Category Archives for "SPY On Us"

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.

The Fine Art of Greeting A French Person With A Kiss: How To Faire La Bise

How To Faire la bise: How to greet a french person with a kiss

Greeting French people in France is a complicated matter.

Rather than shaking hands, waving hello or hugging, you lean forward, touch cheeks and kiss the air near the other persons ear while making a light kissing sound with your lips (not your voice).

The act of greeting someone with a kiss like this is called ” Faire La Bise”,  pronounced Fair la bees: which literally means “To Kiss”.

Sometimes people refer to it in English as an air kiss or cheek kiss.   Either way, it means the same thing and for the rest of this article I will refer to this simply as “Faire la Bise”.

From Childhood: La Bise is practically institutionalized In France

Just as you would encourage your child to say please and thank you, hello and goodbye, French parents in France ALL encourage their children to faire la bise to friends and family both young and old.

I have seen this in action with my own daughter who is five years old at the time of this writing.

When my daughter goes to a friends house, the other parent pushes their child to say hello which in essence means that the parent wants their child to faire la bise. Then again when she leaves, she kisses the other child goodbye.

Recently my daughter had a birthday party and catherine gave each one a kiss to thank them for the gifts and then another kiss, one by one as each child left to go home.

I have gotten so used to this that it just seems second nature now.

The Fine Art of La Bise ( L’art de la bise)

You do not touch lips to cheek when you faire la bise

Every morning when I drop my daughter off at school, I see parents en-route to school and in the school hallways.

I stop to kiss some of the parents but not all of them.

I have learned the fine art of greeting someone in France.

The awkward first French Kiss

My ease with la bise was not always so casual. I sweated over it and worried about it and even avoided people because I had no idea how and when to faire la bise.

As time went by and after a lot of observation and questioning, I have learned that there is definitely a fine art to greeting people with la bise in France.

I will explain how to faire la bise so the next time you meet a French person or the next time you spend time in France, you will know exactly what to do and what NOT to do.

**NOTE: Just like there are certain people who would argue with you about proper etiquette, so too are there French people who differ in their opinion of when, where and how to administer la bise.

All of what I explain below is either from personal experience, research and or talking  with my French friends here in France. 

4 Quick Rules Of Thumb on  “How To Faire La Bise”.

you need to know four rules of thumb to Faire la bise; When, Who, How and How many.

Once you know these things, you will no longer struggle about how to greet a French person again.

1- How Do You Faire La Bise?

Simply touch cheeks and make a light kissing sound with your lips to faire la bise

To faire la bise, you lean in slightly and touch the other persons cheek with your cheek while making a light kissing sound with your lips.  Yes, you MUST make that kissing sound.

The sound comes from your lips and not your voice. Blake my husband used to make the sound “MWUAH” “MWUAH” when he did la bise and everyone laughed at him so don’t make that mistake.

Which Cheek?

There is debate as to which cheek you offer up first but I noticed that people in our town always turn their head to the right so that the first bise lands on their left cheek.

Don’t worry too much about the which cheek to offer first because the French are extremely sensitive to these nuances and movements and can adjust quickly.

Another thing to note is that sometimes it is best to take off your glasses so as to not have an eyewear collision.

2- When exactly are you supposed to “Faire La Bise”?

There are several possible situations of when you should faire la bise.  Based on my own personal experience and observations, these apply to both men and women, young and old.

  • In a recreational settings and in your spare time. 
  • When Invited To A Friends House: If you are invited to a friends house, you should always faire la bise on entry. If there are only 2 or 3 people at your friends house this is easy but if you are invited to a large social setting then it can get tricky.
    • For small social settings and groups: You have no choice but to go around and and kiss each person individually.
    • For larger social settings: You still have to kiss everyone but not all at once. You can faire la bise as you come in contact with each person at the gathering.
  • At Work:  When you go to work in the morning, you may also have to faire la bise. This is not always true and sometimes a hand shake is good enough but ultimately, once you get to know your colleagues better, you will no doubt have to faire la bise.
  • Dropping kids off at school: In my own life, when I walk my daughter to school, if I see a parent whom I am friends with, I will stop to give them the bise. This can be really tricky if you are late because it feels rude to just run by them without giving a kiss.

3- How Many Kisses?

To faire la bise, you can give 1,2,3,4 even five kisses depending on which region of France you are in.

Where we live in the south of France, most people give 2 kisses while In Paris, most people also give 2 kisses but I have heard several people say that they give four kisses in Paris.

Why the difference In Number Of Kisses?

The region you live in France will determine how many kisses to administer for la bise however; even by region there are discrepancies. It all depends on who you talk to.

The above map is a user generated map where French people voted on either 1,2,3,4 or 5 kisses for their region. Even in this user generated map, people differed in their opinion as to how many kisses is the correct amount. The map only shows what the majority voted for in that region.

you can see the user generated map here —http://combiendebises.free.fr/

In my opinion, I think that kissing twice is becoming more and more common even in areas where 4 kisses were once given. Some people speculate that the younger people are leaning more towards 2 kisses while the older generation are hanging on to giving 4 even 5 kisses.

4- Who: Who exactly are you supposed to kiss?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to kiss the bus driver or the bag boy at your local grocery store.

Here are the different type of people and types of relationships where you might consider giving la bise.

  • Meeting someone for the first time: If you meet someone for the firs time, you typically Do Not faire la bise. You can simply shake their hand or say hello.
  • The level of friendship you have with someone: As your relationship grows into a friendship, at some point you will have to shift from the handshake and start giving your friends la bise.

There is no written rule for when you make the switch to la bise.

One day you can be shaking hands with a person and the next day that same person could be leaning in to kiss you. From then on out, you will have to give la bise to that person.

  • Friends of friends: If two friends are introduced by a mutual friend then you can greet that person with la bise. it is not obligatory though. You could always opt for a handshake if you like.
  • Family member: Family almost always greets one another with la bise.
  • Co-workers and colleagues:  if you have a job in France, you most likely will faire la bise with your co-workers.  This is not always the case and it depends on the working relationship you have with that person. For instance, you won’t give everyone at the office la bise. Just the ones you see on an habitual basis that you might even consider friends.You will not however give your boss la bise unless he or she leans in first to give you la bise.
  • The social status of the other person: If the other person is a higher social status than you, you should wait for that person to initiate. For instance, I once was introduced to the mayor by a friend. If he had leaned in to kiss my cheeks, I would have leaned in also.
  • Age: young people kiss one another a lot. My daughter kisses her friends when she is invited to their house but not in the morning when she goes to school. My son’s who are teenagers also kiss their friends when they see them in a social setting and sometimes at school.
  • Men: Yes, even men greet one another with la bise but not quite nearly as often as it happens between two women or a woman and a man.  For instance, my husband does not feel comfortable with la bise so he just offers his hand to other men and that is that.

Conclusion

Before I leave you to practice la bise, you should know that you also have to give la bise when leaving.

Another thing to note is that if you see someone and you fait la bise and that person leaves and comes back, you do not give them another bise unless they are leaving for good.

I know it’ all so confusing isn’t it?

It can seem awkward at first for foreigners to get used to la bise but once you do get used to it, it just becomes second nature. Now I do it without even thinking and without any of that awkward feeling because I know what to do and get plenty of practice everyday.

 Watch This Fun Video

Below is a fun video about la bise in France. Please watch and see just how confusing it can be even for the French.

Our Trip To Spain: 7 Tips For Families Who Want To Visit Barcelona On A Budget Without Stressing Out:

travel tips for budget conscience families who want to go to Barcelona Spain

Whether you’re a British family looking for a Spanish Holiday or an American couple looking for tips to reduce stress on an inexpensive European vacation, below are some things we did that will help anyone who wants to visit Barcelona on a budget.

What do you do when you live in France and your kids have 2 weeks off during the month of April for spring break? We decided to tackle one of our bucket list cities and visit Barcelona Spain. Not only was Barcelona better than I imagined, I was surprised at just how diverse, affordable and family friendly this city was for our budget conscious crew of five.

1- Find The cheapest way to get to Barcelona

Barcelona, find the cheapest way to get to Spain

It’s a no brainer. The most obvious way to save money on your trip to Spain is on transportation getting there. Will it be by plane, train, automobile or some combination of all three?

Since we live in France, just six hours from Barcelona and since we don’t own a car, we thought it would be fun AND INEXPENSIVE to take the train to Barcelona.

WRONG! The train was the most expensive option. 

One round trip train ticket from La Garde France to Barcelona was over 400 euros. There are five of us so that meant that it would cost us over 2,000 euros for our family to get to Barcelona by train (over 2,500 dollars) which was waaaaaaaay out of our budget.

We decided to rent a car for the week which cost us less than 400 euros. That 400 euros covered the cost of the car, the GPS, gas and car insurance.

There is lots to see when you drive to your destination

Not only was it more affordable to drive but we got to take in the scenery on the drive over. There are some amazing buildings and churches between France and Spain.

Kids love road trips: Rent a car

The kids seemed to really enjoy the road trip too. They sat in the back seat listening to music, watching movies and watching the world go by.

Ignore Kieran on the right, he gets a little car sick and he’s a moody teenager.

Tolls can be expensive when driving in europe. take lots of change and credit cards to pay them.

If you do decide to drive to Spain or anywhere in Europe, take care to bring a credit card and or lots of cash and change for the toll booths.

On our 6 hour drive, we encountered about 7 toll booths. A few were 2 or 3 euros but two of the toll booths were almost 16 euros. In total we paid about 75 Euros in toll booth fees.

Obviously if you do not live near Spain or your only option is to fly to Spain, you won’t be able to drive.

You can still find deals for flights especially during off peak season when prices can drop by half.

2- Save Money And Go during off season but be prepared for…

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing

There is an old saying, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.

If you decide to buy ticket during off peak season to take advantage of cheaper tickets, you should be prepared because tickets are cheaper for a reason.

One of those reasons tickets are cheaper is because the weather is not always optimal for sightseeing but that’s ok because there are still plenty of things to see and do when it’s cold and rainy outside.

For instance, during our trip to Barcelona, it rained 2 of the six days we were there.

Rather than stay indoors and cower, we chose to throw on our rain jackets, buy some umbrellas and visit places that involved being indoors.

We then saved the outdoor activities for the days when the forecast predicted sun.

3-Find Cheap Food

la-boqueria in Barcelona a huge outdoor market

Another way you can economize is on food.

Rather than tell you about all the great tasting and inexpensive tapas we had, I am going to tell you to go check out one of the outdoor markets called Mercat de Sant Josep La Boqueria, (open Monday through Saturday) located right off La Rambla. La Rambla is one of the most popular areas to walk around to shop, eat and take in the sites. Every guide book will tell you to visit it..

You have to visit the outdoor market St Josep La Boqueria in Barcelona

The St Josep market is literally a cornucopia of things to see, eat and smell.

It had everything from freshly squeezed juice smoothies, fresh produce and wonderful cheeses to meat counters that sold chicken and sheep heads. (The sheep head I am told is quite popular.)

barcelona-has some weird food too like sheep heads

Kieran and the kids all loved eating at the market. It was a fun exxperience

There were also many restaurant vendors selling the most magnificent foods at the open market. From fried octopus and traditional tapas to nachos and chips.

Lots of great street food to eat in barcelona

We ended up eating at the market several times. The kids all loved it because they each found things they wanted to eat.

Blake and I loved it because it was DELICIOUS AND CHEAP.

shopping at the mercado de la Boqueria. There is nothing you can't find there in terms of produce.

We also bought some fresh fruit and things we can’t find in France like refried beans and hot sauces. The French don’t really like spicy food and I do.

4-Unexpected Normal Things To Do

How do you tell someone to cut your hair if you can’t communicate?

One of the things we did were ordinary things we might do at home but because we were doing them someplace new in a language we did not speak, it added a whole new dimension to an otherwise ordinary situation.

Get A Haircut:

Get a haircut in Barcelona: Turn an everyday activity to a fun new experiece

It was not only cheap, less then 10 euros but also an adventure.

Neither of us speak Spanish so we were wildly flapping around our arms and mimicking scissors with our hands to try to tell the barber how short to cut Blake’s hair.

Fun times! Blake ended up with a crew cut and the shortest haircut of his life. I loved it, he not so much.

First visit to Burger King… BLEH!!!

Turn everyday things into special events when you visit new places

It’s been over 8 years since our family has eaten a meal from any fast-food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King.

That means that our almost 6 year old daughter had never ever eaten at a McDonald’s or Burger King her entire life, aside from an occasional coke here and there for emergency pit stops. That all ended when we visited Barcelona.

Catherine was dying to try fast food but we could never justify taking her there until we were in Barcelona.

Everyone needed to take a bathroom break so we stopped at a Burger King to kill two birds with one stone.

1) Satisfy Catherine’s need to eat fast-food and 2)  let everyone relieve themselves in the bathrooms.

Catherine got some kind of chicken nugget balls ( I hope they were chicken) which she was excited about at first but then quickly became disenchanted with the taste of the chicken ball things. She did however love the paper crown hat which she forced us to take home.  We all just sat around and watched her enjoy her moment.

I think we’ll continue our tradition of no fast food and save it for trips abroad.

Take in the surrounding area

Take in the surrounding area and explore it all

We also did a lot of random exploring.

There was a huge cat sculpture which was just begging to be climbed.

Catherine enjoyed climbing the monstrous metal cat thing but was equally quizzical about the two balls hanging from the cats posterior. Needless to say, we handled the situation very delicately; no pun intended. 

5- Get Lost And Find Unexpected Fun Things To Do

get a chocolate bar as your entrance ticket to the museum of chocolate in barcelona

One spontaneous and inexpensive things we ended up doing was visiting a chocolate museum called “museu de la xocalato”.

It was totally unplanned. We were walking around near the Picasso museum and just happened upon it by accident.

Who doesn’t love chocolate?

It was a rather smallish museum but it was cheap. Less than 6 euros per ticket but instead of a ticket you got a bar of chocolate as your entrance ticket which you get to eat in the museum. That’s what Catherine is holding in the photo above.

Stop by the museum of chocolate in barcelona

Not only were there tons of information on how chocolate was discovered and hundreds of chocolate statues but there was a cool chocolate bar that served melted chocolate in a cup which we ate by dunking croissants into.    It was to die for.

6- Bring Foot Powered Scooters

bring a foot powered scooter to Barcelona and you can cover more ground with the kids

I had never done this before, but I read that Barcelona was a place where you walk a lot.

Having three kids, who have travelled a lot, I knew that one of their biggest complaints and most stressful things for me was going places where there was a lot of walking.

Not only did we cover more ground but the kids really enjoyed having scooters to jet around in some beautiful places. I am definitely going to bring them for our next excursion.

What do you think?   Did they enjoy themselves?

Andre is doing stunts on a scooter in Barcelona

Andre was doing tricks and so was Catherine.

There are lots of places you can ride down hill in Barcelona

One of my son’s rode his scooter down a hill while I took the funicular down the mountain with Catherine.

the kids enjoyed the scooters and rode in big wide open spaces in Barcelona

Everyplace with wide open spaces suddenly became a new place to explore on scooters rather than more walking in the hot heat. 

Bring a big scooter and you can ride with your kid

I am a genius!

I made sure to get a big enough scooter that Catherine and I could share because when she got tired, I just scoot along with her.

barcelona-annie-blake

Meanwhile… Blake and I were actually having a good time relaxing while the kids scooted around. There is nothing worse than kids on vacation who are whining about walking.

7- Go see some of Gaudis Greatest Works.

barcelona-CASA BATLLO by Gaudi

La-Sagrada-Familia

Gaudi was a Spanish architect born in Catalonia whose work was inspired by religion and nature. His works are more like art then architecture.

We went to see CASA BATLLO, this smallest of Gaudi’s famous works which has a dragon and sword on the roof and an interesting front facing façade. You can take a tour of the house which we did and I highly recommend you get the audio tour and get your tickets online since the line to get in can get really long.

Another one of Gaudi’s work is the Sagrada Familia Church. It is possibly one of the most unique and fascinating churches I have ever laid eyes on.  This gothic beauty looks like it could have been made with sand and melted wax to me. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/

There are other Guadi works but I will let you do the research on that yourself.

Barcelona: A great budget friendly place

barcelona-annie-family

If you want to visit Erope on a budget or with kids, I highly recommend Barcelona. It literally has something for everyone on every budget. We plan on going again because one week was just not enough.

Question: Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of it? If not is it on your bucket list of places to go?

 

Happy Easter From France: Joyeuses Pâques

happy-easter-kinder-surpris

Happy Easter from France.

We had a fantastic Easter here in France.

We took the kids to see some friends who own a Nursery and spent the day eating, drinking and talking about everything and nothing.

There was a mix of French, German, Dutch and English spoken at any given time because everyone seemed to be from somewhere different.

Our host, Ferdinand and his wife cooked up some lamb, chicken and Merguez sausages on the Bar-B-Q and we drank lots of wine, Armagnac, ouzo and then we moved on to some weird green stuff which tasted like cough medicine.

I brought an apple crumble pie which I made the night before and it got snarffled up in a flash.  Somewhere in between we ate some salad and chocolate but I can’t remember.

how is easter in france celebrated

That’s us in the photo above. Notice my face as I drink the Armagnac. BLEH!!

We Gave The Children Contraband Chocolate

I bought the kids, mostly teens plus our little Catherine who is five, a bunch of chocolate including the famous Chocolate Kinder eggs.  

There is nothing special about this chocolate egg except that they have been banned in the US since 1997 because each egg contains a small toy which is a chocking hazard to kids under the age of three. DUH! of course it is but I guess the American government doesn’t think parents are responsible enough or smart enough to figure out NOT to give the small toy to kids to eat?

kinder-eggs-banned-us

Who knows. People here in Europe laugh at this strange law considering there are so many more dangerous things that should be banned.

If you want to get your hands on some contraband chocolate eggs you can get them anywhere in Europe, Australia and even Canada but don’ t try to smuggle them into the U.S. because they carry a 2,500 USD fine if you are caught.

How Is Easter Celebrated In France?

For the most part, Easter in France wasn’t much different than how it is celebrated in the US or Canada except for one small thing. Easter is celebrated for two days and almost everyone gets a three day weekend

First Day Of Easter

Easter Sunday is a day spent with family and or friends eating and drinking.

Second Day of Easter

The day after Easter Sunday is…..Easter Monday which is a holiday. Most of the shops, banks, schools and other businesses are closed on this day.

In our small town there is an Easter egg hunt sponsored by the city complete with buses that shuttle people back and forth from the centre of town to the park where the egg hunt will be.

 

What about you. how was your Easter break?

 

how we got married in scotland

How To Get Married In Scotland or Elope: A Destination Wedding Guide For Foreigners

How We got married in Scotland A beginners guide for foreigners who want to elope

Usually when I tell people that my husband and I eloped to Scotland, there is a short pause…….

followed by  “Wow!”

followed by “Why?”

and maybe even a “How did you manage that?”

Since I already explained why we eloped to Scotland here, I thought I would explain exactly HOW we did it.

How to get married in Scotland

In this post, I will give you a high level view of everything we did and everything you need to know to get married in Scotland, from required documents and residency requirements to what to expect. 

*NOTE: This is NOT a guide for UK Citizens.  

What We Had To do To Get Married In Scotland.

First of all, anyone can get married in Scotland.

**UPDATE**As of 2014 same sex marriage is legal in Scotland..

There are no residency requirements or pre-requisite to fulfill other than the fact that we had to be at the registrars office the day before to check in.

You do however need to meet the below requirements to get married.

  • You are both 16 on the day of your marriage
  • You are not already married.
  • The marriage needs to be legal in your home country. (Americans and Canadians you are covered here and you don’t even need to register it once you return home)

First Gather Up All Your Documents

Family photo at registrars in scotlandThe first thing you need to do is get all the documents and paperwork  in order and you need to give yourself enough time to do it.

I recommend starting at least 3 months in advance.

Please check with the nearest embassy since this list may be incomplete and rules are subject to change.

You will need the following DOCUMENTS and PAPERWORK

  1. Two “marriage Notice forms” or M-10 form. One for each of you. You can download the M-10 form from the registrars office.
  2. Birth Certificates for both of you. They must be original
  3. Divorce Decree: If you were married before, you must provide a divorce decree or a death certificate if that person is deceased. (They must be certified)
  4. “Certificate of no impediment” (CONI). Contact your home country’s civil authority to obtain this. It is to prove that you are free to marry. Only foreigners need do this step.  Without it,  you will not be able to marry in Scotland. The only exception is if you have lived in the UK for 2 years as a resident.
  5. Valid Passports to prove your nationality.
  6. Visa: Even if you do not need a visa to enter the UK like Americans and Canadians, you will probably need to get a special visa which allows foreigners to marry in Scotland.
    We had to get a biometric visa and some fingerprints. Do this in advance. It took us weeks to get an appointment. Contact the UK Border Agency (Tel No. 0870 606 7766) .
  7. English Only: All documents must be in English so plan accordingly to allow enough time to get a certified translation along with your original documents.

The link below has all the information including the M-10 Form I mentioned above. http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/regscot/getting-married-in-scotland/i-want-to-get-married-in-scotland-how-do-i-go-about-it.html

Next, Contact the registrars office in Scotland To Book A Date.

You can contact the registrars office no more than 3 months before your planned wedding date but no later than 15 days before your intended date of marriage.

Don’t wait until you have collected all the necessary documents. Call them as soon as you can to book a date. Scotland is a very popular place to get married remember?  Then when you finally do have all your documents, mail them to the registrars office.

General Questions

Can I have a religious ceremony or a civil one?

Blake and Catherine standing in front of the Edinburgh castle

You can have either a civil or a religious ceremony from any belief system.

Blake and I opted for civil ceremony.

Can I get Married anywhere within Scotland?

Religious Ceremonies: Yes, you can get married almost anywhere including in a castle, on a boat, in a park or anywhere you can cook up provided you can arrange for it with a minister, clergyman, pastor, priest or other person entitled to do so.

Civil Ceremonies: You have three choices. 1-get married in the registrars office which is kind of like a court house or city hall. 2-Choose one of the pre-approved places in your registrars area. (Check at the Marriage/Civil Partnership section for the list of approved places. Here is the link http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk)

3- For a fee, you can have a civil ceremony some place not on the approved list like in a castle.

What if I want to have a bachelorette or stag party?

Andre standing in front of a kilt store in Scotland

Stag parties and bachelorette parties can be a lot of fun and if you are one of the lucky ones who actually have friends and family willing to Travel all the way to Scotland, then why not have one last hoorah before you tie the knot.

You may want to hire a service to plan your party rather than ask your best man or woman to plan it in a country they are unfamiliar with.

What About Formal Wear For The Groom?

When in Scotland, many guys choose to wear Kilts but if  the groom is feeling like going with a plain old tux, he can always rent one at places like the Psyche Formal Hire service.

Blake opted to wear a suit which we bought in Paris the week prior…

you need 2 witnesses for the ceremony: we grabbed two strangers off the street.

2 complete strangers were our witnesses.

What if we do not have witnesses

We didn’t have any witnesses so we waited out front of the registrar hoping some passer-by would agree to be our witnesses.

In the end there was another couple registering to get married and they offered to be our witnesses. Phew…

Apparently, this type of thing happens all the time.

Standing in front of the place where the Scottish crown jewels are housed.

Conclusion

Whether you want to elope or you want an intimate wedding, If you love to travel and you’re feeling a little adventurous, Scotland just might make the perfect place to exchange your wedding vows. 

 

valentines day in France

How Do The French Celebrate Valentines Day: Our V-Day In France

valentines day in france

Valentines day in France is celebrated much like everywhere else.

The flower shops area a buzz with frantic men and women buying flowers.

Lovers stroll  along the streets dressed up for date night.

Even some children exchanged gifts- our daughter received her first ever Valentines day gift today.  A beautiful bouquet of flowers and a hand printed card from a small boy named Enzo. They are best buddies and apparently he thinks a lot of her because on the card he wrote “I love you very much. AHHHHH!”

How do you say Valentines Day in French?

Valentines day is called “St. Valentines”

A valentines card is called a cartes d’amities”

Catherine Holding Her Handmade Valentines Card “Cartes d’amities”

valentines day in france: handmade card

On the card the boy wrote “Je T’aime Très Fort

valentines day in france: handmade card

Catherine got a handmade card from Enzo

As for me. It’s valentines month for me. My wonderful husband Blake is cooking dinner every night for the entire month of February but tonight is special. Tonight I get heart shaped meat loaf with green beans and mashed potatoes for diner with some champagne.

OH LA LA..

valentines day in France: meat loaf hearts

I am so so so lucky. They are not ready yet and still need to be put in the oven but I am sure they will turn out delicious. Even if they don’t I don’t care because it’s heart shaped.

sorry vegans I like my meat. … That’s it from us here in France.

 Happy Valentines day. Hope you had lots of love today

elope scotland annie blake

Why In The World Would You Want To Elope To Scotland? Our Destination Wedding Story

Why did we elope to Scotland and how you can too.

 ME: “Blake, can I ask you something?”

Blake: “Sure, wha?”

Me: “Let’s elope to Europe!”……

Blake: (short pause) “Ummm????, Sure let’s do it”

Overflowing with excitement, I felt like I was floating as I literally ran to my computer and immediately started researching places to elope to in Europe.

6 months later, we were exchanging our vows in Scotland and spend almost a month in Paris France. 

Why Did We Elope To Scotland?

I hope this little peek into our lives helps you in your decision to elope or not to elope.  In the least, I hope it entertains you or answers the question:

“WHY would anyone want to elope?” 

If you are interested in learning exactly what you need to do to get married then read this article where I explain all the documents and procedures.

I was a single mom raising two young boys with no support.

I was a single mom raising two boys alone

Who Would Marry Me?

The  thought of finding love or getting married AGAIN just wasn’t on my radar…..

I was a Divorced Single Mom raising my two sons alone with no support from my ex.

Not exactly every guys dream wife right?

New Job At Internet Start

I felt up beat and things were looking up for me now.

Then, in 2004, I was recruited to work for one of those cool hip and fun places you read about in silicon valley California. 

There was an indoor slide, a pool table, free lunch, soda and even beers for the staff. Everyone got along and some even hung out together after work.

Blake and i at a company function

Blake and I at a company function at Nola’s in Palo Alto California

Enter Blake, A Handsome, Smart Engineer Type

Even his name was interesting.

Blake was not only smart and handsome, he had a southern charm about him and…..

he asked me out to a live jazz concert happening on the Stanford University campus. 

I wasn’t sure if it was a date or not because that annoying voice in the back of my head kept telling me it wasn’t.

I told the voice to shut up and it did. 

Working together is perfect for single parents

I know, I know….. Dating co-workers is frowned upon but THAT RULE was made for other people who are what I call “work sluts”.

Besides, I didn’t care that he worked at the same company.

Single mom and dads, you may be able to relate to what I am about to say.

When you are a single parent, you don’t have the luxury of time any more. Between work, the kids, the commute, after school homework, cooking and cleaning, you just don’t have any spare time to breath let alone meet new people or date.

So if someone from work comes along and he’s great, I’m not going to say NO because of some unwritten rule.

stand up paddle boarding with all my boys

We had a great life full of activities. .

Blake and The Future

We started dating and I learned that Blake was divorced too. Not that it made any difference but it made me feel a little at ease knowing that I wasn’t the only one with some emotional baggage, if you know what I mean.

We got serious very fast and I introduced Blake to my boys and before I knew it we were living together as one big happy family.

Marriage Just wasn’t that important to us.

Aside from our long work hours and commute, we had a pretty great life. We both loved our jobs and did interesting work.

We went surfing, stand up paddle boarding, we skied in Tahoe and hung out.

The kids at the registrars office in Scotland

At registrars office in Scotland

We didn’t need a piece of paper to tell us that we were committed to one another and loved one another.

Even when I was pregnant with our daughter Catherine in 2007, we never thought about getting married.

Things Changed When Our Daughter Was Born.

The decision to get married happened soon after our daughter was born.

As it turns out, it’s just simpler when you have a piece of paper that says you are married. It’s easier when you fill out health insurance forms, life insurance forms and in the event something happens to one of us, the other one won’t be left in the dust.

Besides, It simply felt right and in the end we all have to do what is right for ourselves.

Destination Wedding: Is Eloping To ScotlandRight For You?

picture of us in Scotland at the registrars office after the quick ceremony

What does all this have to do with whether a destination wedding or elopement is right for you?

Simple, when you make a decision to have a destination wedding or to elope, you have a lot of things to consider.

You need to consider your financial situation, your personal tastes, your friends, your family and you also need to consider your own story and personal circumstances.

Pros For Eloping Abroad to Scotland.

Below are a few reasons why we chose to elope. Maybe some of them will resonate with you.

Not all will apply to you but sharing them with you will show you the thought process we went through to come to our decision.

1- We didn’t want another big wedding: Both Blake and I had had already been married and we both had fairly biggish first weddings complete with open bars, violinists and ice sculptures. Although it was nice, I always regretted having a big first wedding. Not because it was bad but because of how expensive it was. Money we could have spent elsewhere rather than on an expensive band and 20 dollar plates for 150 people.

2- We both had no family in the area: Having no family took the pressure off having to please other people.

3- Saves Money: You don’t have to pay for food, a huge cake, a band, renting the hall, table decorations etc.

4- We wanted to have a long honeymoon: The money we saved from NOT having a big wedding was used to pay for a month long trip with the kids in Scotland and France. And it still cost less than our first weddings.

5- We both loved adventure, travelling and seeing new places: Self explanatory as to why we wanted to get married in another country.

6-Save Time & Frustration: Planning a big wedding or for that matter, a small wedding can be time consuming and stressful. Most of the work is expended on making the event good for other people not on you. All we had to worry about were getting the documents and booking flights and a place to stay.

7- It’s Romantic: Do I need to explain to you that exchanging your wedding vows in a far away place filled with castles and history, the Loch-Ness monster and Scotland yard is just so cool and romantic.

8- It’s intimate and Simple: When you elope, the focus is on you and your choices and in our case about our family.  We didn’t have to go around greeting guests or being stressed out. We just showed up at the court house.

9- Be Selfish: You get to do everything your way and don’t have to worry about pleasing people, in-laws etc.

10- Explore Your Heritage: Although, I have not one ounce of Scottish blood in me, Blake’s heritage, the “Elders” g back to Scotland.

In Paris with the family: Eloping to Scotland

Other Reasons To Choose Scotland as Your Destination Wedding Location.

  • EASY: It’s fairly easy to get married. You only have to provide the proper paper work. It’s much harder to get married in some other countries. For instance, to get married in France, you have to be in the country for something like 45 days before getting married.
  • You Speak The Language: English is spoken in Scotland which means you won’t have much trouble communicating or need to have documents translated. If you get married in France, or China you might run into some language barriers.
  • It’s just beautiful and full of history and so cool.

Summary

So that’s our story. I realize it may not be the traditional big wedding with a beautiful white dress surrounded by hundreds of people toasting to our happiness but when I look back on our wedding day…

I have nothing but smiles and happiness. And although unorthodox, I am kind of glad my kids were there to experience it with us.

Tell me your elope story or tell me why you would never elope..in the comments below.

Heaven or Hell? A Day At The Beach In The South Of France With Kids (Photo Essay)

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet

You know that expression “ A Day At The Beach? ” It implies that something is easy or simple right?

We spent a day at the with our kids at a beach in Le Pradet in the South of France in the Winter. It should have been fun and easy but it wasn’t. To me that day at the  beach symbolizes what Life abroad can be like. Living in France isn’t going to magically make your children agreeable or enthusiastic about the same things you are enthusiastic about no matter how great you think it is. You just have to roll with the punches and move on.

Here is what we saw at our day at the beach.

We saw a boy on a unicycle playing the guitar and  we walked,  talked and took in the scenery.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet walking

We wore our galoshes.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet galoshes

We saw the tinyest Yacht Club ever

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet Club Nautique

It was cold and windy but we enjoyed the sounds of the Mediterranean Sea.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet looking towards Toulon

We looked around.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet looking around

We walked around

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet walking around

We wished we had Sea Kayaks.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet sea kayaking

But then the Moody Teenager emerged

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet grumpy kids

He did not like the day at the beach in the south of France

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet grumpy kids

So we decided to go home.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet Garonne bus stop

The air was thick with tension as we waited for the bus.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet Garonne bus stop

But we made it home and the grumpy teenager was happy again.

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet sidewalk

That was “A day at the beach in the south of France” in the winter with our kids!

A day at the beach in the south of france: Le Pradet winter with kids

There is a lesson to be learned when travelling with other people

Things are not always black and white when you travel with other people.  “A DAY AT THE BEACH” is not always the proverbial “DAY AT THE BEACH”.
If the kids aren’t into it,  if the kids would rather be somewhere else doing something else…it can ruin an otherwise lovely time and a day at the beach can turn into a day in hell.

This was a true story:

In all fairness, my son Kieran isn’t always grumpy, I just wanted to make a point!  And In case you are wondering where we were, the beach is called “Plage De La Garonne” in a town called Le Pradet.  It’s a beautiful small beach town here in the south of France just five minutes on bike from where we live.  A great place to spend time or spend a year or more on your next career break or family sabbatical.
Here is a link to the office of tourism in Le pradet.

merry christmas ( Joyeux Noël) from La Garde France

Merry Christmas From France: How we celebrated as expats abroad

(Joyeux Noël) Merry Christmas From France

Happy Holidays everyone.

I can’t send everyone I know a card so I thought I would pull together some photos and write a very quick post today wishing you all happy holidays and a Merry Christmas From France.

Here is it, from our family to yours a very cheesy family photo Christmas card.

CHEEEZE. Or as they say in France WISTITIiiiiiii

 2012-Xmas-La-Garde--(11)

Our Christmas was not much different than normal with the exception that we were in France. We ate, drank, Santa came and we opened presents.

———————————————————-

Little Train That picked Up Santa Claus

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-2

Santa Claus being taken to his sled

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-10

Roast Beef: Diner for Christmas day

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-4

Christmas Morning: Crepes and Nutella

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-5

Christmas Tree: Mostly found or homemade ornaments

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-6

Note from Santa Claus thanking us for leaving him a cake to eat

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-7

Anticipation

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-8

Catherine opening up a gift: French version of Operation

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-3

Wearing New clothes

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-9

Festivities around our town in France

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-11

Cotton Candy for 30 days straight

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-12

Even big kids love cotton candy

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-13

This is the Christmas market 1/2 block from where we live. CROWDED

There were over 100 chalets in the centre of town selling what seemed like everything under the son from cinnamon covered churos, cotton candy the size of a small sheep, silky scarves, unique gifts from Provenca, chocolate, nougat and other various hand crated goodies. It was open for 30 days in our town of La Garde from November 30’th to December 30th. It is the biggest of it’s kind for the Var Region.

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-14

Blake and I drinking Vin Chaud (hot wine) with five spices

I think this originated from Germany because it is also called Gluehwein. Wherever it is from, it is simply delectable. You can make this at home with fruits, cinnamon and sugar. Here is a recipe for Gluehwein. Serve if for the holidays. MIAM MIAM

2012-Xmas-La-Garde-15

Merry Christmas From France

Hope you had a great holiday..

Annie, Blake and family.

p.s.. I have sever bronchitis in this photo and feel like hell.

Find out how much it cost us to live in France for a year with 3 kids.

How Much Does It Cost To Live In France For 1 Year? (Personal Experience)

Find out how much it cost to live in France; based on our family of 5 actual expenses

I bet one of your biggest questions about taking a year or more off to live in France must be “how much does it cost to live in France?” I know because it used to be my biggest questions and it is also one of the most asked questions from my readers. Luckily for you, I tracked all of our expenses during our first year in Marseille France and created this very detailed account so that you can extrapolate what it might cost you to live in France.

De rien!

How Much Did It Cost Us To Live in France for one year?

It cost our family of five just over 3,0000 Euros per month to live in Marseille France. I have no idea if you think $3,000 Euros a month for a family of five is a lot or a little but let me ask you this.

How much did you spend on your last 2 week vacation? Your hotel room alone probably cost you at least $100 a night which will cost you a little ove $3,100 USD alone. In France, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything cheaper than that.  Then, add in the fact and the cost that if you stay in a hotel, you’ll have to eat out most nights which means that you will probably have to add in at least another 50 dollars per day for 2 people.  Then add in all the site seeing costs, transportation costs and more.

My point is this; 3,000 euros which breaks down to about $133 USD per day is actually pretty damn good.

This is what makes extended travel or living abroad so affordable. Staying in a home and living like a local vs going somewhere for 2 to 4 weeks and staying in an expensive hotel.

Let me break down 3,000 Euros which converts to about 3,900 USD per month.

  • It cost us $133 per day for our entire family of five to live in France for one year. 
  • That’s $27 USD per day per person to live in France.
  • $795 USD per month per person to live in France

Now before you go off making plans to move to France, you need to understand how I came to my calculations, what our expenses included and what they did not include.

How I came to my calculations (important please read)

  1. One year time period:

    My calculations are based on the fact that we lived in France temporarily for a year.  Cost of living will look much different if you plan on living in France longer.  i.e. you might have a mortgage, a car, extra taxes to pay and other things that a temporary resident will not have to pay.

  2. Exchange Rate:

    I used an exchange rate of 0,77. At the time of this writing, 1 USD buys 0,76 centime. Put another way 1 Euros will cost you $1.30.

    1 CAD buys 0,78 centime. I split the difference and used .77 centime.

    *updated September 2016:   The dollar is much stronger. 1 dollar now gets you 0.89 centimes. Put another way, 1 Euro will now cost you $1.10 USD. This just means that the USD costs I list in this article will work in your benefit because they will be slightly less than I stated here NOT MORE!

    cost-to-live-in-France exchange rate .77

  3. Averages:

    Prices fluctuate. Some months our expenses were higher than others so for simplicity, I used our 1 year average. First I totalled our expense for the year and divided by person, then per day to arrive at the $27 a day per person average cost and converted each calculation to USD / CAD.
    cost-of-living-france for a family of five per person

  4. Expenses NOT Included:

    My calculation does NOT included airline tickets or extended trips. For instance, we took a cruise but I did not include that cost in my numbers. We bought 2 tablets for reading, 2 bikes and some other things which I did not include in my calculation. I did this so you could get a baseline or a bare minimum of fixed costs or essential expenses needed to live in France. That way all you have to do is add in your own extra expenses and creature comforts to arrive at what it might cost  you.

High Level Look At How Much It cost To Live In France For One Year.

cost-of-living-france for a family of five per person pie chart

The above chart shows a break out of all our expenses by major category. Notice that Rent and Food were our biggest expenses. This is important to know because there is a lot of wiggle room with those two pieces of the pie. We chose to live in more expensive areas and we choose to eat really really well. 🙂

Now that that’s out of the way, let us get down to the dirty details. I’ve included a detailed break out of our expenses in Euros and Dollars for each of the major categories along with a small explanation. Ready?

CATEGORY: How much does it cost to live in France for one year: Detailed look at the cost of living in France for our family.

Below is a detailed description of the major categories of our expenses. Have fun.

HOUSING: (1,100 to 1,300 Euros  =$1,429 to $1,688 / Month)

how much does it cost to rent a house in France

By far one of our biggest expenses was housing.  We paid 1,300 Euros per month for a fully furnished, 100 sq meter house which accounted for 42% of our annual and monthly budget . This year we will pay less rent because we moved out of the big city to a smaller town 1 hour from Marseille and 2 hours from Nice and Cannes.

I HIGHLY ADVISE YOU NOT TO RENT AN UNFURNISHED HOME (if you are planning to stay in France for a year or less.)

Our house was fully furnished and walk-in ready. Now, you’re probably thinking, we could have rented a home for less than 1,300 euros a month if we had not rented a fully furnished home.

You’re right we could have but trust me when I say “you really don’t want to rent an unfurnished place for a year”.

Unfurnished does not mean the same thing in France as it does in the US and Canada.

Most rental properties in France DO NOT come equipped with a fridge, washer, dryer or dishwasher.  This may not shock you but what if a rental did not come with the following?

  • No lights (i.e. you provide your own ceiling lights)
  • No kitchen cabinets. Yes, you heard me right. No kitchen cabinets. I saw it with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it.
  • No stove
  • No oven

Think about it, just furnishing your place with those few things alone could cost you a few thousand dollars not to mention the time, stress and effort it will take you to buy those things then have it installed and do all this in another language.

What Does Fully Furnished Mean:

Fully furnished usually means it has everything you need the minute you walk in the door.

  • A working fridge
  • towels
  • forks
  • dishes
  • beds
  • linens
  • A working kitchen with stove and oven.

Granted, you need to buy some things to make the home more cozy. For instance, I bought a few pans, a chef knife, a pressure cooker and 2 comforters.

Be realistic

Unless you can afford a higher end fully furnished apartment, the condition of your apartment might be a little worn down or have certain things which you would have wished came with the apartment. Our house in Marseille was extremely worn down and we even had to buy an extra bed because it did no have enough for all five of us.

(On the flip side, our new landlords in France pay for anything we need for our house so it just depends). 

Another thing that will effect price of your flat is the location, for example.

Living in a big city will cost more than living in the country side. It is cheaper to rent a home further inland away from the water.

I’ve seen places as big as ours rent for 500 euros but they are in very rural places that usually require you to have a car. We opted for cities and towns with public transportation so we did not have to buy a car.

  • Marseille City: 1,300 Euros
    • 3 Large Bedrooms in 100 Sq Meter (1,100 sq ft) Flat in the center of the city close to metros, shops, amenities, trains etc.
  • La Garde City: 1,100 Euros
    • 4 bedroom 100 sq Meter flat in a rural setting. No metro, but access to good bus system and train which goes all over Europe. Some shopping. 5 minutes from Toulon by Train.

We  found our furnished flat on www.sabbaticalhomes.com .

Utilities-(100 Euros / Month) $130

How much do utilities cost in France

If you find a rental you may have to take care of the utilities and put the bill in your name. We did that for our flat in Marseille but our new landlords in Toulon kept the bill in their name and we pay the landlord for our utilities.

Be prepared, setting up your utilities is a whole other beast. I set up our account on the phone but if you do not speak French, you are going to run into some issues. Instead, you could try wakling into an EDF office  (that’s the utilities company) and hope someone speaks English, or hire an interpreter or get help from your landlord or neighbours.

Side note, to open up a utilities account you HAVE TO HAVE A FRENCH BANK ACCOUNT.. It’s true. I tried to get around this but couldn’t.

  • Electricity & Gas (EDF) ( 60 Euros / month)
  • Telephone & Internet (40 Euros / month)
  • Water (included in rent but yours may not be included)

FOOD : (885 Euros month) $1,117 or ( 177 Euros /person per month) $ 229

how much does food for a family of five cost in france?

Food was our second biggest expense after our rent. It accounted for 28% of our total expenses. Let us be clear on one thing. We are a family of foodies. Meaning, we don’t eat McDonalds, we don’t eat Hamburger Helper or hot dogs. We like to eat the good stuff. We buy a lot of fresh produce and cook in most nights. We also like our wine and spirits. I don’t say that to brag but to qualify our food bill to you. Our food bill fluctuated month to month but for the most part we averaged 885 euros a month for  a year. This amount included 2 kids eating school lunch everyday, booze, all our meat and produce and a few days eating out. VICES: One of the many surprises about France is that Alcohol (especially wine) is very cheap, with a good bottle costing only a few euros. Sure you can buy expensive bottles but you don’t have to. Cigarettes are extremely expensive (5 or 6 euros a pack) and rising all the time. Time for you to quit anyways.

Food: 550 – 650 Euros / month 110 – 130 Euros / person
Beer, wine, spirits 40 Euros / month 20 Euros / person
Eating out 100 – 150 Euros / month 20- 30 euros / person
School lunch for kids 120 Euros / month 2 kids 60 Euros / kid (ony 2 kids ate at school)

Medical & Doctor ( 450 Euros / month) $585

How much does medical and health cost in France?

Medical and health was our third biggest expense. It accounted for about 15% of our total expenses. We could have cut that bill in half if we chose to insure ourselves through a French company instead of using a US insurance company. One of our concerns was losing our continual coverage in the US. There are certain benefits to keeping continual coverage which I won’t go into. Contact an insurance carrier to find out for yourself. This year, we may chose to buy medical insurance from an insurance company in France but we need to understand the ramifications first. This means I have some research to do. So far, we have not made any claims on our insurance because of our deductible. In fact, we pay for doctor visits out of our pocket here in France. Each visit costs us a whopping 23 euros. That’s it. Another thing to note is that medicine and prescriptions are a fraction of what it cost in the US.

  • Medical Insurance: 400 dollars / month paid to US company
  • 6 Doctor visits in France: 140 Euros
  • Medicine, aspirin etc.: 5 Euros

Clothing: (50 Euros / month) $65 or (10 Euros / person) $13

How much does it cost to buy shoes and clothes in France?  

Clothing can be pricey but if you shop at discount stores and buy during the discount season ( After Christmas and then summer), you can get some really good deals of up to 75 percent off. My kids are growing like weeds, so we have to buy clothes every few months. Our biggest expense for clothing were shoes, some jackets and sweaters. My son Andre went from a shoe size of 9 to a shoe size of almost 12 within 2 years. And we walk so much that they wear out the soles within a few months too.

Transportation: ( 50 Euros / month) or ( 14 Euros / person) $65

How much does transportation cost in france

We don’t have a car so to get around we have to take the metro, bus, tram or train. Last year my sons took the metro to school. Each of their monthly metro passes cost around 30 euros. Catherine was under 6 so she was Free. A one way metro ticket was about 1 Euro 45 and so were bus tickets.

  • Metro Passes in Marseille (60 Euros)
  • Bus tickets, train tickets, metro tickets for everyone else. (40 Euros)

Miscellaneous Kid Expenses ( 40 Euros / month per kid)  or ( 160 euros / year per kid) $180

How much do after school sports cost for kids in france?

After School Sports and Activities

If you have kids, you’re going to probably want them to do activities, chat with other kids, play and have friends. We enrolled our three kids in afters school sports. Kieran plays soccer 2 or 3 times a week which is called ‘FOOT’ or FOOTBALL. Not to be confused with American football. Andre plays Judo twice a week (Yellow belt) and Catherine is a budding ballerina. Each activity cost 160 euros for the entire year. That’s a deal compared to what I’m used to paying in the states.

Allowance and pocket money for the kids

Our two teenage sons like to go to movies and hang out with friends and buy little things so I opted to give them an allowance of 40 Euros each.

  • Allowance for kids80 Euros / month
  • School Sports40 Euros / month total for all three kids.

Taxes & Visas:  365 Euros for one year. (but you could pay more) $78 per month

How much taxes and visas cost to live in France?

TAX

If you rent a place for a year than you may have to pay a “Taxe d’Habitation” This tax is to  cover things like street cleaning,  upkeep, garbage removal and other things in your area. This tax is usually paid by the occupiers of a property and you are liable to pay this tax unless you come to some agreement with the landlord. We made an agreement with both our landlords to have them cover this tax which in some cases can be a few hundred euros EACH MONTH. Get it in writing though.

VISA

If you stay in France longer than 3 months than you have to have a special visa called the Long stay visa. Once you arrive in France, to complete your visa process you have to pay another 360 euros per adult. They then paste the visa in your passport and you are free to stay in the country for the entire year. Every year after that, you have to renew the visa but it drops to only 110 euros per adult.  We did not have to pay anything for the kids.

  • Taxe d’habitation: 0 Euros
  • Visas: 365 Euros for first year. Every year after it will be 110 euros.

Extras, Incidentals and Miscellaneous ( 70 Euros / month) $92

How much do misc things cost in france

We had other expenses but many of them were expenses that you probably won’t incur. We bought a new laptop for one of our sons. We bought two tablets, a couple of bikes and some miscellaneous things. I have not included them in any of my cost calculations.

How much do misc things cost in france?

You need to budget for a miscellaneous category. I’m not sure what will go in your budget but here is what went into ours.

  • Haircuts (12 Euros)
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access US sites normally blocked to outsiders.: (7 Euros)
  • Sim Card for phone: (2 Euros) ( we don’t have a plan. We have a prepaid card.
  • Entertainment, site seeing: (50 Euros)

How We Saved 10,000 Dollars on Pre-school in France!!!

How much does pre-school cost in france?

If you have a child between the ages of 3 and 6, you’ll be delectably surprised to learn that pre-school is Free in France. This came as a huge surprise to us. I fully expected to pay anywhere from 900 to 1,00 dollars a month for pre-school since this is how much preschool can cost in the US and some parts of Canada. We estimate that we saved a total of 10K / year in pre-school cost alone. But that’s not all. The best part is that Catherine loves her school and loves having playmates and friends. I volunteer as much as I can at her school and they do countless outings every year. The photo above is on a class trip to the Zoo in Aix-En-Provence. It was amazing and it’s a way for me to meet other parents and people.

Final Thoughts on Cost of Living

Average monthly cost for our family of five to live in france for one year

Life Style: We do not live or spend extravagantly. Having said that, we do like our creature comforts. You need to use your common sense and extrapolate costs based on your situation.

Obviously, cost of living for one year in France is going to depend on your lifestyle and your unique situation.

Other things you may not be able to avoid or skimp on are things like taxes and visas while other things like food, your rent and you site-seeing budget are variable.

You could cut your expenses dramatically if you choose to live further inland or in the countryside but then that would mean you have the added expense of buying a car and lose the amenities of being in a bigger town or city.

So what do you think? Does it cost more or less than you thought to live in France for a family the size of ours?

Don’t forget to please share this article on Facebook for me.

Store coming soon Dismiss