Questions From Our Readers


La Caisse des dépôts, Paris, France

Diane writes: 

Several years ago, I had toyed around with the idea of relocating to France (or someplace in Europe). Just last week, I stumbled upon your good book . Someone from one of the ‘expat’ blogs mentioned it. I’m glad that I’m reading this amazing tome. I got a little depressed after reading the chapter on WW2. Though I know that this era is important for any number of reasons, I’d no idea of how important it is to the French. Your book highlights so many things of which I had been completely clueless. Now, in light of some recent horrible events in Toulouse, France, I’m reminded about that WW2 chapter in your book.

I think that things are different in France than in the 60s or before that. Is there more anti-foreigner sentiment? I wanted to try to situate myself in Aix-en-Provence (or somewhere in the Languedoc-Rousillon area, but is Paris a better option)?  How can a regular person afford Paris, France?

Julie answers:

Hello Diane,

This is really the best kind of letter an author can hope for from a reader, from someone whose ideas have changed and someone who really takes our writing to heart.

To answer your questions quickly: There’s anti-foreigner sentiment in every country, in certain segments of society. My experience living and traveling in a number of countries is that France is no different than elsewhere. We met and became friends with unbelievably generous French people who literally opened their homes to us. We also met people who didn’t like foreigners. Fortunately, the latter were much, much rarer, as they are in every country (and I lived in the U.S.).

How can an ordinary person afford France? Well, France is full of ordinary people who make ends meet. The trick is not living like a tourist, but figuring out how the French spend their money, how they save. The French are very thrifty. Sure they have a huge luxury products industry, but much of that is for export. Take your tips from the locals (so it will help if you speak French!).

My conclusion from moving around is that even if everything doesn’t work out as you dream (and it rarely does), you’ll never regret having tried…

Best of luck,