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How To Live In France (Or Another European Country)

I think I can safely say that a lot of you readers are drawn to freelancing to live out your dream of location independence.

Even if you love where you live (or have a house and kids that makes it a teensy weensy bit harder) having the option of location independence is still a major plus.

One of the most common questions I get from people online is, “How do you live in France?”.

Even if it’s not France, specifically, I know living in Europe can be a long-time dream for many.

So I thought I’d share a little bit about how I got here and some things to know about living in Europe.

It’s totally possible!

I always have a little chuckle when people say to me “I wish I could do that”.

You can!!

All it takes is a little research and a little planning, and living in Europe is definitely an option for you.

First things first: Visas

France is part of what’s called the Schengen States. I don’t want to bore you with the details of what that means, but basically, the visa rules are similar and the borders are open between these 26 countries:

Europe Visa

So, generally, you can take your pick from one of these and what I’m about to say below applies. But there are differences, that I have no experience with, so you are going to have to do some research on your own!

Tourist Visa

A tourist visa allows you to stay in Schengen countries for 90 days. In my opinion this is the perfect way to test out Europe and living abroad without needing to make too big of a commitment. My first foray in living in Europe 6 years ago was on a tourist visa.

Depending on where you’re from, getting a tourist visa is quite simple. If you’re from the US or Canada for example, you don’t even need to apply, it just happens automatically when you arrive and get your passport stamped.

Long-Stay Visa

A long-stay visa is a bit more complicated. But I went through the process as well and came out on the other side just fine. Usually it is valid for 1 year, but renewable. The catch to get a long-stay visa is that you need to prove you have enough funds/savings/income to support yourself while you are here so you won’t become a burden on the French (or other Schengen country) and try to take a job from any national.

They don’t give an exact amount you need for France, but the general minimum is around 2,000€ per month ($2600 USD).

So if you want this option, planning in advance and saving up or finding a friend or family member that has that in their savings account and are willing to write a letter of support is necessary.

Other Visa Options

There are several other types of visas, but you definitely have to be committed to living in Europe to make the process of getting one worth it. For example, a student visa. If you’ve been wanting to learn something new, like cooking, you could join a French culinary school and get the visa to go along with that. MMmm…cheese.

Of course, that might be too much of a commitment for you when the goal is freelance freedom. Same goes with trying to get a job here- not the location independent life-style were talking about at FTF so I won’t go into that.

Or, you can do it the Leah way and fall in love with a Frenchy. Cliché I know. But there are visas for that too 🙂 (and the visa that helped me stay here this long).

Language Barriers

So you’d love to live in France (or Spain, or Germany), but you don’t speak the language? Don’t let that stop you! I could barely say Bonjour when I first arrived and I survived!

If you speak English, you can make it work. Especially in any major city or capital.

Of course, learning the language is a big part of the fun, so you’ll want to buy some books or play around on a site like Babbel before and after you arrive.

Where to live?

Another big block is finding a place to live when you come. No matter what kind of visa you get, having a temporary place to stay when you arrive is the only must. Whether that be a hotel/hostel for a week or an Airbnb apartment, you’ll want to have a place to stay before you find somewhere else to settle.

When I first came 6 years ago, I found a family that needed an au pair in exchange for having a place to stay. Of course, this was before I had my business, so the commitment of taking care of some French kiddos wasn’t a problem for me. Maybe not your cup of tea, but it is an option.

If you come on a 3 month visa, Airbnb is your best bet. They’ve got a TON of options, everywhere. Even in my little beach town of Biarritz, Airbnb is a happening marketplace. Of course, there are other smaller websites to find places, but they are country specific and not always in English.

You will find better deals once you arrive though, by meeting people and asking around. So if you are a bit adventurous, or plan on staying longer than 3 months, get a temporary Airbnb room or hotel to start and then research other options once you arrive.

Next Steps

If living in Europe (or anywhere abroad for that matter) is of interest you, start planning and make it happen!

If you already run your freelance business full-time, it’s just a matter of figuring out the details, saving up a bit and getting over the fear of leaving stuff behind.

If you’re still have a J.O.B. and are just dreaming about the possibilities of location independence, start taking the steps necessary to make it happen by signing up for Heather and I’s free ebook, “10 Things You Must Have in Place Before Making The Leap” or at least get on the list to find out when our comprehensive guide to quitting your day job comes available.

-Leah

 

Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Being location-independent is the exact same reason why I chose to live in Berlin, Germany and having recently received my Artist’s visa, I am now fulfilling that dream 🙂

    P.S. I visited Biarritz almost 10 years ago, it’s still one of my favorite cities!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Ohh Zana, I’d love to live in Berlin! Biarritz is amazing, but after 6 years I’m ready for a more lively city. We’ll have to do a Euro meetup one of these days.

  • Wow, thanks for this rundown of logistics, Leah! You’re right in that you need to have a stable income with your busibess before taking that leap. That’s been my plan for a few years now: learn web design, build freelance business, live in Europe for a significant amount of time. Thank you for explaining about visas, that can be a real headache to research.

    Can’t wait! Are there other smaller towns in France that you know of that would be worth looking into besides Paris? Not that I don’t want to live there, but it is expensive.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Oh exciting, love that plan! Well I’m happy to go into further details on the blog if there are more people like you (or of course in the FB if you have specific questions). Oh there are many great French towns other than Paris. Yes, Paris is expensive, and frankly, Parisians aren’t the most friendly people (sorry my Paris peeps, but you know it’s true!). I would really enjoy living in Bordeaux (fellow FTFer Jackie Johnstone lives there and can give you more deets) and Aix-en-Provence is beautiful (I lived in the close to Aix when I first came). Happy to give you more recs when you start the planning stage. Next European city I’d love to live in is Berlin though, so alive, artsy, cheap from what I hear, and friendly!

  • Love it Leah!

    I am literally doing the same thing. I am currently living in Paris on a Working Holiday visa (which is a visa agreement between Australia and France valid for 12 months). I am in so in love with the fact I can jot over to Italy for the weekend or escape the Parisian rain and head to Spain for a week without much hassle and little expense compared to shlepping all the way from Aus.

    In the past year I have been able to work and travel from Scotland, Ireland, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Thailand and Laos. Once you become location independent all you need is your laptop and wifi.

    I love it here so much that I am heading back to Australia in November to get a new visa – onto the Long Stay Visa – Yikes!!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Ah you Australians and your lucky Working Holiday visas! I should have mentioned that but I think it’s so popular with Aussie’s most of you know about it 🙂 The French have it easy as well with the same in the opposite direction! Love the skipping around Europe part, it’s so cheap and easy!

    • Andrew Benteau

      Hi Rachel,

      Congrats on your success in Paris. I’ve received a job offer there but am much more keen to refuse and do what you’re​ doing. Just wanted to ask if there is any special work permit or other administrative procedure you’ve had to get in order to be self employed while on working holiday? Will you file taxes through France? Trying to be legit while I’m there. Thanks for any advice you might have to offer.

  • Great post, Leah! I’m sort-of tied down by my husband’s job and our son, but even the possibility of going anywhere is exciting, as you said.

    Europe is totally my cup of tea, and I can’t wait to go back. Thanks for sharing about your experience, I love reading about others who are using their location-independence in cool ways.

  • Oh my gosh Leah! I’ve been waiting for this post from you for a long time! YAY!!! THANK YOU!! 🙂 This has been a looong time dream/goal and have finally gotten the hubs on board. About to start looking at Paris apartments with the goal to rent out to visitors while we’re in the states. Do you know of another area in France that is popular with visitors year round other than Paris? PS…Good to know on the Visas – I was a little confused on this. Thank you!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes! I knew it was a dream of yours but didn’t know you were so close to making it happen! So glad the hubs is on board. Great idea for the renting while gone concept, definitely easy to do. Yes, lots of great places other than Paris, I’m going to start a little post about it in the FTF group since you aren’t the first to ask. Let me know what other questions you have as this is just an overview and I can definitely share more in-depth details.

      • Janet

        I will! I’m sure I’ll have a TON-O-QUESTIONS as things progress. THANK YOU!! 🙂

  • Kimberly Crossland

    I have a bit of a different perspective on this.

    I lived and worked in Copenhagen, Denmark for 3.5 years. Most of that time was spent fighting for the right to live there. The first two visas I received were student visas (I was finishing up my schooling at the Copenhagen Business School). I too had to show that I had enough money in the bank account to get that visa. The second visa was a working visa. It took 10 months for the “Udlaendigstyrelse” to make a decision about whether or not I would be allowed in the country. During that time I could not work or travel. When I finally got the notice, I was kicked out of the entire EU (the “Schengen” countries). At this time I had a job that was a perfect fit for my skills and experience, required an American to do (they don’t allow people into the country if a Dane can do the job), and I spoke the language fluently. That wasn’t enough.

    My boss went to the media (he was a pretty big hot shot in the country making it even more appalling that they wouldn’t approve my visa). I was centerfold in their version of the Wall Street Journal and I appeared on the national news.

    After another 6 months of splattering the media with my story, I finally got approved to stay.

    It was not nearly as easy as you’ve experienced. France might be another story but Denmark is very closed off when it comes to letting foreigners live and work in their country.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Oh man Kimberly, sorry to hear about your troubles. I actually went through the same thing between my tourist visa and my visa for being with my Frenchman, so I wouldn’t say my story is easy, I just went about it the wrong way (trying to get a work visa) so I don’t recommend it to others. Working visas are a whole different story, and although I’ve heard Northern countries are pretty tough, France is definitely hard on that as well.

      I tried for nearly a year to get the right to work here (because I wanted to work for a French company, not work for myself like I do now) and it was a super long horrible process. I didn’t mention that in this post because not only is it super hard to get, but I assume my Freelance To Freedom readers don’t want to work for someone else so wouldn’t even need that as an option. But I definitely feel your pain! Crazy you had to go to the media, I ended up getting a personal meeting with the Biarritz Mayor and with a plea letter from him, they gave me the right to work. But it’s not a process I wish on anyone so I definitely recommend finding another way!

  • Love love love, as always, what you share Leah.

    I lived in Budapest, Hungary for a while (and yes, made easier since I’m already European living in Schengen & I could live with my boyfriends cousin). Best decision I ever made.

    Another tip, especially in the beginning, is to look for co-working offices. I started working at a place called Kaptár once or twice a week, mostly to get connections to people “like me” in the city.
    And oh, Budapest is pretty inexpensive if you have “forgein” salary – a place to stay can cost about the same as in other European capitals but food and drink, oh so cheap.

  • Luckily, I already live in Europe, but hey I might as well give a shout-out to all of you who are considering working abroad – come to Croatia! 😀

    Benefits:
    – It’s gorgeous. There’s so much to see, just check out Google images.
    – We eat real food.
    – The standard of living is pretty low, so with a foreign salary you’ll live pretty comfortably.
    – Most people speak & understand English, though some older folks speak other languages (Italian or German).

    Also, here’s a funny intro on Croatian culture from the perspective of an immigrant: http://zablogreb.blogspot.com/

    Dobro došli! 🙂

  • Oh, this is totally one of my favorite topics, thank you for this post, Leah!
    I’ve been travelling and living in different countries since birth and can’t imagine living in one place longer than several years.
    I’m already in Europe, but still found lots of great info in your post. I had no idea about that 12-month visa to Australia. Thank you again!

  • Thanks for the ideas. I don’t know if I would ever permanently move out of the states, but we’re planning on doing some long term traveling once I’m done homeschooling my last child.

  • Love this post, Leah! Great insight and tips, particularly the visa info. So much has changed since the last time I lived in Europe (20 years ago – holy crap!). It was far easier to wing it back then regarding regulations but having internet resources, airbnb and the ability to retain clients from anywhere when living anywhere are definitely new and super attractive perks.

    For anyone who hasn’t lived abroad at least once, I HIGHLY recommend it.

  • Love this! But hey, I left from Romania to come to the US, so for me that’s location independence 😉 Romania is also part of the Schengen states btw. Europe is a fun place, but I love the open space and different culture in the US. But for anyone who hasn’t been abroad, I would highly recommend living in Europe for a month or two. It’s a completely new experience!

  • You make it sound so easy! I have to admit, I am very jealous of your French lifestyle, but I think it’s easy to romanticize it a bit (though both times I’ve been to France I’ve loved it. And also gained 10 lbs). It is one of those things though that I think we all do, “oh I wish I could do that!” and then realize that there’s nothing stopping us. I think that realization can sometimes be a hard one to come to, but once you do, it feels so freeing!

  • Love it!
    While we love the resort city that we live in, my guy and I are making plans as I type this to work abroad for a few months in the Spring. The world is huge, so narrowing down options has been a fun, first-world problem: Iceland, Manarola Italy, Puerto Varas Chile. We are rubbing our hands together in anticipation.
    Thanks for the tips, Leah!

  • Awesome Leah!!! You know I’m one of those people that badgered you about that—so this post is much needed and appreciated 🙂

  • Great post Leah! Best advice is to start planning and do it. I have been living a location independent lifestyle with my hubs for almost a year and we love it. We are currently in Mexico (not quite France), but we love the flexibility. We do volunteer work here and support ourselves with our freelance biz. We head home to Australia and get organised to do it all again next year.

  • Hey Leah
    Biarritz looks amazing.
    I think you’re right about having “the option of location independence”…as in you COULD go for 3 months if you wanted to. I love the sunny wine region of the Okanagan Valley where I live in Britich Columbia – heck, tons of people come here for summer holidays and ski vacations – but I definitely miss the travel opps of just popping over to the continent from when we lived in England for 4 years.

    There’s also another option, that I only learned about while travelling when I was over 30 (ruling out the easiest visa option for Commonwealth countries – England, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc). I qualified for an Ancestry Visa because my grandparents were born in England (in fact, lived in the same city I moved to!) and that got me a 4 yr working visa, including National Health benefits, and was incredibly easy to get.

    Then we had to make a decision – move back to Canada and Paul apply for his Cdn Resident’s permit, or me do the same in the UK. We opted for the better lifestyle, though it’s been challenging emotionally sometimes with his family and our nieces now grown up into teenagers, living so far apart.

    There’s also a Couch Surfing option for places to stay when you first arrive – and you get to meet local people to be your guide and introduce you to the culture (Just Google it).

    House Swaps could be another option.

  • Love this post! One of the main reasons I wanted to start my own business is so that I could travel the world! I would like to spend a year traveling and living in different countries before I have kids!

  • Joseph

    Hi Leah,
    I’m interested in freelancing/consulting for a small buisness in france. I am a Freelance Chef and have worked on yachts all over (different story). Now I know someone that could use my help. What steps do you recommend for me to take visa wise. Would it be easy to get a carte sejours and then just apply for a freelance license? Thanks

  • I’m American, 33 yrs old and with a Master’s degree (obtained in 2010). I am interviewing for an unpaid internship to do digital marketing in the tourism industry in Ireland. They want me there for 6-9 months. No problem for 90 days, but how can I extend that? Could I get a freelance permit in Germany, France or Ireland (if they have it) and then continue my unpaid internship? Would the Irish allow me to get a Working Holiday Visa even though I’m over 30? Any recommendations?

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Hey Kristin- how exciting about the internship! I don’t know about Ireland specifically, but they may have something special for interns. I would definitely do some research on their options in particular. Check out their embassy website where it should all be listed. The first place I’d ask though is your potential employer. Especially in the tourism industry, they often know solutions to hire foreign employees. Good luck!

  • Aria

    Hi leah!
    Loved your story. Im actually dating a french guy for almost 2 years, but the last 6 have been long distance, he is asking me to go to france on a tourist visa and try to find a job that way but I’ve read its almost impossible, even being multilingual as I am, cause I have few work experience and a business degree.. I have also read the best way would be getting married but I dont wanna push that.. what can you say? Did you marry sooner to get the visa?

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      Hi Aria! I feel like I’m reading my own story 🙂 Get PACSED- that’s what we did. This website helped me understand things a lot back then but it’s changed a bit since I used it: http://ielanguages.com/pacs.html

  • Rachel V

    Hi Leah! I appreciate all your feed back! ? Question: My hubby and I are from California and will be attending the TESOL training course for 4 weeks this coming April in France and I just wanted to get your opinion on how difficult you think it’ll be to get a teaching job in France or anywhere else in Europe?.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      Hey Rachel! Oh that sounds exciting. I don’t have any experience with this but one of the blogs I followed for other France expat info had a ton of info on this as the original site creator was a teaching assistant for several years. Check it out and good luck! http://ielanguages.com/

  • Great article.

    I am changing careers from soccer coach to freelance designer and have a design business started but it is not very big at all – trying to get clients has proved very challenging but I do have one steady client at least. And I want to live in Europe and be ‘location independent’ like you said!

    I have searched about visas, freelance visas and schengen visas and various rules but I am still quite confused.

    I guess my question is since my design business may or may not make, what if I go to Europe and then subsequently need part-time work to make ends meet?

    Any suggestion would be great – I’m interested in France, the UK, Denmark, Italy or Netherlands!

    Thanks.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      Unfortunately it’s different with every country. But there will definitely be a way for you to work part-time and do freelance work. It’s just how you declare it and to what country that will differ. Good luck!

  • Lee

    Hello!

    Just wondering if it is possible to work as a freelancer in France with a working holiday visa. I see very little information on this topic. I am Canadian and just arrived in Paris one month ago.
    If you know anything about this, please help me!!

    Thank you!

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