I’ve been living in France for two weeks now with my husband and three daughters. We will be here for six months. After sharing a bunch of pictures of our adorable village surrounded by breathtaking vineyards on social media, a lot of people have been reaching out to me with questions about how we came to be here. So here is my post where I try to answer your questions!
Where did the idea to move to France come from?
When my husband Matt and I were first married, before we even had kids, we dreamed of living abroad with our family one day. We both had the experience of living in other countries as missionaries for our church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Matt in Madagascar and La Réunion, and me in Romania). We found the experience to be enriching in all the best ways. It was an experience we wanted to give to our children, and something we hoped to experience with them. We both believe strongly that traveling is the best way to learn. We thought maybe Matt’s career would take us to another country, and early in his law career, that almost happened. Ultimately we stayed in the States and got very rooted in our lives–I was very invested in running a non-profit ballroom dance program, our kids were very connected to their friends and school, and Matt was focused on growing in his career. Our dreams of living abroad seemed totally out of reach and, to be honest, kind of immature.
A Virtual Office Situation Brought Our Dreams Back to Life
Everything changed when Matt went to work for our friend Emily’s fledgling start-up–eventually becoming a minority partner. Part of Emily’s dream was to develop a company that is fully remote–meaning there is no physical office space or commute. This idea of remote work probably seems familiar now thanks to Covid, but their company was doing it very intentionally before pandemic times. I hope that as more companies move to remote work that more people will get to do what we are doing–travel, live internationally for a while, maybe live on a farm or an island or otherwise chase their dreams while still staying connected to their jobs.
People, both at home and in France, are usually curious about Matt’s job, which has always been hard to describe, even in English. Trying to explain it in French has proven to be even more of a challenge! The simplest way we have come up with to describe it in French (after several failed attempts), is that Matt works in the biotech industry. He is the Chief Operating Officer for his company (we haven’t tried to translate that yet). And the best part–he can do his work wherever he wants! While we are here he works in the afternoons and evenings (usually 2:30 PM to 11:30 PM) to have as much overlap as possible with his colleagues in the States.
One day about three years ago I walked into our home office and said, “If you can work from anywhere, why does it have to be Auburn?” (Auburn was the city where we were living in Washington.) “We should go live somewhere cute for a while!” Matt looked up at me and said, “I love that,” and we started planning!
France was a natural choice because we both speak French. Or now that I am here, I’ll say that I read, write, and understand French and I’m learning to speak French. We wanted somewhere in Europe so that we could explore a good chunk of the continent. But then we needed to decide WHERE in France. Obviously it needed to be CUTE. #1 priority. I was (bien sûr!) drawn to Provence for the lavender. Then I thought it might be fun to live in one of the fishing villages on the coast. Paris is sophisticated-cute with so much to see. But after seeing pictures of the charming half-timbered houses in the villages of Alsace, I really felt drawn to this region, and Matt agreed. Plus, it’s the cutest of all!
What about the 90-day Limit?
If you are traveling to Europe for a short-stay of less than 90-days, you can stay in the Schengen area (most EU countries, including France) for 90-days in a 180-day period without a visa. If, like us, you plan to stay longer, you will need to apply for a visa. There are several different options depending on your situation. We have long stay visas. Every person who needs a visa (even the kids) must show up in-person to submit their application. There are only 6 locations in the U.S. where you can do this. We went to San Francisco and applied on the VERY FIRST DAY this long stay visa was available after Covid restrictions were lifted. We made sure our paperwork was very organized and that we were fully prepared before flying all 5 of us to California to submit our application. It took 3 weeks for us to receive our visas in the mail.
There are several reasons I felt that Alsace was the perfect place for us. First, I read that it’s a great place to learn the language because the people speak clearly and not too fast. We have found this to be true! We liked the location–close to Switzerland, Italy, Germany and other places we want to visit. Several airports are easily accessible, and Paris is only a two-hour train ride away. Also, we knew we would be here in summer, fall, and winter, and we wanted a place that was beautiful in all three seasons. Summer is lovely with flowers spilling out of every windowsill and green vineyards all around. Fall will be the grape harvest and a great time to explore because it will be less crowded. I imagine the changing colors on the hillsides will be stunning. And then there is winter. I have been told that Alsace is the best place to be in the world for Christmas. There will be Christmas markets, twinkling lights, smells of Christmas treats in the streets, and probably snow!
I originally looked for an apartment to rent in Colmar. Colmar is the nearby city of about 70,000 people. However, it was very difficult to find an apartment that seemed like a good fit for our family of 5. None of the apartments had available parking, and we wanted to have a car. Kaysersberg, a little village of 4,600 people, was only 10 minutes away from Colmar by car so we would still be very close to all of the sights and shopping. We found an apartment that included parking and that met our needs and our budget. A very important consideration was wifi because of Matt’s job. When I asked about it, I was told that the entire village had just installed fiber optic cable, so that seemed promising. So far we’ve had pretty good luck with the wifi. Matt has been able to stream video calls for several hours every day.
In the end, I am so happy we picked Kaysersberg. I absolutely adore this little village. It oozes charm. Food is the local sport and incredible restaurants abound (there are four Michelin Star restaurants!). It is full of interesting shops (hello–a 200-year-old shop dedicated only to gingerbread! Check it out here.). The people are friendly, generous, and kind. Miles of vineyard trails are a 2-minute walk from our apartment. Most of all, it just makes me so happy every time I stroll through it. I am so excited to share more about our time here with you!