An Expat Tale of Beginning Again – Living in Nice France

Five long months of planning, plotting and organizing for my move from Taiwan to Nice, and I’ve finally arrived! I’m living in NICE France! I still pinch myself almost every day. Most evenings I wander down to the promenade for sunset, listening to my Spotify playlist while I soak in the beauty of my new life on the Mediterranean. Sometimes a song will bring me back to my long walks in Taiwan, through the Hsinchu Science Park, a million miles away. I flashback to my old life and feel even more grateful for my new home, confident that the stress of beginning again, living in Nice as a “50-something”, will be worth it in the end.

My first morning living in Nice, I wake up, stare at the ceiling, and wonder: “Now what“?

Where do you begin to recreate a life as a 50-something introvert?

How do you take a vision of the perfect new life and make that dream a reality?

First step: you pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit on the tiny balcony and watch pigeons.

Then you try to open a bank account, try to narrow down the perfect neighborhood, try to find an affordable apartment, try to meet new people and develop a social life, try to create a routine, and try to get some exercise.

And try hard not to freak out and become overwhelmed with all you’re trying to do. Then you begin to wonder if it’s impossible, this crazy dream of living in Nice France!

View of colorful umbrellas along the Promenade. Nice, France.
Nice beach

Second step: take a deep breath and then take one step at a time.

Opening a bank account

I’ll be applying for a one-year long stay visa, allowing me to legally live (but not legally work) in France. Americans typically get a 3-month tourist visa on arrival which allows a stay of 90 days in a 180-day period within the Schengen Zone. Unlike in parts of Asia, I can’t just do a “visa run” to the nearest border to get stamped for another 3-month visa on re-entry. It’s much more complicated than that.

So, in October I’ll return to the US to visit the French consulate in Chicago and apply in person for the highly coveted one-year long stay visa. France does NOT make it easy for foreigners to enter the country legally and the process requires a lot of paperwork and hoop-jumping. One of the requirements to obtain the visa is opening a bank account in France.

And even THAT requires a lot of paperwork and hoop-jumping!

Also, I’ve found out the hard way that August is the WORST month to try to get business done in France since everyone is on vacation. It took three weeks to finally meet with someone at HSBC and get the ball rolling on the banking paperwork.

Along with opening a bank account, I’m also required to establish a “frozen account” for apartment rental purposes since I won’t be able to show proof of income while I’m here. I’ll need to deposit around 6000 Euros in this frozen account as a security deposit. On top of that, I’ll still be required to pay the rent every month. The process of establishing a frozen account can take 3-4 weeks (depending, of course, on how many people are on vacation!).

READ MORE: How to Apply for a Long-Stay French Visa & Not Screw It Up

The joys of apartment hunting

When I was researching apartment rentals online, I compared the rental prices in Nice that those in Antigua, Guatemala, since I was considering that as another option. Surprisingly, rental prices are comparable.

However, like everywhere in the world, prices in Nice vary greatly based on location. Location…location…location.

The biggest question to be answered is location. I spend many hours walking the streets of this beautiful city, getting to know the small neighborhoods and trying to picture myself creating a new life there. My ideal location is walking distance from everything – the seafront promenade, cafes, restaurants, historic Old Town, and Shapko Jazz Bar (current center of my social life!).

Liberation neighborhood is more affordable but too far to walk late at night. The Port area is beautiful, but it seems there are few apartment rental options in the area. I also question how safe it is walking through that area alone late at night.

Colorful fishing boats in the Port. Nice, France. Living in Nice, France.
Nice port area. Beautiful!

And then last week I found something interesting – a beautifully furnished studio loft in a great area AND within my price range! The apartment was advertised on Leboncoin, a French version of Craigslist, and was offered by an individual and not by a realtor. I jump on it and jump through the hoops to make it happen. It seems too good to be true!

Sadly, it was too good to be true. A scam. (Beware of apartment rental scams!)

READ MORE: Apartment Hunting in Nice, France – It’s Really Not Easy!

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Meeting people living in Nice France

One of the most difficult things about starting a new life living in Nice is meeting new people. Actually, I find it the most difficult part of moving anywhere in the world, not just Nice. As I get older, I realize I’m very much an introvert so mindless small talk makes me want to scream!

Thankfully, I already have a few friends in Nice from my previous visits last winter. But in order to branch out, I’ve been forcing myself to attend a few organized social gatherings through Meet Up and InterNations.

Meet Up #1 – Coffee Talk on a Sunday morning (seems so simple…)

Brief recap: Showed up at designated location. Saw a few people at a table but wasn’t sure if they were “Meet Up” people. Grabbed a cappuccino, took a seat outside and amused myself people-watching. Took a deep breath. Went back inside and asked the large table of about 10 people “Is this the Meet Up group?” One man muttered “Yes.” and continued his private conversation. Took a seat at the end of the table. The private conversations continued. I felt invisible. Took my cappuccino back outside and resumed people-watching.

(I may try again some Sunday morning soon…)

Meet Up #2 – Quiz Night at Blue Whale Pub

Brief recap: Showed up at the pub 15 minutes early and ordered a white wine. Took a seat at the bar. Tried to figure out who was with the Meet Up group. Asked one man “Are you with Meet Up?” “Huh?” he responded, looking at me like I was speaking Greek. “Oh, nothing,” I replied.

A few minutes later, a woman walked in who I recognized from my previous trips to Nice. She was also a music fan and followed many of the same local musicians. A friendly face! Things were looking up!

She approached me, not smiling. “You’re back. How long are you here?” she asked, obviously not excited to see me again.

Forever”, I replied.

Did you move back for XXXXX?” she asked, referring to one of the popular musicians in town.

HUH?” I replied, shocked that she would even think that!

(Turns out she’s obsessed with XXXXX and viewed me as a threat to her obsession.)

I left the bar just as Quiz Night was beginning. Went to Le Butch (a gay bar) and ordered another glass of wine.

Attempt #3: InterNations Gathering – drinks and music on the beach

Brief recap: Got all dressed up. Went to designated beachside restaurant. Found a park bench. Sat there trying to talk myself into paying 13 Euros to go in and make small talk with a bunch of strangers. Just couldn’t do it.

Went to Le Butch (gay bar) and spent 7 Euros for a half carafe of wine. Happily sipped wine and watched people. Chatted with a nice gay couple from the UK.

Moral of these stories of my social failures – as a natural introvert, I need to just live my life in Nice and meet people in more authentic situations. It seems the forced socializing and awkward small talk don’t work for me. (If you haven’t read Susan Cain’s “Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” I highly recommend it! It explains a lot!)

Creating a new routine living in Nice

One of the first things I’ve been focusing on is establishing a routine…a “new normal” in this new life.

I’ve found my favorite cafe (Nomad Cafe) where I can sit for hours, sip a cappuccino, and write.

My new office - Nomad Cafe located near Place Saint Francois.
Nomad Cafe – my new office living in Nice France.

Many evenings I wander down to the promenade for sunset. I stare at the water, watch the colors soften and morph into a Monet painting, and listen to music. (It’s great therapy!)

I’ve figured out which supermarkets have the best selection of Greek yogurt and delicious French wine.

Tuesday nights are usually spent at Shapko, listening to the amazing music of the always entertaining XXXXX. (She’s always there, sitting in the corner obsessing over him.)

Just a short walk from my temporary home is Garibaldi Place, with outdoor cafes offering the best Happy Hour deals in town (a glass of wine for 2 Euros!).

Living in Nice France
Nice Happy Hour. Place Garibaldi. Living in Nice France.

I also love discovering new places to add to my “routine”. One Sunday afternoon it was hot and I really needed a beer so I stopped at a cute little place with outdoor seating and a perfect view. I walked in and asked about any Happy Hour specials. “We’re always happy here!“, the woman responded happily.

So I ordered a beer and took a seat. “Nice place“, I thought. “I could become a regular here!

I found out later it’s the most popular lesbian bar in the area. (Explains why they were so friendly!)

Living in Nice France isn’t something I had even considered prior to my spontaneous visit six months ago. But beginning again in this little slice of the French Rivera is exactly the drastic life change I needed. 

Living in Nice France. Not easy, but well worth it!

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32 Replies to “An Expat Tale of Beginning Again – Living in Nice France”

  1. I am so enjoying reading about your new surroundings. There are likely many wonderful walks where you are. One that we enjoyed was along the coast of Cape Ferrat. Lovely villages and stunning cliffside homes along the path. I think I mentioned we rented a home right next to the entrance to the Rothschild Villa. I wonder if the same British couple we rented from still own it. Would love to stay there again with its amazing views of the sea and the Village of Ez in the distance.

    1. That area near Cape Ferrat is stunning! Actually, the whole coastline is! Lots to explore!

  2. Great read. Really enjoyed this. Look forward to the follow ups!

    1. Thanks! It’s been quite a learning process. Hopefully, the follow ups will help pave the way for others choosing this same road!

  3. Linda Townshend says: Reply

    Andi, you have such a wonderful life! I remember Nice back in the 70’s. What a lovely town it was. Jerry, my first husband, also sent me to Dieppe to the school of Cordon Bleu Cookery. I learned the art of French cuisine. My poor husband lost 25 lbs. in the first 6 weeks that we were married. I didn’t have a clue about cooking, as we had a chef when I lived at home prior to getting married. We lived in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK for several years so we traveled a great deal. You enjoy yourself and maybe one day we will get together if you end up in Pinellas County FL for a visit! Or I may get in touch with you in Europe!

    1. Thanks, Linda! Definitely, let me know if you visit Europe! Maybe you can stop by Nice and tutor me in French cooking!

  4. I love what you’re doing. 🙂 Definitely, moving is never an easy process, but I’m glad youve found the place that’s worth it. Thank you for writing this also because it makes me feel so much better about our struggles and failed attempts at finding an apartment in Hong Kong! haha Wish you the best, especially for getting that coveted one year visa. Hopefully we will get to visit you there sometime soon.

    1. Yeah, the struggle is real! I think it’s good to make people aware of the “real life” issues, not just the pretty pictures! So thankful I’ve got a friend living here so I’m not desperate to find a place!

  5. Colleen Bentson says: Reply

    I love your post! Just what I needed today????
    Colleen Bentson here, I graduated with Laurie. Made a recent move to Spain and so can relate to your story! Maybe if your in Spain or I in France we can meet up for a drink?

    1. Hi Colleen! Glad you enjoyed! I’m planning to visit Spain and would love to get together for a drink sometime! I’ll get in touch by email and we can figure it out! Best of luck in your move! 🙂

  6. Marlene Lomas says: Reply

    Ah Princessa,
    I can very slightly relate as when I moved to Bend I knew exactly 2 people who nearby. Much friendlier Meetups here though. People were very welcoming and of course no language barrier. Would like to hear more about how you are surviving not speaking French (or do you???) You are a gutsy gal and I hope it gets easier to meet people. Social life so important, though u are a lot more independent than most of us!!! Keep the stories coming, and don’t forget our guest room awaits YOU!!

    1. Luckily, I’ve got a few friends from my trips here last winter so I actually DO have a social life, mostly revolving around white wine and great music! I’ll concentrate on learning French in the next few months – need to move into my apartment and then head back to the US to apply for my long-stay visa. Starting over here is like putting a giant puzzle together, but the pieces are finally starting to fit! (So many more stories, coming soon!)

  7. I am curious if you are a true US expat (which is technically impossible on the long term) ie someone who lives permanently outside of the US bubble with no real plan to go back. I am wondering because because for us life has become impossible financially. I got kicked out of my French bank because I was US tainted for example and have no way to save money because the US feels entitled to tax all PFICs at 39.6% So the only people with US links living outside sustainably are not really expats at all…

    1. Hi Ben – I’m not quite clear on your comment (or question?). I have lived abroad since I left the US in 2013. I have no plans to go back, so I guess that “technically” makes me an expat. “So the only people with US links living outside sustainably are not really expats at all..” Yeah, I’m a little confused by that statement. Best of luck to you in finding a path that works for you. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  8. Hi Andi thanks for your experiences; your strength and independence are inspiring – I’m thinking of moving here, Nice or Villefranche, after a few years spending Jan-April in Cap d’Ail but I’m with a partner so it’s emotionally easier for me, on my own I think the odd cold-shoulders you suffered would put me off, but I can so understand why you love it here. Bonne chance! John

    1. Hi John! Thanks for the encouragement! Things have gotten much easier – it just takes time to create a new life. I’ve found that I meet more like-minded people just doing what I love to do rather than the organized Meet Ups and things like that. Best of luck in your move! Maybe I’ll see you at Shapko some night!

  9. A great read, thanks for sharing! While Ive never moved abroad like you, I can 100% relate to the ‘forced social situations’ thing you described; they can be so painful! I’m actually taking the plunge next month – I accepted a job just outside Nice so I’m moving from the (not so) sunny UK over there at the end of April. If you wanted to give an ignorant Brit some tips/advice for living in Nice, i’d happily return the favour in the form of wine! 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading and congratulations on your big move! I’d love to exchange tips for wine – sounds like a great deal! Definitely get in touch when you arrive and I’ll show you some of my favorite places. Nice is wonderful – I’m sure you’ll love it!

      1. Hey! As requested, this is me getting in touch now I’m officially(ish) a Nice resident. Drop me an email, and maybe I can buy you that wine at some point, in exchange for some tips/tricks etc. 🙂

        1. Congratulations on making the big move! I’d love some wine… 🙂

  10. Thank you for all the wonderful suggestions! I have now idea how I’m gonna end up in Nice, but I’ll make it work. It’s my dream city.

    1. You can do it!! It’s difficult but not impossible. I have absolutely no regrets…love it here!

  11. Hi Andi , thanks so much for this blog that I can really relate to due to my current situation, my wife is about to be transferred to Nice and we are really deeply thinking about this life time move , we are considering a visit to Nice on the 1st of July just to check things out and have a real feel about life in Nice , looking forward for it , once again thank you.

    1. Hey Imad – thanks for reading! I’m sure you’ll love Nice. It’s a beautiful, historic, vibrant city. I hope you love it as much as I do. Best of luck in your search for a new home!

  12. Nice post. It looks like a beautiful place.

    1. Thanks, Aaron! That actually happened a year ago today! I arrived in Nice, woke up the next morning and wondered “Now what?” (Happy anniversary to me!) Nice is a beautiful place and I’ve made it “home”.

      1. Andi, Thanks for being you and for being in Nice 🙂 I enjoy the energy of your blog and will continue to be inspired by your experiences. I would love to meet you on my visit. Have an awesome day and Life in Nice! Yay!

        1. Thanks, Kofi! Life in Nice is wonderful! I hope you get to visit someday and we can meet for a coffee!

  13. Rosemary Chiaverini says: Reply

    Well, here I was sitting feeling homesick for my adopted homeland and discovered your blog/post. It is wonderful and restarted my heart to look forward to my 10 day visit next summer. I was born on Bastille Day and could not think of a better place for a party and fireworks! Stay well.

    1. Hi Rosemary! Thanks for stumbling across my little slice of cyberspace. I’m happy my tales of Nice help bring you a little closer to home! I really hope you enjoy your visit. Nice is a very special place!

  14. Thank God I found your blog! I’ve been looking and it’s hard to find practical information!
    I’m French so it’s not really a question of “expat beginning again” but rather “another relocation”!
    I hope we’ll be able to share in the future.
    I currently live in Brittany where we moved 5 years ago after a little more than 12 years in Marseille. But we want to come back in the South. The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned but my daughter is starting high school next year and we still have a little bit of DIY to do in our house before we put it on the market…
    Anyway…. How do you like your life so far?

    1. Thanks so much for reading! Relocating is never easy, even if it’s within the same country. Best of luck in organizing a new chapter for your family! I’ve been in Nice for 2.5 years now and I absolutely love it! The beginning was a struggle, but anything new usually is. After getting through the French paperwork and putting together the puzzle pieces, I’ve found that the struggle was well worth it! My new life in Nice is everything I imagined!

      Please let me know if you have any questions about Nice or the area!

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