Things I’m Doing Wrong As An Expat In France

Posted on 13. Mar, 2013 by in Europe Travel, expat France, France

Anniversaries, whatever the kind, are always a good time to sit back and reflect, reassess the choices we’ve made. What other purpose would they serve, other than be a perfect excuse to buy cake?

And as my two year expaniversary (yes, I just made that up) in France approaches, I can’t help but look back on these two years. What have I learned from this lifestyle, how can I improve, what do I want to change? Yada, yada, yada. And you know what? I realized that I’ve been doing it wrong all along.

Quite simply put, I haven’t tried hard enough.

Yes, I realize it now - it couldn’t go any other way than wrong. Anyone who’s met me knows that I’ve been ambivalent about this expat in France project, and only now do I understand that it was never France’s fault (ok, a little bit - it’s still one hell of a complicated country), but it was my own fault.

What have I been doing wrong, you ask?

One-stop grocery runs

I was never a patient person. I like to get things done quickly, and as efficiently as possible. And in North America, that works out pretty well. Naturally, I’ve tried to do the same here, by opting for supercentres instead of quaint, family-owned shops. And it’s not even about the money - I don’t need supersavings. I just can’t be arsed by grocery shopping.

But then I walk past a delicious smelling boulangerie, an equally-odorant-but-not-quite-as-compelling cheese shop or even an organic mini-grocery, and I feel guilty, and ashamed. I should be visiting these stores on a daily basis as if they were epicurean temples, which, in a way, they are. The entire world gushes about French food and products, and yet I ignore almost all of them for the sake of efficiency.

I vow to now make more stops at these businesses, and enjoy taking the time to do my groceries with fresh, local products as often as possible. And make every single one of you jealous with my finds!

Not drinking enough

That is not a typo!

I’ve only started appreciating wine in the last few years, and it has yet to become a regular indulgence. I always believed that alcoholic drinks should be kept for a party, or a special occasion. And that’s sort of against the law in France, from what I gather. A glass of red every night is pretty much mandatory, and going around this just makes me an overall very weird person, apparently.

Not appreciating my city enough

Well, I don’t think I can actually be blamed for this one.

The problem with where I live, which is Clermont-Ferrand in central France, is that, quite frankly, it’s pretty fucking boring. There really isn’t all that much to do. It’s a really great city for spontaneous hikes on the weekends, but we all know that I am not that person. I’d much rather put my ballet flats on, go catch the latest museum exhibit in town, and have coffee in said museum café.

Whether I will actually go out there and explore every square inch of my city remains to be seen - I think I’m well passed the point of recovery on this one. Take me to Paris, please!

Working too much

I’ve written about this before - there is no such thing as a vacation when you’re a travel blogger. Especially when you also have to be a copywriter, translator and proofreader on the side to make a few extra bucks.

On the road or at home, the workload is always there - being a blogger means I get to wear many different hats, which is awesome on the professional accomplishment level, but not so much for my schedule. Having my work station in my living room doesn’t make it easy to disconnect. I constantly have my workspace in sight, and therefore a small part of me feels like I should be working. There are always so many things to do!

I need to hone my time management skills in order to be more efficient, spend less time behind my computer writing articles about spending less time behind my computer, and live the expat life a little more. Which brings me to my next point.

Not having enough French friends

Remember the graphic about social life, good grades and enough sleep that went around the Interwebs a few months ago? Well, as it turns out, it’s also true for me.

Between work and sleep, there is little room left for social mundanities.

That’s perhaps what I want to work on the most, because I definitely see a pattern from my London experience 4 years ago. I really am stuck in my ways, aren’t I! All work + no play = not enough memories. Maybe that would be the perfect occasion to kill two birds with one stone - hang out with more of my French friends, meet their friends AND get used to the daily intake of red wine? Seems like a good excuse.


That’s a long list of things I have to work on.

Living as an expat in France, of even any country really, requires dedication, open-mindedness and curiosity. I have these traits - now I just need to put them in motion, and apply them to my daily life in what is an otherwise pretty extraordinary country.

Let’s see next year if I’ve held my promise.

Have you also faced these problems as an expat? If not, how has your experience differed?


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18 Responses to “Things I’m Doing Wrong As An Expat In France”

  1. Alison

    13. Mar, 2013

    Great post! It’s really so hard to find a balance between maximizing your time as an expat and just living life. Between work, housework, family etc. it’s easy to brush off sightseeing and making new friends. After all (despite what our friends back home may think) we’re living life; we’re not on vacation, just because we’re in a different country. After 8 years of this life, I can honestly say it enriched me so much once I started getting out and meeting people (both Belgian and international) and exploring my adopted country, instead of always opting to travel to other countries.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      14. Mar, 2013

      Glad you can relate, Alison! Indeed, living the expat life isn’t a vacation. It’s a regular life, just in another country. Still have bills to pay and groceries to do ;)

      Reply to this comment
  2. Ali Berlinski

    13. Mar, 2013

    Awesome post. I feel the same. It was different when I first arrived to Spain, but now that I’ve been here a while I’ve noticed that I’ve been exploring less. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      14. Mar, 2013

      When you live abroad it’s so much easier to travel to other places instead of discovering your own city - especially in Europe!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Aggy

    13. Mar, 2013

    Completely understand you, this was what I was going through living in France for a year. I hope you will accomplish those missions, I wish I could go back and do them now!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Turtle

    14. Mar, 2013

    Eating better food and drinking more wine… hmmm… you’ve really set yourself a tough challenge there, haven’t you? :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      14. Mar, 2013

      I know, right? I think I may have put the bar too high. It will surely end up in sore disappointment. :)

      Reply to this comment
  5. James

    14. Mar, 2013

    I’ve just spent the last nine months living in France (mainly house sitting) and can relate to this a lot. Well except for the drinking bit that is. I’ve aced that!

    I think you have to get stuck into an activity or hobby when you move to France (check your local mairie for a list of ‘associations’). A lot of French people, especially in smaller towns, don’t seem to venture outside of their homes unless it’s organised so find your nearest yoga club, book club - whatever it is you’re into. If I was living in a more central location (I’m way out in the sticks) I would also have joined onvasortir, the French equiv of

    It’s not the easiest country to integrate into and being a freelancer and thus not having a job in which to meet people makes this even more challenging. Good luck with the croissant eating though!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      18. Mar, 2013

      Glad you can relate to my issues, James! Hopefully we can sort some of them :)

      Reply to this comment
  6. Jenna

    19. Mar, 2013

    I used to live in the Czech Republic as an expat, and I came home with some regrets. It’s hard to do everything, no matter where we live, but hey, living in France sounds pretty nice even if you are working a lot and your town is boring. At least you can travel to lots of amazing places. :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      20. Mar, 2013

      Glad to see you can relate - and yes, it’s a good thing there’s lots of travel involved!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Andi

    03. Apr, 2013

    I’ve never been an expat, but I could definitely myself having the same problems if I lived abroad. Definitely drink more! ;-)

    Reply to this comment
  8. Diane

    13. Apr, 2013

    Hi there, I can totally identify with this. It’s not all croissants and wine and happy unicorns. Once the honeymoon period wears off, France is like any other place with its own set of ups and downs. I like living here a lot, but what I bring to it is ultimately what I’ll get out of it. So I’m glad you have some new priorities there. Yay for drinking more! I’m all about the wine now too! xx

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      15. Apr, 2013

      Glad you can relate! Expat life is definitely not just happy unicorns.

      Reply to this comment
  9. Will

    19. Jan, 2014

    Hi there, I enjoyed every bit of this post. Found so much of my own experience in your words. I am a French expat in Australia, been here 2 years now and still feel I haven’t done half of the things I wanted.
    The bucket list is definetely the right tool to use in this kind of life, keeps us on tracks to achieve our goals.
    I won’t reveal big secrets but in order to meet new people, night life (Clermont-ferrand is pretty quiet I must admit), sport’s club or associations are the best. You can also try this website, it might help:
    Stick to a glass of red a day, it will keep the doctor away!
    Love your blog, keep up the good work!

    Reply to this comment


  1. Traveler Tuesday - Marie of Eurotrip Tips - Misadventures with Andi - April 2, 2013

    [...] I have only recently met Marie through my AFAR Ambassador activities, but I already adore her blog, Eurotrip Tips!  She has Europe as her backyard and takes advantage of it via travels and tales of some of the most beautiful and interesting spots on the continent. She shares her adventures and misadventures as an expat, I found a lot of myself in her recent post, “Things I’m Doing Wrong As An Expat.” [...]

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