Pros and cons of moving to France
While relocating to France may be the opportunity of a lifetime, living in the land of wine and cheese comes with drawbacks as well as benefits.
Expats are advised to educate themselves about the pros and cons of moving to France before they board the plane.
Accommodation in France
The biggest decision expats moving to France will need to make is whether to live in the countryside or in the city. The countryside offers large areas of land, community living and more spacious houses. City living means that public transportation is always close at hand, as well as groceries, shopping, hospitals and more.
PRO: Plenty of options
Expats should find plenty of accommodation options no matter where in France they are. Most real estate agencies have property listings displayed in 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 suitable lodging options.
Alternatively, a simple Internet search can provide listings of available apartments, houses or room share options (including furnished or unfurnished). Many French websites offer a translated English version.
Many bed-and-breakfasts and holiday rentals also offer long-term stays, which are helpful while looking for permanent residence.
CON: Older housing
Most apartments and houses in France are very old. While charming, they can lack proper insulation, have small rooms and contain 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 are more expensive and harder to find.
CON: Housing Tax
All tenants living in a property must pay an annual French residence tax (taxe d’habitation), the amount of which depends on the area.
Lifestyle in France
PRO Slower pace of life.
The French enjoy one- to two-hour lunches every day, as well as ample coffee breaks. Most stores close during lunch, between 6pm and 7pm for the evening and all day on Sunday. While this can be frustrating for expats used to living a fast-paced life, it doesn’t take long to adjust to the slower rhythm. Great importance is placed on family, and soon new arrivals will soon enjoy spending Sundays with loved ones at home.
Relocating to France involves various responsibilities, like opening a bank account, changing a driver’s license or dealing with visa paperwork.
These and several other tasks come with many requirements, forms and lots of frustration. There will often be long lines at government offices and expats will have no choice but to wait and hope to be seen. The frustration of dealing with French bureaucracy is infamous and, unfortunately, an inevitable part of life in France.
France is known for being a country with one of the highest number of paid vacation days. Schools enjoy a week-long holiday every six or seven weeks, which allows families to enjoy a break together. Expats should keep in mind that most of the country takes their vacation during the same period in mid-July, and planning ahead is a necessity.
PRO: Accessible and convenient urban transportation
Most cities offer a comprehensive bus, metro or tram system with very reasonable prices. France also has a number of regional airports and train stations to help expats travel within Europe.
Expats relocating to rural France should note that they will likely need a car. A bus may go to a neighbouring city once or twice a day, but, for the most part, a vehicle will be required for even the simplest of tasks.
PRO: 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 its strict food regulations, which translates into fresh and tasty nutritional options.
Furthermore, since France is a large wine-producing country, it is an integral part of French life. Both lunch and dinner normally include a glass of wine or a bottle shared among friends. Local wineries and grocery stores offer a variety of excellent wines at a range of prices.
Cost of living in France
CON: Cost of essentials
Many staples in France, such as fuel, food and clothes, are very expensive. Value added tax is applied to most goods and services, which is quite high at 19.6 percent. This tax adds considerable cost to a large purchase, like a car. Rent and home prices can also be quite high, depending on the area (Paris and the south of France are notorious for high rent).
CON: Cost of transportation
While there are many 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 EUR for a single trip.
Kids in France
PRO: School Schedule
Most schools in France start between 8:30am and 9am, and end between 4:30pm and 5pm and offer 90-minute to 2-hour lunches.
CON: 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, which usually offers full-time and part time care. However, nurseries across throughout France normally have considerably waiting lists and most people suggest registering soon after falling pregnant. Alternatively, expats may want to consider an assistant maternelle, a state-licenced caregiver that accepts up to four children in her home. These tend to be expensive and costs can change at any time.