I sometimes get these pleas for help from soon-to-be ex-pats. Today, I received this one from Dave (below). As ever, I’m happy to offer advice wherever I can, however if you there’s anything you think you can add (particularly the part about rights for US citizens in France) – then please chip-in using the comments form underneath.
Hello, My name is Dave and I am a US citizen married to a German citizen. I spent time in Strasbourg when I was in the Army and loved it. We have a 2 yr old and a second little one due any day now. We are thinking seriously about moving from US to Strasbourg.
We have a lot of questions but most interested in finding work and housing along with VISA status (restrictions, limitations for each type etc.). What would you suggest is a good placed to start our search? Any
information or links would be helpful. Wondering if my wife’s EU Passport would make it easier to move there? I speak English and Spanish and my wife speaks English and German.
We are looking at your area specifically because of the proximity to her family in Germany. France just seems to be the best overall country in which to raise a family in Europe. Best health-care system, early childhood education and overall quality of life. We would appreciate any helpful hints or advice you may be able to provide. Thank you for any assistance you can provide. Dave
Hi Dave, Quality of life is what brought us to Strasbourg from the UK with our six-month old. Besides the health and child-care arrangements, Strasbourg also offers one of the most progressive attitudes to public transport in Europe: the TGV line is the world’s fastest; the car-pool scheme ‘Auto’trement’ was the first to offer rechargeable hybrids; a train-tram scheme is coming soon which will connect Strasbourg to Barr at the foot of the Vosges mountains; and the infrastructure is being improved all the time.
Strasbourg’s proximity is not only very good geographically speaking, but also recreationally and for business. Here we are in the middle of the Blue Banana (the shape Europe’s biggest industrial areas make when looked at upon a map), which means the area is a hive of activity for manufacturing and commerce. If you have experience in international business (particularly sales) then you should not find it too difficult to find work. Beware though – the French don’t consider any experience worthwhile – unless it comes on top of a relevant qualification. (Take a look at the APEC.fr board for what’s on offer for executives at the moment).
If you are unable to find anything in the short term – you should consider teaching English as a foreign language – as the best part of France (and Germany) want to learn the language. So picking up a TEFL before you arrive would be a good idea.
Recreation-wise there are hundreds of castles, forts, vineyards, museums, restaurants and other sites to visit. There is a ski station less than 60km away, a sailing centre, the Zenith (for concerts), theatres, opera, children’s activity centres .. I could go on…and that’s just the French side of the border.
As for day-to-day practicalities – the best single source of information is a book called “Window to Strasbourg“. Although a little out of date now – it covers off pretty much everything you need to know to get your lives started here in Strasbourg. Health, social security, schools etc.. It is published by the local Americans in Alsace Association – who are also a great source of advice.
When we made the move we used a relocation agent – SCOT - who helped resolve the language issues for us, as well as guide us through the process of renting an apartment. You may also find them useful. As for renting somewhere – the rule is fairly simple: you can rent anywhere provided you earn at least three times the monthly rent. (e.g. if the rent is 1000 EUR a month – you need to be earning 3000 EUR a month to qualify)
Your wife’s EU status makes it possible for you to live anywhere within the EU, and in theory you have 90 days grace (the equivalent of a long holiday) before you are required to make yourself known as a resident at the prefecture (your wife won’t need to though).
Hopefully that gives you something to start your investigations with? If you need anything else – just call.