Living in France offers expats a life that is rich in culture and entertainment. France has the largest land area of any country in Western Europe and consists of 22 separate administrative regions. Paris, its capital city, is the largest city in Europe and houses approximately 1/6th of France’s total population.
France is renowned as one of the world’s cultural centers and offers significant cultural activities in the arts, education, history, and cuisine. Many expats choose to relocate there because they find that there is less crime, they can allow their children more freedom, the pace of life is enjoyable, and the cost of living is lower than their home country. In addition to this, France’s education system is considered one of the best in the world.
France as an expat destination
France is home to several expats who either live there permanently or have a second home. Rural France, in particular, is popular with people who want to stay a couple of months at a time and visit on the occasional weekend for the rest of the year. Over 15% of the total population living in France is over the age of 65, this being indicative of its popularity as a home for retired expats.
There are currently an estimated 4.3 million foreign residents in France, most of which are from elsewhere in the EU. A further significant proportion of France’s expat population consists of immigrants from France’s former colony in Algeria.
Cost of living in France
People are often surprised to hear that, despite the relatively high levels of value-added tax added to the price of consumer goods, the price of consumer goods is generally on par with prices found elsewhere in mainland Europe.
The main reason for these concerns is that France’s retail market is hugely competitive, and many traders operate on tiny profit margins. During the 2012 Mercer survey Paris, placed in position 37, was named one of the top 50 most expensive cities to live in, even though it slipped 10 places from the previous year.
For a full insight into the expenses you can expect to pay when you move to Paris, please see our guide to living in Paris. It contains full price details for all goods and services that expatriates living and working in the city can expect to face.
France has a population of just over 61.5 million people. The sole official language of France is French.
There are three types of climate in France:
- Oceanic (western France): Large rainfall, cool summers, and cool winters.
- Continental (eastern and central France): Warm summers, cold, snowy winters.
- Mediterranean (southern France): Cool winters, hot summers, limited rainfall.
Expat job and career prospects
France can be an extremely challenging place within which to find work. Many hires are made through personal networks, making the job search very difficult for a foreigner. The ability to speak French without a heavy foreign accent can greatly improve your networking ability and your chances of securing a suitable role when living in France. Basic French, at a minimum, is almost always compulsory to securing any work.
The French administration has a large network of agencies for employment. The most important are:
- ANPE, this is the French national agency for employment, and you can view their job advertisements online at http://anpe.fr. Unfortunately, the website is only available in French.
- APEC, the French national agency for the employment of professionals and executives, http://www.apec.fr.
If you do not have a French-speaking ability, all is not lost. Many expats in France make ends meet by establishing their own small businesses such as bars, hotels, plumbing, etc. Others set up as freelance providers in writing and editing, graphic, and website design.
Key facts every expat should know about France
- Even if you plan to relocate from another European Union country, you will be required to apply for permanent residence status and the Sécurité Sociale.
- Real estate negotiations in France are quite often conducted through the local Mayor.
- If you were to die suddenly in France without leaving a will, any French property and assets you own would pass directly to your children, bypassing your spouse.
- In France, it is a criminal offense not to help someone who is in distress.
- There are over 75 regional variations of the French language.
Guides to living in France
Expat Info Desk currently has a relocation guide available for living in Paris. This exhaustive guide contains everything you need to know about relocating to this French city and will assist you to:
- relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
- Settle into your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need when you need it.
- Identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
- Find the right places to meet like-minded people.
- Find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
- Ensure that your family gets the most of their experiences abroad.
- Prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
- Deal with any transition challenges.
- Cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
Unlike a book, the guide is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable and because the guide is written by real expats who live and work in Paris, you can be assured that you are accessing the information that you need as written by people who really are in the know.