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An Expat Talks about Living in Grenoble, France

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Grenoble

How long have you lived there?

3 years

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

For English speakers of any nationality, try Open House which offers activities of many sorts (from the cerebral to the just plain silly!) It aims to cater for all. The majority of members are American so activities are perhaps a little biased that way, but the aim is to welcome everyone.

For French speakers, or those aspiring to speak French, don't forget AVF (Accueil Villes Francaises). This is actually an organisation for French people moving to a new town (the name means New Town Welcome), but they are very welcoming to all newcomers.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

The town is a huge mish-mash of people. As with all French towns, there is an ethnic quarter where the less fortunate (financially) often end up living. However, I've never seen or heard of any religious tension per se. During the Iraq war, there was talk of American houses being daubed with paint, but these tended to be the ones with the stars and stripes painted on their garage doors, so maybe they asked for it.

Grenoble is basically an affluent city, with pretty much everyone accepted.

Like the man said - trouble is like a snake. If you don't go looking for it, it won't come looking for you.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

It's hard to be unemployed here, such is the availability of work. Main industries are semiconductor research and fabrication, nuclear research, hydroelectric power, IT, bulldozer production etc. There are many industrial parks with myriad smaller companies supporting these and other industries. Career opportunities always seem good.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

Depends on the person! Many people are here as expats working for semiconductor-based companies (there is a large fab at Crolles which is supported by many ancillary companies). There is also a nuclear research establishment, plus computing and other industries.

The university is enormous, with something like 50000 students, so there is a good social scene for younger people too.

At weekends in particular, the whole area becomes a mecca for snowsport fanatics and lovers of other outdoor activities. If you like the big outdoors, this is the big outdoors! Families are well catered for at the ski resorts, and there are plenty of pools and other activities for those with young kids. A warning though - for stay-at-home parents of young children, be aware that - like everywhere in France - activities tend to open much later than we would expect in the UK, for example, so don't imagine you can go to a library or swimming pool just when it suits you!

From an education perspective, there is already an "International School" of sorts from age 6 to 18, but this follows the French curriculum with some emphasis on international matters. Reports vary on how good they are. There are also plans for a "real international school" (with fees to match) following the British education system. This is due to open Sept 2005. French schools are good in this area, so if you want your child to integrate quickly, this is probably the quickest way although obviously their lessons will be entirely in French and will follow the French curriculum exclusively.

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If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

Be aware of the housing costs - extremely high by French standards, and most companies base their salaries and relocation offers on the standard French cost of living index. That might be fine in rural France, but housing and food costs here are astronomical by comparison with everywhere except Paris and Lyon. Be sure of what you're accepting before you accept it!

The city is great if you like cities! The surrounding areas are beautiful and inspiring, and much less polluted. If you have children, I would avoid the city as it's unpleasantly hot and polluted in the summer. Don't go too high up the mountains into the middle of nowhere, though, or you will feel pretty isolated when the snows come. There's a reason why the towns of Meylan, Biviers, St Ismier etc are the most expensive - they're pretty, less polluted, good schools, and still completely accessible when the bad weather takes hold. The French take a while to get used to, and the bureaucracy can be overwhelming at first. Once you've got everything sorted, though, their systems are very efficient and the health care is excellent.

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