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My expat journey: Why move?

Written by
Kyle Galbraith
Published on
4 July 2024
It's Independence Day back in my motherland. But I moved to France almost two years ago and I've never shared much of my journey. Here is part one of my expat journey. Kyle not in Paris.
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If you follow me on Twitter/X, you’ll likely notice that I’m not in San Francisco. In fact, I’m not even located in the United States anymore.

I’m originally from Portland, Oregon. But in October 2022, we left the US and moved to Montpellier, France.

I’ve never shared much about my expat journey or what it looks like to be an expat running a YC company from the South of France. But I get asked about it quite frequently.

So, this is part one of my expat journey in written form. If it helps one person in the future, that’s more than enough. But, it hopefully shines a light on what is a complicated journey. Let’s dig in.

🇫🇷 Why France?

The most common question I get after the icebreaker question, “So, where are you calling in from?” is the follow-up question when I tell people I live in Montpellier, “What brought you to France?“.

It’s a great question. It’s not every day you talk to a YC founder who is living in France, let alone the South of France. What brought me here? It’s less exciting than it sounds.

My wife is French. She is originally from a smaller town outside of Marseille. When she was in high school, she made the journey to Portland, and we ended up meeting in college.

She gets mistaken for being French Canadian nowadays, which I find amusing.

So it was a lot simpler for us to move to France for a variety of reasons that I’ll cover throughout the rest of this post, but it doesn’t answer why we chose to move abroad at all.

You only live once…

To explain why, we have to flashback to September 2020. Remember those days?

At this point, it’s safe to say that we all have collective stress & anxiety about the year 2020. The pandemic was in full swing at that time. But, in our family, we had two other life events unfolding.

First, our son was due to be born that month. Second, my Dad was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer and put into hospice care.

My Dad died September 2nd at home with all of us around him. On September 12th, our son was born. Ten days apart from losing your best friend to becoming a first-time Dad. Even years later, I don’t have words to describe that chapter.

In short, it became abundantly clear, more than ever, that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. So, if you only get one shot to live your life, you might as well make the most of it and not wait to go live your dreams. The following year, after my son’s first birthday, we decided it was time to do something we had always talked about doing: moving to France.

The planning

It’s one thing to say you’re going to move your family to France; it’s entirely different to actually do it. The planning involved is extensive and comes from someone with a much simpler visa path than most. A spousal visa is one of the more straightforward routes to living & working in France. Others definitely have more challenges on that front.

It would be a disservice to breeze through all the steps with one-sentence descriptions of what we did. Instead, I’ll list how we grouped things, and in future posts, I’ll go deeper into how we approached each group. So, we really broke things into three big categories:

  1. Need to do here in the US: All of the tasks or things we need to do to transition out of the US and live in France. Think of things like selling our house, cars, and all of our possessions that couldn’t fit in 5-6 shipping boxes or suitcases.
  2. Need to do before arriving in France: These are tasks that we must do before we arrive in France as they’re either impossible to do once we are there or extremely difficult to do. The obvious one here is get a visa.
  3. Need to do once we are in France: The French bureaucracy tasks 🙂

I’ll expand on this later, but #2 is overlooked most often in various expat forums, and it sucks a lot when you have to deal with some of those things, and you’re already in France.

Up next

In future posts, I’ll explain how we approached each category above in more detail. I’d also love to share a lot of nontactical things, like learning French, adapting to French culture, raising a child here, building a startup here, and so much more.

A bientôt !

© 2024 Kyle Galbraith