I’ve lived here for three years and had forgotten the shock it can be sometimes for people coming to live in France, but I’m witnessing at close hand a friend who has just made the move and how hard it is for them to really adjust. Any suggestions to how I can help, most especially without coming over as a know all! They are really struggling.

There’s so much I could say about this situation. In Les Bons Voisins, I witness at first hand people who have moved to France and immediately start up their business and as a result of seeing their reactions in the first year or two, and wanting to help them, I did some research on the stress levels
resulting!

We forget I think that stress can be caused by “good” events as well as “bad.” It is change in our lives which gives rise to stress and there is test based on the work of mental health experts Thomas H. Holmes and Richard H. Rahe, which helps you identify the sources and amount of stress you encounter in your life. Different events are given a mark according to their life changing effects, from 100 for losing a spouse to 11 for a minor traffic offence. If you score the last year and achieve above a certain level, you have a 90% chance of being ill. Yes, you’ve guessed it – moving over to France takes you to that level, with all the changes resulting.

The one thing not scored on this though, is the fact that to all intents and purposes, we are realising a dream when we come to live in France. Hence the fact that some aspects of the life are hard comes as even more of a shock. I think what would help your friend is simply getting them to acknowledge the fact that they are allowed to feel as though they have been run over by a bus – they really do not have to pretend that every day is perfect.

When I arrived in France in 2002 I felt as though I was caught up in the “emperor’s new clothes” fairy tale where everyone is too scared to say – he’s naked. No-one seemed to be prepared to say out loud that relocating to France was hard, tiring, and sometimes dare I say even disappointing. If only I had had someone who had said: it is all of those – it’s not easy – persevere and you will find it so
worthwhile!

Well as you all know, I did persevere and I love it: BUT (although with a terrible accent) I can talk French all day if I need to, I am resigned to shops closing at mid-day, I know I shall sometimes take five times as long to achieve a simple task because I am a foreigner (and always will be) and even this week when I am selling my house and my notaire has taken a week’s holiday, I am fully aware that my file will sit on his desk until his return without any action. Gosh, I’m nearly French!

If any of you would like to study the scoring system in more detail, look here.

And remember – at the end of the day, it really is worthwhile: in the meantime, be kind to
yourselves and don’t expect la vie en rose – well, not overnight anyway.

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