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Interview with Dedene N – an American expat in France

Updated 8 Feb 2010

Dedene Nelson-Court lives in central France between Orléans and Gien near the Loire River and Sully-sur-Loire. She grew up in Oregon and moved all over the U.S. before finally settling in France in 1989. Dedene says she came for work, and stayed for love.

Read more about the country in the Expat Arrivals expat guide to France or read more expat experiences in France

About Dedene

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I grew up in Oregon on the West Coast of the US. The last place I lived in the US was just outside of Boston, Mass., USA.

Q: Where are you living now?
A: In a very small village about 45 minutes east of Orléans, France. About 1 and a 1/2 hours south of Paris.

Q: How long you have you lived here?
A: I’ve lived in France since February 1989. I’ve lived here in the country since 1997.

Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: Yes, I am married to a French man.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved to France following my job at the time. I worked in the IT industry in International Marketing.

About France

Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life?
A: Well, I absolutely loved Paris! It is the best place for a young, single person who’s earning a good salary.

In the countryside, it’s quiet and calm and a nice place to focus on your private life.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Shopping, good clothes for not too expensive. Also, I miss peanut butter.

Q: Is France safe?
A: Paris was, but it depends on the neighbourhood. I’d be a bit more careful now, however. The country couldn’t be any safer.

Q: Which are the best places to live in France as an expat?
A: If you are single and working a lot, live in a metropolitan area where there are many amenities making your life easier.

If you have a family with you, live in the suburbs so that you can find more space for a house and room for your children to play in.

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in France?
A: Paris apartments are small, cramped, and overpriced. But you’re in Paris! Outside of Paris in the suburbs, housing is still expensive but more reasonable than right in the city. In the countryside, cost of housing is comparable with most American areas.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I mix only with local people. I know a couple of old-timer expats, but they’ve been here as long as I have, so we don’t really consider each other expats any more.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: In Paris or other big cities, NO. The French are very curious about expats, but they are reserved and will not make you their best friend. If you’re lucky, you might get invited to their homes, but don’t be offended if you don’t. Be friendly and humble.

About working in France

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: No, but my company got my work papers for me. After that, I got my own Carte de Residente (10-year card) and then my own citizenship.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A: In Paris, there’s always something you can do. However, if you come over with no pre-established working papers or job, you’ll not find anything except illegal employment.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: If you’re in a French company, people are sexist, and very egoistic. Women rarely get promotions and are still paid about 25% less than a man for the same job.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: My furniture got moved by a moving company. But I didn’t get any real help other than that.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in France?
A: French social security is the best in the world. If you are on the French system, you’ll never want to come off of it! Just about everything is paid for, and what’s not tends to be reasonably priced.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: First priority, learn the language!!! The better you can speak French, the faster and easier you will adapt.

~ Interviewed February 2010

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