10 Reasons why expat life in France is like a box of chocolates

By: Diane

The expat experience is deeply personal and different for every single person who leaves the comforts of home to embark on a new life abroad. Sometimes life in France is eye opening and inspiring and other times it’s frustrating and lonely. For me, being an expat in France can be compared to a box of chocolates. Yes, really. Here’s why:

1.    You never know what you’re going to get!

To start off, Forrest Gump says it all with his quote about life that completely sums up life as an expat in France: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” And of course, one can say that in life, nothing is a sure thing and we really never know, but I feel like this quote rings true even more for expats. Living in a faraway place, even if you’ve been there for years, makes you more finely attuned to details that maybe you’d never notice in your home country. Sometimes things will go according to plan in France, but other times, nothing could be further from the truth. Take for example a routine trip to the doctor. Not knowing how things work here, I was a little surprised that upon entering the waiting room, all the other patients greeted me. Then the doctor came to get me himself (no nurse) and he was in plain clothes and not a white coat. Upon picking up my prescription from the pharmacy, the pharmacist decided to mention that the cream I was prescribed for a burn could also be used on my vagina! SAY WHAT?? You can check out my blog for more on that story. France keeps me on my toes and I like it that way!

2.    There’s variety and something for everyone.

While France is larger than some of its neighbors, it’s still easy to get around and visit the diverse regions with their own food specialties and attractions. History buffs can head up to Normandy’s Omaha Beach and visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial; wine lovers can have their pick of wineries and wine tours in the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and beyond; city lovers and romantics can head to Paris for an unforgettable time in one of the world’s most beautiful metropolises; and foodies will be in their glory because France is a culinary paradise everywhere you turn. Not bad for a country roughly the size of Texas!

3.    You won’t like everything you try, so you’ll put it back to try something else – and other chocolates will surprise you.

We’re all guilty of taking a bite of an interesting chocolate and then sneaking it back into the box when no one is looking after realizing looks were deceiving. To thrive in France and integrate into French culture, it’s imperative that you take risks. Participate in a variety of activities until you find your groove! I firmly believe that as an expat, it’s important to put yourself out there and attempt to speak French, try to meet people and get involved with what’s going on in your neighborhood even if you take baby steps. I always remind myself that nothing worth doing is ever easy. And if that French cooking class isn’t for you, maybe that poetry club or cycling group will be. Even if you’re not naturally adventurous, taking risks that you’re comfortable with -- in terms of language, food, being social and more – is important because doing the same old thing is boring and won’t enrich you at all. By trying new things, you’ll find out what you like and don’t like in your new home. And just like that box of chocolates, fun surprises are sure to pop up here and there!

4.    If you’re careless, everything will melt.

France’s bureaucracy can be maddening and when it’s time to renew your residency card or visa, it’s best to be prepared with all your documents and paperwork well ahead of time (even documents you don’t think you’ll need). And don’t forget copies of everything! If you’re careless with seemingly simple stuff as an expat in France, you might be in for a surprise and it won’t be pretty.

5.    If you indulge too much, you’ll get sick.

When arriving in France, it’s easy to fall in love with the culinary delights. The rich pastries and wine and cheese look too good to resist and it’s only natural to sample them all. But going overboard on the food and drink will just leave you wishing you stopped hours ago. Listen to your body!

6.    Sometimes it’s expensive but you can find something in your budget.

France can be really expensive when it comes to gas and tolls, clothes and just the cost of living. But like chocolates, there’s a wide variety of just about everything in France. Housing, shopping, food and more…. France has something for everyone at every price point. Living in the countryside can be quite affordable if you’re working with a small budget and if you have a ton of money to spend, a luxury lifestyle awaits you. Live within your means and you’ll be fine. Budgets are your friend! And remember: Wine, baguettes and Brie are all cheap!

7.    Sometimes it’s just too sweet and you never want another chocolate again.

Sometimes being in France is just too much to bear. Too many cultural differences, too many bureaucratic hurdles and too much French being spoken everywhere you turn. You swear off leaving your house. You say you’re done. And then it’s suddenly tomorrow and you awake feeling energized and refreshed and ready to face the day.

8.    When you don’t have any chocolate left, you crave it.

It’s not all butterflies and rainbows in France all the time and any expat will tell you that. But when your time as an expat in France is up and you return home, all you’ll want is a warm, buttery croissant and some creamy Brie. And those cravings hit hard!

9.    Sometimes the prettiest chocolates aren’t the ones that taste the best.

France has an air of sophistication and anyone who’s visited Paris will confirm that. From styles of dress to food to the overall atmosphere, Paris is really posh. But you don’t have to get caught up in the “scene” to enjoy yourself. A leisurely stroll through Jardin des Tuileries is free and there are breathtaking sights all over France if you just open your eyes. The Calanques in Marseille are worth a trip and the rugged Brittany Coast is one of my favorite places to visit. I say don’t listen to the hype and do find your own little piece of France to treasure. Only seeking out the “pretty” things might leave you disappointed.

10.    Having a big box of chocolates makes you want to share with others. Because eating the whole box yourself is just sad.

A delicious box of chocolates makes you everyone’s favorite person and you’ll want to share with others. As an expat blogger in France, I really enjoy sharing my experience with others including other expats, Francophiles and those just looking for entertainment. Blogging about my life in France has introduced me to a bunch of people around the world who I never would have otherwise met. And my number one person to share with is my French husband, Tom. He’s the reason I’m here and the reason why I love the country I now call home. Life is sweet any way you look at it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingDiane is an American expat living in France. Blog description: Oui In France: Musings on life in France, my dog and everything else... takes a look at expat life from the Loire Valley.
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Contest Comments » There are 30 comments

Carolina Rivera wrote 10 years ago:

Diane, you are so inspiring with your blog and it's so well and cleverly written that it's so easy to follow and fun! I love catching up through your blog and your posts are always so interesting! love this one as well ;)

Cathy Henton wrote 10 years ago:

Love the blog Diane because you always have a great blend of humour and truth. You always write about the positives and the negatives that come with being an expat and you often make me laugh out loud as I recognize situations I have been in just like you.

Shannon Willoby wrote 10 years ago:

You had me at "wine, baguettes, and Brie are all cheap..." Love the clever insights you give to life in France, both the good and the bad!

Allie Maltese wrote 10 years ago:

France is one of the most amazing places I've ever visited and when I read Diane's thoughtful and inspiring blog, it transports me right back. Keep up the great posts, Diane! xo

Cotineau wrote 10 years ago:

Très bon blog! A partir de tes yeux d'Américaine, j'ai découvert des choses qui me paraissait si naturel et si banal à mes yeux de Française que je ne m'en apercevait même pas!!! Je regarde des chose plus du tous de la même manière après avoir lui tes post!! Continues comme ça!

Tom wrote 10 years ago:

Je suis très fier de tout le travail que tu fais sur ton blog, je sais que tu y attache beaucoup d'importance. Et ce que j'apprécie particulièrement c'est qu'au travers de tes posts, tu soulignes tous les aspects de la vie d'expatrié en France, les bonnes surprises et les moins bonnes, tout ce qui fait le charme de cette vie si particulière ! Je pense aussi que c'est une très bonne source d'info pour les personnes qui souhaiteraient se lancer dans l'aventure. Keep up the good work !

Mike (Nomadic Texan) wrote 10 years ago:

Diane, I look forward to your posts and have never been to France. I am living vicariously through your blog and don't know what I would do without it! Please write more! Thanks. Mike

Laur wrote 10 years ago:

As a die-hard and self-proclaimed chocoholic I find the article refreshing and easy to relate to! I love the blogposts and it always awards me an escape from the sometimes mundane side of my desk - keep up the brilliant work Diane, you inspire and entertain through your words without fail!

CaptainMarty wrote 10 years ago:

I have been to France a couple of times and can vouch for the great variety. Normandy and Omaha Beach were overwhelming but something I needed to see as my father came ashore there in June,1944. Paris is magnificent and full of beautiful things to see. The vineyards of the Loire Valley and Provence are the best and please don't forget the olive oil. I love France and chocolate too, so your comparison was right on. Thanks for the great article. Joyeux Noel!

Kathryn Mauer wrote 10 years ago:

It sounds like I need to make a trip to France!

Tracy G. wrote 10 years ago:

Your stories make me laugh out loud. You remind me that there is life outside the corporate office, we just need to go for it. Keep it up.

Alan Mentzer wrote 10 years ago:

Diane, I really relate to your discovers and trials as an expat. Liking the Tom Tuesdays and all the everyday discoveries. Wonderful writing.

Linda Saslow wrote 10 years ago:

Love your blog! Great insights well written!! Always love reading about your adventures.

Cindy Passehl wrote 10 years ago:

Sounds like France is a wonderful place to live and visit. Maybe some day I will be able to see all the wonderful places.

Samantha wrote 10 years ago:

I love this! What a different perspective on expat life and love the fact it's compared to chocolate. I really enjoy reading your blog, keep it up! :)

Dana wrote 10 years ago:

Diane, As a fellow expat in France and Francophile, I have always been a great fan of your blog! It's been great these past couple of months connecting a bit more. This post is great and uses an amazing metaphor to describe the love/hate of the magnificent country that is France! Diane definitely deserves this reward!

Cynthia Greer wrote 10 years ago:

Je trouve qur ton blog est très instructif et très interéssant! À mon avis tu as beaucoup de talent en écriture et j'apprécie la vérité de ton écriture. Toutes mes félicitations et Bonne continuation!

Chris wrote 10 years ago:

I love reading Diane's blog. Each post is really interesting and she has great ideas on how to keep things fresh -- like "Ask Tom Tuesdays". That series adds a nice twist to the blog, She writes from the heart and has a way of telling a story that makes the reader really feel her experiences. I still find myself smiling when I think of the post about strange sounds French people make. That one even found its way to a French radio station! Diane definitely deserves this award!

France DONATE wrote 10 years ago:

It's really helpful to read your blog for me, the same exact opposite then you, I'm a French expat in The USA, and my box of chocolates is an open box of surprise every day....! So your blog is bathing me with fresh and supportive articles, it really helps me to understand my feelings sometime! I think you deserve this award for many reasons, your blog is a piece of imaginative poetry... Thank you !

Darrell wrote 10 years ago:

Diane, your excellent blogging stories make me laugh and shutter with great memories of my life here in France. You "hit the nail on the head" so often with your stories....making light and laughter of it. You put a perfect mix of humour into your blog that makes it such a pleasure to read! Keep it up....and hey, pass the chocolates...!

Danny wrote 10 years ago:

Amazing job. I now wanna visit! Keep up the great work

Giana wrote 10 years ago:

This is a very fun blog. I enjoy it quite a bit.

David wrote 10 years ago:

Diane, I love your stories. I hope some day soon I will get to travel to France and we can meet up! It'll be great to see you and Tom, it's been a while. AND I hope to finally meet Dagny :)

Meghan Manduke wrote 10 years ago:

I've always wanted to live in Paris which is why I love reading this blog. I've visited twice and Diane is right! The pastries are delicious, the chocolate IS unbeatable and I don't think I'd ever tire of it.

Terri wrote 10 years ago:

Adore your blog and reading about your many adventures in France. Enjoyed reading about how wonderful life can be living there and also in honest insights on how it can be a challenge. Still makes me want to visit.

Captain Awesome wrote 10 years ago:

Cool write up. Hope you win this thing cause you deserve it. Keep up the good work! Cheers

Lindsey Kent wrote 10 years ago:

Diane, I love the way you compare the similarities of chocolate to life as an expat in France! It's so great to follow your blog and your stories...I know I'm not in this alone! And after reading this, I'm on the hunt for some chocolate! :) Bisous!

Jenna wrote 10 years ago:

This is great Diane! I have yet to visit France and now feel inspired to do so! :)

Mike wrote 10 years ago:

Diane! I am always delighted when I get an email saying there is a new post up on your website. I find it always interesting to see how things are going for you and how you see the world around you! I hope only the best for you and can't wait to keep reading for years to come. :) -Mike

Martine wrote 10 years ago:

I enjoy all the funny stories about your life and France and always look forward to new posts. Keep up the good work!

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