What It’s Really Like Living in France: Why I Was Bored!

By Annie André

Here’s an honest look at what it’s really like living in France: long after the honeymoon stage and the culture shock, when you’ve settled into life abroad, mastered the language and made friends.

“No, No,  No, I don’ want to stay in France another 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. I was bored with my life in France. 

How Do You Get Bored Of Living France?

I know it probably sounds astonishing, especially if you’ve been dying to live in France, but it’s true- you can get bored with living in France. 

It happened gradually! You don’t even notice it as it’s happening until one day you’re in a rut. 

In retrospect, it makes sense.

I was so excited about moving to France. I set my expectations so high and imagined all the wonderful things that I would do and feel. I never prepared for the reality of life in France-after the honeymoon stage.

The first year in France-

My first year in France was a busy but magical experience. Everything was new, fresh and exciting.  Even dull day to day stuff seemed interesting. Going to the store, seeing all the different foods and 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 some of the monotonous routines that once seemed interesting and fun were becoming 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 with a lot of routines only with a French twist.

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 but ruled that out almost immediately because I was pretty well adjusted.

Life was good. I had no language issues, and nothing phased me anymore about the French cultural differences, not even dog poop.

I did miss some things about North American culture, which is entirely normal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It took me a while to figure out, but I was in a rut. I guess you could say I was bored with the routine of my life in France.

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

You might be interested in reading: Doubts About Moving Abroad? Read How We Overcame Our Fears And Moved To France.

CULTURE SHOCK

The emotional and behavioural roller-coaster someone experiences when Living and or working in another culture.

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 take the plunge end up returning home, presumably because the reality of living abroad (culture shock) wasn’t what they expected.

Ten things I did to fall back in love with France: I beat ex-pat boredom

Photo: How I beat expat boredom and why I was bored in France

What I realized about my expat rut, expat boredom or whatever you want to call it is this…

I needed to do something about it. I needed to rediscover the adventure we first felt when we came to France rather than wallow or complain about being bored.

So I did do something about it—a few things.

Here are a few of the things I (we) did to break out of the expat rut. Depending on your situation and interests, these may or may not work for you, but I hope in the least it shows you that you can get unstuck with a little effort.

You might be interested in 101 Simple Adventures You Can Do Everyday: Bust Out Of That Rut.

1.) I took a vacation: A much-needed break from France to recharge my batteries

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, It happens even when you live in France.

Taking a trip or getting away can give you the distance you need. It’s often not until we are away from the routine of our daily life and see it from the other side that we begin to appreciate it.

I took a trip back to Montreal to see my extended family, and that 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.

I make sure to plan a trip to see my family (every year if I can). For you, it may be to take a cruise, or take more road trips or..

The point is just to get away from your routine.

2.) Buy a car or live where you don’t need one:

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

Our second year in France, we lived in a small town just a few minutes outside of Toulon where we could walk to the market, our children’s schools, the grocery store, the cinema, the library and almost everywhere else crucial for daily life.  So we resisted buying a car.

The problem was,  not having a car limited us. Sure we lived in a quaint medieval town where we could access most of what we needed on foot, but we also lived in a town where everyone had a car and for a good reason.

We needed to buy a car if we wanted to do more than just walk to the local shops and markets. We wanted to drive through the countryside, go olive and wine tasting and go to random places at the spur of the moment.

 

At the beginning of our third year in France, we bought a used Renault scenic for 2,500 Euros  (That’s about $3,400 ) and oh my what freedom.

  • No more waiting in the rain or the blazing hot sun (it gets really hot in the South of France) to catch the bus to go to 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 friend’s birthday party at a place that has no bus access.
  • No more borrowing friends cars or renting cars for road trips.
  • No more asking friends to drive us home after a night out.

**Train travel can be damn expensive for a family of five, so having a car saved us money and opened up new possibilities in terms of places we could visit. We’ve driven to Spain, Germany, and visited dozens of small cities throughout France in our car. All for a fraction of what it would have cost us if we took the train. Plus we went to the beach quite often.

3.) Exercise or join a gym:

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

When we arrived in France, I decided not to join a gym. I had to take two buses or walk 45 minutes partly on the road with no sidewalk to get there. I was not motivated to join.

After we got our car, everything changed. I could jump in the car and be at the gym in 10 minutes.

Not only did going to the gym break up my days, it felt good to be fit again, and I love the endorphin rush after a workout.  (Bikini photos coming soon, Just kidding!).

An unexpected bonus is I always meet new people at the gym and have made some good friends there.

4.) Volunteer Or Teach A Class if you don’t work

Some expats move to France because of a job where they can meet and interact with new people, but Blake and I moved to France with no jobs.

Volunteering fulfilled the gap or the need I had to connect with other people.

Because we earned the bulk of our income from rental income and various freelance work which we could do via our laptops from home, we made our own hours and tried to hit all the sights but you can only do so much sightseeing and museum tours.

What I missed was having daily adult interaction like I used to when I worked a job. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a job in France because our visas didn’t allow it.

You might be interested in reading: What kind of visa do you need to visit France legally.

I decided to try to find some volunteer work and found a local association walking distance from our house. They needed someone to teach English to adults once a week. It ended up being a rewarding experience and gave me a chance to help my local community.  I met some wonderful people and made some lifelong friends.

5.) Keep improving your French

Bored In France? Master the French language

I love languages, and even though I spoke almost fluent French when I moved to France (my family is French Canadian), my French was not perfect.

I decided to make an active effort to improve my French. I learned new expressions and made sure to go over all my daughter’s homework, which taught me a lot about French culture. I know all there is to know about snails now. (see photo above from my daughter’s school work).

The way I see it- learning a language is a lifelong endeavour, and learning is what makes life more enjoyable.

6.) Write A Blog: Keep an online journal

I am no writer. You probably figured that out by reading my blog, this blog, but I do it anyway because it gives me pleasure. I know a lot of people who write a travel blog to keep friends and family back home up to date on all their adventures. That’s how this blog started.

There is something very satisfying about writing- it feeds my soul and keeps me quite busy.

7.) Learn more about French food or how to cook French food

Bored In France? Learn to cook authentic french cuisine

Travelling wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the unique and memorable foods found in the places I visit, so what better way to learn about the local cuisine than to learn how to cook it?

I never really attempted to cook French food because I mistakenly assumed that French food was too fancy and too complicated to prepare. After living in France, I realized the real food that French people eat is not too complicated at all.

Some of my favourite dishes to make and the ones my family loves to make are below.

  • Tomates farcies
  • Endives au gratin
  • Tartiflette
  • Moules et frites
  • Magret de canard

If you hate cooking, learning to cook French dishes may not be for you, but if you are up for the challenge of learning to cook French food, it may give you a sense of purpose in the kitchen beyond necessity.

8.) Make an effort to make more friends:

Bored In France? Make french friends

Our life changed drastically once we made friends in France. Not only did we have more fun doing various activities with our friends, but we also learned about French culture through our friends.

9.) Travel differently than you would normally

Train trip we took across Europe with the kids

One of the best things about living in France is that you’re so close to the rest of Europe. We are only a few hours by train or drive from Italy, Spain, Monaco, Germany and thousands of cities across Europe. You would think we would be off visiting all those places regularly, but we don’t.

One- As a family of five, it can get expensive to travel, so the cost of everything we do is multiplied by five- Tickets, food, bigger accommodations etc. It adds up so we are restricted by our budget. When we do actually have the money to take trips, we want to make sure it’s interesting.

Which brings me to my second point.

Just travelling for the sake of travelling can get repetitive. Maybe it won’t for you but for our family which travels a lot, it does. There’s only so many museums and Gothic churches you can see and visit before you start getting bored with that.

I know this might sound ridiculous to some, but it has happened to quite a few of my fellow nomadic travelling friends and expat friends.

So what we do to make travelling more interesting is making the voyage to our destination more interesting, which can be anything from travelling off the beaten path or doing things differently.

For example, we took a seven day cruise around the Mediterranean sea. I bought the tickets at the last-minute deal for 2,000 euros. This included our cruise for our entire family, two cabins because there were five of us—all our food (excluding alcohol). And every night there was free entertainment. The ship’s name was the Costa Serena if you are interested.

Another time we took the family across Europe by train. The trip lasted about a month, and it was so amazing. I’ve fallen in love with train travel. I wish we could do it more often, but train travel is expensive in Europe, so we bought Interrail passes, which allowed us to travel throughout Europe for one set price.  (Eurail passes are for non-European residents. If you are residents of the EU like we are then you can purchase Interrail passes.)

Another time we went to Disneyland for Halloween. I’m not a Disneyland kind of mom, so this was one of those things I would have never done, but since it was for Halloween, it seemed like a novel idea. We had a blast.

The possibilities are endless. You just need to find unique things to do that match your style, your budget and your interests. We have kids, so this is what we do.

10.) Upgrade yourself and do something life-enriching:

The surest way to break out of your rut is to do something life-enriching. And by the way, just living in France for the sake of living in France is not enough. Trust me.

Use your time in France to do something you’ve always wanted to do but maybe didn’t have the time or inclination.

For me, this blog is my life enriching project. I’ve been running it since 2012. it keeps me busy; I’m always learning and fiddling, and writing, and networking. I answer people’s emails and their questions about living in France. I feel like I’m doing something productive.

My husband wanted to write a book, and so he did.

What can you do? What do you want to do?

Conclusion:

Don’t expect your life to be fulfilling and exciting all the time just because you live in France.

Life can get just as dull in France as it does anywhere else you live if you let it. The key is to adjust your expectations, be proactive and make a conscious effort to get out and live life to the fullest.  At least that’s how it is for me.

Maybe it will be the same for you.


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