1 Year in France, The Ups And The Downs
Oh Gosh! We have been in France for ONE Year! Yes, you heard it, it is ONE YEAR, 365 DAYS! Time really flies. It really feels like yesterday when we just board the plane at Changi Airport with 2 crates, 3 Full Loaded Luggage, 2 cabin luggage, and of course 2 dogs.
Many friends have envied our overseas deployment, but honestly it is a trade off. How many can do that too?
2 Years deployment in an overseas country with zero language knowledge except for Bonjour and Merci. A new life in a foreign country.
It was a total culture shock for us and for me too. I am in fact a very relaxed person and was shocked to find out things or business services here are in fact more inefficient than we can ever imagine.
In fact, we had made alot of research, arrangement and preparation before our departure but well, things did not really go as planned.
I had a first hand experience during my visa application in Singapore, and I did not think much of it, and that is just the appetizer to the main course I will be getting in France.
"They lost my documents stored in the computer and I had to visit the Embassy again to get it done."
The Downs and Culture Shock
Banking application took 6 weeks to approve
When we first arrived, we have made appointments to the bank to setup our bank account. Because you have to have a bank account for the obvious reason. Money.
It took 6 weeks to get our bank account approved with many Ding Dongs
- Was told that we need a Telephone number to get our Bank Account processed.
- Waited for 2 weeks to receive an email saying she needs an invoice for residence verification.
- A few days later, she responded saying the invoice is not valid because we are opening a joint account, it does not have both names on it.
- 1 Month have passed, we decided to contact other banks concurrently to setup bank account. We emailed them to arrange an appointment with an English speaking consultant but after inital correspondence, there was not a reply since.
- 4th Week - Bank Consultant thought of a good idea for residence verification which is to use registered mail.
- Registered mail came, but the bank did not receive the receipt of it. Got lost somewhere.
- 6th Week - Finally it was approved and we waited for the mail of bank cards to our house.
- Cheese pies! It came with 2 cards, of the same name. MY NAME! Dafug? It's Joint Account, not 2 accounts!!
- Was charged for these transactions, would have overlook if we did not check the statements. (Sneaky uh)
After 6 Weeks of ding dong, I finally got my Bank Account approved. In Sg, we will ask the consultant:
" You first time do Open Account Izzit?"
Well in France, the Home Internet is pretty cheap. €20 - €30 you can get a decent fibre 1GB Speed Broadband and TV Box. You will be paying for at least S$60 in Singapore for a bundle.
Sens, the place where we stayed is not Fibre ready. So we are just ADSL Internet instead. OMG! And we are to produce a Bank Account in order to apply for a Home Broadband. (So which comes first? I asked the Bank Consultant)
Mobile Sim Card
For 6 Weeks, I cannot really go anywhere because I did not have a mobile SIM card. In France, to apply for a Post Paid Mobile Sim Card, you will need to have a Bank Account for Giro payment.
So once I had my Bank Account approved, straight away I went to the get this Mobile Plan from the self service kiosk because the service provider I wanted was an hour drive away.
"Free.fr - €20 for 50gb. One of the most worth while plan in France"
Free.fr Self Service Kiosk
There are actually 3 location that have this kiosk.
- Went to the nearest 2 of them but they are out of order unfortunately.
- Went to the 3rd one and the machine hanged after I made payment.
- Approached the assistant for help but was told to call in to Free.fr for refunds instead.
- Got a French speaking colleague (our Emancipator, aka 贵人/救星) to help
- Was told to snail mail in order to process the refund.
What? At this era, still got snail mail one?
Water pipe burst 2 times
Yup, 2 times. First time I was asleep and it flooded the whole kitchen. Their kitchen setup was different ours in Singapore where we had drainage. Here, the kitchen has no drainage at all!
1st Time in June 2016
It was a total mess. As it was from a public main pipe, it requires a plumber to turn it off.
2nd Time in Feb 2017
2nd time was lucky. I was awaked by then. 8.45am to be exact and manage to put some pails and get the water contained when contacting the landlord.
Car Mirror was Stolen
And luckily only 1 side. According to the company colleauge, it is common in France.
We were very used to aircon in Singapore, but in France most house or hotel does not have aircon. HOT sio!!
Can you imagine 30+ Degrees without aircon? How do they live with it?
Our Residence Permit
Getting a work permit in France is not so simple. There is 2 parts which I will never understand why.
- Handwritten application letter. Yes, you need to have a handwritten application letter to process your visa. It cannot be typed and signed. It has to be handwritten in French. Of course, we have agents to assist us on the contents. But we will need hand write.
- Paying in Stamps duty. Our application cost €440 each and they had to be paid in stamps. I did try to pay using ATM card, but was declined.
The nearest asian store is at Paris (120km away) or Troyes (70km away). So we will do a monthly stock up for asian sauces and stuffs. But, our fridge is too small, so we have to buy prudently.
In Singapore, we complained about expensive movie tickets.
Here it is even more expensive. Because only some cinemas in Paris have movies in English or "Voice Original" they call it.
Here's the breakdown in Cost.
- 2 Movie Tickets - €20
- 3 Hours Parking - €18
- Toll Charge - €12
- Petrol for driving 250km - €13 - €15
I haven't eat popcorn, I already incurred €65 (SGD 100)
Despite the downs we had, we actually have the Ups and good to balance our grievances in France.
We get to travel. In fact this is one of the reason why we made a decision to come over to. In Singapore, a typical Europe trip will cost at least S$10,000 for 10 days. (S$2000 airtickets!)
So every travel trip we have, we save S$2000 on the airtickets.
So far, we have been to
- UK - London
- Germany - Frankfurt, Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Feldberg
- France - Colmar, Dijon, Strasbourg, Nancy, Normandy
You can check out here for more information.
Our first snowboard experience is awesome that we went for the 2nd time during March! But the snow was not as good this time round.
Definitely improve as compared to our first few days.
The French Experience
The French have very relaxed work culture and in the eyes of Singaporeans, it may seem inefficient at times.
But! The French are actually very nice and warm people. We were welcomed by the French colleagues to their house and experience a French way of living and dining.
They have specific glass for each type of drinks.
We were in fact very lucky to have found a good pet sitter from Holidog.fr
The cost is affortable for 2 dogs per day - €10
This allows us to plan for our trips at ease. But we only trial out the Pet Sitter after 4 months into our stay.
We came to France with zero French language skills. We have a tutor here to teach us on French, but I can tell you, it is a very difficult language to learn. Hope we can master our French to converse and that is our aim.
Yeah, we complained about the asian stores being far away. But if not for the Asian stores, we will have alot cravings and deprivation.
Great colleague support
Most of all, we are truly blessed with having great colleague support here. No doubt they relocated to Singapore, but for the initial 8 months we are well taken care of by them. Definitely miss the days with them here. Thank you Ah Mao and David!
How Cool! We relocated to France and they relocated to Singapore.
Friends Visit / Meet up
No doubt we are miles apart, we are lucky to have friends visiting us or meet up at Paris.
Yes, you heard it. Appreciate the goodness in Singapore. Most of the policies in place are efficient and effective. I even find the COE and ERP a good call for maintaining the number of cars.
Paris is really jam packed with cars every where.
Many have asked us why do we choose to relocated despite the difference in culture.
I would say it is the experience that cannot be bought. You get to experience another culture and best of all, travel Europe at an affordable price.
But Europe is really expensive if you did not plan or research enough. Hence this blog serves as a place to gather all my research too.
And we want to thank all our friends and family for the relentless support this past year!
Because of researching, we saved hundreds on our snowboarding trip. How cool is that?
With 1 year stay in France, there are many things for us to look forward to.
We hope to accomplish more good for this coming 12 months of stay.
- More Travel - Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, Madrid, Iceland, Finland. This will be the plan for this year.
- 2 More snowboard trips during Winter
- Master our French so that we can converse
- Master a few more dishes to cook for my friends and family. (In Singapore, buy can already no need cook lor!)
- Of course and get this site running with more guides to help travelers to Europe
What Say You?
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