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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.

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.

French business etiquette and international business etiquette do's and dont's

International and French Business Etiquette A Visual Guide Infographic

business-etiquette-France

If you’re going abroad for business the last thing you want to do is accidentally do something to offend your business colleagues. With some help from Cyborlink, I’ve outlined some basic French business etiquette for you to follow when doing business in France. I’ve also included an infographic on business etiquette from WD Storage which outlines the do’s and dont’s of international business etiquette and conduct in seven countries including: France, South Africa, Argentina, China, Germany, UK, and Italy. Study up so you can make a great impression.

French Business Etiquette

Due to its large geographic area, regional differences and large number of immigrants, France is a diverse country.  Despite France’s ethnic and cultural diversity, the French attitude towards foreigners can vary widely but in general, the French are NOT very tolerant of foreigners.  For example, if you are a Muslim women who wears a full head covering veil, you may have issues conducting business in France since the wearing of such a veil in public is banned by law whether you are French or not.  The official reason for the banishment of the full head covering is security.

Here are some other tips to help you manoeuvre French business culture etiquette from how to dress and act to communicating and gift giving in business situations.

How to dress for business situations in France

The French are very conscientious of their appearance.  Both men and women dress relatively conservative. Here are a few tips to help you blend in and not call unneeded attention to your attire.

  • Women should keep it tasteful and elegant: Women should avoid bright or gaudy colours and anything glitzy such as flashy jewellery. Good shoes are a must!
  • Men should keep it solid and dark: Men should invest in well-tailored clothing. Patterned fabrics and dark colours are most acceptable.
  • Keep your tie and jacket on: French businessmen do not loosen their ties or take off their jackets in the office..

How to behave in business situations in France

The last thing you want to do is unknowingly come off as rude or vulgar without even knowing it. here are some basic French business etiquette rules on how to behave at work in France.

  • It’s ok to be a little late: Punctuality is treated very casually in France.
  • You should always shake hands when meeting someone, as well as when leaving:  French handshakes are not as firm as in the United States. The French handshake is brief, and is accompanied by a short span of eye contact.
  • Knock and wait before entering a room: The French have a great respect for privacy. Knock and wait before entering into a room.   Additionally, do not “drop in” unannounced. Always give notice before your arrival.
  • Power lunches are accepted: Business can be conducted during any meal, but lunch is best.
  • Don’t drink hard liquor or smoke between courses: The French believe this permeates the taste buds, compromising the taste of the meal. It is however very accepted to smoke after a meal.

How to give a gift to business associates in France

Giving a gift to business associates is not common practice in France so giving one in France is usually left to the foreigner’s discretion: If you would like to express appreciation to a French business contact, you may be better off hosting a special event or diner than to give a business gift. If you can’t host a special even than here are some basic tips to follow.

  • Give a good quality gift or none at all: A good gift to present might include esoteric books or music, since they demonstrate interest in intellectual pursuits. (Gift giving at social events, especially to thank the host or hostess of a private dinner party is expected.)
  • Don’t be vulgar: Do not offer gifts with your company logo on them. It’s considered vulgar in France.
  • Forget the business card: French business etiquette dictates that you do not include your business card with a gift.
  • Don’t send it to their house: Never send a gift for a French colleague to his or her home unless it is related to a social event.
  • Send them a new years card: Instead of a gift, consider sending a card during the New years holiday thanking your business partners for the previous year’s business and wishing them a prosperous year to come. Your card and sentiment will be much appreciated. You can send the card during the whole month of January but not later.

How to communicate in business situations in France

You probably already know that French is the official language in France and that the French have a great appreciation for the art of conversation. So if you don’t speak French or speak very little French, you should know that many (not all) French people in business do speak some English.  Here are some general guidelines on how to communicate with French collegues and business people.

  • Do apologize: If you don’t speak French, it is very important that you DO apologize for your inability to speak French.
  • Interrupting is accepted: The French often complain that North Americans lecture rather than converse so don’t be shocked when you see French people interrupting one another. The French frequently interrupt each other because the argument is seen as a form of entertainment.
  • Don’t talk like a loud American: Americans tend to talk at a louder level than French people and are known to offend everyone in a restaurant, meeting, or on the street with their loud voices and loud laughter. So please be sensitive to the volume of your voice.
  • Eye contact: Eye contact is frequent and intense, and can often be intimidating to North Americans. Make sure you keep eye contact during handshakes and while clinking glasses and making toasts.

Related to international business etiquette is 7 strange table manners in France and around the world. 

Below is an infographic on international business etiquette

by @WDStorage

7 International business etiquette rules including French business etiquette

A year in France is great but is it really the best travel adventure for you? Here are over 15 different travel types and travel adventures you can go on instead!

Should You Spend A Year In France? 15 Travel Adventures To Go On Instead

A year in France is great but is it really the best travel adventure for you? Here are over 15 different travel types and travel adventures you can go on instead!

If you are considering taking a family gap year or sabbatical from life to live in France , congrats. Spending a year abroad can be life changing.

There is only one thing.

Are you sure it is the right thing to do? I am not talking about if France is the right place to spend your year abroad, or if it’s practical or financially feasible.

I want you to ask yourself if there isn’t another type of travel that might suit you better than spending a whole year in France.

Just because everyone on tripadvisor says a certain spicy Tom Yum soup at the new Thai restaurant in San Francisco is to die for doesn’t mean you will love it too. It’s nice to have choices when you order food.

Travel is just like that. 

And that is why you should pick a travel type like you would pick your main course on a food menu.

Look through the travel types below and see which one(S) align best with your soul, your travel goals, your pocketbook, your family and your style.

I guarantee you’ve probably never heard of half these terms. 

A year in France is great but is it really the best travel adventure for you? Here are over 15 different travel types and travel adventures you can go on instead!

I asked over 100 seasoned travellers how they travelled. Then I categorized and sorted their answers into a kind of travel menu with examples and explanations.

Below are the results of my survey.

Travel based on length of time you can travel

Are you a weekend traveller? Do you only have 2 weeks a year to travel?  Do you want to travel for longer than 3 months maybe a year or more?

The length of time you have to travel will determine the pace, the cost and even your activities you do while on your trip.

Here are a few terms to describe travellers based on the length and amount of time you have to travel. Which one best describes the way you can or would like to travel?

1- Short (ish) Trips:  

Most of us are very familiar with the annual vacation(er). Because of certain lifestyle restrictions like work, your children’s’ school schedule or just a tight budget, your trips are shorter; sometimes just a weekend.

It can be stressful during your short trips if you only get to do it once a year for 2 weeks or less because you try to pack as much into the vacation as possible.

Here are some terms to describe shorter term travellers.

Vacation Traveller, Holiday Traveller, Family Vacation Traveller

Take a cue from Amy and her family at Atlanta with kid or Debbie at  jersey kids

2- Long (ish) Trips: 2 months to 1 year or more!

Gap year, Sabbatical, Career Breaker
Career break travel

You have a career but you’re feeling a little burnt out from the 9 to 5 lifestyle. You want to travel and see the world for a few months to a year. Maybe longer.

Along the way you might even do something you’ve always wanted to do like learn a language, write a book or build clean wells in Africa. Whatever you do, you are determined to make this trip count.

Take a cue from this family of dropouts living in Vietnam: The drop out diaries

Sabbatical

Sabbatical is a term that has been used to refer to tenured teachers who take a year off from teaching to further their education or do something worthwhile. Nowadays,  the term sabbatical is used by anyone who wants to take a break from work usually to travel.

Gap year

Family Sabbatical: Travel For extended periods with kidsGap year is a term that has traditionally been very popular in Europe and the UK but it’s gaining in popularity in other places like the US and Canada.  Originally, a gap year referred to a young person just out of high school who takes a year off to travel and maybe do some volunteer work or back pack around the world for a year before entering University.

As of late, many people have adopted this terminology to describe their travels; particularly adults, professionals, and even families.

All three of these terms (gap year, sabbatical year, career break travel) are very closely related and some would argue that they are the same. You be the judge.

Family Gap Year- Wander mom.com ( a site that no longer exists)

Take a cue from Suitcases & sippy cups on a Family Sabbatical – Suitcases and sippy cups

Go check out Sherry a career breake who travels at Otts World

Take a look at Dave and Deb over at Planet D who are strong advocates of a sabbatical year to travel.

3 -You Travel For Longer Than A Year

The world is your oyster and your backyard. You’ve ditched the daily grind and dropped out of a normal life so you can travel full-time for as long as you can. Forever if you can.

You are at home wherever you are and have no real permanent home-base.  You pretty much travel with what you own in your backpack and move frequently from location to location. Staying anywhere from a few days to a few months in one place. You’re probably a flash-packer or backpacker.

Long Term Traveller, Full-Time Traveller, Vagabond, Gypsy, Hobos, Nomads, perpetual traveller

Take a cue from: Wader lust and the girl

4 – You Want To Live Abroad In One Place For  3 months or more

Expat

As an expat or expatriate, you choose to live abroad in one place for an extended period of time.

It might be permanent or it might be for a year only. Either way your home-base is another country.

Maybe you have a job that transplanted you or you decided to take a life sabbatical or career break and foot the bill yourself.

Most likely you have applied for special visas which allow you to live in that country beyond the usual 30, 60 or 90 days allotted amount of time tourists are usually allowed to stay.

You are totally immersed in that culture.  If you have kids, they’re also immersed maybe even attending school with other kids.

expat travel lets move to France with Annie AndreTake a cue from us, we’re in France: AnnieAndre

Take a cue from Paz and family who spent a year in China but nos live in Holland: International cravings

5- Slow Traveller

Some like to travel fast, while others like to take it slow, really slooooow. You like to take your time spending as much as a few weeks to a few months in one place before moving on. You have a certain mindset and your goal is probably to explore each destination thoroughly and experience the local culture.

Take a cue from a couple who slow travels : Never Ending Story

6- The extent to which you circumvent the globe

(RTW )Round the World traveler

Maybe your goal is to travel for a year visiting 20 countries, maybe it’s for 4 months visiting 12 countries. No matter how long or where you go, you’re in for a trip of a lifetime.

This is a special breed of traveller. Many RTW travellers are backpackers or flashpackers. Their goal is not so much to visit every single country in the world, but to travel around the world and visit a set or unset number of countries before landing back home.

Take a cue from 5 discover the world

7- The traveller who never leaves the country

Local Travel

You prefer to stay close to home. Not too close but close enough so that you are driving distance from all your destination.

Take a cue from Laura who travels at  Cascadia kids almost exclusively in and around the Pacific North West (Oregon and Washington State) and British Columbia with her family.

8- What Kind Of Luggage Do You Travel With

As strange as it sounds, your luggage can define you as a traveller. Do you want to travel light with just backpacks or do you want suitcases with wheels and pack for almost any occasion?

You Carry A Backpack:

The Backpacker

Forget about the grungy backpacker who is hitch-hiking on the side of the road and smells like dirty socks. Backpacking has evolved and it’s a growing sector of the travel industry.

Typically you travel with all your possessions in a backpack or bag that can easily be carried for long distances or long periods of time.  You are on a tight budget and need to make your money last so you eat on the cheap and stay at inexpensive accommodations like hostels where you share rooms, bathrooms and a communal kitchen with other backpackers.

It’s not uncommon for you to wash all five pairs of your underwear in the sink and hang them on the portable laundry chord you carry in your backpack along with your portable sheets and your instant Ramen before moving on to your next city.

It sounds treacherous but you love it. Besides, your young and there’s something to be said travelling this way and meeting interesting people.

“it’s a more organic way to see the world and a better way to interact with the locals and get to know the local culture.” –Nomadic Matt

Just look at Alyson Long and her family at world travel family

The FlashPacker

The flashpacker is essentially a flashy + backpacker. Flashpacker is a fairly new term that is catching on and is being accepted into mainstream language.

You’re probably older than the average backpacker. You might even be married with kids.

Much like the backpacker, you love the mobility of having all your possessions in one bag so you can move freely and quickly from place to place staying as long or as short as you like. Also like the backpacker, you are price conscience; however if you felt like it, you could easily stay at swaynkier hotels, eat at higher end sit down restaurants and splurge for for the latest and greatest travel gear and electronics.

Checkout Bethaney. Her husband and son are a flashpacking family. Fash Packer Family

You have a suitcase with wheels

Self explanatory. You want to travel with a suitcase that has wheels. You probably stay longer in each place you visit and prefer to carry a litle more than just the bare necessities.

Take a cue from Travel by suitcases A community of travellers who share their travel experiences around the world with suitcases instead of backpacks.

9- How Much Money You Got?

Luxury Travel

Luxury Travel, who wouldnt love to travel like this?For you, luxury travel goes beyond staying in a four star hotel, or sipping champagne on a yacht in the Bahamas. It’s more about a unique experience. Those rare ones that have all the tiny details covered where you feel pampered and all your personal needs are met.

No work, no stressing, just relaxing and upon your return home you feel refreshed.

Take a cue from these luxury travellers: A luxury travel blog

Budget Traveller

You might be surprised to know that a large part of the traveller I know are budget travellers.

A budget traveller is someone who either does not have a lot of money to spend on Five star hotels or chooses to travel on a budget so that they can travel longer and make their money stretch as far as possible. Typically you try to keep your expenses down by eating on the cheap, staying in low-cost accommodations, hostels and take public transportation over more expensive modes of transportation.

10- Do you travel alone or with others

Who you travel with has as much to do with your style as where you go and what you do during your travels. That’s why I’ve broken out travel by the people you travel with or travel without.

Solo Traveller

You’re a guy or a girl and you are travelling alone. 

You’re probably young but you could just as easily be in your sixties or older. You love the challenge of travelling alone and meeting new people as well as befriending the locals. You can come and go as you please because you are not hindered by the opinions of a companion traveller. You are probably learning a lot about yourself along the way too. If you’re a female solo traveller, you take a little extra precaution over the solo male traveller for obvious reasons.

Take a cue from this solo female traveller = Girl About the Globe

Take a cue from this solo male traveller – Nomadic Samuel or Nomadic matt

11- Travel With Others

Couples Traveller

backpacking travel blog of a couple who travels

You’re married or dating and you both love to travel.

In any case, you might be a backpacker or flashpacker or on a vacation with your wheely suitcases.

Sometimes it’s tough travelling with your partner because you need to take into consideration the other persons travel interests and needs which don’t always align with yours but that’s ok because the rewards outweigh any sacrifices you make.

Together you’re creating memories, growing closer, sharing experiences and learning what makes each other tick along the way.

Take a cue from this backpacking couple  backpacking-travel-blog

Travelling Family With Kids

How the Barnes family plan to travel indefinitely with their kidsIt’s hard travelling with kids and you don’t always get to take the romantic trips you took before the kids came along but you enjoy letting your kids see the world and then seeing the world through their eyes.

Check out all these families who travels full time for years on end with kids in tow. Many of them work while on the road.

Gay and Lesbian Traveller
Globe trotter girls travel. Two girls in love who travel the world together

globetrottergirls.com/


Technically you would or could fall under one of the other groups like solo traveller or couple traveller but because you’re gay or lesbian you might also like to find gay-lesbian friendly venues and activities once in a while just so you can meet with other like-minded individuals. No big deal if you don’t because it’s all about the travel experience.

Take a cue from a Lesbian couple travelling the world long-term:Globe trotter girls Travels

Take a cue from a solo gay guy who travelled the world but who now lives in Berlin: Travels of adam

12- You Want To Travel Based On A Theme

You Have a passion, an obsession, an affinity towards something? Why not use it to lead your travels like these people.

Adventure Traveller
family on bikes travelled with their 2 kids from North America to the furthest point in south america

www.Familyonbikes.com

You like the thrill of adventure and stepping outside of your comfort zone, doing and seeing things that the average person wouldn’t normally try or see.

You might like going on an African safari, or skydiving or biking across north and South America.

Take a cue from these adventure travellers

Bike touring family who cycled from north America to South America on their bikes. Family on bikes

Foodie Traveller

You love food. So much so that you even let your stomach be your compass guiding you wherever it may be as long as there is good food, you are happy.

Take a cue from www.legalnomads.com

Quirky Traveller

You love side shows and anything that’s a little off beat..

If it’s big, tall or long, this family of four is going to go and see it.  Go big or go home

Sports Traveller

Sports are your compass; Travel the world visiting different sporting events. Budget travel adventures

Baby Boomer Traveller

Not really a theme but I didn’t know where else to put this type of traveller. In any case, you are a boomer. You’re independent and don’t care that others don’t see you as the typical traveller. You’re optimistic, positive, hard-working and goal oriented. Now that the children are gone and older you have more free time and more room in the budget for travel.

Take a cue from these boomers: My itchy travel feet

You’re A Responsible Traveler

You’re probably a volunteer Traveller or cultural Traveller. You want to change the world and do some good. You might volunteer to teach English or build a well in some remote part of Africa. Whatever it is, you are doing good by this planet and it’s people.

You would rather experience life in a foreign culture as a local rather than as an outsider or temporary visitor.  You left your home and brought with you a desire to become part of the new cultures you visit hoping to get transformed by your experience.

check out this family who travels the world with their kids. It’s full of cultural travel ideas. wandering educators

13- You define the way you travel by your mode of transportation.

You’re A Road Tripper

You’re a roadie and you love the sights, smells, sounds and culture of the open road. You believe that the journey is the destination that’s best enjoyed with an RV, a car or a trusty motorcycle?  If have kids, you’re most like in an RV touring and homeschooling and your probably connected in the road tripper community.

Check out Road Less Travelled

14- You Work While You Travel

Digital Nomads – Location Independent travellers

FYI, a good majority of the travellers on this page and many long-term travellers work while on the road. You might be surprised that many of them are not independently wealthy.

You love to travel but you need to make some cash along the way to help fund your travels. You might teach English here and there or you might have a job back home that you can do remotely. Still others are working to create a business using nothing but your computer, the Internet and an idea. An example are freelance writers, photographers, consultants, web & graphic designers and Internet marketers to name a few.

You’re pretty tech savvy and you’ve figured out a way to leverage technology and work wherever and even whenever you want – whether it be from home, a beach in the Bahamas, at your favourite coffee shop or on the other side of the world!   You’re basically a nomadic or location independent entrepreneur and you use your phones, tablets and laptop along with some useful web-applications to earn an income.

Earning your income this way allows you to travel freely because you are not tied down to a desk or office.

Take a cue from Erin Bender: Travel with Bender

15- Homeschooling and Educating While On The Road

Homeschooling- Homeschooler

You’re a family who travels full-time or long-term with school aged children and being the good parent you are, you want to give your kids the best education you can. Many people who travel long-term and choose to do a form of homeschooling.

Your kids don’t attend school in the traditional sense. You the parent are the teacher, using the world around you and material either online or you have purchased following a curriculum created by yourself but probably guided by some standard in your home country.

If you are unfamiliar with John Holt, he coined the term un-schooler which essentially is a system where parents help educate their children using the resources and guidance around them and inside of them. It is more of a “child driven learning” based on following your instincts, your child’s interests and not necessarily using any of the usual school resources.

Un-Schooler / WorldSchooler / Travel Schooler / Educational Traveller

The term un-schooler has some negative connotations to it mainly because it is a term that is used to describe what it isn’t. The term world schooler is a broader more descriptive and is often seen as a more positive term than un-schooler by some people.

Just like it sounds, “the whole world is your school, instead school being your whole world.”. It’s un-schooling beyond your neighbourhood without the support of your family and friends and learning and DOING what you’re meant to do in this world! In some ways, world schooling is when you grow up! Travelling is a great way to un-school because rather than seeing and reading about things in a text-book, you are there experiencing things first hand.

Single mom slow travelling the world with her son : www.raisingmiro.com

Single dad also slow travelling the world with his son:1 dad 1 kid

and finally World School Adventures

Conclusion

A lot of the travellers and traveller types I mention above could fit into multiple buckets. Knowing all your choices can sometimes shed light and open new doors to opportunities you didn’t know existed.

I truly believe that when you choose the right type of travel, it  will knock your socks off and leave you with unforgettable memories that you can’t stop talking about. 

If you have your sights set on living in France great. 

But don’t limit yourself into thinking there aren’t other just as amazing adventures and travel types that might be better suited to you.

ps

If you are a traveller who travels in a unique way, and you have a website. Contact me and I will be more than happy to add you to this list.

10 Simple Things I Did To Beat Expat Boredom In France

Bored In France Living As An Expat

“No! No! No!

I DON’T WANT TO STAY IN FRANCE A THIRD YEAR”

I was both shocked and embarrassed by my knee jerk reaction when my husband suggested we stay in France yet another year.  Especially since it was my idea to move to France in the first place.

So why didn’t I want to stay in France? Why was I bored and how did I get out of my expat rut?  Here is an honest look at what it’s been like living in France: long after the effects of culture shock, after you’ve settled into life abroad, mastered the language and made friends.

See Also: Travel Dream Come True: We Moved To The South Of France For A 1 Year Family Sabbatical

How Do You Get Bored Of Living France?

Getting bored in France kind of gradually happened just like it does no matter where you live. I guess you could call it a rut of some sorts.

First year in France- My first year in France was busy but a magical experience. Everything was new, fresh and interesting.  Even boring day to day stuff  seemed interesting. Going to the store, seeing all the different foods. Learning how to set up utilities, discovering new surrounding cities.

Second year in France –My second year in France, was more about settling into life. We had friends and the boring routines that once seemed interesting and brought me joy were now just a busy annoyance. Life began to take on more of a routine. In many ways, our life looked a lot like it used to look when we lived in California. I wondered if we had fallen into a kind of EXPAT RUT?

Wake Up  -Get kids ready for school  -Get baguettes  -Go to the outdoor market -Do a little work on our computers -Pick up youngest child from school -cook diner etc etc Sound familiar?

At first I thought I MUST be going through some kind of culture shock-s a word used to describe the emotional and behavioural roller-coaster someone experiences when Living and or working in another culture. but after careful consideration, I ruled it out because I felt pretty well adjusted. Life was good. I had no language issues, nothing phased me anymore about the French cultural differences.

See also:  10 Real Examples Of Culture Shock That Will Amaze You: Dog Poop, Boobs And Beyond

According to Paul Allen in his book titled The Truth about Moving Abroad and Whether It’s Right for You: Should I Stay or Should I Go?, nearly 10 million Americans and 50% of Brits dream of living abroad.  Ironically 25% of those Brits who actually take the plunge end up returning home, presumably because the reality of living abroad (culture shock) wasn’t what they expected.

10 things I did to beat expat boredom while living in France

Not-boringI have never been one to wallow in a less than optimal situation and I wasn’t about to start. Here are just 10 things which helped me overcome my expat boredom and rut. Here are a few things I (we) have done to break out of the rut and re-inject some of that excitement we first felt when we moved to France. I am happy to say that life in France is interesting again.

1. I took vacation: A much needed break from France:

Bored In France? Take a vacation from life abroad

You know how you look forward to that annual vacation from your life and work? Well, I needed a break from France. I could have gone to Italy, Spain, Ireland or anywhere else in Europe. After all, all those places are literally only a few hours away by car. Instead, I flew back to Montreal to see my family, explore the city and recharge my batteries.

This was the best thing I could have done because when I returned to France, It was like the fog was lifted. I could see more clearly and appreciate my life in France. You could say it recharged my batteries.

2. We bought A Car:

Bored In France? Buy a car. It gives you freedom to see and do more.

We bought a used Renault scenic for 2,500 Euros  (That’s $3,400 ) and oh my what freedom. I literally jump for joy when I approach our car because relying on the buses and metros to get around for a year in town is fine but it limits what you can do. After 2 years without a car we finally had had enough. No more waiting in the rain or the blazing hot sun to catch the bus to go grocery shopping at Carrefour. ( A big grocery store chain that has everything and more you could possibly need). No more panicking about how we were going to get our daughter to a friends birthday party at a place that has no bus access. We explore the surrounding areas and cities. We take impromptu road trips. We still walk, we just do it when we want to not because we have to.

Bored In France? Buy a car. It gives you freedom to see and do more.

3. I Joined A Gym:

When we arrived in France, I decided not to join a gym.  My reasoning was that I would get my exercise through walking. The reality was that the gym was far. I had to take 2 buses or walk 40 minutes partly on a road with no  sidewalk to get there. After we got our car everything changed. Suddenly, I was motivated to join the gym and BOY am I glad I did.

Not only does it break up my days it feels good to be fit.  (Bikini photos coming soon, Just kidding!)

4. Volunteer Or Teach A Class

If you have a special skill or talent why not use it to teach or volunteer. It’s very rewarding and can give you a chance to meet other people in your community. I volunteer at my daughters school but I also volunteer and teach English once a week at a local senior center.  I have met some wonderful people who really appreciate what I do. I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel.

5. I Am Mastering The French Language

Bored In France? Master the French language

If you are planning to stay in France for an extended period of time, I highly recommend you improve your French no matter what your level of proficiency is.  If you are already fluent or close to it, you can always read in French, watch t.v. in French and even try writing or keeping a journal in French. Language is a lifelong endeavour and learning is what makes life more interesting.

6. Write A Blog: Keep an online journal

There is something very satisfying about writing. A blog like this site is a great way to feed your soul while keeping friends and family back home informed about what you are up to. Surprisingly it’s pretty easy to start a blog (web journal).

7. Take Cooking Classes: I Self Teach

Bored In France? Learn to cook authentic french cuisine

I am a big foodie so food is as important to me as visiting any museum or famous painting. Why not learn to cook some traditional French dishes? Every week I go to YouTube and find some French cooking instructions and then attempt to make the dish. I have learned to make ratatouille, coq au vin, moules et frites and many more recipes this way. It gives cooking a whole new purpose plus you and your whole family can enjoy your creations together and marvel at how great a cook you are.

8. Make Friends:

Bored In France? Make french friends

Needless to say, having friends in France has been a huge plus for us. We not only have fun with them but we learn more about the French culture through them than you could ever learn on your own or through a text book. Put yourself out there and meet locals.

9. We Travel And Explore Europe And We Went On A Cruise:

Bored In France? Travel or take a cruise around europe

One of the best things about living in France is that you are so close to the rest of Europe. We are literally only a few hours train or drive from; Italy, Spain, Monaco, Germany… you get the picture. By setting some goals, creating a bucket list of places and things to do, you will make your stay in France much more interesting.

10. Do something life enriching: Freelance, Start A Business, write a book

If you are living in France and have no job, you could kick start your freelance career.

Think about it, you have all this free time now that you used to fill with work. Why not use this free time to strike out on your own and work for yourself. Not only is it financially beneficial but it’s also intellectually stimulating.

Conclusion:

Life in France can get boring just like anywhere else you live.

The key is to adjust your expectations and be proactive.  Once you start feeling the onset of boredom, do something about it.

It’s up to you to be creative and look for something new to do or try.

finding a doctor in france

Finding A Doctor In France: A Guide For Sick Travellers or Foreigners Living In France

finding a doctor in france

You’re in France and you feel ill.  Maybe you ate a bad escargot or maybe you caught a nasty bug. You need to see a doctor. What do you do?

Sick and Confused In France

When we first arrived in France, the challenge and newness of figuring out how to navigate our new lives was exciting and fun.

Then my husband got sick. “Bed ridden, antibiotic needing sick” and it wasn’t fun any more…

We had so many questions!

  • Do we go to a hospital?
  • Do we call a doctor and make an appointment or just walk in?
  • How do we find a doctor?

We eventually figured it all out but we had to do it the hard way.

With that in mind, here are several ways to deal with sick people while travelling in France. 

*Note this is not a guide for medical emergencies or about how to use your medical insurance in France. It’s simply how to find a doctor for non emergency cases where you are sick.

Start At The Pharmacist, Not The Doctor

Go see a pharmacist instead of a doctor

Unless you’re bleeding from your eyeballs or mortally wounded, you may want to start at the pharmacist / chemist.

Going to a pharmacist will be quicker, cheaper and easier than trying to find a doctor and making an appointment because “les Pharmacie” seem to be everywhere in France.

Just look for the green signs that say <<Pharmacie>> . Sometimes the signs are blinking green crosses like in the photo above.

Are Pharmacists/ chemists qualified?

Yes, Pharmacists in France have years of extensive training on par with many doctors. They are qualified to diagnose and give out general medical advice beyond what a pharmacist in the US or Canada is qualified to do.

For example, pharmacists can diagnose mushroom poisoning and even help you identify if those wild Mushrooms you picked in the forest are poisonous or not.

Finding A Doctor In France: Here Are 5 Options

If you have something more serious or if the pharmacist can’t diagnose you than by all means go see a doctor.

Here are five ways you might want to try based on your level of comfort and access. 

1- Concierge: If you are staying in a hotel, you could just ask the concierge for recommended doctors.

But what if you don’t have access to a concierge? (We don’t. We live in a house. )

2- Tourism Office: Find the nearest tourist office and ask them for a list of doctors.

3- Ask someone: Ask a neighbour, a pharmacist or even a stranger as you are walking down the street. You can even try asking small shop owners along the road. People are more helpful than you realize.

4-Embassy: Call your nearest embassy or check their website to see if they have a list of doctors. (sometimes they have them listed by ability to speak English but not always).

5-  The Yellow Pages: Finally, you could do what a lot of French people do which is probably the best way to find a doctor.

Consult the Yellow pages called “Pages Jaunes”.

How To Find A Doctor Quickly Using The Yellow Pages ( Pages Jaunes)

Go To: http://www.pagesjaunes.fr

Enter what you are looking for.

Find doctor in france using the yellow pages page jaunes

First, enter “Médecin” = (doctor) in the field labeled “Quo, qui?”  (who, whot.)

Second, enter the name of the French City where you want to find a doctor. Even better, enter your starting address to get a list of doctors closest to that address.

In my screenshot above, I entered 100 rue Doumet, La Garde.  Don’t forget to check mark the box labeled “Recherche à proximité” which means search for the nearest address.

Hit the search button and your next screen will ask you what type of doctor you want.

Enter The Type of Doctor You Need

Choose the type of doctor you want. For a general practitioner choosemedecins generalistes

If you want a general practitioner than select “medecins generalistes”.

If you want another type, just choose from the list and hit the search button again.

Locate a few doctors on the map.

Locate the doctor nearest you by clicking on them

Next, you’ll get a map of all the doctors near your address. Just click on one and a box will pop up with the doctors address. Click on the details button to get the doctors phone number.

How To Make An Appointment

Waiting Room at doctors office in France

Waiting Room at doctors Office

The doctor’s clinic is called “le cabinet” not « les cabinets » which means the toilets.

If you speak a little French, go ahead and call the doctors and see if you can set an appointment.

If you don’t speak French, you may want to walk to the doctors office and try to set one. It’s easier to communicate in person if you are not fluent in French.

Not all doctors take appointments

Believe it or not, we’ve seen 3 different doctors in France and none of them require an appointment.

We just walk in, sometimes we ring a bell and someone lets us in. Then we sit down in the waiting room and wait for someone to come in and ask “who is next?”.

When it is your turn, you just go on in to see the doctor. .

Waiting Room at doctors office in France

Patiently waiting at doctors office in france

How Much Will It Cost

In general and at the time of this writing (2013), A General Practitioners consultation fee is around 23€. Many doctors accept credit cards but…. not all do.

Gynecologists can charge up to 60€.

Getting A Prescription Filled

If the doctor gives you a prescription for some medication, just take it to any pharmacist / chemist (as explained above).

Essential French Vocabulary

Catherine getting a shot by the doctor in France

Ow, a shot so Catherine can go to school in France

According to our doctor, as part of a doctors medical training, they have to take some medical classes in English but.. please don’t expect them to speak fluently.

Another option is to use Google translate to translate your symptoms. Write them down or print them out and hand them to the doctor.  You would be surprised how many times my husband has done this for different situations.

Here are some general terms for you to know.

  • Doctor: un médecin–> [uhn med-sanne]
  • Medecine: médicament—> [may-dee-ca-mon])
  • Sick: malade –> [ma-lad]
  • Pharmacist / Chemist : Une pharmacie –> [oon farm-assee]
  • It hurts here: J’ai très mal ici –> [zhay tray mall eesee]
  • We need to find a doctor urgently. Nous avons besoin de voir un médecin au plus vite. C’est urgent.
  • I need to make an appointment with the docter: Je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous avec le médecin.

Conclusion

Getting sick in France or anywhere while travelling is always going to be a little stressful. Try to do a little research before you go on how to find a doctor in the country you are visiting because you just never know..

Good luck and stay healthy.

Question: Have you ever been sick while travelling or living abroad? Leave your comments below. 

what is a career break?

What is A Career Break And Why You Need One?

what is a career break?

You’re supposed to get an education, work your fingers to the bone, buy a house, raise a family and pay off your student loans all while trying to stash away money like a squirrel for the day you turn 65, retire and FINALLY enjoy your life and do all of the things you’ve been putting off or did not have time to do because you were to busy doing what you were supposed to do! Ooof!

RIGHT?

Well, kind of right but mostly wrong!

What’s the point of waiting?

I’m sorry but If you’ve worked for any length of time than you know that working like a dog until you are 65 is just not sustainable. Sooner or later you get burnt out or bored with the monotony of living your life just doing what society has taught you to do.

I’m not saying to completely abandon your values and throw good sense to the wind but life was meant to be lived as you are living it not when you turn 65 and not just once a year for your annual two-week vacation.

Who’s to say you won’t get hit by a car and die tomorrow never having done anything worth while except work on your career?  It happened to my father the year before he turned 65.

What if you get in an accident or your health deteriorates and become physically incapable of doing the things you want to do when you reach the age of 65 and older?

That’s where a career break comes in sometimes people call it a sabbatical

So what is a career break?

A career break is an extended period of time where you STOP working to do something worthwhile, new, different, exciting or whatever you want to call it.  A career break gives you the time you need to recharge your batteries so that when you do go back to work and your normal routine, you are refreshed, enriched and hopefully with a better perspective and outlook on life.

Think of a career break as a detour on the road of life where you stop the car and take alternate more scenic route to your destination while enjoying the sights along the way.

The term career break is closely related to the following terms with slight differences but for the most part can be used interchangeable. 

  • Gap year
  • Adult Gap Year
  • Sabbatical
  • Family gap year or family sabbatical
  • Mini Retirement
  • Leave of absence

How Long Is A Career Break

Depending on who you talk to, some say a career break is between one month and two even three years long.  The time you take off will depend on a lot of different factors and your unique situation.

Some things that will determine the time of your career break are your financial situation, your goals, whether you have a family, kids etc.

What Can You Do On A Career Break

Career breaks are not just about taking time off for the sake of it. Typically a career break can be life changing if used as a personal development tool.

Some things you can do on a career break are..

  • Travel
  • Live abroad (That is how we ended up in France)
  • Volunteer, Volunteer abroad
  • Learn (language, ski or sailing instructor, for example)
  • TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language)
  • Raise kids
  • Start a business
  • Train for a marathon,
  • Learn a new hobby (painting, pottery, sewing)
  • Training or education to staying up-to-date with professional skills
  • Go back to school (get an advanced degree)
  • Recover from an accident or illness.
  • Look after a dependent
  • Spend more quality time with your family.
  • Write a novel
  • Yada Yada Yada

The downside to Career Breaks

Unfortunately, in order to enjoy a career break, you will most likely have to quit your job and find a new one when you return to the work force. What that means is that you will have to save enough money to sustain your life for the duration of your break, plus have enough to do the activity that you want to do and support yourself during the time when you look for a new job. ( unless you’ve negotiated with your employer to hold your job for you when you return).

How To Take A Career Break?

Every year hundreds of thousands of people around the world take career breaks.

With a little planning you can take one too.

15 ways to save money for your career break or sabbatical

Here is my journey taking career breaks and sabbaticals

Our story of taking a sabbatical to live in France for a year

Below is a video which talks about the “Power of time off”. You should watch it!!

Hire a property manager

Video: Should You Hire A Property Manager When You Move Abroad?

should you Hire a property manager

  • + Should you hire a property manager to rent your home and manage the details while you are out of the country?
  • + What does a property manager do?
  • + What is the alternative to hiring a property manager?
  • + How do you find a property manager?
  • + How much does a property manager cost?

Today I have a reader inspired question regarding what to do with your home when you move abroad temporarily.

If you own your home and you want to move abroad, you’re going to have to decide what to do with your home.

If you decide to keep it, do you hire a property manager to take care of the tenants or do you do it all yourself while you are abroad.

I can’t answer that question for you but I can give you enough information so that you can decide for yourself.

Stay tuned to find the answers to the above questions and watch me do a quick 3 second dance at the end where I look like a total moron.. (Adrienne, enjoy….… )

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t-shirt Photo via Zazzle

Sarah’s Situation

Sarah is in her mid 50’s. She and her husband own their home and are thinking about spending a year abroad. They want to rent their home and possibly hire a property manager to handle the logistics of renting their property and handling the day to day needs of the tenants.

P.S.

Check out Sarah’s site Called Hollistic Hot Sauce

So what do you think?  Should Sarah hire a property manager?

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