When oh when exactly is one no longer an expat? Is it a case of “married the man, married his land” as a French-Canadian friend recently told me? Is it purely up to you how you decide to reply to the question, “Where do you call home?” Is it the day you secure French nationality? Is it once you’ve endured your 1,001st administrative task? When you’ve witnessed four presidential elections… or changed gynecologist five times? Or driven around the Arc de Triomphe without killing anyone?
Or is it when you stroll through arrivals at Charles de Gaulle’s Terminal 2 with a warm fuzzy feeling of “Ah! Good to be home”? (Note: that’s Terminal 2… not 1, never 1. Nobody can feel at home in Terminal 1.)
At what point do you no longer wonder/calculate how long you’ll stay?
Some could argue that one never stops being an expat. But these 15 signs indicate you may be ready to identify as a “lifer” in France:
- Your elevator pitch goes from a whirlwind tour of your ancestry, previous places you’ve lived in, and estimation of how many more years you’ll be in France, to a shrug and an “I live here now.”
- You read all those witty articles about odd French expressions and chortle ironically to yourself because you’ve heard every…single…one.
- You stop importing Marmite and crossing town to buy baking soda from that one weird grocer who stocks it, and instead, you just deal with it: cook with the ingredients available.
- You’ve Got a Friend. We know the expat roundabout of buddies can be heartbreaking—you make a friend only to lose them to Singapore’s lures and you’re really mad at Singapore for ages and find yourself jabbing tacks in Singapore on a world map and sobbing. Handy hint: When you’re sticking around forever that’s when you make a friend who is also sticking around forever. It’s a vibe thing.
- You get dependents. Could be a cat, dog, an apartment, or child. Hamsters don’t really count.
- You think “their” way. When you hear about how something’s handled, say there’s a teacher nobody wants for their kid, and you hear how other moms lobby the principal to avoid their kid getting the bad teacher, and immediately think “I’m doing the same” rather than plan a full-scale complaint to Education Nationale, you know you’re thinking like the French think. Yep, scary.
- You stop converting to Fahrenheit or pounds and ounces, and you stop jumping on xe.com all the time to check the cost of things back in your home currency.
- You know the French movie stars… and the ins and outs of their previous marriages.
- There’s a pharmacist who knows everything about you, your family, and your life. And a hairdresser who knows it all too.
- You’ve got on fait pas comme ça-itude. You instinctively know what amount you should contribute to the teacher’s gift, and when wearing shorts is okay in Paris (Answer: never, unless you are younger than 19 and in hot pants).
- You had your “over-integrated” phase and have now pulled back to just “integrated.” There’s a tendency for people who move to France “for life” to go overboard with their adoption of French ways. Such as, cooking like a French grandmère and abstaining from Halloween…but usually, these types scale it back to a healthy reality of relying on Picard and organizing their own Halloween parties because, why not?
- You’ve looked into your 5- 10- even 20-year plan! You can imagine and plan for yourself being old here in France and that concept doesn’t send you packing!
- Blue Funk Ease. We all know that feeling of going to our home countries and returning to France only to spiral for a couple of weeks. When this eases to a manageable level it is a blessed relief.
- You know how to get a broken washing machine repaired. Yes, this is a big test. But it’s not just getting it fixed. Anyone can figure out which way expats get something fixed or done or signed, but once you figure out how the locals best do things, that’s a magic invisible line you’ve crossed into being a true lifer.
- You see your home country with your eyes wide open. Yep, for all its good and bad.
And finally…you cheer for France versus your home country in a major sporting event.
Kidding. That’ll never happen.