Living & Working in France (Chez Vous en France) by Geneviève Brame
Reviewed by Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl
Over the past few years a growing number of publishers have published guidebooks about living and working abroad. There is now a plethora of books available on the subject, especially about popular destinations for expatriates such as France. But among all these guidebooks there are a few veteran publications that have been around for a while and have proven themselves invaluable to readers over the years. Geneviève Brame ‘s “Living & Working in France” (now in its sixth edition) is among those books that have stood the test of time (it was first published in 1993) and continue to provide useful and practical information for anyone interested in living and working in France. As with most reference books, ‘Living & Working in France’ is intended more to provide information than to inspire you using engaging narrative about France, its culture, history, traditions, and way of life. The best way to use this book is not to read it from cover to cover, but to look up chapters on topics you need specific information about.
The book is divided into ten chapters which offer an overview of French culture, French institutions and administrative divisions, immigration law, work visas, the search for housing, schools, health care, and other topics important to expatriates. The author has spared no effort to provide as much information as possible, but there is so much detail about some topics that at times I found myself lost in the minutiae of daily life in France, such as explanations about the number of digits and codes of French social security numbers, and how to write dates and numbers. Readers are also bombarded with so many French words, names of institutions and organizations that it would have been useful to add an appendix of acronyms. When I came across a paragraph that mentioned the DDTEFP (the local administration of the Labor Department), I had to find the section where it was first mentioned and explained, instead of just looking it up in the appendix. Where the book falls short is in not offering a more in-depth introduction to French culture or the “French Way.” The behemoth of French culture is covered rather superficially at the beginning of the book, and readers learn very little about what makes the French tick or how to adapt to the local mentality and customs.
But aside from these minor drawbacks, the book provides very useful and in-depth information about every logistical aspect of moving to and living in France, from getting a residency card to finding an apartment. In contrast to other guidebooks about living abroad, Geneviève Brame’s book does not primarily focus on a British readership and covers all aspects of visas and work permits for citizens of countries outside the European Union. For anyone interested in or planning on living to France, “Living & Working in France” is a great guide packed with lots of information about the most important practical issues of living in France. It should be at the top of the list of items to bring along with you to France.