Pros and Cons of Moving to France
Relocating to France certainly sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, but living in the land of wine and cheese also comes with drawbacks, just as it comes with benefits.
The bottom line?
It’s very important to educate yourself about the pros and cons of moving to France before you board the plane.
Accommodation in France
The biggest decision most expats moving to France need to make is choosing to live in the countryside or the city. The countryside offers large pieces of land, smaller community living and the opportunity to set up home in more spacious houses. City living means public transportation is always close at hand, as well as grocery, shopping, hospitals and more.
Pros: Plenty of options
No matter where you, it’s easy to find options. Most real estate agencies have property listings displayed on their windows and on their web sites. Some real estate agents might not be fluent in the English language, but they will do their best to communicate and find lodging that meets your needs.
Alternatively, a simple Internet search can provide listings advertising available apartments, houses or room share options (including furnished or unfurnished). Many French web sites have an easily translatable English option.
Not to mention, bed and breakfasts and holiday rentals in many areas offer long-term stays, which are helpful while looking for permanent residence.
Cons: Older housing
The majority of apartments and houses in France are much older. While charming, they can lack proper insulation, have smaller rooms and often only one bathroom. It’s not uncommon to find apartments or houses without light fixtures or kitchen appliances. Although some places will offer furnished kitchens and up-to-date features, these places are more expensive and harder to find.
Cons: Housing Tax
All tenants living in a property, whether you rent or own, are responsible for paying an annual French residence tax (taxe d’habitation). The cost often depends on what area you live in and are generally higher in the city and lower in the country.
Lifestyle in France
Pro: Slower pace of life.
It’s true the French enjoy 1 to 2 hour lunches every day, as well as ample coffee breaks. Most stores close during lunch, around 6 or 7 for the evening and all day on Sunday. While this can be frustrating for many expats used to living a fast-paced life, it doesn’t take long to adjust to a slower rhythm of living. There is a higher importance placed on family, and soon you’ll enjoy spending Sundays with loved ones or eating lunch together at home every day.
Relocating to France includes various responsibilities, like opening a bank account, changing a driver’s license or dealing with visa paperwork.
These and several other tasks involve many requirements, different forms and lots of frustration. There will often be long lines at government offices and you will have no other choice but to wait and hope you’ll be seen.
The frustration of dealing with French bureaucracy is almost as well-known and stereotyped as the nation’s copious vacation days. Unfortunately, this is an inevitable part of life in France.
France is well known for being a nation with one of the highest number of paid vacation days. Every six or seven weeks schools have a holiday for one week, which allows families to more easily enjoy vacation together. Although, it means that most of the country takes their vacation the same two to three weeks in mid-July, and thus planning ahead is a necessity.
Pros: Accessible and convenient urban transportation
Most cities offer a comprehensive bus system, metro or tram with very reasonable prices. Not to mention, France also has lots of regional airports and train stations to help you move about within Europe.
Expats relocating to rural France should note that they will likely need a car. In the countryside there might be a bus that goes to a neighbouring city one or two times a day, but for the most part, a vehicle will be required to do even the simplest of tasks.
Pros: Fresh food and great wine
Every big city, small town or country village will have a weekly, if not daily, market with fresh goods. Most neighbourhoods have a local boulangerie with fresh bread, a butcher, cheese store or small grocery. France is known for their strict food regulations, which translates into fresh and tasty nutritional options.
Furthermore, since France is a large wine producing country, wine is a very integral part of French life. Both lunch and dinner can include a glass of wine or bottled shared among friends. Local wineries and grocery stores offer a variety of good wines at a range for prices.
Cost of living in France
Cons: Cost of essentials
Many staples in France such as fuel, food and clothes are very expensive. The value added tax applied to most goods and services, and is quite high at 19.6 percent. This tax adds considerable cost to a large purchase, like a car. Rent and home prices, depending on the area of France in which you are living, can also be quite high (Paris and the south of France are notorious for their high rents).
Cons: Cost of transportation
While there are lots of options for getting around France, they are not all cheap. The TGV, or high-speed train, going in and out of Paris is quite pricey. Toll roads throughout France are also expensive, with some roads and bridges costing more than 30 Euros for a single trip.
Kids in France
Pros: School Schedule
Schools in France start between 8h30am and 9am, ends between 4h30pm and 5pm and offer 90-minute to 2-hour lunches. The school week is a four-day week with no school on Wednesday or Saturday. While no-school-Wednesdays might seem like an inconvenience for working parents, most recreational centres offer activities for children on this day.
Cons: Child Care
There are many options for caring for young children in France; however, they can be pricey and competitive. The most common form of care is a nursery. They offer full-time and part time care; however, there are long waiting lists for nurseries all across France. Most people advise to put your name on a list the day you learn you are pregnant. Alternatively, expats may want to consider an “Assistant Maternelle”, a state licensed caregiver that accepts up to four children in her home; prices for these service providers tend to be even more expensive, and can change at any given time.