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Many expats dream of moving to France, enticed by visions of long restaurant lunches, people-watching at Parisian cafes, strolls in lavender-scented Provence, sunbathing on the beaches of Nice and being immersed in the cultural riches of art and haute couture.
Living in France as an expat
Expats moving to France for work purposes should prepare themselves accordingly. Although the French are renowned for their 'work to live, not live to work' philosophy, the country claims one of the largest economies in the world and France is a major player within the EU. Expats account for a significant percentage of the workforce in Paris and businesspeople do value the new skills a foreigner can bring.
There are both up and downsides to expat life in France. The country prides itself on its distinct culture and language, and many expats initially struggle to find their niche and adapt to the social rules that daily life. The language usually proves the most difficult barrier for expats to cross, especially as the French prefer engaging in their local language. That said, most locals have some degree of proficiency in English, and will reciprocate efforts if expats make even the smallest attempt to speak French.
Nevertheless expats moving to France can count on a slower, more enjoyable pace of living marked by innumerable little joys and challenges that lead to a greater quality of life overall.
Cost of living in France
The cost of living in France is high, especially in the large urban centres such as Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Expenses decrease considerably the further one goes into the rural countryside, a result of both lower prices and a less extravagant lifestyle. That said, it's possible to enjoy an excellent quality of life on a budget in France. This is especially true in the south of France as well as some of the charming provincial villages.
Expat families and children
Expat families in France will find that there is a wonderful selection of attractions for parents and kids to enjoy together. Indeed, with a range of theme parks, including the super popular Disneyland Paris, as well as a host of other museums and outdoor attractions, France has something for everyone.
There are a variety of school types in France, including public, private, bilingual and international schools. Parents will need to consider the language barrier, cost and curriculum before deciding which type of institution will be best for their children.
Of course, Paris and Lyon are also rightfully celebrated for their fine dining. The two cities vie yearly for the honour of being the top culinary destination in France, with regional delicacies being celebrated and brought to the cities for everyone to try. Expats who let their taste buds do their exploring for them will find themselves immersed in a world of adventure, with plenty of family-friendly options too.
Climate in France
The weather in France can range from warm summers on the southern coast to wet, snowy winters in the Alpine area. Expats should closely investigate the particularities of their region before buying their new wardrobe. Generally speaking, though, new arrivals can look forward to a climate that is temperate and agreeable.
Population: Over 67 million
Major religion: Christianity, but largely secular
Capital city: Paris
Legal system: Constitutional republic
Main languages: French is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood
Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to the end of October)
Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard
Currency: The Euro (EUR), divided into 100 cents
Tipping: 15 percent service charge always included, although tipping for exceptional service is common in the main centres
International dialling code: +33
Emergency numbers: 112 (general emergencies), 15 (specialised emergency medical services), 18 (fire), and 17 (police)
Internet domain: .fr
Drives on the: Right
"Give yourself a week or two to be a tourist. Visit all the sights, enjoy the ambiance of the city. Then, when you start digging in looking for a job or starting at your new workplace, remember that you’re no longer a tourist, but now a resident. So, it’s okay to spend a weekend at home catching up on laundry and Netflix. You’re not on vacation. You can’t go out on an adventure every night of the week. It’s okay to take some time to yourself and embrace the mundane." Dorian shares some more of their expat experiences in their interview with Expat Arrivals here.
"We live in a village and the quality of life is so much better. We left a city behind and within a few weeks had met so many new people; life is so much friendlier here. We are not stressed with work and have time to sit back and get to enjoy the simple things in life." Learn more about expat life in the French countryside by reading Jenny's interview.
"I love this country’s rich history. I never was much of a history buff until moving here. Being able to walk into a church or chateau that is over 400, 500 or 1000 years old is amazing." John's interview provides some fascinating insights into expat life in Paris.
Are you an expat living in France?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to France. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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