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Prioritising Your "To Do" List When You Get to France

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 23 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
France To Do List Water Electricity

There will be a vast number of pulls on your time when you first arrive in France.

In order to manage your time effectively and make sure you complete the necessary official procedures, you will need to make a clear plan.

Even if you have not been used to making a ‘To Do’ list in the UK, you will find getting into this habit invaluable in your first weeks and months in France.

Stay Calm

By organising your time, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of living in France – the reasons why you choose to move in the first place, like a relaxed pace of life and a better climate. If you are on an endless quest to fill in a form or set up an account, you can feel like you are chasing your tale. Coupled with trying to do all this in a new language and you have a recipe for a stressful situation. It is rather galling to realise that it is at the beginning of your new life in France, when your language skills are likely to be at their worst, when you have to sort out the most technical of circumstances.

The Two Hour Lunch Break

A key factor in the successful execution of your ‘To Do’ list is to understand the two-hour French lunch break. This can make a major difference to what you can achieve in a day, especially as you will need to allow plenty of time between appointments, as you get to know the area, parking facilities and requirements. The majority of shops, offices and businesses close for two hours every lunchtime, usually from twelve noon until two in the afternoon. Either leave early in the morning to get your appointments completed before the lunch break, or plan for a full afternoon.

It is perfectly common for your first few weeks in France to have all good intentions of arranging water, electricity, healthcare and all the other necessities of life, only for you to be waylaid by the wonderful markets and come home with no completed paperwork but a basket full of delicacies! This is all part of the move – do not chastise yourself too much as it will all be done in the end.

The List

This is where your ‘To Do’ list comes in handy as it can help to refocus your mind on the necessary tasks, while allowing you to enjoy your new life. You may think that you will remember what you need to do, but it is surprising how tiring it can be to try to make yourself understood in French and you will soon forget your other plans.

Sit down one day and write a list of what tasks need to be completed – from the important to the minor – and set yourself a schedule, allowing plenty of time. There is no point thinking you can sort out four different situations in one day, as the queues are often long in French offices such as water and banks and you will not be able to rush from place to place.


Prioritise your list by working out the appointments that will impact on your daily life – it is important to be up to date with your utilities for example, because there are no ‘reminder letters’ sent out in France, you are expected to pay bills on time or be fined and/or cut off. Ensure you have a phone line in place, with internet access, especially if you work from home.

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