Many expats dream of moving to France, enticed by visions of long restaurant lunches, people-watching at Parisian cafés, strolls in lavender-scented Provence, sunbathing on the beaches of Nice and being immersed in the cultural riches of art and haute couture.
However, living in France may not be the proverbial walk in the park that many imagine. 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 governing 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.
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. Businesses expect efficiency and productivity and those planning to relocate to France without a job in place may find the job-hunting challenging. Opportunities will be even more limited for those who aren't fluent in French. Nevertheless, expats account for a significant percentage of the workforce in Paris and businesspeople do value the new skills a foreigner can bring.
Paris and Lyon are 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.
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.
Population: Over 65 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