One and a half months ago, I was packing my baggage to go to the airport again, only this time I was not leaving to board a ship for 5 months, but to a new job and a new life. I explained in great detail why I wanted to quit sailing in the much controversial and popular own article “After six years at sea”, so after the last voyage I made the final decision to look for something to work on land. I have ill spoken a lot about our country Romania (and for good reasons considering that people are working for 300-400 EUR / month and the government is ripping you off on absolutely every step of the way!) and I have seen too many beautiful and civilized places in this world during my voyages to ever settle there, so the only option left for me was to become an expat and luck had it to be in Marseille.
Most of my CVs were sent in English-speaking countries, especially in the UK, but since the whole Brexit phenomenon, most companies have been reluctant to hire East Europeans. Fate decided that the lucky interview would land me in Marseille, France, a city of which I did not know much about , in a country whose language I vaguely understand and speak. It was this or other positions somewhere in South Africa or Mexico so guess what I chose.
I only had sea experience on my resume so the only way to make the transition to land was to remain in the maritime business. I will not say the name of the
company, but being in Marseille I think it’s not that hard to guess. So I reserve the right to comment and engage in any talk about shipping, especially since I now have access to a more general view of the system, not just on the spot perspective from the ship, I will come back with details from the job on another occasion.
The move I can not say it was very difficult, the advantage of being used to packing everything you need in a suitcase and going to the airport, but the company was also very supportive and gave me a temporary home for a month in order to have time to find my own rental flat. Here I encountered the first big difference between Romania and the West: to take a rental apartment you must submit a work contract that proves you are employed with steady pay, you must present an identity document, you must subscribe to a compulsory home insurance even if you are the tenant , you must have in your pocket the equivalent of 3 months rent (first month + security deposit) and when you go to the landlord to see the apartment you have to introduce yourself and behave like you are on a job interview if you want to be the selected candidate to be the tenant. The offer for good and decent rental apartments is much lower than the demand. Generally on the rental market you fill find unfurnished flats, the fully furnished ones are quite limited. They tend to follow the American system: that is, you take the empty apartment, you buy your own furniture and electronics , and when you leave the flat , you hire a moving company to take them to the new apartment or to a storage unit. Considering that a 2-room furnished apartment rents for about 700 EUR per month in a good district, you should have in the pocket at least 2100 EUR and a solid employment contract to take it.
How’s life here as an expat after 48 days? Well, let’s see, Marseille is a beautiful city where you have both mountains and the sea – in the same day you can go for a walk on the beach and hike on the mountains. It is full of tourists, there are many beautiful places to visit. It has a developed infrastructure, very beautiful architecture, the whole city is on the hills and welcomes you from the elevated train station with a beautiful panorama. I guess it has an undeserved reputation due to it’s past and because of the cocktail of ethnic and religious minorities that live here (many Africans, Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians), but somehow they all get along and there are no visible tensions. I can not say that I have ever felt uncomfortable, but I guess I have never been to the predominantly Muslim areas either. Basically, if you don’t go to the Northwest of Saint Charles Station you will never have any trouble, I don’t see why would you go there anyway. The contrasts between the Eastern districts where is located the beach and the wealthy, and those in the West where is the industrial harbor and where most of the minorities live are huge.
About the cost of living here:
-The food and groceries costs about the same as in Romania, there’s a slightly bigger difference , e.g. for a basket of 100 EUR worth of groceries in Romania , here you will pay 110 EUR. The clothes cost the same, the cars cost the same, the electronics the same, the utilities a little more, the mobile phone subscription and internet service also a little bit more. Where the difference is quite noticeable is at the price of the apartments, the price of the services (the notary will break the bank account), a beer at the pub costs 5-7 EUR, a meal for two at the restaurant 20-40 EUR, the public transport starts from 1.7 EUR for a 2 trips ticket but there are monthly passes starting at 37 EUR per month on all public transport lines (bus, subway, tram, ferry, local trains), but there is of course the wage differences to take in to consideration. Here if you earn below 972 EUR you are officially under the poverty line. Well, considering that food and utilities cost about the same like in Romania, can somebody please explain to me how the hell is living in Romania possible when you earn there 1000 EUR per couple IF YOU ARE LUCKY!
– There are many strikes in France, it may be a cliché but it’s true. We spent two weeks with a mountain of garbage under our window and rats on the streets because the trash collecting service was on strike: the employees were asking for their extra hours to be paid better, and they have a lot of them: here the garbage is being collected everyday at 6 am and at 11 PM in order not to interfere with traffic. I think there is no week passing by without seeing a strike or a big protest on the streets that bring the traffic to a stand still in the center. The worst is the public transport strike. I admire and respect the civic spirit of the French who don’t let themselves walked on, but hate the attitude of some of them who are just lazy fuckers who don’t like to work and wait for the government aid and financial benefits every month.
-Since we’re talking about traffic: Like in Greece, there is no Vignette in France, but the you have to pay if you want to use the motorways, and every 50 km or so you will pass through a tollbooth leaving between 3-5 EUR at every pass. In Marseille and pretty much everywhere there is a very good urban development policy in force that I like: the pedestrian has priority, the authorities have done everything possible to make the life of the drivers hell, the boulevards have been reduced and there is now tram in the middle with dedicated lanes leaving only one lane for cars, you have a crossing or pedestrian traffic red lights every few hundred meters, all the sidewalks are full of car blockers so you do not park , in the places where you can park on the sidewalk, you have to go to the meter and pay by the hour. There are however numerous underground parking lots all over the city but parking slots are limited. The auto traffic in the city is absolutely terrible, even in the days when there is no protest, the only way to cross the city quickly is through the new underground tunnel, which is huge and under crosses most of the city, but its transit costs. The car is a luxury for those who can afford it – not something given by the good Lord for any champ who can afford a 30 years old BMW registered in Bulgaria.
-In the city you will hear only French and Arabic, the little and only English you will find is spoken in the tourist areas, but just a little.
– The Mediterranean climate is very pleasant, in the southern part of France it rarely snows in the winter.
There are quite a lot of expats in Marseille , but most of them are from French speaking countries , for an English speaker it can get quite frustrating and lonely , so my advise is to start learning French ASAP if you want to stay here and enjoy everything the city has to offer. Ok, so that’s it for now, about how it is life at work and how it is to go to the office life in a suit on the 23rd floor in a corporate environment I will write another time. I’ll let you enjoy the picture gallery below.
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Check out other expat lifestyle articles: UK Immigration – how much does it costs to relocate to England? , First 30 days in Hull England UK as Expat , France one year impressions , How to get PACS in France , Expat beginner’s guide to moving to France , First 48 days as expat in France , After six years at sea
Check out other trips: The London Week , First 48 days in Marseille France , Romania road trip across the country in 7 days , Budapest Hungary road trip , Prague – dream vacation , Excursion Dobrogea: Enisala, Ibida, Histria , Vacation Madrid Spain , Two days in Jacksonville USA, Paralia – Greece road trip, Brasov 12.2014 , Buzau quick stop , Lepsa & Vrancea county , Chisinau city break , Nessebar Bulgaria , Bucharest weekends 2014 , Busan Korea , 40 days in Cluj Napoca , Hunedoara Castle ; Singapore 2013 , Brasov 02.2014 , Istanbul 01.2014 , Cluj Napoca 08.2013 , Sibiu 07.2013 , San Pedro-Ivory Coast , Bucharest 2013 , Varna 2012 , Los Angeles 2012 , Budapest & Viena trip , Salerno Italy , Cluj Napoca 2012 , Florence Italy , Brasov 02.2012 , Amsterdam , Antofagasta-Chile, Valencia Spain , Lima-Peru , Bremen Germany , Istanbul 2009 , Valletta Malta , San Juan-Puerto Rico , Barcelona Spain , Singapore 2010 , Los Angeles 2010 , Transilvania road trip , La Spezia , Bosphorus by ship , Sydney , Melbourne Australia , Auckland New Zealand , San Francisco USA , Tauranga NZ