Keeping in Touch in France
Missing friends and family back home is an often inevitable downside of leading an adventurous expat life. However, expats heading to France can rest assured that they’ll be able to keep in touch with ease thanks to the country’s strong communications infrastructure.
Internet providers in France
Most internet providers in France offer a consolidated package of Internet, cable services for television and a phone contract. These services are provided with a box that is both Internet provider and a streamer for television. The prices and quality of services vary but these deals are generally considered to be good value for money.
In the past, there were three providers that had a monopoly on the market – namely Orange, SFR and Bouyges Telecom. Since 2012, independent provider Free Mobile has given them some good competition with competitively priced tariffs. However, consumers have complained that Free Mobile's customer service and strength of reception (especially outside the big cities centers and highly populated areas) are not quite as impressive as their price tag.
Mobile phones in France
France mobile service providers use a GSM network; all GSM-compatible phones should work in the country, but CDMA phones, used in North America and parts of Asia, won't.
A standard mobile package contract will include 3G internet access on the phone and unlimited calls to landlines in France. Most will also include free calls to other European countries, either a certain amount of minutes per month or on an unlimited basis. To sign up for a contract, expats will need their passport and proof of residence.
There is also an option of prepaid package, where a SIM card is loaded with the required amount as needed.
As in the internet market, Free Mobile has also had a noticeable effect on the mobile phone market. Their basic mobile package is available for a low price but has limited call time and low internet. The problem with this obviously tempting package is that in some areas reception is bad, so expats should try to find out whether their phone picks up a strong signal in their local area before signing up.
Landline telephones in France
With the rise in popularity and accessibility of mobile phones over the last few decades, landlines were on the decline for a few years. However, they have become useful again now that major telecoms companies have cleverly begun to offer media boxes that combine Internet, cable and landline services. To garner even more interest, providers have begun widening the spectrum of free landline calls abroad. All four major telecoms companies (Orange, SFR, Bouyges and Free) offer free landline-to-landline calls around France and the entire EU. Their packages will vary – some also include the US and Canada and others will focus more on the Asian market or the Middle East. This kind of service can be the ideal solution for expats looking for a cost-effective way to talk to friends and family back home.
Postal services in France
France's postal service, La Poste, is reliable and surprisingly efficient, especially given that it’s an entirely state-owned organization also offering a full array of banking services. But with efficiency comes a price, and though within France it is an affordable service, international delivery (especially of packages) is rather expensive.
English-language media in France
France has five free public television stations, but for English-language television or channels from home, cable is essential. It’s important to note that all television programs on French television are dubbed to French, including popular shows from the US.
France 24 is the only public channel that is not broadcast exclusively in French; it is a worldwide news channel in English, French and Arabic.
Satellite television is available with a shared or individual satellite dish, and is less common in the big cities. Expats purchasing a television in France should be aware that there is a mandatory fee for a television license (redevance audiovisuelle) to be paid annually.
There are a few English-language newspapers available in France, such as The Connexion, a monthly newspaper run by France's expat community. The international edition of the New York Times is also based in France, while The Local is an English-language online news publisher servicing several countries with local editions, including France.