This week’s episode is with guest Almenia Garvey, an American woman from North Carolina and Chicago, who asked her job to transfer her and moved to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France with her husband and two children in 2017. The best part of her story is that at all started long ago because she took a wrong turn one day and ended up standing in front of the study abroad office, which led to getting married to a French man she met in Ireland. 

We discuss:

  • How her job agreed to transfer her to their French office so her family could move back to France.
  • How her children were devastated by the news that they were moving to France,  how they adapted in French immersion classes once they arrived, and their phase of rejecting French culture as a means of protest.
  • Why getting help with your move and French administrative paperwork is important, even if you’re an EU citizen and don’t need to navigate the visa process.
  • Getting used to the fact that things take longer in France, and it’s hard to navigate French bureaucracy when you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • The challenges of banking in France when you just want to open a savings account, transfer money from abroad, and follow good principles of personal finance and tax and estate planning when saving and investing, which are complicated for US citizens living abroad.
  • How moving to France boosted her career in her company and gave her new opportunities for visibility and promotion that she wouldn’t have had in Chicago.
  • The cultural differences of working in a French office, and the things that surprised her – from all of the different types of time off to the 90-minute lunches with her boss.
  • How the pandemic has made living in France, away from family, difficult, because she doesn’t know when she’ll be able to travel to her family the next time.
  • Why the 3-year mark living in France is the crucial point for deciding whether you’re committed to speaking the language and integrating, or giving up and relying on just English.
  • When family and friends from home think you live in utopia when you talk about enjoying living in France, and why it’s complicated to have real conversations about the challenges and triumphs of being an American living abroad.
  • The invisibility of racism in France, and what racial segregation looks like in France versus in the US.
  • Protesting and employee benefits, and the trade-off between giving cool perks to all employees and increasing wages for the lowest earners.

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