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10 things to do during your first week in France

Updated: Sep 8, 2022


During your first week in France, a few things on your must-do list include locating a new place to live and purchasing a fresh baguette at the boulangerie down the street.

From the towering peaks of the Alps & Pyrenees to the fashionable avenues of Paris and all in between, France offers a diverse range of landscapes, activities, and experiences to suit every traveller's interests. You are free to call this wonderful nation your home now, no matter where in the Hexagon you may be.

However, even the most experienced expats may find that their first few days in France are a little overwhelming and seem more like a whirlwind. After all, it may be difficult to successfully navigate a new place while learning a new language. But don't let it discourage you since the transition to your new life in France will quickly become simpler. To help you get off to a good start during your first week in France, here are ten things you need to ensure you do.

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1. Find a new French home

Let's begin with the most apparent one: locating a place you can call home. There is a possibility that some newly arrived individuals may have the good fortune to be provided with either temporary or permanent housing by their new French jobs. However, most internationals will need some kind of housing, even if it is just temporary, so they may continue their search for more permanent arrangements. France is fortunate in that it offers a diverse range of possibilities. When looking for a new home in France, a serviced apartment or a long-term holiday rental may be a viable choice for you as a temporary solution for a shorter time.

If, on the other hand, you would feel more comfortable beginning things in a somewhat more permanent location, you may want to consider renting a house in France. The rental market in France is where most new entrants begin their search for housing. The cost of renting a home or apartment varies greatly from one location in the nation to another; nonetheless, it is reasonable to anticipate paying a higher monthly fee in some coastal and major metropolitan districts. If you are interested in purchasing property in France or just want some assistance in searching for your new home, you should probably think about working with a real estate agent in France. Visit a French online property site such as Se Loger or Le Bon Coin to understand the costs you may anticipate incurring, regardless of whether you want to rent or purchase the house.

2. Sign up with the French government

Similar to the situation in many other European nations, certain newcomers to France will be required to register with local municipal authorities upon arrival. This does not apply to those relocating from other nations inside the EU or Switzerland, which is located nearby. However, these nations' citizens can still submit an application for a residency permit (carte de séjour) at the municipal town hall in their area (Mairie). This is not required of EU nationals, but having it might make things simpler for you if you have to interact with the authorities in France.

On the other hand, visitors arriving in France from a country that is not a member of the EU are required to go to the local prefecture office & register with the authorities to get a carte de séjour. You must complete this task within the first two months of your arrival in France. However, keep in mind that the registration process might take quite some time; thus, you may want to get the process started as soon as possible. The obligation to register is in addition to any visa prerequisites that may be relevant to your case; thus, you should place it at the top of your to-do list for the first week in France. Similarly, British residents who relocate to France after Brexit must apply for a carte de séjour. Check the Accueil des Étrangers website, which is run by the French government, for the most recent information and regulations.

3. Sign up for health insurance

The legislation in France requires all citizens, including newcomers, to have health insurance coverage, which applies to anybody living in the nation. The vast majority of foreign residents in France are qualified to receive medical treatment under France's national healthcare programme, known as Protection Maladie Universelle (PUMA). However, if you do not qualify for this coverage or want to increase your level of protection, you also have the option of purchasing private health insurance. The following companies are among the most prominent suppliers of medical insurance in France:

● Allianz

● Cigna Global

Read our guides on the French healthcare system and hospitals in France to learn more about the medical facilities available to you in your new country of residence.

During the first week, you are in France, in addition to purchasing health insurance, there are several other forms of insurance that you should also consider. For instance, if you drive in the countryside, you will need to make sure that you have auto insurance before you get behind the wheel. When you move into your new house, you will require home coverage, which includes construction insurance and protection for your home's contents. Check out our France insurance guide if you want more information on insurance policies that you will need to organise once you have arrived in France.

4. Open a bank account in France

Establishing a bank account in France is one of the few things that might assist you in feeling more at home in your new life in France. It will be much simpler to organise critical payments, such as those for your home internet and TV service, energy bills, and other expenses, if you have a local bank account. It will also make your day-to-day life a lot simpler, whether you're taking some new acquaintances out to lunch at a bistro or stocking up on groceries at the French supermarket down the street from your apartment.

Unsurprisingly, a nation of France's size would have many financial institutions from which to pick. BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, and La Banque Postale are examples of some of the most important national banks. Going in person to a branch of a French bank is the simplest method to create a bank account in France; nevertheless, you should be prepared to use your French language abilities. Mobile banking is another alternative that is gaining popularity. The sign-up procedure for mobile banking applications is often simpler for foreigners, and they also need less documentation. The following are examples of some of the most successful mobile banks in France:

● bunq

● N26

● Revolut

Money transfer companies like Wise and World Remit may assist you if you need to move money from one of your old accounts to a new one.

5. Get a SIM card in French.

Do you want to maintain relationships with your family and friends? Alternatively, you could be looking to establish a company in France. Regardless of the motivation, acquiring a French SIM card may be a game-changer in many situations. This is particularly the case if you come from a nation that is not a member of the EU and your current cell provider does not provide free roaming services in France. The most common ways to get a SIM card and phone number in France are purchasing a prepaid SIM card or signing up for a mobile plan. You must choose the appropriate solution for your purposes.

Upon landing in France, you will quickly become aware of the extensive number of options available to you in the native French mobile market. This could seem daunting at first, but the mobile solutions available in France are very easy and on par with those in other nations. However, before you commit to anything, it is best to perform some investigation beforehand to ensure you are getting the best possible offer for yourself. The following are some of the most successful mobile providers in France:

● Lebara

● Lebara Orange

● Prixtel

● SFR

Check out our listing of the top 10 must-have French applications you should download during your initial week in France, regardless of the cell network you use. You should do this as soon as you arrive in France.

6. Find a job

If you do not already have a job lined up before you arrive in the country, finding a job will likely be at the top of your to-do list during your first week in France. If you are fortunate enough to already have a job lined up before arriving in the country, you can skip this step. The labor market in different areas of France may differ, as can the average salary in those locations. To put that into perspective, however, a certain level of fluency in French is often required for many different vocations. People still in the beginning phases of the learning curve have access to many options that are still available.

If you want to hunt for a job while in France, it is highly recommended that you begin the process as soon as possible during your first week there. For instance, you may want to update your CV in preparation for the local job market in French or perhaps contact a few local employment agencies that work in the industry you are most interested in. You might also check for some of the internet employment boards specific to the local area, such as our very own Expatica jobs site. Read our guide for finding work in France to get further information and helpful hints.

7. Arrange all of your travel options in France.

The mode of transportation that you want to use daily is going to be one of the aspects of your new life in France that will need the most careful consideration during the first week that you are there. Where you choose to make it, your home will, of course, have a significant impact on the transportation choices available to you. You won't have any trouble getting about on the bus or the subway in big cities like Paris, Marseille, or Lyon because of the extensive public transportation systems there. You may locate respectable public transportation networks even in places of more modest size. Cycling is also becoming an appealing option in many places around France, including the nation's capital, which has seen considerable investments focused on bike infrastructure.

Nevertheless, driving in France may prove to be the most convenient mode of transportation for some newly arrived residents. This is particularly the case if you relocate to a more rural place that has fewer connections to other areas through public transportation. Those expatriates who are moving to France who are above the age of 18 and have a foreign driver's license issued by another nation in the EU/EEA or Switzerland may, fortunately, use it to drive in France. Those coming from other nations, on the other hand, will very certainly be required to apply for an international driver's license. Read our acquiring your driver's license in France guide for additional information about the process.

8. Connect your new house

After you have located your new residence in France, you will want to personalize it so that it seems more like home. Getting all of your connections straightened out, including your French utilities and your home telecommunications, is one approach to accomplish this goal. In general, serviced apartments and some rental properties will have these connections installed, and the cost of maintaining them will be included in the monthly fee. This is also often the case with flatshare rentals, in which the expenditures are distributed among the occupants of the shared home. Nevertheless, a significant number of rental homes in France will be required to have these connections, as would any properties that you want to purchase.

You shouldn't be worried, even though this may seem like a lot of effort since the sign-up processes for internet and TV in France are pretty simple. In light of this, it is important to do enough research to ensure that you and your family make the most of the opportunities available to you. The following are examples of some of the most prominent internet and television service providers in France:

● Orange

● SFR

● La Poste Mobile

In France, each commune is responsible for the distribution of water (or a combination of local communes). On the other hand, you have options to choose from when it comes to your gas and electric service. The following are examples of French companies that offer various utility services:

● EDF

● Engie

● Cdiscount Energie

9. Register your kids for school.

Moving to a new country with children who are of school age may add a degree of uncertainty to a situation that is already stressful. If you do some study on the many educational opportunities available in France before you go there, you can make things a lot simpler for yourself. In addition, make sure that during your first week in France, you make contact with the school department of the local municipality where you will be living so that you can begin the ball rolling. Some expat parents choose to enroll their children in the public schools in the host country since this is often the least expensive and most convenient option. Additionally, it may be the most effective method for a youngster to assimilate into their new culture.

Having said that, there are those parents who would rather have their young children attend an international school in France. If you are interested in international education programs like the International Baccalaureate, this could be an excellent choice for you (IB). However, if your children are not yet at the age when they may attend school, you will need to make daycare arrangements. It is a good idea to start exploring during your first week in France since spots might fill up fast; this is especially true if you are searching for care that is provided in English. After you have taken care of the children, you may wish to begin working on your education by enrolling in one of the several language schools in the area to study French, for example.

10. Enjoy la vie française

You will only have one shot at your first week in France, so make the most of it by going out and seeing all the country has to offer. Even though newcomers may find this list to be a little intimidating at first, the majority of the items on it are rather simple, and reading it shouldn't prevent you from going out and discovering your new neighborhood. After all, France is one of the nations in Europe that offers one of the widest ranges of sights and activities to its visitors. So take some time off from dealing with the French energy providers and your auto insurance, and discover what else the country has to offer.

There is never a shortage of exciting things to do in France, regardless of where you choose to make your home there. There is never a boring moment in France, whether one is on a trip through the stunning French Alps or Pyrenees, relaxing on the beach at La Rochelle, or just strolling through the picturesque streets of Paris. But if it seems like a bit too much, why not just take a stroll around your new neighborhood? This will provide you with a fair sense of the finest locations in the neighborhood to get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, a Croque Monsieur, or the freshest croissants. Enjoy!

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