Sunday, October 5, 2014

The miserable life of an expat wife

This post is the hindsight from 1 1/2 years living and finding a white collar job in Paris.


Administration was never my cup of tea. Moving abroad involves a lot of hurdle concerning paperwork, you need to arm yourself with patience. As far as I'm concerned, my situation is not yet regularized. Here are the main difficulties (in no particular order) I've been dealing with:

-finding an employee from the French administration who can speak and explain you in understandable English is rare. Fortunately, French is my mother tongue but I serve as translator for my husband and friends whose mother tongue is not French. Even though sometimes I found myself lost in their explanation
-able to sustain tremendous amount of back/forth and long waiting hours to explain your situation on the phone or at their office
-always bring along all your important paper (past and present + at least 3 copies) with you because there's always a paper that missing, even so prior to your future back/forth travel you called to check which paper is required 


With the rising unemployment rate and a stagnant French economy, I won't advise anyone to come in Paris to work unless you possess skills/knowledge and work experience to do the job that a French person can't do. I suggest find a job before moving to Paris.

Changing careers is extremely difficult. It is expected to graduate (preferably from top 3 French Business Schools), to do internship in top French or international companies and making your way up in this circle. 
Networking is crucial. You won't get far if you don't know someone who knows someone who can get you talk to another someone ….
The more frustrating of all, showing potential or diversity or "think outside the box" aren't part from French vocabulary. Applying for a job and getting the job means you fit the French mould: one way of thinking, one way of communicating, one to fit all. 
Yes, there are many international companies and many foreigners working in Paris and France. Nevertheless, the recruitment process is done by French people for French people. Of course, unless you possess any skills/work experiences that a French person doesn't have. 

Around me, I hear friends talking about those people who get promoted but are not qualified for it or business running inefficiently. I get more frustrated, I'm surely not the best but I'm capable to get things moving and done (being my own boss and founding many associations). 

Pole-emploi (French unemployment office) is useless!!! 
I've been appointed a supervisor, she is more interested in filling her report about your job search rather than effectively helping you. For example: she read 2 job ads (which are related to finance, 1 required 10+ years experience in a particular field and the other is on the Board which I don't have the experience and I'm not qualified or even studied anything related to management on the BoD level). She put in the report, she suggests 2 jobs which I refused.
She suggests a couple of other ideas, that I already used : I consider to get less demanding job or to get back to school but would it eventually guarantee me a job ? NO!!
I asked her to have some kind of advice/facts/habits&customs about the French job market, at which she responded I expected too much. What the F*** is that answer!


Social relationship and friendship are challenging. Making friends and/or get accepted take time, even longer if you do not speak french. 
As living abroad, there are cultural and linguistic barriers. Many friends of mine (who are living in France for 10 years+) don't have French friends. One of my friend whose poor French makes her an outcast. She said to me they look at me from head to toe and throw me a condescending look each time
Many or all French people keep childhood friends from back home or from school years, they already have their circle of friends. Friendship is not a question of quantity but quality! Moreover, making friends tends to go deeper and more sincere, not the easy and shallow friendship concept. Nevertheless, once you got in, it is for life. You live a strong friendship and you are considered as part of the family.
I read Sarah Turnbull's book where she describes her relationship with the French. I don't really recognize myself in the book but she surely points relevant facts about relationship with French people: warm and sincere wrapped up into cold and snooty shell.
For my part, I don't have any difficulties talking and making friends (expats, French or a mixed) through my children's school and throughout my social/sport activities. 


I don't say everyone is like that, it is my general feeling after 1 1/2 years living in France. Of course, it takes time to settle in, life is a sum of ups and downs. But I'm having a hard time to get out of the down part : I put aside my career … myself to allow my children and husband to grow. Now I want to get back to work and I get it full blow in the face : I'm OUT (of the game)!  Despite my attempts to get in, I get constantly rejected. Any advice?