The Dos and Don’ts of Kicking Off Your Year Abroad in the South of France

So, I’m about to spend my 3rd weekend in the beautiful city of Valence. My kids are absolute stars, the food is as good as they say it is (someone take one for the team and be ready to roll me home come April) and the scenery is beaut. But what have I actually learnt during my short time across the channel? I’ve put together a few Dos and Don’ts that I wish I’d been made more aware of before the big move! (Disclaimer: some advice should be taken more seriously than others).


1.       Do buy yourself a bottle opener (and a good one at that).

Save scenes like these for Lenton kitchens. When you’re in a country where it’s actually difficult to find wine made after 2010, don’t use a pair of plyers to do the deed.

2.       Do go to the market- explore your local shops- even get a bike to make the whole experience a little more French.

Last year’s grocery shop frequently consisted of a quick post-gym detour into Lidl for bread and pasta. Where’s the fun in that? Valence has a market in the old town every Saturday morning where you can buy local cheese, bread and fresh fruit and veg at really reasonable prices. I’ve genuinely been feeling pretty good since swapping Trent Café bagels and a Pepsi for fresh salad and lemon squash- why not even do one better and hire a bike? Xercise4Less what? Now’s your time to get fit and fast!

3.       Don’t forget siesta time really does exist in France.

Don’t even think about popping out to grab some lunch, or to go to the bank, or to browse the shops- just stay in.

4.       Don’t expect to buy yourself one shot at the bar. We’re not in Ocean anymore, Toto.

You must in fact buy 5. Yes, 5. That will be €20 please.

5.       Do have food in after a night out, because D2 isn’t round the corner.

Takeaways close at 11pm, so maybe throw in a pizza in preparation next time you’re predrinking with your French pals

6.       Don’t speak English in front of French boys- in fact play very, very dumb.

You will be greeted with a rendition of ‘ow are you?’- be prepared for a symphony of clingy francophone parrots that aren’t too bothered if you give them the cold shoulder.

7.       Do get Tinder.

Because what better way to practice your French than with 22 year old Pierre who studies Medicine in Lyon?

We know you’re out there somewhere, Pierre.

8.       Don’t forget your umbrella, or your jacket.

I had a good old rant about the weather here in my personal blog so I’ve vented enough to take more of an objective approach here. There is much wind and rain and thunder and sometimes I feel I won’t make it through the day. #mountainprobs

9.       Do remember that France is not the UK- in fact it is like nowhere else.

This might sound really obvious but it’s easy to see a Maccies and a Zara and assume things won’t be all that different to back home. But France is an absolute world of its own. Embrace it, make fun of it if it makes things easier, but appreciate it all the same. Before long you’ll be back home and wishing you’d have just tried to understand that strange French sense of humour.

10.       Do- whatever you want

This last one is vital, and goes for any travelling. Do things you always wanted to do but maybe for whatever reason didn’t get round to doing. Try and avoid long Facebook and FaceTime sessions, let your loved ones know you’re okay and then try and focus on the here and now. There’s adventure around every corner and it’s up to you to jump in and make the most out of every moment. You won’t regret it.

Edited by Nicole Jones

Images: Author's own