Article published in partnership with San Francisco Bay Accueil (SFBA)

MerciSF had the pleasure of meeting the new president of the SFBA association, Florence Maurel, and is pleased to share with you the SFBA selection of tips and tricks for a smooth installation and transition in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The San Francisco Bay Area is renowned for its economic dynamism, cosmopolitan character and breathtaking panoramas. Many French-speaking expatriates have already made the Bay Area their home, whether for a temporary or longer-term experience. 

To help you in this process, San Francisco Bay Accueil (SFBA), a non-profit association run by volunteers, is here to welcome all French and French-speaking people to the San Francisco Bay Area, helping them to :

  • Adapt to another way of life and a foreign language,
  • Solve practical problems of everyday life,
  • Meet other French speakers and locals,
  • Benefit from the richness of another culture while preserving their own identity, by welcoming them, connecting them and inviting them to activities right from the start.

If you’re thinking of moving to this magnificent region, here are a few tips to ease your transition.


  • Gather information about the country of expatriation: United States – Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères
  • Register on the consular lists: It is strongly recommended that you register with the “Registre des Français établis hors de France” as soon as you arrive:
    – Advantages: Registering makes it easier for you to deal with the consulate, such as renewing your passport. It also enables you to vote from abroad in elections.
    – How to register: Visit the website of the Consulate General of France in San Francisco.
  • Obtain a Social Security Number: Essential for working, opening a bank account and other administrative procedures.
    – Steps: You’ll need to go to a Social Security Administration office with your immigration documents.
    – Please note: It usually takes a few days after your arrival in the U.S. before you can apply for an SSN.
  • Get your Driver’s license : Your French driver’s license is valid for a short period. For long-term driving, you’ll need a California license:
    – Written test: This covers driving rules and safety.
    – Practical test: Once you’ve passed the written test, you can make an appointment for the driving test.
  • Notarial procedures: Plan to draw up a will:
    – Will: If you have assets in the United States, drawing up a will in accordance with local legislation is recommended.
    – Custody of children in the event of death.
  • Take out civil liability insurance (umbrella insurance).  More information here.
  • Finding accommodation:
    – Budget: San Francisco and the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. Set yourself a realistic budget based on your income.
    – Search: Websites such as Craigslist, Zillow and are good places to start. For a more French touch, some Facebook groups for French expats may also prove useful.
    – Rent: Don’t forget to factor in additional expenses such as deposits, installation costs and any rental insurance.
    – Buying a home: find general information and tips to help you prepare for the purchase of a property in this article.
    – Real estate agents: don’t hesitate to call on the services of a French-speaking real estate agent. You’ll find some contacts here.
  • Enrolling your children in school :
    – Public schools: Schools depend on the neighborhood in which you live. Be sure to check the quality of the schools in the neighborhood you’re interested in.
    – French schools: There are bilingual schools, such as the Lycée Français de San Francisco and the French-American International School in San Francisco, EB Berkeley on the east side of the Bay and Silicon Valley International School on the south side of the Bay, as well as charter schools in Santa Rosa and Oakland, offering a curriculum based on the French educational system.  See this page for a directory of schools and programs teaching French in the Bay Area and the Education section of our MerciSF website for tips to maintain French at home.
  • Healthcare: enroll in a healthcare plan (with medical, dental, vision coverage, as needed). The majority of employers offer a healthcare plan to their employees or you can enroll independently.For more detailed practical advice and recommendations on settling in San Francisco, consult the dedicated sections of and SFBA website.


Good to know:

  • Cost of living: In addition to rent, remember to budget for food, transportation, entertainment and insurance.
  • Transportation: Although SF is a relatively compact city, it’s well served by BART (regional rail system) and MUNI buses. There are also a myriad of car-sharing options. Tip: get a Clipper Card, a rechargeable card for all means of public transport.
  • For French products, the Bay Area’s French bakeries (Le Marais Bakery, La Boulangerie…) and some grocery stores like Marché Cezanne or Frenchery will remind you a little of home.
  • Things to see and do: SF offers a wide variety of activities, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz.


This directory provided by the Consulate General of France in San Francisco is essential for those who prefer to work with French-speaking professionals. We recommend contacting local French-speaking associations for a complete list. However, here are a few suggestions:

  • Doctors: Some doctors in SF speak French. Check French forums.
  • Real estate agents: Specialized agents can help French expatriates.
  • Tax specialists and insurers: Crucial, especially if you’re navigating between the two tax systems.

You can also consult the Directory of French-speaking Professionals via this article and this link, as well as on the dedicated page of the SFBA website.  

Numerous French-speaking Associations exist in the Bay Area, depending on your areas of interest. You’ll find the full list here. There’s also a support network for the French-speaking community, called Réseau Main dans la Main.


Mark your calendars! SFBA’s new season kicks off with:

  • Welcome Barbecue at Half Moon Bay on September 9. All francophones and francophiles, members or not, of the bay are welcome. More details here.
  • Girls’ Dinners and monthly Cafés resume in September
  • San Francisco and Nordique walks resume
  • A special Fall Cocktail this year as SFBA celebrates its thirtieth anniversary! In partnership with Pernod Ricard, Brioche Pasquier and Galaxy Desserts, Laura Chenel.
  • Children’s Christmas on the Saturday before the Christmas vacations (date to be confirmed).
  • The traditional Spring Festival, scheduled for March 23, 2024.

Although settling in San Francisco can seem complex, with the right preparation and support from the local French-speaking community, your transition will be much smoother. 

SFBA has welcome managers located throughout the Bay Area. Don’t hesitate to contact our Welcome Manager, Delphine Magnier at

Welcome to the Bay!


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