18 October 2008

France - a Toe in the Water

I've dipped my toe in the water - no more than that as yet. I'm investigating slow travel in France! As Rolf Potts so wisely states in his book "Vagabonding," the experience really starts long before your actual trip. All the research into a new place gets you primed and ready to really get to know it once you actually go. So, even though France is more than a year away for us, I'm finding out about it!

What does a toe in the water get you?

Books:
- Le Divorce, by Diane Johnson - a novel set in current-day France (Paris), centered on two American sisters. One is visiting her sister who is married to a Frenchman, but going through a divorce. It is a bit irritating as a novel, but interesting in what it reveals about the differences between American and French cultures, outlooks, and daily living.
- A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle - a journal that reads like a novel, about Peter and his wife moving into and renovating a country house in Provence. Very enjoyable, even if you don't want to know all about how to get things done in France. It illustrates how the couple adapts to their surroundings.
- A Year in the Merde, by Stephen Clarke - a novel that reads like a journal, about a young British man living in Paris. It covers all sorts of useful items - to find an apartment, first get a girlfriend, then move in... It also incorporates a healthy amount of corruption, how to get around said corruption, strikes by *every* group (seemingly one each month), and (of course) some interesting cultural differences.
- Cultural Misunderstandings, the French-American Experience, by Raymonde Carroll - an anthropological study of some of the cultural differences between French and Americans. Explains topics such as telephone use, family, parenting, dating, and friendships. Very readable *and* interesting.

Websites:
- French embassy for visa (up to 90 days) and residency (longer stays) information
- Forums for advice from people who have visited or live there
- Residency groups for advice and concrete help from those who have made a life there (most of these also have forums): The Languedoc Page, Americans in Toulouse, Americans in France,
- French language immersion schools
- CIA world fact book for statistics on population, religions, etc.
- Transitions Abroad for expatriate resources

Computer programs:
- Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary, an excellent resource! You install it on your computer, then look up translations, verb conjugations, and standard letters / communiques. You can hear a word or phrase, in French, by clicking on it - slick!
- Google Translate - not something you install, but you can enter a URL from a French-language website, and Google will translate it into English. It isn't perfect, but you can definitely figure out the information.

2 comments:

Arp said...

You got two GREAT books listed there. 'A Year in Provence' made me want to move to France for years - or at least spend some time there to eat, eat, eat. (of course, I eventually realized that I'd have to work a lot to earn a living there!)

'Vagabonding' is something else - I think it should be required reading for all expats & expats to be. I'm just amazed that people made these journeys before the internet, when keeping in touch was harder and information not as easy to find.

Julie said...

Hi Arp -
I seem to recall that I found out about "Vagabonding" from *your* blog. I was so excited, I tried to write a comment, and it failed to take - probably forgot to turn on java script at that critical moment :(. Anyway, a *big thanks* to you!
Julie