15 Signs You’re No Longer an Expat in France

15 Signs You’re No Longer an Expat in France

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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?

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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:

  1. 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.”
  2. You read all those witty articles about odd French expressions and chortle ironically to yourself because you’ve heard every…single…one.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

    © Christophe Seligour/123Rf
  5. You get dependents. Could be a cat, dog, an apartment, or child. Hamsters don’t really count.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. You know the French movie stars… and the ins and outs of their previous marriages.
  9. There’s a pharmacist who knows everything about you, your family, and your life. And a hairdresser who knows it all too.
  10. 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).

    © Kaci Baum/Unsplash
  11. 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?
  12. 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!
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

How well do you have to speak French to live in France? Read Lizzie Harwood’s language test here.

After 16 years in Paris—and years in Auckland, Sydney, rural Canada, London, Brighton, Rome and ‘Xamnesia’ prior—Lizzie Harwood currently lives in Stockholm with her French husband, two girls, and angora stray. When she isn’t escorting her half-French, half-3-culture kids to further their education (and asking them to please stop meowing on the Métro due to their claim to be ‘part cat’)… she is an Amazon bestselling author of women’s fiction and travel memoir where you’ll discover where ‘Xamnesia’ is. In 2012, Lizzie started Editor Deluxe, her editing/coaching business aimed to help and inspire writers anywhere in the world.


  1. From her bio it sound like Lizzie is a lifer emigrant!
    90+ Way You Know You’re Becoming French is a cute little book, by two implants (there’s another term!) to France from the USA that offers a humorous look at the same subject!

  2. Oh, I needed your article on “Lifers” this morning! This made me laugh as I saw myself as quite a “lonely lifer” (who has a great life!) not in France, but in England. I do mean England, not London, where you can live any nationality you want.
    I no longer go to expat events, not just because it is a trail of goodbyes, but few are on the same train of thought when it comes to global family life. Our kids have grown and flown the nest, only to marry someone in England. One married an Italian, and that is wonderful as I can connect with her fun of raising a family in a new-to-me country. So many new grandparents on Ryan Air to Ancona!
    Still, I would love a Lifer Netword as well as local friends. I have wonderful friends here in Surrey, including someone who is half-English/half-Scot who struggles with the English version of history taught in schools! Thank you SO much for writing and sending this postout today. Chow!

    • When my son was small, he asked me to stop making friends with expats because their children always moved away.
      Being an expat can be lonely as you say Kathleen yet there is something very satisfying about finding yourself
      feeling comfortable wherever you are. And thank you Lizzie, for expressing how many of us feel!


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