How did I get here? A little more about me

Written by Diane on. Posted in on everything else

more about diane

Those who know me from back home know the exact path my life’s taken since graduating high school back in the day. But Oui In France started three years ago (yes the blog’s 3-year anniversary is this month!) and maybe you’re curious about the back story. If you’ve read my about page, you know I am an American living in France but how did I get here? Today I’m turning back the clock and sharing the things that led up to me moving to France. So let’s break down how and why I’m living in France. Maybe you can relate.

Here’s the short version of how I ended up living in France.

GO!

More about me

So let’s start this story a few years after college when I was living in NYC. I took the traditional path leading up until this point and got a full-time job right out of college working in sales and then for an accounting firm in NYC. It had a decent salary and life in NYC was good. But then I started feeling like, “Is this it? What else is out there? Who else is out there?”

I wasn’t happy in my day-to-day life and wondered what other opportunities I could pursue.

A quarter-life crisis is real.

Well, it was for me, anyway. After going to college and working for a few years, I just got restless and wanted more out of life than the daily grind.

I had toyed with the idea of living outside of the US and considered working for a resort in the Caribbean (after getting inspired by a cruise there) but never put any of my ideas into action. I also took my first trip to Paris as an adult with a girlfriend of mine from work, which reignited my love for French and France. To help make my time outside of work more enjoyable, I started taking tennis lessons and French lessons for fun but I still wanted more. I just didn’t know what that was.

To further make a change for myself, I started looking at other career opportunities thinking maybe I wanted a career change and not a location change. While researching, I came across the TAPIF program for native English speakers to teach English in France for a 7- or 9-month contract. Despite not knowing anyone in France, it appealed to me. It was a legal — and paid (albeit just a part-time salary) — way to get to Europe and figured if I could just get there, I could figure out a way to stay. I never really thought about teaching English up until that moment, but then figured, why not?

Pros and cons of the teaching assistant program in France >>

What did I have to lose by applying? Not a thing.

And that’s an attitude I apply to most things in life. We lose nothing by trying.

I studied French in high school a little and had visited France before and figured it might be a fun experience to at least try for.

Would Europe have more opportunities than NYC? Would it feel right? Would I hate it? I had to apply to this TAPIF program, so I did. While waiting for an answer, I saved as much money as I could and kept my hopes up while enjoying life in NYC.

It was during this waiting period that Tom went on vacation to NYC for the first time and that’s where we met (after I applied to the teaching program). We were both single and clicked right away, but he was just visiting New York on vacation and returned to France two weeks later. We stayed in touch and became really good friends talking almost every day. I missed my new friend and was secretly hoping I’d be accepted to the teaching program just to go visit Tom!

Then about a month later, to my surprise, I was accepted into the teaching program and would be placed in a suburb of Paris! Something was telling me to just go for it, so I happily sent back my teaching contract signed and dated and couldn’t stop smiling.

I decided to take the detour life handed me because when else would I have this opportunity? I didn’t want to regret NOT going and being upset with myself, so I went for it. I had saved money, didn’t have a mortgage or boyfriend and had a backup plan if I hated it, so why the heck not?

In a few short months, I’d be off to France for a 7-month teaching contract in the suburbs of Paris. I’d have to quit my job, give up my car and apartment and leave everything comfortable to embark on a totally new experience alone. And that excited me. I’m so proud of myself for taking that risk.

So we’ll fast forward through the specifics of the teaching program (if anyone wants more details on that experience, click here).

Mistakes I made when I moved to France >>

The 7 months flew by and while in France, Tom went from friend to boyfriend.

Although he lived hours from Paris, he helped me navigate the French bureaucracy and would drive just to see me as often as he could. Not sure I would have made it without him! I also found some freelance work I could do online to help bring in some cash to travel around Europe. We went to Prague, Croatia, Venice and he showed me all around France.

venice gondola

The summer after my teaching contract was up, it was time to head home just in time for a friend’s wedding. Once back stateside, I found a job but I was pining for a way to get back to France to be with Tom. Tom and I would visit each other as often as we could but a long-distance relationship isn’t easy. I sent out about 20 resumes to jobs in France and was offered a job in Paris but the salary was extremely low despite it being full-time work, so I had to decline.

For about a year, we did the long-distance thing. As the months ticked on, we kept on working in our respective countries, talking daily, but the distance was becoming too much to bear. We knew we wanted to be together and decided to get married. That way I could legally move to France (or Tom could move to the US) and we could finally be together and start our life as husband and wife.

So in August 2011 we tied the knot in a small ceremony near my hometown in New Jersey and I moved to France shortly after. On my birthday in 2011, we got Dagny and we’ve all been here ever since. 😉

How did you end up living where you are?

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Comments (20)

  • Ashley

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    Thanks for sharing your story!
    My (Spanish) boyfriend and I have been doing long-distance or moving between countries for nearly 4 years, we tried so hard to avoid marriage for papers. In the end we did common-law here in Spain and now I have 5 years residence, it’s so much easier than constantly worrying about papers/visa, etc.!
    Ashley recently posted…I want more ZaragozaMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      You’re welcome. 😉 So happy to hear you figured things out so you could stay in Spain. All the paperwork and visa renewals can be a pain!

      Reply

  • Kelsey

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    I’ve been following your blog and Instagram for a couple months now, and I always wondered how you ended up over there! My husband is French, as well, but we are living stateside for the time being. What made you decide to settle in France as oppose to the U.S.? Will you be getting your French citizenship eventually?

    I love your blog. Your expat tips are excellent (I loved your posts on French pharmacies!!), just overall really great information for someone who hopes to move over to France in the next 5 years!

    Merci 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks so much, Kelsey and glad I could answer that question for you! I think the main reason I ended up coming to France was the fact that it could be done immediately. It took a couple of weeks to get my visa squared away and then I was on a plane. In the US, the green card process for Tom would have taken well over a year and the expense of it all and waiting wasn’t something we wanted to do.
      I believe I’m eligible to apply for French citizenship this summer (4th wedding anniversary) but it’s a long and tedious process (tons of paperwork and a nice chunk of change) so not sure I’ll be jumping on that right away. It won’t change anything for me really and I always have the option to do it at any time after the 4 years of marriage mark. I’ll probably do it at some point though. Thanks for taking the time to comment and say hi!

      Reply

  • Christine

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    Hi Diane!

    I loved to read your beautiful story! I will tell you why I am living in California. As you already know, I am French and was living near to Paris, well let’s say at 40 kms from Paris. After having 2 divorces, it was no way to get married a third time. So I decided to end up single until the end of my life and enjoy to be free! I was 45, working for 29 years at EDF, mom of two kids 17 and 21 (in 2010) et grandma of a 2 year-old beautiful little girl. I had a best friend (girl) who was in contact through Messenger and Skype with an American living in California, called Mike. In March 2009, Mike came to visit my friend for 2 days, then he had to visit his Aunt who lived in Germany. My friend called me and told me to come for a little party. She wanted I met her American friend. We fell in love at the first sight, Mike and I. When he came back to California, we were every day talking by Skype even though if we had 9 hours of difference. The next year, Mike came in March 2010, this time in my apartment. He told me to come to visit him in June (same year) for a month. So, I came in California, the 9th of June 2010, we went to LAS VEGAS the 29th of June, and got married! I stayed 2 more months with him but I had to go back to France, for leaving my apartment, leaving my job, and leaving my babies !!!!! When Mike asked me to marry him in June, I had to take 3 little days before to say yes. I called my kids and told them if it would be ok if their Mommy will be so far from them. They were happy for me. I already knew I would miss them a lot, but I did not know it will be terrible ! I miss them strongly, however, I don’t regret to leave with my Californian guy in his beautiful state and country!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Love this story, Christine. Thank you so much for sharing! I know life in Cali isn’t always easy for you and so happy to read you have a good man by your side. 😉

      Reply

  • Christine

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    oops I made a little mistake. “I don’t regret to LIVE with my Californian guy…” haha

    Reply

  • Betty Carlson

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    This was most interesting and, like others, I enjoyed hearing your story. In fact I am always interested in how expats end up where they are. I hadn’t heard of the teaching program you were talking about, though, and am curious what type of institution you were teaching in. Also, are you still teaching now? (I’m a new reader too, so don’t know this about you.)
    Betty Carlson recently posted…A jewel of a village: Coussergues, AveyronMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Betty, glad you enjoyed the post! The program placed us in French public schools and I worked in two primary schools. I had a rotation of about 8 classes of about 25-30 kids each. It was just a 7-month contract and nope, I didn’t pursue teaching after.

      Reply

  • Our French Oasis

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    All of us ex-pats are so fortunate that we are able to live in other countries and enjoy other cultures, we love living in France. I feel truly privileged to be able to live here.

    Reply

  • Ze Coach

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    Thanks for sharing with us your wonderful story.
    As for mine, here it is.

    I was born in France 40 years ago from Vietnamese parents who decided to stay in France after the fall of Saigon (Vietnam war). I married that wonderful girl from the North of France (“Ch’ti”) and we dreamt of leaving abroad. We had 3 kids and we just forgot about our dream.

    4 years ago, my company proposed to me a transfer to Dallas, Texas. We thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us but also for our kids. The kids love it over here. We became permanent residents. We don’t see ourselves living here forever but for now, it is still exciting.

    That’s my story. Thanks for asking Diane 🙂

    Reply

  • Erika

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    Hi Diane!

    My name is Erika and I’m engaged to a French man. I met him during a weekend trip to Paris when I was teaching English in Spain for two years (2013-2015) We’ve been long distance over a year and were working on the K1 fiancé visa to bring him here.

    I recently found out I was accepted to TAPIF from the waitlist in his region (Le Mans) and now we’ve decided that I will go. My question is – do you know of anyone who was legally married in France and participated in TAPIF? I’m trying to decide if I should just do the teaching visa for TAPIF of if I should just get married over there. Of course, I would prefer to just get married but I don’t know if that’s allowed for someone doing TAPIF. Anyways, thank you for sharing your story. Makes me feel like I’m not alone.
    Best,
    Erika

    Reply

  • Gwyneth

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    I just started reading your blog and I’m really enjoying it! Great articles and I’m so glad that you’re posting.

    My French husband and I plan on moving from San Francisco to the Montpellier area next year. As an American, do you have to register every year, or do you have permanent residency? I know that I’ll have to register within 3 months of arriving, but beyond that, I don’t understand the process.

    Merci !

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Gwyneth, glad you’re enjoying the blog. Thank you for taking the time to comment! Generally speaking, as a spouse of a French citizen, you apply for your visa to come to France at your local consulate and that gets turned into a carte de sejour once you’re in France. You’ll have papers to send to OFII once you arrive and they’ll schedule you for a medical appt, etc. You renew yearly the first three years I believe and then you get a 10-year card after that (what I have now). But probably best to check out the San Francisco consulate’s website to be sure. Procedures may have changed and not all situations are the same.

      Reply

  • Gwyneth

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    Thank you! I looked up the info on the French Consulate site of SF. It looks like it has changed slightly since June 2009. I read that, long stay visa holders will be allowed to reside in France for up to 12 months according to the validity of their visa and purpose of stay. The “carte de séjour” is not used anymore. I will have to register to the French Office of Immigration and Integration during the first three months of my stay in France. So nice that you have the 10-year card – I hope I get that lucky!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      So your visa will be for one year and is your “proof” that you’re legal in France for that first year after arrival. It’s also I think what they consider a titre de sejour. You register with OFII and then get a special vignette and stamp that goes in your passport. Only after that first year when you go to renew will you get a residency card and it is definitely still used because I know people who have gotten them recently. I got mine last year and it’s an ID card that goes in your wallet. 😉 And you’ll definitely get the 10-year card I think after your 3rd year in France. But if you’ve been married 4+ years to a French citizen, you can apply for citizenship and then you’ll have a French passport so no visa nonsense at all!

      Reply

  • Gwyneth

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    I guess it’s not specifically called the “carte de sejour”. This is exactly what the paragraph says:

    1. Long stay visa and residence permit in France

    • Starting June 1st, 2009, long stay visa holders will be allowed to reside in France for up to 12 months according to the validity of their visa and purpose of stay. They will no longer be required to obtain a residence permit (“carte de séjour”) from the French local authorities (“Préfecture”) as long as their visa is valid.

    This is their website:
    http://www.consulfrance-sanfrancisco.org/spip.php?article2705

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Right, so as long as your visa is dated for a year (your first year) it’s your valid residency permit like the site says. You go to OFII, you get the vignette but your visa in your passport is your legal proof you’re there. You don’t need to change it for a card upon arrival. After year 1, you go to renew and then they give you a residency card. The site is saying the same thing as me.

      Reply

  • Gwyneth

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    It’s so kind of you to take the time to clarify this all with me – I really appreciate it!

    On a side note, I’m getting a bit addicted to all your articles and links!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      You’re very welcome! It seems kind of daunting but the process is pretty smooth as long as you follow their instructions and make all the copies, etc. Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

      Reply

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