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How To Get By In France When You Don’t Speak French

But, Wait, Aren’t The French Rude To Americans?

“Do you speak English?”

Approach a French person with those words and one of two things may happen:

  • You get an answer—only it’s in rapid French and you’re left none the wiser…
  • You find yourself completely ignored (and just want to pack your bags for home).

Here’s what’s really going on…

Even if they speak little to no English, most French people will understand exactly what you’ve just asked.

But they will only come to your aid as long as you play by their rules.

As French jurist Jean Taquet explained to our audience gathered in Paris last week, you’ve got to make the person believe you feel that his help is needed—that he has some inner knowledge you don’t possess. Then he’ll be only too happy to help any way he can.

So, to initiate a conversation in English with a French person, the magic words are:

Parlez-vous anglais? 

Now you’re in.

Start that question with an Excusez-moi… and add on a madame or monsieur… and you may just get the royal treatment.

Understanding local etiquette is what can make or break your French experience. And getting to grips with these social nuances was a big part of the conversation at our Live and Invest in France Conference last week.

The one thing that will help your chances of having a great experience in France—more than anywhere in the world—is a sense of humor. And we had plenty of that in the room last week, too.

Jen Rowell-Gastard from Renestance shared a Belgian joke that gets to the root of the problem:

“After God created France, he thought it was the most beautiful country in the world. People were going to get jealous, so, to make things fair, he decided to create the French.”

As a native French person, this whole conversation last week was truly an eye-opener.

On one hand, I loved being one of the local experts on the ground. After we’d wrapped up the first day, I was able to lead our attendees to Au Loup—one of my favorite wine and cheese bars in Paris—for our welcome cocktail party…

On the other hand, I never appreciated how different the world I came from is to the world of the new expat in France.

Or, rather, the uninitiated expat…

You have challenges, yes. But with the right preparation—and insider knowledge from the experts and expats who have gone before you—you can more easily break through the social and language barriers and start to enjoy the best of French living…

This first Live and Invest in France Conference last week was a huge success… and it was a privilege to meet a diverse bunch of readers, all on a mission to make a new life in France.

If you weren’t with us in person, the good news is that we have it all on tape… and are preparing for the release of our first-ever Live and Invest in France Home Conference Kit soon.

In it, you’ll find 30 presentations fresh from the event, including:

  • The best way to get the best deal on a rental or purchase in Paris and across France
  • Your best options for health insurance in France…
  • How to open a bank account, for yourself or your business…
  • The top residency visa options… and how to obtain them…
  • Several itemized budgets for day-to-day living, for those with budgets big and small…
  • Terms for borrowing locally for the purchase of real estate…
  • How to understand, plan for, manage, and mitigate your tax obligations and burdens in France…
  • Real-life tales of success from expats already living and doing business in this top emerging retirement and investment haven…

Plus all those jokes about the French… and my own presentation on Normandy where I lived for many years. (I was surprised and pleased to see how eager our crowd was to hear about our recommendations for living or retiring outside the sought-after City of Light.)

À la prochaine…

Valentine Fouché

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