5 Things Living in France Improved About My Life

Last August, I moved to France. A spontaneous step puzzling everyone who know me, myself included.

Why?

Let’s define it as the toughest and scariest decisions in my life — follow my heart.

Having no particular expectations set and even a slightest idea of what’s being an expat in France is actually like, I bought a ticket and left. It is just as crazy as it sounds.

(Living in Japan doesn’t count. I was a 4 year kid and can’t remember much of that time anyway.)

A year after setting foot on land of wine and cheese for the first time, I can make an official statement – “My life became much better than it used to be!”

Here’s how:

Healthier sleeping and eating habits

Hating early wake-ups since childhood, my tendency to stay up late got even worse during college. Classes were always scheduled midday or late afternoons.

In four years, I have seen so many gorgeous sunrises…..because I haven’t gone to bed yet.

A new job I landed at my senior year made things even worse. Flexible working spoiled me so much, that I was unable to get up early unless there was a crucial reason for that (think cheap morning flight!).

Result: highly deprived sleeping patterns. Constant insomnia and constantly feeling guilty for being late and wasting half of the day for nothing.

Living in France, gave me a number of reasons why I should get out of bed earlier.

Insanely delicious morning pastry. You can spot a queue at any boulangery as early as 7 a.m.! Freshly baked croissants and baguettes disappear fast!

Serene bike ride through the empty streets to cheer up. Instead of grabbing a coffee and immediately going to business, I take this long refreshing ride to hear the first “Bonjour” of the day from some random people I see on my way. A lovely mood-setter for the whole day.

That becomes completely impossible, when you woke up midday and have email exploding already. With eyes half open, you immedeately go straight to business and stay glued to your chair till evening.

Not cool at all.

Proper lunch. One of the things I don’t understand about France are fixed eating hours. You are obliged to stick to a perfectly crafted schedule like everyone else.

The usual lunchtime is from 12 till 13 PM which is too early for someone who just got breakfast at 11, right?

You won’t find a good meal after that time. Cheap places close or stop serving discounted lunch offers.

Nope, you can’t order a pizza. Domino’s and Pizza Hut in Besancon have weird working hours and are closed from 14 till 18 PM.

Eat on time or stay hungry. Cruel motivation making me jump out of bed early.

Getting things done. All services and shops close at 19 PM sharply. You won’t buy milk at 21 PM Deal with it.

Governmental institutions close even earlier around 16–17 PM.

Result of all these things combined: Normal sleeping patters and better well-being.

(Oh, and I stopped looking like a walking dead in the morning)

Becoming less of a workaholic

I work from home now. Fact, that is more time efficient than ridding in a tightly people-packed marshrutka and overcrowded metro, arriving to the office frustrated as hell.

French are not workaholics.

People arrive early to work (around 8–9 AM) and do not stay later than 17–18 PM. You have one-hour lunch, often with glass of wine. All paid for.

Your employer will never ask you (unless there’s an extreme emergency) to stay overtime (double taxes + double wages) or work on the weekends.

In Ukraine, (and a lot of other places) you are expected to work overtime. The unspoken rule is – leave the office after your boss did. It used to be true at my previous job.

You can learn what is a proper work-life balance in France. Sunday is the day you usually spend with family, doing sports, traveling and…

Spending more time outdoors

Love the French word “Randonee”. It can mean: hiking, cycling, tracking or simply a walk.

Since, moving to France randonees became my favorite weekend pastime!

Picturesque sloppy hills surround Besancon, with a fort topping each of the main 6 hills! Hiking trails are marked all around the area with pointers or get a printed map at the local tourist office.

You never know what you’ll find on your way up – a farm with lamas or an abandoned funicular station. There are a lot of hidden spots even in small French towns!

Being less concerned of my appearance

In Ukraine you never see a girl going out to the corner store without make up and heels. Yes, Kyiv was named the city with the most beautiful women a while ago, but do you imagine what it’s like to walk on ice in heels?

Or how to wear dresses when it’s -10 C for 2 month in a row?

You are expected to dress that way, just as most other girls do. I’ve felt the odd one out so many times in a girly company wearing comfy flats and no make-up. Wearing 10 cm heels is ridiculous when you go out for coffee.

The French women have this unique freedom to wear whatever they like. No make-up and pure skin. I adore the local principle of natural beauty.

The true French girl charm is simply her self-confidence and acceptance of her own skin and imperfections.

I’ve always had issues about my hair. It’s curly and when I had a shorter cut – it looked so messy! When I’ve straightened my hair, there were always some flocks that didn’t want to take the right place.

Just look around and see other girls and women with that sexy bed-head look which has actually been called one of the French women fashion secrets. Cool for me, I have this tousled hairdo all the time ☺

No matter what a French girl is wearing – designer shoes or keds, each step she makes is full of confidence!

French women do know how to love and pamper themselves + hear a ton of compliments each days from their man. It’s absolutely okay if a colleague or someone’s French husband comments on your dress or appearance. Nope, he’s not planning to hook up with you. Yes, he’s just stating you are attractive as a matter of fact. Learn to accept that flattering things.

It took me a while till I’ve finally started to feel the same. Learned to radiant with this “I don’t give a fuck” confidence, stop worrying about my looks each moment and started loving my appearance the way it is.

Biking

Frankly, I have learned how to bike only this year at the age of 22. Yet, it quickly became the most favorable mean of transportation!

Besancon is extremely comfortable for cycling as there are loads of routes crisscrossing the city along with special parking places at every shop.

Mind, you are not allowed to take your bike on public transport in case you got tired.

What could be better than a weekend ride out of town? Cycle through adorable tiny villages in Grand Besancon area with this unique rural allure that you could never feel in a big city.

Riding along the wine yards, yellow raps fields and emerald green hills, reflecting in the sparkling river was sort of a perfect picture I’ve imagined before going to France.

Today, I have this stunning view from my window, normal eating and sleeping pattern, better skin color and no extra kilos.

I realized – my life became different. More balanced, relaxed and healthy making me feel way happier that I used to be.

If you feel like you need a change, there’s a big decision you are trying to make and still doubting…. well, go for it!

It may turn out to be one of the best decisions you have made in your life!

Original post first published at Elena’s Travelgram.

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