  • Try to make an appointment online or by phone.
  • If you have to go to the préfecture without an appointment, check the website hours for walk-ins. Some préfectures are closed on certain days and or only accept walk-ins during certain hours.
  • If you plan to walk-in without an appointment, do you need to get there early? At some prefectures, people queue up the night before while others not so much. If you can, do a walk by your prefecture to get a feel for what the lines look like in advance. If you see hundreds of people staning outside than you know you may have an issue and need to get there early to line up.
  • Be prepared to wait. Even when you have an appointment.
  • Be Vewy, Vewy patient.
  • Some prefectures call out your name when it is your turn. Listen carefully because the way French people say your name may not sound like your name to you. I have seen many people sitting waiting for their name to be called only to realise that a clerk came out and butchered their name. For example the last name “POWER” will be pronounced “POEWAH” in French. “THOMAS” will be pronounced “TOEMAW” in French.

Be Over-Prepared

  • Learn as much as you can beforehand.  You may get a clerk who is not very helpful and not forthcoming with suggestions to help you achieve your goals. The more you know the better questions you can ask.
  • Always check the website first to see what the procedure is for dealing with your particular need.
  • Try to get a list of requirements from your prefectures website.
  • Don’t assume that you will be able to skate by without that “one document”.
  • Don’t throw anything away
  • Keep careful records of correspondence and phone calls to the bureaucracy. Write down what you say and what they say.
  • Follow the bureaucracy’s procedures.
  • Fill out their forms carefully and completely.

Mind your manners

Remember, the people behind the counters at the prefecture are human beings. Always, always be polite.

  • Say “bonjour” before asking your question and be sure to say “merci” when you are finished. It is common practice to say bonjour everywhere.
  • DO NOT lose your temper. The front line clerks are used to this and may write you off as completely irrational or insane.

Your Documents

  • Be over prepared with regards to documents.
  • Have originals and copies with you.
  • Create a ‘contents’ page or put post its on each section of documents you bring so everything can be found quickly.
  • Be aware that most docs must be translated to French. Even a simple birth certificate may be asked to be translated to French as is the case with us.
  • Translations must be notarized by a sworn translator called ” traducteur assermenté” which can be extremely expensive. Don’t be surprised if you are charged 45 or 65 Euros per page.  We paid a little over 700 Euros to have all our families documents translated. Luckily we can use those translations over and over every year.
  • Go to a French photobooth to get French legal size photos and always have them handy. We seem to go through them quickly in France.

Expect the worst but hope for the best

  • Never be too optimistic going to the Prefecture.
  • You may be asked to provide documents which were not originally asked of you or listed on the website.
  • The rules are changing all the time so you never know what you might face. It’s like a box of chocolates.
  • Don’t expect administrative employees to treat you as if you were a customer in a restaurant or a store.

Communication

  • Don’t expect the clerks to be able to speak English, it is very unlikely they will. You are in France after all.
  • If you don’t speak French, have your questions written on a piece of paper in French. Look on Google translate or have someone help you.
  • If possible, bring someone to help translate.

No sometimes means YES

  • If you get stonewalled or don’t get the help you need try to come back again in hopes of getting a different person. Sometimes different people have different interpretations of policies.
  • Or ask to speak to a supervisor. Nothing is set in stone and supervisors have more authority to consider individual circumstances.
  • Sometimes you get someone who just won’t help you whatsover and other times you might get someone who goes over and above. Usually it is the supervisor who has the authority to break the rules.

Bottom Line

You’ll never completely escape bureaucracies or completely beat French Bureaucracy. They’re a necessary part of the French government functionality. But if you know how a system works, you can at least set some standards for how to deal with them.

Bonne Chance mes amis. You are going to need it.

Bureaucracy in France: Our Frustrating Experience At The Prefecture of Montpellier

french-prefecture

If you are going to live in France for any length of time, you will undoubtedly become extremely familiar with the world-famous French bureaucracy and red tape that everyone including the French have to endure. If you are an expat living in France like us or an immigrant, than you have the added pleasure of dealing with EXTRA RED TAPE for all your immigration needs. Most of which are handled at one of the many préfectures across France.  Here is our latest annoyance.

We moved from La Garde France to Montpellier this week and like all NON-French people who move from one city to another, we had to register our change of address with our new prefecture in Montpellier which in essence sets in motion the transfer of our dossier / file from our old préfecture in Toulon.

A préfecture is the dreaded bureaucratic office where non-French people like us with visa and immigration issues must go. The préfecture also handles some non immigration issues such as renewing drivers permits or handling a change of address for the title of ones car. There are roughly 100 préfectures in France

This process or changing your address at the préfecture is something you do not want to skip, especially if you plan on renewing your visa after your first year in France because the préfecture uses your physical address to send you correspondence and if you are not there to receive it because you failed to notify them of a change of address … well you won’t be able to renew your visa.

We mistakenly thought this change of address would be an easy affair because we had already been through this 4 years earlier when we moved from Marseille to La Garde but like so many things in France that involve paperwork and immigration matters, we were sorely wrong. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Here is an account of our frustrating experience at the prefecture of Montpellier.

Tuesday Ideal FAIL: The plan to reduce our wait time

Today we stood in line at the prefecture of Montpellier for 2 hours. Not terribly long considering we have waited for longer periods. Annoying nevertheless because Blake and I actually thought we were so so smart to arrive at 7:40 a.m., 35 minutes before the prefecture actually opened it’s doors.

A little back story. This was to be our third visit to the préfecture since arriving in Montpellier 13 days prior. Each time we arrived to the préfecture we were faced with long lines that snaked from wall to wall so each time we left instantly because we knew instictually from experience that the line would be at least 3 to 4 hour wait.

In addition to physical visits, Blake and I also tried and failed to make an appointment online using the préfecture’s website. Overall, we had already spent several hours trying to get our address sorted out. By the way, you can check out the booking system at the Montpellier prefectures website here. As of July 2016 it is always full up. I hope they change this system because to put it simply, SUCKS!. http://www.herault.gouv.fr/booking/create/15253.

Rather than wait in the existing long line, we decided to try to outsmart everyone and come back early on Thursday (the prefecture is closed on Wednesday) before the prefecture opened. To us, it was better to wait out front in the cool morning breeze for 30 minutes so we could be first in line than to arrive later and be the 100th person waiting in a hot building with irritated people and tired kids. It proved to be a good idea however not good enough.

 Thursday 7:54 a.m.:

Our hearts sank when we arrived at the préfecture on Thursday morning and saw the already long line of people standing around waiting for the préfecture to open at 8:15 am. There had to be about 50 or 60 people already waiting in line ahead of us.

As we stood there queued up waiting for the doors to open, I couldn’t help but feel a little defeated wishing we had come 1 hour earlier instead of just 30 minutes. I looked behind me every so often and saw more people queue up behind us until finally it seemed there were at least another 100 people waiting behind us.

I felt mildly better but not by much.waiting in line at the preficture in Montpellier

 

8:15 the doors open : Security check and mad dash for the building

At 8:15 the doors to the prefecture officially opened and we slowly inched our way to the front gate where a security officer passed a wand over our bodies and briefly looked in every bag before letting us pass through to the building.

8:25 a.m. : Stand in line again inside the préfecture

I passed through security before Blake and walked briskly to the building trying not to let people pass me up. I didn’t want to lose my place in line because there were people who seemed to be sprinting to get inside. I was determined to not let that happen. I picked up the pace.

Once inside, we had no other choice but to stand in line. There was no option to take a ticket or a number and sit down until your number was called like we had experienced in Toulon or Marseille. So there we stood inching our way forward as the 2 people behind the counter handled each persons questions and requests. Some people moved on quickly while others seemed to take longer.

A man behind me pushing a baby in a stroller got in a heated argument with another man who apparently was trying to cut in the line for some strange reason.

9:45 a.m. It’s our turn

Almost an hour and a half later, it was our turn. As I walked towards the counter where the stressed out French woman sat, I politely smiled and said “bonjour” before asking my question (which is common practice and considered rude if you don’t say it) .

Me: Bonjour!  “how can I set up an appointment to make a change of address for our carte de séjour (this is what our resident card is called). ?

French woman behind counter: You must make an appointment using the website she replied.

Me: I have tried for 13 days to make an appointment using the site but each time I try, I get a message that says there are no more available times for appointments and to try my request again later.

(Below is a screenshot of the prefecture website showing this message)

 

preficture-appointment-full

French woman behind counter: Yes, this is normal. Times slots fill up very fast.  Try checking the site at the beginning of the week when new slots open up.

Me: Instead of making an appointment through the website, since we are here, can we make an appointment through you now?

French woman behind counter: NO!

Me: Can we come early, on any day to change our address?

French woman behind counter: With a slightly annoyed voice says NO! you must use the website.

9:47 a.m.: Defeat

Our hopes of getting an appointment to change our address were crushed in less than 3 minutes at that counter. There seemed to be no other way to make an appointment except on the website which as far as I was concerned was always full up with no available appointment times.

Blake and I begrudgingly left the counter and walked home in a confused state of disbelief feeling like we got bitch slapped yet again by a new French bureaucratic hurdle. 

10:00 a.m.: Try again online to make an appointment

One small consolation after our temporary defeat at the préfecture was that we did not have to drive home in traffic for any length of time. We live in the centre of Montpellier off “La Place De La Comédie”, just a few minutes walk from the préfecture. Previously we would have to drive for 15 minutes and try to find parking.

When we arrived home, after stopping off to get a bricohe au chocolat (Blake’s favourite), I immediately went to the préfecture’s site only to be met with the same stupid message, “no more open spots for new appointments”. This time however, I noticed something that did not make sense before.

In very small print,  there was a message which stated appointments are scheduled only 3 weeks in advance and If the calendar was full that you needed to try again at the beginning of the week.

This must be what the woman at the prefecture was talking about. I needed to logon on Sunday night just before midnight, essentially the beginning of the week and try to nab a spot before everyone else who was desperate for a spot could nab the limited slots up. (below is the screenshot of the message).

message on prefecture website which said appointments are only scheduled only 3 weeks in advance and If the calendar was full that you needed to try again at the beginning of the week.

10:30 a.m.

Still in disbelief that there was no other way to get an appointment, I did a search on Facebook and found that the préfecture of Montpellier had a Facebook page so I decided to go check it out and see if I could discover some secret to getting an appointment.

Instead I saw more frustrated people posting comments. A FB user left a comment confirming what I now knew but shed even more depressing news. She had also had problems getting an appointment and said that users had only 5 minutes, midnight to 12:05 to try to get an appointment before the slots were all taken up. She asked “what does one do if we cannot get an appointment?

Good question.

Unfortunately, the préfecture never answers any comments on their FB page. (below is a screenshot of her message left on the prefecture FB page.)

preficture-facebook-page

At this point, I have no idea what we are going to do if we are unable to nab an appointment quick enough on Sunday night. Especially since we have to renew our visas very soon but can’t do it until we transfer our dossier to our new préfecture.

It should be noted that not all prefectures operate the same way. Some take walk ins. Some places you can call and make an appointment and others you can walk in to make an appointment. Some have machines to dispense numbers and some don’t.

So far, we have had to deal with 3 préfectures because we have lived in 3 French cities, Marseille prefecture, Toulon prefecture and now Montpellier prefecture. Montpellier is by far the worst so far mainly because of their defunct appointment system that only allows appointments 3 weeks in advance that fill up fast.

To be continued……….

UPDATE 

Well we managed to get an appointment but it was very strange. As the woman at the préfecture instructed us to do, we logged on to their website just before midnight on sunday night. There were three of us trying to make an appointment, me, Blake and one of my sons. Each of us sat in front of the computer pressing the “schedule an appointment” button. Each time we pressed the button, we were greeted with the same message “no more available times”.

Then at one minute past midnight a calendar opened up and we saw about 30 spots on the calendar open up. I quickly selected a time and waited. The little hourglass turned and turned until we got a 503 message. If you are unfamiliar with a 503 error message when viewing a site, it basically means “The server is currently unable to handle the request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance of the server”. The server was getting overloaded by probably hundreds of people trying to get those 30 spots.

“SHIT, I keep getting a 503 server message” yells my husband from his computer.

“Me too!” yells my son Kieran from his room.

I was determined to get an appointment.

I kept hitting the back button to retry my request until finally it I secured a spot for 3 weeks in future. Woo HOOOOOOOO. Now it was Blake and Kierans turn. After a dozen or so error messages in a row, we were each able to finally secure one appointment each.  It was not 12:30.

It felt as if I was playing a video game and the goal of the game was to compete against 100 people to secure 30 spots but you only have 10 minutes to do so. I had adrenaline coursing through my veins from the experience.

But it wasn’t over yet. To finally secure our appointment, we had to wait for an email and click on a link in the email to confirm the appointment.

After about 2 minutes the email arrived in my inbox and I clicked on the link but then the server timed out again. People were still hitting the system hard trying to get an appointment which was causing the website servers to crash. Eventually all 3 of us confirmed our appointment but it was now 12:45 a.m. A  little over 45 minutes of this nonsense simply to get an appointment to change our address for our visa.

I logged back onto the website at 12:45 to try to book a second appointment but all the available slots were now gone.  Guess we will have to wait till next Sunday at midnight to get a second set of appointments which we need to renew our visas.

Oh well. As the French say. It’s just the way things are done. What can I do about it?

Bonne Journée. Good day to you.

Europe’s Hot Springs: 5 Spa Cities Worth Visiting

5 spa cities in Europe worth visiting for their hot springs

One of the best things about living in France is that the rest of Europe is an hour’s flight away – or two, at most. And yes, you can get really cheap tickets if you book in advance, with low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet, among others. If you’re in the mood to pamper yourself, it’s true that one of your best options is to take a weekend spa break. Although there are a number of great spas in France, today we’re going to look at other spas all over the Old Continent. If you can find the time to travel Europe by train, you’ll find that you’re avoiding the long airport waiting times and actually make the journey part of your holiday.

When we think of spas and thermal baths in Europe, the picture that comes to mind is often society’s elite on vacation, residing in seasonal palaces and dining at great feasts. However, the past few decades have seen spa culture take on another form – one that is much more open to the masses. Today’s spa locations are for everyone and the idea is sparking tourism all over the continent. With a new generation interested in visiting some of the formerly famous baths and spa retreats, a resurgence in tourism and development is changing how we think about a typical spa vacation. 

Take a Look at Leukerbad 

 5 spa cities in Europe worth visiting for their hot springs

Source: www.Badi-Info.ch

Try to imagine the perfect European spa city and what do you see? Probably a small town alpine mountain setting, with steamy thermal baths, skiing, amazing food, and countless other luxuries. For a place perfectly fitting that description, Leukerbad in Switzerland is the most likely candidate. With a population of under 2,000 people, the town is small and offers an intimate feeling that simply cannot be found in larger spa towns. As testament to its draw, almost 40% of the town’s residents are foreigners who have relocated (just like we did!) to enjoy the waters year-round rather than just on vacations. 

Accommodation in Leukerbad can be pricey, but access to the spas is meant to be affordable. While many of the thermal spas are connected to private hotels and only available for guests, the best of the public offerings is definitely Burgerbad hotel and spa. Costing about $30 for an all-day visit, the sprawling complex features tons of pools, some with temperatures pushing up to 50 degrees Celsius. Burgerbad is also family-friendly, with children under the age of 8 being admitted free. If you like getting to the heart of spa culture, then Leukerbad is an excellent place to start and will open the door to other European spa locations. 

Too Many Badens 

5 spa cities in Europe worth visiting for their hot springs

 Source: photoblogotg.blogspot.com

Not to be confused with Switzerland’s Baden or Germany’s Baden-Baden (both of which are also nice spa towns to visit), Austria’s own Baden bei Wien is a city on the rise when it comes to spa tourism. Casually known as the Monte Carlo of Eastern Europe, visitors flock from all corners of the continent to bathe in the waters and try their hand at the famous Casino Baden, which has also played host to live gaming events, such as the European Poker Tour (EPT), a prestigious series of poker tournaments, which began in 2004 and is still going very strong. Casino Baden offers a variety of games, including blackjack, roulette and a number of poker variants. Bathing facilities at Baden might not be as complete as those in Leukerbad, but the serene atmosphere and relaxing settings are what draw in the crowds and make Baden one of the best spa cities in Europe. 

Baden was a favorite vacation spot for composers Mozart and Beethoven and has continued to be a retreat for Europe’s elite. On a trip here, keep your eyes open and you may be able to spot some celebrities on their holiday. If you’re trying to go the budget route, keep in mind that like Leukerbad, restaurant prices in Baden are not the cheapest. One good option to keep expenses down is to buy food from local markets and plan a picnic in one of the city’s many parks or green spaces. 

The Spas of Budapest

 5 spa cities in Europe worth visiting for their hot springs

 Source: Lukacsbaths.com

Moving a hop, skip, and a jump to the east, it’s no secret that Budapest (known as The City of Spas) has become one of the most visited cities on the continent, combining a grand mix of history, architecture, nightlife, and spas. The Hungarian capital actually used to be three cities, which unified in only 1873. While it’s a bit difficult to call Budapest a “spa city,” the truth is that the spas here are on par with any other place in Europe and the number of annual visitors has made it a must-do on any traveler’s checklist. For a truly wild night, check out one of the spa parties, when the baths open their doors all night and essentially turn into a club for the evening, drawing both tourists and locals to the festivities. 

Gellert Bath is arguably the most famous of the many spas on offer, with an impressive 13 pools of different temperatures. Throw in an artificial wave pool, saunas, massage services, and incredible architecture and it’s easy to see why it’s a hotspot (pun intended) year-round.

While Gellert might be the most famous, the largest is clearly Szechenyi. With a metro stop at its front door, the 18 pools of Szechenyi are easy to reach from any point in the city and offer many of the same services as Gellert. The waters at Szechenyi are recommended for joint problems, but have been known to help with many other ailments as well. If a quieter place is more your thing, then be sure to pay a visit to Lukacs. A bit out-of-the-way on the Pest side, those that make the trip will be rewarded by a serene atmosphere and a more intimate spa feel. 

Hidden Treasure in Romania 

5 spa cities in Europe worth visiting for their hot springs

Source: romaniadacia.wordpress.com

If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, then the best hidden value spa city could easily be Romania’s Baile Herculane. Known mostly to locals and Hungarian tourists, this small city nestled in the picturesque Cerna River Valley has been a refuge for people seeking the healing waters for literally ages. Inhabited since the Paleolithic era, the resort area rose to prominence during Roman occupation during the early second and third century A.D., with the legend being the Hercules himself stopped to rest and take in the mineral springs. 

In modern times, Baile Herculane has been neglected, leaving a multitude of impressive abandoned architecture and communist-style resort hotels. This may sound like a turn-off, but actually the opposite is true. Prices are extremely cheap given the quality of the thermal baths and a vacation here would cost only a fraction of other locations like Baden. However, development has started recently and word is getting out about this hidden gem. A massive casino is currently under construction and it’s only a matter time before it starts to appear on the standard tourist trail. Take our advice and go there now while the getting is still good. 

Turkish Delight 
5 spa cities in Europe worth visiting for their hot springs

At the eastern end of Europe is Turkey, where there are many stand-out attractions, including Istanbul – a massive sprawling city well-known for the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, and of course, the spas. Some would even go so far as to say that the Turks invented the modern idea of the spa, with Turkish hammams influencing thermal baths the world over. In the older districts of Istanbul like Sultanahmet and Beyoglu, you’ll literally find hammams all over the place. While we would advise checking out a local neighborhood option for an authentic experience, you can also go to one of the hammams that cater to the tourist trade, such as Cemberlitas, Cagaloglu, or Suleymaniye. 

Before checking into an Istanbul hammam, it may help to know that procedures here follow a more strict protocol than in other places. For the full treatment, you’ll start in a dry, warm room that should get you perspiring to release toxins. After working up a little sweat, you’ll move to the hot room – if you’re not accustomed to this type of heat, expect to be releasing fluids like nobody’s business. A wash in cold water prepares you for a massage to work out those tired muscles and the spa treatment ends with a bit of R&R in a cooling room. The entire process often takes several hours to complete, but will rejuvenate you and get you ready for the next leg of your travels. 

Throw a stone in Europe and you’re likely to hit a spa – there really are that many of them. At the same time, separating the wheat from the chaff is another matter and going to the wrong spa could lead to disappointment. When in doubt, choose one of the options above and you’ll see why spa culture continues to thrive all across the continent. Depending on your preference, you may want to combine your spa holiday with a ski holiday or another attraction. Whether it is for a couple of days or longer, go for it: you won’t be disappointed.

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