#HilaryRowland

Why I Moved from NYC to France

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In case you hadn’t heard, I’ve just become officially bi-continental. For the past decade, I’ve been a full-time New Yorker. When I first moved to New York I was madly in love with the city. I called my mom after 6 days (I tried to hold out — I wanted to call after the second day, but my willpower would only stretch so far at that age) and told her that I was, quite definitely, never moving back to Toronto. That New York had already spoiled me for life and I couldn’t imagine ever leaving.

Why I Moved from NYC to France

I went out every night, networked my toosh off, made a ton of glamorous acquaintances, and reveled in the fact that I was becoming a “real New Yorker” and living in “the greatest city in the world”. The city everyone (supposedly), wants to live in. Ahhhh, youth.

I moved to the West (Greenwich) Village in Manhattan from Toronto knowing only one person in the whole city — Jacquin. And I’d only met him once (under the palm trees lining a white sandy beach in the Dominican Republic, where he has quite an impressive vacation house).

You see, Jacquin epitomizes what’s great about New York. He’s a very successful tech entrepreneur, handsome, charming and fun. He came from nowhere-America, taught himself code, networked with important people, and made his own way in NYC. Now he lives in a giant duplex flat with a hot tub and BBQ on his rooftop in SoHo.

But here’s the other side of the picture: He wants love but can’t find it because he’s addicted to the rush of dating a string of holy-sh*t-she’s-hot women (read: models — they just happen to be on every block in NYC). He’s also addicted to working and partying. And there you have it. The lives of successful NYC men, much like NYC itself, are shiny, fun and glamorous, but somehow still end up feeling hollow in the long run.

I made a ton of glamorous acquaintances and revelled in the fact that I was living in “the greatest city in the world”.

It wasn’t until five years in that NYC started to lose some of its lustre. I’d dated enough to see behind the facades and realize that I wanted something more. I began to wonder if I’d have to leave this adult playground to find it. Luckily, I met my soul mate soon thereafter. I don’t view it as a coincidence that he didn’t live in NYC.

In the years that followed, I educated myself about health and politics. They say ignorance is bliss, and I think they’re right (until the consequences of that ignorance hit home, that is.) The more I learned about the rampant corruption in American politics, the abysmal state of the American healthcare system, and the total lack of regulation to protect our health, the more I felt that, if my husband and I are to live a long life, we must leave America. (Comment below if you want more details on this stuff!)

In the decade since I moved to NYC, a lot of tech advancements have been made. Nowadays, there are gadgets you can stick in your ear that will translate languages in real-time. And if you forgot to bring that along, the Microsoft Translate web or mobile app does an incredibly good job (better than Google Translate) at helping people cross language borders.

If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, it should. It opens up the world for all of us single-language speakers. A decade ago I would’ve been lost in France. Now, not only do tons of people here speak English (and, thanks to globalization, there are tons of English-speaking expats all over Europe), but I can whip out my phone and translate anything I need in a few seconds. #Halleluya!

Why I Moved from NYC to France

In my life, I’ve traveled a lot, and one city I never forgot was Lyon, France. So when I finally realized that life is really, really short and I wanted mine to A) be full of adventure, B) be healthy, and C) be long, I immediately thought of Lyon. Here are a few reasons why I love this city:

  1. It is absolutely stunning. Hands-down the most visually spectacular city in the world (IMHO). With its varied architecture, soothing parks and two rivers, it will suck you in, charm you, and wrap you like a warm blanket.
  2. It’s vibrant. There’s a lot going on — every single day. Live music, theater, markets, museums… you name it. Here’s just a taste…
  3. Its location can’t be beat:
    • It’s a short drive to the Alps for snowboarding (yeah, Chamonix on Mont Blanc will be one of our new weekend spots).
    • It’s less than two hours by high-speed train to Paris.
    • It’s not far from the Mediterranean coast. Not to mention we can drive to Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland.
    • It’s right next to several of the world’s top wine regions.
    • World-class hiking, kayaking, boating, and even scuba diving are all within a 15- to 50-minute drive.
    • Direct flights to the most amazing places in Europe cost about $30 a ticket. #nuffsaid
  4. The cost of living is about one-fifth (for food) to one-tenth (for apartment rentals) of the cost of living in NYC.
  5. The people are super friendly and polite (not to mention young, well-dressed and attractive). Oh, and there’s a large expat community here.
  6. It’s FUN! Like, really fun. The parks along the rivers are full of people hanging out having picnics, there are many streets lined with cafes that have outdoor seating (and, since cars aren’t allowed, you’re not in a cloud of exhaust while you eat), and having a drink or listening to live music on one of the many bar-boats (I’m actually not sure what they’re really called, but they’re large boats with bars on/in them) are a great after-work tradition.
  7. Nobody honks! Really! I can count, on one hand, the number of honks I’ve heard in the past month (which is super refreshing when compared to the almost constant I’m-going-to-kill-someone style of honking in NYC.)
  8. It’s the foodie capital of Europe (and, therefore, the world), with more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else. And people actually get to enjoy it here because, unlike in NYC, people take an hour or more for lunch (yes — on work days! #gasp!) and spend it chatting (no, not about work) and enjoying the sun (or the outdoor heating lamp) at one of the many fantastic indoor-outdoor restaurants in this city.
  9. It has the longest life expectancy in France, a country with top-notch healthcare, a ban on GMO’s, and stringent chemical and food health-first regulations.
  10. Fresh baguettes for under a buck. Need I say more?!
Why I Moved from NYC to France

Lyon, France

When I compared this with NYC’s almost constant noise, food and air pollution, lackluster architecture, mind-bogglingly high cost of living, lack of charming housing options, a total lack of exhaust-free outdoor cafes, and general frenzied energy, I realized that it was time to make a change.

Don’t get me wrong — if you’re young and looking to have fun, or you’re an entrepreneur who needs to network, then it’s a great place to live — for a while. But if you, like me, value quiet while you’re trying to sleep, or want to be able to travel easily, or just want a healthier lifestyle, then NYC isn’t a good fit.

So my husband and I applied for a long-stay French visa, picked two charities and donated all of our possessions and furniture (except for our favorite articles of clothing, which we boxed and DHL’d) and rented an apartment in Lyon, France.

We’ll be going back and forth to NYC on the regular to see friends and for work (my husband, more often than I), and I have no idea what the future holds. Maybe we’ll decide we love Prague. Or Lisbon. Or Vienna. But right now, I simply can’t imagine that.

A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

67 Comments

  1. You’re a true wanderer, Hilary! All the traveling you do is inspirational. And the fact that you’ve been a resident of three different countries so far is very motivational and encouraging! I hope to follow your lead once I graduate college. 🙂

  2. Agatha Underwood

    So brave of you to do that, Hilary! As much as I would love to live abroad I don’t think I have the guts to actually make it happen.

  3. Carol Warren

    That was such an interesting and fun read! I also want to move to Europe. Could you please give some info about where to apply?? And what type of requirements they ask for?

    • Hi Carol, First, you need to pick a country, then look on their embassy website for visa types. See if any of the visa types would work for you. Alternatively, if you have a grandparent born in the EU, you can get EU citizenship. 🙂

  4. Helena Stevens

    Such a fantastic piece! Can’t wait to read more about your life in Lyon. I hope you make updates more often and let us live vicariously through you! ?

  5. Dana Rosatti

    Loved reading about your moving to France. It was greatly inspirational! Big congrats on your new beginnings and new life there. ?

  6. I can’t begin to tell you how jealous I am! I would love to live in France one day, but at the moment the best I could do is to visit as a tourist for a few days or a week. ??

  7. Dorothy Harris

    Your move to France all the way from USA is greatly inspirational! You’re such a brave woman, and you obviously have a supportive and understanding husband who you can make such big decisions with!

  8. Leslie Williams

    I can understand why you must have wanted to move out of the States. Especially New York. Such a hectic city. I’ve been living here for 2 years and I’m already tired. I guess I’m not made for big city life.

    • Yeah, it’s fun when you’re young and single, but the quality of life is low and the cost of living is high, compared to many other places.

  9. Great piece! You’re very lucky that you get to live in Lyon, in my opinion the most incredible place in France. I’m currently a resident of London. I don’t know what to expect from Brexit. If Brexit results in British citizens having to get a visa to travel around Europe, then I’ll consider moving to France too.

  10. Lin Del Rey

    Congrats on your moving to Lyon! I have always been fascinated by the French culture. If I were ever to move abroad, I’d also would choose somewhere in France. 🙂

  11. Florence Townsend

    Lyon sounds magnificent! Obviously can’t move there myself, but I would absolutely love to visit one day. Going on my bucket list. 🙂

  12. Shelley Donalds

    Big brave move Hilary! I couldn’t dare moving out of the state I live in, let alone moving abroad!

  13. Lynn Hayes

    This right there is 100% LIFE GOALS! Wandering the world freely, being able to move any place any time you like, with the love of your life… Seems to me like you’re living your life to the fullest. How amazing! 🙂

    • Linda Montgomery

      Yes! I’ve always seen Hilary’s life like some sort of a real life fairy tale. One of the many reasons why I look up to her like she’s a queen!

  14. Richard Moore

    What made you pick Lyon over Paris? I always pictured you to be a Parisian girl. 🙂

  15. Leah Helms

    I strongly believe that you’ve made a correct decision by moving to France. Europe is definitely the place to live. If only I could move too. I’m longing for a life in Paris.

  16. April Wagner

    WOW!!! What about work? I know you can do your job anywhere in the world, but what about your husband? How did you guys work that out? Right now the only thing keeping me here is my job…..

  17. I’ve been dying to move to France, but I’m afraid that I wouldn’t fit it or wouldn’t be able to get used their culture etc. You know the usual worries. You have no idea how encouraging for me it was to read this.

  18. Nicole

    What have you done for health insurance please?

    • My hubby has health insurance, so I haven’t had to deal with that. But I did go to the doctor twice and the bill was 30 euros each time. Prescriptions are only a few dollars each…

  19. Did you guys bring the cats? Laissez les bons temps rouler 🙂 Vous vous avez le bon chance mes amis!

  20. I’ve lived in almost 30 cities, in Europe and US. But unlike you, I haven’t settled in a particular place for more than 5 years. Anyway, one thing I’ve observed and I’m not sure if it’s true with you, moving and migrating to other cities has a HUGE impact on my body. Every time, my body seems to adjust: new eating habits that somehow affect my health.

  21. Gina Mehari

    Brilliant and excellent article! I hope you enjoy life in Europe 🙂

  22. Matilda Parker

    You’re admirable and thanks for sharing the experience! Moving and trying to settle abroad is MUCH MORE than moving to a new apartment and having a new subway card, it’s DEFINITELY a total change! To me, it’s a drastic change and shift of what seems important, it’s about questions on priorities and small shocks that were not expected or talked about.

  23. Celine Carter

    Any note about culture shock? Have you ever experienced this? I’ve been hearing this concern / issue from friends who migrated.

    • I haven’t experienced culture shock.. knowing some French helps. People are all very friendly and I use a VPN so I can still watch my TV shows… so I still have my American addictions (like Homeland!) while in France. 🙂

  24. Elin Hanks

    Do you find Lyon safe for a woman? Moving to a new place with someone can be fun and exciting. But for single ladies like me, safety is of utmost concern. Personally, which do you find a safer place to settle? Lyon or NYC? Thanks!

    • Lyon is safer. That said, NYC is really safe to, as long as you can afford to live in the best parts of Manhattan. The less $$ areas of Manhattan are a lot less safe.

  25. Gregor Perry

    To me, the tone of your article is ecstatic which I understand because moving to a new place is exciting. But I wonder, are you discovering some negatives about moving to Lyon? Or are there slightest regrets?

  26. Emma Blackwood

    I’ve read in an interview with Heather Markel, who is an American living in Paris, she said it’s “almost impossible to find a bad meal in Paris – everything you eat feels amazingly nourishing, and no matter how much foie gras and rich sauce I eat, I seem to lose weight.”

    Your article just proves there’s truth in it, #9 “… a ban on GMO’s, and stringent chemical and food health-first regulations.”

    Hoping for a healthier and well-balanced life for you and hubby!

  27. Miriam Dzeko

    I’ve lived in France for about a year and though it took some adjustment, I enjoyed life in Paris because there’s life outside the office (which of course is uncommon in NYC). In Paris, life is not defined by work, pace of life is less busy than in NYC.

  28. Jodie Carpenter

    I’ve been to Lyon (and Paris) and have stayed for 2-4 months. I think NYC and Lyon are both staggering and remarkable in their own ways. Honestly, I can’t choose which I prefer, these cities are different but both awesome…

  29. Kimberly Thompson

    This article is great! I love how you enumerated your reasons for moving to Lyon. Such a brave woman! I wish to be reading more about your life in Lyon. If I may suggest, maybe you could compare the different facets of the cities like career, dating, social life, perception of life, etc 🙂

  30. Anouska Leigh

    Didn’t you have a hard time with legal and paperwork for permanent migration?

  31. Emily Foulkes

    Okay, so in NYC, it seems that I don’t have a choice to live closer to my social life than my job, what can you say, is it the same in Lyon?

  32. Summer Ferrel

    I’ve visited Lyon a couple of times, and one thing I took advantage of are the fruit and vegetable stands on every corner, they’re definitely cheap and delicious. Have you discovered that?! 🙂

  33. Jae Medina

    I know for a fact that NYC is expensive and it never fails to surprise me how quickly my money can disappear, thus I never fail to “overestimate” when I’m budgeting. I wonder, does it have to be like this when I move to Lyon?!

  34. Carla Marie

    I like Paris and New York City equally; I feel they offer me different wonderful experience. At the moment I live in Paris and am enjoying all it has to offer, though there are times that I’m thinking of moving to NYC someday. If only I could have apartments in both cities…

  35. Cody Crouse

    I’d love to consider moving to France. It looks like a fantastic place to live.

  36. Tinsley Mortimer

    I just HAD to share this with you: http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/no-im-from-new-york Great article, Hilary!

  37. Laura Strother

    Wow! Hilary I love this. There’s nothing like moving to a foreign land and starting from scratch to make you realize how capable you are.

  38. Do you have plans of learning the French language? I mean now that you decided to live in France, it must be difficult if you can’t speak their language.

  39. Rebecca McPherson

    True or not: Are French rude to foreigners?

  40. You’re such an amazing and adventurous lady!

    I’m pretty sure this is just one of your many articles about “life in France.” If I may suggest a topic, I’m interested in “dating in France” (I’m single and would love to meet that special someone while I’m living abroad). How do I start dating? I think many French men are not (or may not) be comfortable communicating in English and language barriers present challenges.

    Just a thought…

    • I’m not sure I’d be the right person to write that, since I’m married, but I’ll ask single expats I meet here if they’d be interested in writing about that. Thanks for the idea!

  41. Veronica Christophers

    I wonder how did you find your apartment in Paris when you moved there? Is it hard? I won’t ask if it’s expensive since you already mentioned that it’s “cheaper” to settle in France than in NYC.

  42. Kerry Ledford

    You never fail to inspire, Hilary! I think France is a fantastic country with great people and fascinating history.

    Bonne chance 😀

  43. Susan Griffith

    What a drastic change! Isn’t it hard moving to a non-English speaking country?

  44. I sincerely hope you enjoy France!

    I can relate to your excitement. My migration is the other way around because I’m a French girl who moved to New York. When I was younger, I was fascinated with NYC; I imagined myself moving and living in NYC… Now… Goal achieved 🙂

  45. Congrats sounds amazing and looking forward to checking out Lyon!

  46. Freddie Pellman

    I moved from London to NYC in 1968 – it was a crazy adventure with my sister. We arrived with $50 between us, no jobs, nowhere to stay and we knew nobody. I wouldn’t recommend anyone emulate us, but I must say I have never regretted it. We worked hard, partied hard and both ended up marrying and settling here for good. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and jump. I know how hard it is to leave friends and family, to abandon a safe life. But we only get one shot at living on this planet and I believe in living it fully and not getting trapped into the boring routine of doing the same thing day after day, year after year and then you look around and suddenly you’re old and it’s too late for adventure. I think your move is fabulous – it’s not like you set out in a covered wagon into Indian territory. It’s Europe and all the excitement of being close to a lot of different countries and cultures. Bonne chance!!

  47. Derrick de Kerckhove

    That is one cool article. Your mother told me early July that you were moving to Lyon. So I asked her why having myself moved to Rome (also an exciting city BTW). Her answer was too short and left me hungry for more. Now I feel satiated. Keep in touch and make Rome one of your visits.

  48. Janienke Brander

    I haven’t traveled anywhere, let alone moved to another country. I learn something every time you write about your travels. They are versatile, but this is something new! :] I enjoyed the article and especially liked how you wrote about your experiences with NYC and Lyon and how you made a comparison between them.

  49. Francis Watson

    NYC is one of the busiest cities in the world. In NYC, it seems that people live a robotic life. It seems like France is a great alternate from any of the other big cities in the world. 🙂

  50. It’s always fulfilling to follow your heart’s desire! If I were younger and didn’t have a child, I would also dare and try living in another place. I think it’s rewarding to get out of your comfort zone. But I’m considering my child. It won’t be easy…

    • I perfectly understand your concern because I also have a daughter that I’m raising on my own. It’s hard to get out where I am now. Migration is full of challenges and surprises, yeah, at some point it can be rewarding… but it can also be punishing.

  51. Sharlene Robinson

    Seriously, Lyon’s cost of living is WAY cheaper than NYC?! Hmmm… Something to think about.

  52. Naomi Linsei

    I totally applaud you Hilary for your brave decision. You have the potentiality to face any challenge whether it is life adjustment in the other city like France.

  53. Stephanie Payne

    You’re inspiring! You must have done your homework. It’s never easy to migrate:

    – personal reasons: language barriers, climate, etc
    – professional reasons: it’s never easy to leave current job and risk on finding a new one
    – legal reasons: I understand “permanent” migration requires a LOT of paper and legal work, right?

    • Sarah Evanston

      I know right! It has its pros and cons. And considering the cons. Oh no! I won’t do it. But I’m glad for you Hilary, you found your new place and life 🙂

  54. Sherri Ferrante

    Congratulations for taking on the challenge! I love traveling for leisure, but I never thought of “permanently” moving to a new environment.

  55. I have a feeling that you’re enjoying your new environment, good for you! 🙂 But how is hubby coping? I mean I understand he has work in NYC, right? (or I maybe wrong). You’re lucky to have a supportive husband. Sometimes, boyfriend and I talk about migrating somewhere when we get married (soon) but we can’t come up with a final decision, we just can’t compromise. It might change though when we finally tie the knot…

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