Living in France: the experience of a Peruvian girl who lives in the country of croissants, crepes and glamour.
From Peru to living in France
- Basic information: My name is María, I am 29 years old and I’m from Peru.
- How long have you been living in the country? It will be three years in March.
- Why did you move to France? For the quality of life. I’m married, and have a small family. As you will understand, when one becomes a mother, prospects change and, if we compare Peru to France, the quality of life is better in France. Besides, we’ve already lived in Peru so now it’s time to live here.
Procedures for living and working in France
In my case, as I’m married to a Frenchman, I have a family visa. Among the necessary requirements to be able to obtain such a visa, there is the stability of the family member, since they are the person who signs the commitment saying that they will be responsible for you.
Once inside the country you need to make an appointment at “L’Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration” (French Office of Immigration and Integration). Here you have to conduct an interview with the staff explaining why you are in France, confirming your address, your profession and finally you must do a medical examination (it is mandatory; most tests are of basics, just for safety).
Gestión del “Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration”
These talks are to know how the country works (what are its rules, and the rights you have as a foreigner); they explain to you how to ask for a medical consultation, how to rent a flat and above all how to look for a job, as well as reminding you that, regardless of your nationality or origin, if you have children, education is a right and therefore you must enroll your child to the nearest school (otherwise you will have problems for them). Education here is fundamental for minors.
If you want to live in France, you must learn French
When I arrived in France I had a basic knowledge of French (A2). But moving from theory to practice is not easy and even more because they speak really fast, so I did a course to improve my level (my visa requires a B2 knowledge of French).
The same “Office françois de l’immigration et de l’intégration” can guide you towards different language academies. I joined the French alliance of Lille’s (Alliance française de Lille) program.
As for the job search, you can do it on your own or you can apply for help through the Emploi, a training and job search agency.
What are French people like?
I think French people are very quiet, they don’t speak loudly and they don’t make as much noise as we’re used to do in Peru. They are very cultured people (when they’re young, they develop a strong love for reading, especially thanks to the government that provides books in the libraries in each city). That’s amazing. They also talk a lot about politics (a thing that we avoid to talk about in my country).
French people strike a lot for the government to listen to them, they’re not afraid of going out and demonstrating and stop working if necessary to strike and protest. I feel that they are very respected in this aspect; in Peru that’s not very common. Another aspect that shocked me is the fact that they are super organized: meetings between work colleagues, with friends, etc. are planned months in advance. They’re not into the “I’m calling you now to go out for a few beers” philosophy, you can’t really do that here or at least that has been my experience. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been using agendas more than ever.
What is working in France like?
- Let’s talk about job: what differences did you spot from any other country you’ve worked in? The big difference from my country is that English is very required here, in addition to French (although it also depends on the sector you work in).
- What is the minimum wage there? It can vary according to the sector: you can earn from 10 to 60 euros per hour. In France, the SMIC is 10.15 gross or 1539.42 gross per month in 2020.
- How does the working day and holidays in France work? The working day is usually from 7 hours per day to a maximum of 10 hours, but it depends a lot on the sector and the company where you work. Minimum hours per week is 35h. Extra hours are considered as overtime and you can reach a maximum of 48 hours per week. About vacation days, minimum is 2.5 days per month or about 30 days a year, but not all companies apply this holidays system.
- What pages do you recommend to look for a job in France (or where you live)? You can do it face to face by taking your resumé to stores. You can also go to the Pôle Emploi, register and fill out some forms to be called when there is a job offer that matches your CV.
Rentals and cost of living in France
Renting a flat can be a bit tedious, since the French bureaucracy is usually very slow and you usually have to process everything many months in advance. All that can take up to a year or even more, depending on whether you have all your papers in order and where you want to live, according to the type of flat you request.
The rental price can range from 350 euros to more than 1200 euros, depending on the area where you decide to live. It’s important to say that rental prices in France are set by municipalities to prevent any kind of abuse (especially in large cities).
How much does food cost in France?
At least 200 euros per month, but that varies by city. I usually go once a week to the market that settles in my city and buy fresher products from farmers (sellers usually have a permit and their products have to be evaluated in order to be on sale), which helps me to reduce the expense of the monthly purchase.
Pros & cons of France
Talking about economy (outside Paris) living in France can be very pleasant even if the cost of living is more expensive than other European countries. Cultural initiatives and social welfare are a really important part of the programs made by insititutions. However, bureaucracy is excessive, wages have been blocked since the 2000s and the fiscal pressure is really high.
- And for anyone who wants to move to France, any particular advice? A lot of patience, with the language (for me it wasn’t so bad, but for some friends it was a little complicated) and with people (at first they may seem a little serious or not so talkative, but it’s a process, you’re new and they don’t know you, as time goes on they will become friendlier and closer).
Recommendations and upcoming projects
- Would you recommend this country to live in? Of course. Nothing is easy at the beginning, there will always be ups and downs. Everything depends on your attitude and how you manage to adapt to changes.
- Do you plan to live there for a long period? Yes, this country has become my second home. I like the intensity of the seasons, I like that you can safely walk through the streets, I feel safe. Besides, my family is here.
In short, France is an excellent country to live in: it offers competitive wages and a lot of social and cultural support to its citizens. To move there you only need a good level of French, move around with agendas and love croissants.
Interview conducted in December 2020 with @María La Serna