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Living in a foreign country means that everyday tasks, from going to the bank to buying a bunch of bananas at the supermarket, can be a cultural minefield. (I’m still smarting for being berated by a Monoprix cashier for not having exact change a few days ago.) Although it can be an exhilarating adventure, it’s easy to feel isolated and stressed when adjusting to life in another culture.

Paris is a beautiful, vibrant city, but like any other major city, it’s hectic and stressful, and life as a foreigner can magnify problems. And it can be hard to talk to people ‘back home’, who are normally part of your support group, who don’t realize that Paris is not always croissants, chocolates, and walks along the Seine.

So it’s nice to know that there is a resource here to help. I was recently a speaker at an event to benefit SOS Helpline, an English-speaking team of listeners available every day of the year trained to talk to those in need or to refer people to specialists. It’s free and anonymous.

They’re available every day of the year, from 3pm to 11pm at 01 46 21 46 46 – and the call is free. The service is confidential and non-judgmental, and the listeners are trained to deal with a variety of issues, from loneliness, depression, substance abuse, to financial problems and bereavement. You can also contact SOS Helpline via Skype.

SOS Helpline

SOS on Skype

Related Reading

A personal experience with the SOS Helpline: When You Need Someone to Talk To

Health Care Tips for Travelers to France

SOS Helpline Facebook Page


    • Sharon

    What a great service! I had seriously considered getting some long-distance counseling by phone soon after moving to Germany. I got through it all with a lot of support from my husband, but someone professionally trained who spoke my language would have been a godsend. Good for you, David!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it is. I once spoke at Bloom Where You’re Planted, an event that helps recent transplants acclimate to various facets of life in Paris and it was really interesting to talk to people and find out how they were – and in some cases, weren’t – coping. Living in any city can be a challenge & while Paris is a lovely city, it’s great that this resource exists for people having a hard time. I’m looking forward to the event!

    • Paris Paul

    A great gesture for a great cause! What’s not to love?

    • Michelle

    It’s very nice to know that such a service exists. I’ve lived in France for a long time and can think of quite a few times where a friendly, English-speaking voice could have been extremely helpful. I wish I could make it to the event – I’m a big fan of Verjus and of your books/blog. Thank you for the post and best wishes for Sunday.

    • Jo

    Wow, what a great service! I wish we had something like that in Germany, because all the feelings you described like isolation, frustration and stress are what I guess everyone, who moves to another country, feels from time to time. No matter how close in culture we think we are – we are not when it comes to the little daily things. My husband moved to Germany a while ago and I was not prepared for how hard it would be for him in some days. No matter how much support family&friends try to give, sometimes a helpline like that would be extremely ..well… helpful ;)

    • Romy

    See you there, David! :)

    • gardenbre

    That was so much fun – great entertainment – great service and welcoming hosts – we enjoyed ourselves immensely – sat with two others who had been counsellors before retiring so the importance of the evening’s cause was certainly not lost on them. Thoroughly enjoyed the question and answer period with you – going to Monoprix today for some essentials and will put a little baggie of change and small bills in my emergency pocket for just in case!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    It was a great event and glad you came. I was surprised to find out the intense training the counsellors have before working for SOS Helpline.

    And best of luck at Monoprix. I had to use their photo-making machine for an official gvt photo (€5) and I needed change. Two different cashiers would not give me change, so I went to their supermarket section to buy something and the cashier gave me a €10.

    When I asked her if I could possibly have two €5s to use their machine, she told me she didn’t have any – which was odd, because she was sitting in front of her open cash drawer…which had a hefty stack of €5 notes in it (!)


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