Moving to France
The land of Bonaparte and croissants still has a romantic feel amid the hustle and bustle of the big city Paris. If you're moving to France
, you can be sure of a life filled with fine wine and the helpful words of friendly Frenchmen.
The French Republic is made up of 22 metropolitan regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corsica) and 4 overseas regions and is subdivided into 96 metropolitan departments and 4 overseas departments; France has 12 dependent areas, including claims to Antarctica (not recognized by US).
France is a founding member of the European Union and the monetary unit is the Euro.
France's ancient culture originally began with Greek colonization along the Mediterranean coast and later an important cultural and commercial center of the ancient world, with the inclusion of Gaul into the Roman Empire. Northern barbarian tribes overtook Roman rule and poverty and ignorance reigned.
In the mid 18th century Louis XVI was at the helm of power. The court and upper classes lived lavishly while the lower class population existed in mean poverty conditions, the bourgeoisie continually insisted to assert their voice in government, all eventually bringing on the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.
Colonial expansion took place during the 19th century and positioned France high in world affairs. They attained possessions in North and West Africa and Indochina and began to develop in the arts and sciences, and to become an industrialized power. However, from a political standpoint France suffered many life losses and the Second Empire was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. During the era of The Third Republic (1871-1914) France regained status as a world power.
The depression of the 1930's and then World War I weakened France immensely, and in World War II France was defeated severely by Germany who took occupation of northern France. General Charles de Gaulle assembled the Free French forces to help the Allies, and after the liberation of Paris the Fourth French Republic was established. Postwar issues were dealt with, including introduction of social reforms and calls for decolonization of the French empire.
The Fifth Republic with Charles de Gaulle as President was created in 1958 following the troubles caused by the Algerian War, and the new constitution gave the President powers to decide on a wide scope of internal and foreign issues, which is still the case today.
Geography and Climate
France is the largest country in Western Europe and borders with Spain, Andorra, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Monaco.
The terrain is largely flat plains or gently sloping hills in the north and west, and mountainous areas, especially the Pyrenees Mountains in the south and the legendary Alps in the east, creating elevation extremes ranging from only 2 meters at the lowest point (Rhone River delta) and up to 4,807 meters at the highest point (Mont Blanc). The variety of landscapes are fascinating, ranging from Sandstone rocks with beautiful shapes and green valleys at the Regional nature park of the Northern Vosges; vineyards in the Jurancon hills greeting the Pyrenees mountains; alpine paths, forests, oceans and long sandy beaches.
Along the Atlantic coastline from the Loire to the Basque region the weather is fairly mild with rainfall all year round and sunny, hot summers, and such are common along the Mediterranean coastline regions on the Riviera and in Provence. Most of the mountainous areas are cool with heavy winter snowfall. Auvergne, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley experience a continental climate with very strong winds occurring throughout the region. Brittany in the north-west has higher rainfall. The weather in the French Alps is inconsistent and the Pyrenees along the Spanish border are well-known for their sunshine.
People and Culture
Before taking the big step of packing up and starting a new life elsewhere, it is necessary to check out important issues that can make or break your relocation plans. France is a French-speaking country and it is important to acknowledge that fact from the word go. The French take tremendous pride in their language and culture are not willing to compromise it. In order to socialize and feel comfortable in your new workplace, at school or university, and even in day-to-day life, it would be a good idea to take the time to learn the basics of this language before settling in France. In order to succeed and enjoy France and its' people, be informed of the different aspects of their cultural customs and formalities in their various walks of life. The French's social mannerisms are far more reserved compared to some more outgoing English-speaking cultures. For instance, when greeting a work colleague or a person you are not well acquainted with it is customary to shake hands, and not kiss or call out 'hi'; a kiss is a gesture reserved for a close friend or family. These sensibilities are important to respect and will make for a smoother transition and better understanding of your new neighbors.
France and outstanding wine and cuisine go together hand in hand. You can celebrate the wonderful gourmet dishes on offer at country inns and big city restaurants, or taste the wines of the world's number one producer in the many wine regions around the land. The selection is high in quality and variety - a flavor for every palette.
Over the past twenty years, the French have increasingly been reviving the art of gardening and restoration of many historic gardens by matching their style to the style of the chateaux and monuments. This has become quite a lively trend with exhibitions and festivals in the season.
The many art treasures of France are exhibited in the wonderful museums and heritage sites around the country such as the famous Louvre museum in Paris. The diversity of cultural themes including arts and music, national holidays and sports are celebrated annually in the form of outdoor festivals, concerts and large events which draw crowds of both locals and foreigners.
The newly elected Nicolas Sarkozy of the Right wing party the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) took up office on May 16, 2007 for a five-year term. President Sarkozy has inherited a challenging economic situation. Unemployment runs at a rate of 8.7 percent. There has been recent rioting among young minorities protesting their high unemployment and limited work opportunities. Even France's per capita GDP has slumped from seventh in the world down to seventeenth.
Sarkozy's political platform is designed to implement plans to overhaul the system by various measures such as a shorter work-week, enhanced productivity, training of unskilled youth, which will hopefully provide them with work and lower the crime rate in the immigrant suburbs. He also plans to introduce tax reforms which should boost the construction industry, and various reforms to encourage entrepreneurs to allow the growth of small and mid-sized companies to match that of France's world-class companies which have continued to be prosperous.
While this ambitious economic agenda is still unproven, the policies being promulgated represent significant shifts from previous economic policies and may be just the medicine needed to jumpstart the weak French economy.
Key sectors in France's economy and industry are aerospace, nuclear power, tourism, food, wine and the production of luxury goods. It is the fourth largest producer of cars in the world (Renault, Peugeot, Citroen) and the third largest exporter. France has a very strong export market and many success multi-national companies. The economy is open to international trade; mainly importing from Germany, Italy and Belgium and exporting to Germany, Spain and Italy. Economic growth has been small and the IMF forecasts a modest 2.3% GDP in 2007.
The infrastructure in France is a highly modernized network of communication. Roads, rail, air and waterways serve the country's import/export and private transportation requirements, linking vast areas in France and providing advanced trans-European link-ups. The rail network incorporates efficiency and safety with its TGV high-speed train that serves 150 towns throughout France and brings travelers to their destination in comfort and speed. A fourth major TGV route is expected to open in 2007. Providing a logistic answer for transport to and in other European countries is the high-speed train, Thalys, that links Paris to Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne, as well as the Channel Tunnel which allows shorter passenger and freight travel between France and Great Britain.
Roissy Charles De Gaulle's airport is one of the 10 airports worldwide with the highest rate of annual cargo transport, and is a center for major logistic companies such as FedEx. Toulouse is home to the major Airbus industries that has the world's second largest fleet of commercial airliners.
France's seaports are of great importance to international shipping and Hanover Port is the first port of call for vessels that serve Northern Europe and the last port of call when they leave Europe.
Communication services incorporate a digital telephone network, cable TV and internet. The mail services are quite reliable, though prone to frequent strike action.
Famous People and Places
The Eiffel Tower, located on the Champ de Mars, one of the most recognizable symbols of Paris was erected for the Paris Exposition of 1889. The Tower celebrated 100 years in 1989 with music and fireworks.
Chateau de Versailles was originally a hunting lodge transformed into a great castle by Louis XIV, and later converted into the museum of French History by Louis-Philippe. It has since been restored to its former glory, and visitors come from all over to admire the wonderful gardens and famous Hall of Mirrors.
French singer Edith Piaf, also nicknamed "Little Sparrow", lived a tragic life filled with many trials and tribulations. She was discovered in 1935 by a nightclub owner and went on to become a national and international icon.
Key Living Areas
Paris and the Ile de France
Paris, the Capital and largest city in France is the heart of urban life and an intellectual, academic, cultural and political hub of France. The place for entrepreneurs and business men and women seeking out new financial ventures, for those who want to include cultural aspects and exciting nightlife to the rigors of their daily lives, or just enjoy high fashion shopping sprees and other leisure treats a big city has to offer. Notably, Paris has an open mind-set toward the gay and lesbian community, welcoming them into numerous gay-friendly locations.
Students have a choice of Paris' 13 universities, specialist colleges and the prestigious academies – Grandes Ecoles. Bilingual schools for pre-university level pupils in and around Paris offer parents numerous opportunities for their children.
The options of potential housing vary greatly in price and amenities depending on the particular neighborhoods you choose. As in every big city, especially a modern city like Paris, the downsides include a high population, traffic congestion which contributes to the already existing bad air quality and transport and communication service strikes from time to time. However, Paris and the Ile-de-France are home to many Americans, French and other nationalities and are still considered one of the world’s most enchanting and intriguing cities. Many residents and visitors still marvel at how a bustling modern city such as Paris still balances the historic and the modern so greacefully.
Burgundy and the Rhone Valley
Burgundy is a beautiful area with charming villages only a few hours from Paris. Apart from being a great wine-producing region, fruit farming is a big industry too. The Morvan regional park with rolling hills and lakes offers summer leisure activities, and also in the Burgundy region are the medieval towns of Vezelay and Semur en Auxois. The famous Burgundy canals encircle the region. Geneva, Lyon, Paris and the Alps are within three hours driving distance, five hours drive from the Channel tunnel and the same time from London on the TGV.
The Rhone Valley, like Burgundy also produces great wines and farms fruit and olives. Along the banks of the Rhone River are villages and market towns; Lyon is the only large city in the region and the Alps are not far off from the valley.
Provence and the Côte D'Azur
The Cote D'Azur in the south of France is as it has been for many years - a chic and expensive playground. The towns, villages and beaches sandwiched between the Alps and the Mediterranean host a multinational population. The less expensive Provence is a popular living location for many Americans and a center for foreign university students. The Durance river is great for summer boating and in winter skiing down slopes of the Maritime Alps.
Fun French Facts
Over 500 different cheeses can be tasted throughout France; Brie from Meaux, Roquefort from Larzac region in Aveyron or Camembert from Normandy, each region with its own specialty.
There are 17 wine regions in France, among them are Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. Appellation d'Origine Controllee (AOC) performs strict tests to maintain and ensure high quality requirements of the various wines.
Did you know that the word 'Chauvinism' comes from Nicola Chauvin, a soldier in Napoleon's army who was fanatically loyal to his emperor? or that a "French kiss" is known as an "English kiss" in France?
Work and visa permits: http://www.workpermit.com/france/france.htm
Health insurance: http://www.frenchentree.com/fe-health/
Residence and French tax: http://www.frenchentree.com/fe-legal/
Driving and license: http://www.ambafrance-us.org/visitingfrance/driving.asp