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Six books to read about moving to France for a new life

You should be able to empathise with their experiences

These hilarious books shine humour on situations that can at times feel stressful Pic: New Africa / Shutterstock

When you are living or travelling in France, it can be comforting to read about the experiences of others who have taken similar paths. 

At times a new life abroad can be overwhelming and isolating; however it is important to remember that you are not alone. 

There are plenty of books written by Anglophone authors that will serve as this reminder, all the while helping you to take stock and laugh at situations that may have previously brought you to tears. 

Here are some of the best English language books about expat life in France.

1. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris 

David Sedaris is a great place to start - the American humorist moved to Paris in 1998 where he lived for more than 10 years before moving to London. 

His collection of essays, Me Talk Pretty One Day, details his struggles with learning French upon arriving in the country. 

While the first part of the book focuses on his life before living in France, the second part - appropriately titled “Deux” - follows his journey with learning French. 

The essays will undoubtedly resonate with anyone learning French as a second language. For example, one looks at the gendered aspect of French and the difficulties that brings to an anglophone learner. 

Others reflect on funny moments in language classes or his purchasing of a Walkman in an attempt to aid his listening practice. 

Read also: Books to help improve your French

2. A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle 

British writer Peter Mayle moved to France in the 1980s and has since become a best-selling author with his semi-fictionalised novels about French life. 

His 1989 book A Year in Provence detailing life as an expat in the village of Ménerbes in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur became an international bestseller and was adapted into a BBC television show. 

He has since written a series of memoirs documenting his adventures in France, which have continued to prove popular. 

So impactful are his books that he has received the Légion d'Honneur from the French government for his cultural contributions.

3. Almost French, by Sarah Turnbull

Written by Australian writer Sarah Turnbull, Almost French is a travel memoir that follows Sarah as she embarks on a new life in Paris after meeting a French man during her travels around Europe. 

The novel explores how everything about Sarah’s very being marks her as an outsider, and documents her attempts to adapt and fit into the Parisian lifestyle. 

Highlighting stark cultural differences between France and anglophone countries, you can laugh along with Sarah as she experiences all the faux pas most expats are likely to have made. 

4. My Life in France, by Julia Child 

Julia Child is famed for having brought a new style of cuisine into the American home, a cuisine she learned during her years in Paris after the Second World War. 

The book inspired the film Julie & Julia, which stars Meryl Streep, and explores a 1940s American housewife’s discovery of French language, culture and of course, food. 

Julia signs up for lessons at Le Cordon Bleu, and her experiences are everything you would expect and more. 

After you have read the book, the film is also well worth a watch (and why not try it with French subtitles!)

Read also: Six classic French films to improve your language skills

5. La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life, by Elaine Sciolino

Written by the former chief of the New York Times’ bureau in France, Elaine Sciolino had her finger on the pulse of French news for years. 

She is therefore perfectly placed to have written this observational guide about how French people use seduction in every part of their lives. 

The book documents her experiences as a top journalist in Paris, such as meetings with former President Jacques Chirac, and how the power of seduction is used as a general operational tool in France. 

6. L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home, by David Lebovitz

This one will likely resonate with those who have done home renovations in France.

American writer and chef David Lebovitz documents his troublesome and sometimes hilarious journey about renovating his Parisian apartment. 

The book also provides recipes throughout from his own Parisian kitchen, as he and his partner navigate French regulations and work styles. 

Do you have any recommendations? Send them to sophie.parsons@connexionfrance.com 

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