An Unplanned Destination

Moving to France wasn’t one of my dreams or planned at all: it just happened and it surprised me like rain on a sunny day. After leaving UK with a heavy heart once my Aupair experience was over, I came back to Milan, my native city, to look for a job unsuccessfully and I soon realised I didn’t want to follow the path my family expected me to follow. Travelling made me feel alive and happy and I couldn’t live without it anymore. Exploring the world, learn new languages, meet other travellers was my vocation so I permanently stepped out of the comfort zone ignoring judgements, and of course I never regret it!

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch

So I decided to embrace the expat life and started looking for a job abroad in hospitality, as it is a field where it is to be hired remotely and a good way to practice languages and become more self confident.

I found an apprenticeship job as Hotel Receptionist in Disneyland Paris and this was my first official job. A part from the shared residence accommodation awful experience, this job allowed me to attend an English/French course about customer service, hospitality and yield management and allowed me to gain work experience for the first time. The best thing about working in Disneyland Paris is getting to know people coming from all over the world and create bonds that will stay forever.

I have been living 13 months in the outskirts of Paris, and every week-end I would take the RER train and go to Paris city centre to explore the most picturesque neighbourhoods, the quirkiest vintage shops and libraries, the most elegant and less known parks and canals, the lost scenic panoramic spots, the most famous museums and the most hidden squares and statues, the best little coffee chops and authentic restaurants. Paris is an excellent starting point to explore the nearby castles, manors, gardens or cities such as Rouen in Normandy and the nearby coast at 2 hours by car distance.

How to move to France independently

In this case I was lucky to have found a job before leaving. Disneyland organised itinerant interviews in Europe and Milan happened to be one of their stops, so I had the chance to get interviewed close to home after having passed a telephone pre-selection call to test my level of French and English. When I got hired they told me I would share residence flat with another colleague for a reduced price and would help settle in the country and the awful French bureaucracy.

If you can’t find a job before leaving and you don’t want to wait for months before succeeding, then you have two main problems to consider:

1. How to find an accommodation?

2. How to find a job or a volunteering activity etc. ?

There are different options you can chose from:

  • You can look on Airbnb searching for a private room or flat. It is a way to start living like a local in the country, get to know the language if you live in a family, people’s culture and habits giving you the time to look for a job (which is much easier once you are already there available to attend interviews). You can use the Couchsurfing group to stay for free for a few days at someone’s place and share your life and travel stories in exchange of people’s hospitality and advice.
  • You can start working as Au-pair in a host family. is a great way to find a family looking for someone to take care of their children and you don’t pay any fee. You get the opportunity to talk with them beforehand and see if you could be a good match. It is a great opportunity to improve the language having at the same time an accommodation, food and a small salary. You will have time to make new friends, travel during the weekends or with the family and create friendships that will last a lifetime.
  • You can also volunteer in exchange of accommodation and food (sometimes you get slightly paid) in any country you like. You can find your host or job opportunity on websites such as or and many others.

One thing to consider before moving to study or work in France is that you need at least an intermediate level of French unless you are a foreign languages genius. I advise you to attend a course before you go, subscribe to Duolinguo or similar Apps, or join a class once you arrive to be able to understand people, and socialise. French people especially in Paris don’t always speak good English so you will struggle with this too.

The alternative is to join an English speaking international company or to socialise only with anglophones expats but you will never integrate yourself in the country, nor learn the language or get to know the real France and people.

Don’t do the mistake most of people do thinking that once you live there you will magically start speaking perfect French and that people will be helping you. French is a rich and complex language and locals are not keen on people staggering French words nor they will have the patience to help you.

Positive and negative sides of living in Paris

Positive sides of living in Paris:

  • Great Cultural, Historical and Architecture Heritage: visiting Paris is like stepping into a history page recognising all the famous building and landmarks of a city who played one of the protagonist role in the European history since ever. Paris is a great place to come and study due to the non-excessive costs of public universities in France, the bohemian and university feeling of the city, cosy book shops, the endless entertainment options. There is always something to experience or visit and it’s unlikely you will get bored!
  • Work and Study opportunities: Paris, or the “Ville Lumière” is a cosmopolitan huge city offering endless job opportunities in all fields to kick-starting you career (providing that you speak French) and great chances to learn French or finding an interesting course at university.
  • Low-cost Transports and Easy to walk city: Transports are relatively cheap in Paris: for 70€ you have unlimited access to all transports for a month and transports reach evenly the whole city and the airports. The neighbourhoods are made of lovely cobbled stone streets dotted with coffee shops, restaurants and shops. It is a pleasure to stroll along the Seine river at sunset watching the massive Eiffel Tower’s lights shining on the water or getting lost in the quirky Quartier Latin close to the Sorbonne university.
  • Lovely Food: who can resist to the smell of fresh baguette and croissants leading you helplessly to a bakery? Bread and bakery related products is something French know how to do and one of the main reasons you should have a French breakfast with a café and a pain au chocolat once in your life. Try also a variety of French cheese and ham in a typical brasserie, a delicious chocolate covered éclair , some oysters considered a delicacy in France, fine wines and much more.

Negative sides of living in Paris:

  • Cost of Life and Accommodations: Paris is unfortunately renowned to have the highest prices per square meters and the smallest apartments for the craziest price! The quality of life decreases remarkably when you live in the city centre if you budget is low and as in London, you have to share the flat with other people paying around 600-700€ per month per a room. Really insane prices!
  • Bureaucracy: this is applicable to the whole France, and it’s one of the most dreadful thing especially if you don’t speak French or you have no one to help you understand their procedures and needed documents. Bureaucracy is awfully slow and unkind; in France there is a form, an internet portal and a procedure for everything you could possibly imagine!
  • Strikes and Unreliable Transports : France is also sadly famous for frequent strikes going on for months and trains being suppressed or constantly jam packed and late! A true nightmare when you spend on average two hours per day or more on transports!
  • Bad Customer Service: this is not a French thing, it’s a Parisian thing. Service is often incompetent and extremely rude. The difference between the Paris region and the rest of France is evident. I also remarked the same unpleasant attitude in the French Riviera (unless you attend luxury places), so I guess it’s because Paris and the South of France are the two richest regions of France and they are overwhelmed with tourists, so they count of quantity rather than quality.

My double French experience

Once I have finished my year in Paris and got my certification I decided to head to the glitzy French Riviera, the world renowned location for grand seaside resorts, marvellous beaches, glamour and luxury. The stressful and chaotic Paris had worn me out. I actually headed to Cannes to work again in Hospitality, this time in a seaside resort to absorb some vitamin D and enjoy some Mediterranean climate hoping to find a more laid-back location. I had previously visited the region on a week-end and I found it stunning from a landscape point of view; so I packed up my luggage and prepared to spend a nice summer season and relax.

I couldn’t be more wrong: the myth of South of France being similar to South of Italy is something to debunk. People are as stressed as in Paris, but at least you can enjoy going to the beach, great hiking places, mild and sunny climate almost all year round and the advantage of having the sea, hills and mountains all extremely close to each others.

Best places to visit from a local perspective

I tried my best to explore the Parisian region during my days off, despite being exhausted, using the public transports as much as I could and doing some great day trips to nearby castles and manors, or to the lesser known Normandy and Brittany regions. Paris is also a great starting point to do grab some flight deal and do some awesome city break week-end somewhere in Europe!

In this blog I will take you through majestic castles such as the ones in Versailles, Chantilly (yes like the cream!), Fontainebleau, the house of the French poet Chateaubriand, the medieval village of Provins, to Rouen, the “100 clock-towers city“, the Normandy coast with its picturesque seaside villages Fécamp and Etretat, the scenic “Mont St. Michel” Mountain and its quick tide.

Brittanny is a great long week-end option. My itinerary started from Rennes, taking me to the iconic red rocks of Ploumanach and the “Côte de Granite Rose” or the Pink Granite Coast, St. Malo an impressive fortified walled city and Trégastel and the Armour’Coast.

I also spent an unforgettable week in Alsace during Christmas time and I had the chance to visit the picturesque Colmar, called Little Venice and the other walled medieval village which look like coming out the Beauty and the Beast Disney’s film: fairy-tale pretty half-timbered houses, cobbled stone alleys, traditional shops and magnificent views over the hills.

At the moment I am living in Nice on the French Riviera and I discovered a lively multicultural city, sun-kissed all year long and with nice work opportunities especially in Tourism. Nice is a great city to live in with plenty of nice international restaurants and perfectly placed to spend you week-ends in Italy or exploring the gorgeous mountains just 1h30 away by car or sail to the islands and crystal water beaches nearby.

This region attracts millions of tourists every year not only for the luxury fame and exclusive resorts but also because in the same day you can ski on the Alps watching the sea at distance, and you can go to the beach and go snorkelling in one of the best coves.

Among the best things to visit from Nice I should mention the exclusive and glamorous state of Monaco, Cannes or the capital of cinema and celebrities, the wonderful Lerins Archipelago a great spot for hikes and snorkelling, Eze Village a picturesque medieval village on panoramic mountain, Grasse or the perfume-making capital, St. Jean Cap Ferrat Peninsula and the exclusive coastal paths and beaches, Antibes a Provencal fishing walled town, St. Paul de Vence the artists’ village, St. Tropez the exclusive yachts destination, the Mercantour National Park a hiker’s paradise, the spectacular Gorges du Verdon and its canyons, the paradise Porquerolles Island and its beaches, the unusual Marseille and the Calanques National Park, and many others fabulous places!

Positive and negative sides of living in Nice

Reasons why you should definitely live in the French Riviera once in your life:

  • Wonderful Mediterrean climate: one of the joys of living in this region is that you have temperature above 20°C for around 7 months a year and the rest of the time they are rarely below 10° C degrees. This mean that rain is pretty rare, it’s never too hot with temperatures around 28° C during summer and you will enjoy a pleasant sea breeze and mild climate all year long.
  • Stunning natural landscape: living on the French Riviera means that you can spend one week-end sunbathing on the beach or doing shopping and promenading along the sea, one day you can visit small traditional villages on the hills with cobbled stone alleys and views over the sea, and another week-end you can go skiing or hiking in the Mercantour National Park or on the Alps, another week-end you can explore nearby locations in Italy: no matter what you love doing in your free time, you will find in this location all you are looking for!
  • Work Opportunities: the region is one of the wealthiest in Europe and attracts a number of anglophone expats coming here to enjoy the sun but also for the quantity of international companies hiring people coming from all over the world not necessarily speaking French. The fields which always look for people during high season are hospitality, yachting, tourism, events, cruising primarily but also engineering in the techno-pole of Sophia Antipolis area, or the real estate, luxury retail and finance especially in Monaco.
  • Great food: Food is tasty and under the Mediterranean influence; it is a pleasure to buy organic and fresh food at local markets, roam through the streets and the local cuisine in definitely under Italian influence around Nice especially at the border.

Negative aspects of living on the French Riviera:

  • Expensive Rents and Accommodations: Just behind Paris, this is the most expensive region to come spend your holidays to or simply leaving. It is impossible to find a room or a flat to rent between April and September since landlords prefer to rent their apartments for short periods during festivals and high season to earn 800€ a week rather than per month. It is a true nightmare to find a long-term flat and you absolutely need to have a job and pay bills under your name. The advice is to arrive in January to have more chances to settle down here. People need to rent a room in a shared apartment and generally accommodations tend to be pretty small.
  • Bad Customer Service and Language Barrier: like in Paris, customer service is below average ad locals are over stressed and unfriendly. The quality of the customer service is irrelevant since there are thousand of people visiting this beautiful region every year. Locals struggle with foreign languages and are not willing to make the effort, so it can be a problem if you don’t speak nor understand French.
  • Strikes and Unreliable Transports : France is also sadly famous for frequent strikes going on for months and trains being suppressed or constantly jam packed and late! A true nightmare when you spend on average two hours per day or more on transports!

France is definitely a surprising destination from all point of views, but to enjoy it fully you need to get ready to learn the language to truly live like a local and meet new friends. International meetups or hiking groups are a great idea to integrate and meet like-minded people coming fro all over the world!

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