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France

Is France safe?
The crime rate in France is low and safety is seldom a concern. The only places that may be dangerous are the poorer areas of Paris and the other large cities. Areas with large amounts of tourists can often have high pick-pocketing rates.
 
Do I need a car in France?
In the big cities there is no need for a car. The public transport is more than sufficient to meet any need. Rural France, however, is a different matter. While transport across the country is efficient and easily accessible, a single car is recommended for moving around a small or medium-sized town.
 
Do I need to be able to speak French?
Yes. The French will appreciate the effort - it is their country after all. Moreover, fluency in French is essential to succeed in the working world. While being able to speak a foreign language is a valuable skill, it is its ability to provide a link between the French and another culture that makes it invaluable.
 
What are the most popular cities for expats?
Paris is probably the best city for expats. There are many communities in which an expat can make a home. There are also many facilities to make expat life easier, such as English expat magazines and English speaking institutions. While buying property in France can be an attractive option, going it alone requires a willingness to integrate into French society.
 
Is it difficult to make friends in France?
A foreigner in France will always be an outsider. However, the French consider friendships sacred, and once involved with a social group, life will be less lonely. Learning French customs and the language is essential to crossing this divide.

Moving to France

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.


Fast Facts

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

Weather in France

Expats living in France will find that climate patterns are highly variable depending on their location. Generally speaking, however, foreigners can look forward to a climate that is temperate and agreeable. 

The weather in France can range from warm summers in the southern coast to wet, snowy winters in the Alpine area. Expats should closely investigate the particularities of their region before drawing conclusions about its climate. 

In north and northwestern France rain occurs throughout the year. Winters are moderate, and summers are warm but not excessively hot.

Southwestern and Mediterranean France have the most attractive weather patterns for expats. Sunshine is plentiful, summers are hot and winters are mild. Rainfall is predominantly associated with summer thunderstorms. Expats need only prepare themselves for the occasional cold wind which blows for short periods during spring.

Central and eastern France have a continental climate characterised by cold, harsh, winters and warm summers. Snow is more likely to fall here than in other regions of France, with the exception of the Alpine region.

The mountainous regions of France march to the beat of their own meteorological drum. Expats can expect these areas to be the wettest and coldest in the country. In this region, snow falls between three and six months of the year.

On the whole, rainfall in France is moderate and occurs throughout the year, though nowhere near as much as in neighbouring countries like Belgium. Transitions between the seasons in France are distinct, and expats can look forward to uniquely seasonal weather in spring, summer, winter and autumn.

Embassy contacts for France


French embassies

French Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 944 6000

French Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7073 1000

French Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 1795

French Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6216 0100

French Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 2 425 1600

French Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 277 5000

French Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 384 2555


Foreign embassies in France

US Embassy, Paris: +33 1 4312 2222

British Embassy, Paris: +33 1 4451 3100

Canadian Embassy, Paris: +33 1 4443 2900

Australian Embassy, Paris: +33 1 4059 3300

South African Embassy, Paris: +33 1 5359 2323

Irish Embassy, Paris: +33 1 4417 6700

New Zealand Embassy, Paris: +33 1 4501 4343

Public Holidays in France

  

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

Labour Day (Worker's Day)

1 May

1 May

WWII Victory Day

8 May

8 May

Ascension Day

21 May

13 May

Whit Monday

1 June

24 May

Bastille Day

14 July

14 July

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

15 August

15 August

All Saints' Day

1 November

1 November

Armistice Day

11 November

11 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

As many expats may already know, the French adore their holiday time, and it should come as little surprise then that when the opportunity strikes for a long weekend, many indulge. Meaning that, when a public holiday in France occurs on a Tuesday or Thursday, employees and employers will often faire le pont (bridge the gap), and take/give the day off in-between (the Monday or the Friday, respectively). 

Additionally, expats living in France should note that when public holidays fall on a Sunday, time off is then given on the following Monday. Easter Sunday and Whit Sunday are the exceptions to this rule.

Pros and cons of moving to France

While relocating to France may be the opportunity of a lifetime, living in the land of cheese and wine comes with drawbacks as well as benefits. 


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 schools, shopping, hospitals and more.

+ PRO: Plenty of choice

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 websites. Some real estate agents might not be fluent in English, 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. Many French websites offer a translated English version. Some 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 generally enjoy one- to two-hour lunches every day, as well as ample coffee breaks. Most stores close during lunch, between 6pm and 7pm in 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 new arrivals will soon enjoy spending Sundays with loved ones at home.

- CON: Bureaucracy

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 and forms. 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. 

+ PRO: Vacation

France is known for being a country with one of the highest numbers of paid vacation days in the world. 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 take 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 at 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 getting around the French countryside.

+ PRO: Fresh food and great wine 

Every big city, small town or country village will have a regular fresh goods market. Most neighbourhoods have a local boulangerie which sells fresh bread as well as a butcher, cheese store or small grocery. France is known for its strict food regulations, which translates into an extensive range of fresh and tasty nutritional options.

Furthermore, good wine is also 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. This tax can add 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, end between 4.30pm and 5pm, and offer 90-minute to two-hour lunches. 

- CON: Cost and availability of childcare

There are many options for caring for young children in France. However, these can be costly and competitive. The most common form of care is a nursery, which usually offers full-time and part-time care. However, nurseries across France normally have considerably long waiting lists and most people suggest registering soon after falling pregnant. Alternatively, expats may want to consider an assistant maternelle, a state-licensed caregiver that accepts up to four children in her home. These tend to be expensive, though, and costs can change at any time.  

Working in France

The prospect of working in France can be highly appealing to expats, as it claims the third-largest economy in the Eurozone and sixth-largest economy in the world. As such, there are always opportunities for talented individuals to find a job in France.

Expats are often attracted by the perks of the French working world, which include a 35-hour workweek, plenty of holiday time and early retirement. Finding a job in France is notoriously difficult for foreigners, though. Most expats who manage to find one do so through intra-company transfers or opportunities within large multinational organisations. 


Job market in France

Expats may be disappointed to discover that most of the jobs available in France aren't in the storied South of France or even bustling, romantic Paris. The top hiring regions are actually Auvergne, Bretagne, Limousin and Pays de la Loire. Expats willing to move to these less attractive destinations will find many opportunities, even though the area surrounding Paris claims one of the continent’s wealthiest and largest regional economies. 

Salaries in France are on the lower end of the spectrum compared to other areas of the world that attract expats, like the Middle East and Asia. 


Finding a job in France

Expats looking for employment in France will benefit greatly from speaking French, as fluency is a requirement for most positions. Expats should note that education levels are given priority over experience and accomplishments and that the French generally prefer to do business with friends. Many people find employment through networking and alumni organisations, so fostering connections is a crucial part of the job hunt.

The most prominent industry sectors in France are hospitality, telecommunications, aerospace and defence, shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals, construction and civil engineering, chemicals, automobile production and banking. Expats looking to work in France will need a valid work permit


Work culture in France

Expats working in France will find that French business culture tends to be hierarchical and reserved, with very little socialising across hierarchical lines. In addition to this, appearances are important to the French. Expats would do well to invest a little bit extra in their work wardrobe.

Those working in France will also need to take a flexible approach to time and punctuality. Work culture in France is heavily influenced by bureaucracy, and as such, simple tasks may take longer than expected. That said, expats in France will also enjoy a 35-hour workweek as well as substantial holiday time throughout the year. This free time will allow expats to make the most of working in the country and embrace the French way of life.

Doing Business in France

Contrary to what expats might expect from the country responsible for the expression 'laissez-faire', doing business in France is actually a highly bureaucratic affair. Heavy-handed interventionist policies dating back to World War II have created a particular French business culture that calls for government interaction at almost every level.

The World Bank ranked France 32nd out of 190 countries in its Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. The country ranked well in trading across borders (1st), enforcing contracts (16th) and getting electricity (17th). It ranked poorly, however, for ease of getting credit (104th) and ease of registering property (99th).

Expats should understand that the French are very proud of their culture and language. This pride is often reflected in the attitude towards foreigners in France. For this reason, expats who want to succeed in business should make a concerted effort to learn the language and familiarise themselves with local customs and practices before doing business in France.


Fast facts

Business hours

Business hours vary in France, with the standard working day being from 8am and 9am to between 4pm and 5pm. However, with a government-set standard 35-hour work week, many companies are flexible, opting for shorter days or Friday afternoons off.

Business language

French is the primary language in France, though English proficiency is widespread and often used in business.

Dress

Business attire in France is formal, smart and stylish. It's also conservative, not flashy.

Gifts

Gifts are not generally expected between colleagues or business associates in France. Appreciation may be better expressed through the hosting of a dinner or social event. In such social situations, however, a small gift is appropriate as a sign of gratitude. 

Gender equality

Women are entitled to equal treatment in France, and frequently occupy high positions in the French business world.

Greetings

A handshake is an appropriate greeting for both men and women. French handshakes are generally brisk and light. Use the formal titles 'Monsieur' and 'Madame' (Mr or Mrs).


Business culture in France

New arrivals may find it difficult to get to grips with business culture in France. On one hand, it can be formal with adherence to hierarchical business structures and an emphasis on appearance. On the other hand, expats will need to incorporate some level of flexibility when it comes to deadlines and meetings.

The French are passionate people and this reflects in local business culture. Spirited debates are common. Expat businesspeople are expected to be able to intellectually defend their positions. While arguments may be emotional, logic usually holds the most weight with French businesspeople.

Hierarchy

Business culture in France is particularly hierarchical, with policy and vision conceived by upper management and carried out by junior employees. Socialising across hierarchical lines is unusual. Most senior managers in French companies hail from the elite Grandes Écoles schools and share a respect for intellectualism.

Appearance

Expats may need to give their wardrobe some attention before delving into the business world, as appearance is very important in France. Business dress is typically stylish and conservative. Dark suits are appropriate, and clothes should be of good quality. Even occasions specified as informal will require tastefully coordinated dress, including a jacket for men.

Flexibility

French businesspeople are very casual about punctuality, and it's not unusual for business associates to be 10 to 15 minutes late to a meeting. Similarly, deadlines may be considered negotiable unless otherwise stated.

Titles

When addressing a French businessperson, always use the appropriate formal title like 'Monsieur' and 'Madame' unless told otherwise.


Dos and don’ts of business in France

  • Do dress stylishly and wear quality business attire

  • Don't make exaggerated claims

  • Do ensure that written communications are grammatically correct

  • Do expect to defend your ideas intellectually

Visas for France

France is a Schengen member-state, which means that citizens from several countries can enter for short stays without having to apply for a visa. When it comes to long-term or permanent stays, securing a long-stay visa and residency permit (carte de séjour) is considerably more of an uphill battle for non-EU or non-EEA nationals. 


Tourist visa short-stay visa for France

France falls within the Schengen Area. As such nationals of appointed countries do not need to apply for a tourist visa before arrival if planning to stay in the country for under 90 days. This includes citizens of European Union countries, the European Economic Area, Switzerland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others.

Nationals of countries not listed will need to apply for a Schengen visa before arrival in order to be granted entry to France. 


Schengen visa for France

Schengen visas entitle their holders to 90 days of travel within a six-month period to any country within the Schengen Area. If travelling to multiple destinations, expats should submit the Schengen visa application to the consulate of the country in which they will spend the most time.

It is necessary to apply for and secure a Schengen visa prior to arrival in France. This process requires the submission of a completed visa application and appointed documents to the French consulate or embassy in one's home country. Processing time can vary, so applications should be submitted well before the date of departure. Expats should be aware that the date of the application submission cannot be more than three months prior to the date of departure. 


Long-stay visa for France

Expats planning on living in France for more than 90 days will need to apply for a long-stay visa. This visa is primarily granted to those going to France to work, study or reunite with family. The application requires a number of supporting documents, the specifics of which vary according to one's reason for moving to France. EU citizens don't need to apply for long-stay visas to live in France for more than 90 days. 

Certain long-stay visas act as residence permits and allow expats to live in France for a 12-month period. If granted one of these visas, expats must register with the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration within the first three months of arrival.

Expats planning on living in France for more than a year must usually apply for a formal residence permit (carte de séjour) in addition to the long-stay visa. 


Residence permit (carte de séjour) for France

A residency permit is required of all expats in France, except EU citizens, who are planning to live in the country for more than a year. Expats have two months from their initial entry to apply for this card. It's best to start the process no later than one month into one's stay.

To get a residence permit, expats must have entered France on a long-stay visa. They can apply for their residence permit at the Service des Étrangers section of their local préfecture. Foreigners have reported that the required documents for application vary depending on the préfecture, as do the appointment policies. Some allow scheduling online, while others require scheduling via telephone or in person, if at all. Expats are advised to make an appointment as early as possible to avoid complications.

Once all documents have been submitted, expats will be given a récipissé de demande and a date for the required French medical check-up, which includes an x-ray. Applicants must take the medical confirmation certificate back to the préfecture to complete the final step of the application process.

Applicants will be notified when their residency permit is ready for collection. Some expats report receiving their permit within days, while others have had to wait a number of months. Expats shouldn't be afraid to contact their local préfecture to check on the status of the permit application.

The carte de séjour is valid for one year and the renewal process can be started two months prior to expiration. 

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for France

As with most countries, there are certain requirements expats must meet before working in France. These may vary depending on the expat's country of origin. Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland don’t require work permits to find employment in France.

Non-EU nationals must usually go through a complicated application process for the right to employment in France. There's also a limitation on the number of job categories open to non-European foreigners. As such work permits in France are notoriously difficult for expats to get.

Eligibility for a work permit in France is related to employment status, and it's usually necessary for expats to find employment before relocating. Expats may need to rely on their prospective employer to obtain the permit on their behalf.

Expats looking for employment in France may also need to prove that their skills are unique and can't be found among EEA nationals, which can be a troublesome task. Patience is a valuable asset, as expats in France are bound to experience the country’s infamous bureaucratic process first-hand. 


Applying for a work permit for France

Expats planning to work in France for longer than three months are required to have a long-stay visa, which can only be applied for after their prospective work contract is sent to the French Ministry of Labour for approval. Once the contract has been reviewed and approved an appointment can be made to apply for the visa. Expats arriving in France on a long-stay work visa are required to register with the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (French Office of Immigration and Integration).

Work visas for France vary in their length of validity, requirements and number of entries. They generally also depend on the type of worker and their field. Common work permits for expats moving to France include the Skills and Talents permit, as well as the Employees on Assignment permit.

*Visa and work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in France

The cost of living in France is high, especially in the large urban centres such as Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Expenses decrease considerably the further one goes into the rural countryside, a result of both lower prices and a less extravagant lifestyle.

Paris and Lyon both appeared in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2019, ranking at 47th and 123rd most expensive respectively out of the 209 expat cities surveyed.

Expat salaries in France are also considerably less lucrative than the financial packages given to those who move to the Middle East or Asia for tax-free wealth or high-powered positions. That said, it's possible to enjoy an excellent quality of life on a budget in France. This is especially true in the south of France as well as some of the charming provincial villages. 


Cost of accommodation in France

Accommodation in France is frequently the most intimidating expense for expats. It can easily swallow a third to a half of their monthly salary if residing in an established urban centre. On the other hand, expat retirees that have flocked to France in search of sunny shores and purchased property may not even have a monthly mortgage to worry about.

In France, homeowners pay less for more space than those elsewhere in Europe. This explains why many expats sell property in their home country and can afford to buy property in France and cover the cost of renovation as well. Expats in this situation need only be concerned with the rising cost of utilities.

Utility bills are comparable to those in the rest of Europe. Prices of electricity and gas are fairly average. While air conditioning can be expensive, it isn't as commonly used in Europe as in the USA. Many apartments don't come with air conditioning facilities installed.


Cost of clothing in France 

A 20-percent sales tax in France makes everything slightly more expensive than many other countries in Europe, but clothes are notoriously expensive. This means that expats must often choose between pricey boutiques, speciality stores or upscale department stores and low-priced, poor-quality goods.


Cost of transport in France

France boasts an impressive public transport system. Expats living in big cities will find that life without a car is easy. Furthermore, many employers in Paris even subsidise a portion of transport costs – so expats should not be afraid to ask.

Rural infrastructure, on the other hand, is not as comprehensive as that of the cities. Expats living in the countryside may need to buy a car, which can make village life slightly more expensive than anticipated. 


Cost of living in France chart

Prices vary across France – these are average costs for Paris in April 2020. Prices may vary depending on product and service provider.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

 EUR 2,000 - 3,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

 EUR 1,200 - 2,500

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

 EUR 900 - 1,550

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

 EUR 650 - 1,200

Food and drink

Milk (1 litre)

 EUR 1.20

Dozen eggs

 EUR 3.50

White bread (loaf)

 EUR 1.60

Rice (1kg)

 EUR 1.90

Packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)

 EUR 9.60

Public transport

One-way ticket (local transport)

 EUR 1.90

Taxi rate per km

 EUR 1.50

Petrol (litre)

EUR 1.60

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 EUR 9

Coca-Cola (330ml)

 EUR 3

Cappuccino

 EUR 3.50

Bottle of beer (domestic)

 EUR 7

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

 EUR 50

Utilities

Internet (uncapped ADSL per month)

 EUR 30

Mobile call rate (mobile-to-mobile per minute)

 EUR 0.25

Basic monthly utilities (electricity, water and refuse)

 EUR 170

Culture Shock in France

Despite the familiar feeling of France and its iconic capital city, expats are still likely to experience some culture shock in France. Making a home in France comes with the challenges of learning the language and assimilating into a culture steeped in unique social conventions.

The first and most critical step for overcoming culture shock and avoid any misunderstandings about French culture is to learn the local language. Expats should also mind their manners, keep an open mind and maintain an eagerness to learn about French culture. 


Language barrier in France

French is the official language of France, but expats living in the South of France may encounter some regional dialects that sound surprisingly different to what is spoken in Paris and Lyon. In many areas of France, locals are likely to speak some level of English. 

This fact should not detract from visitors’ or expats’ attempts to initiate a conversation or request in French with a "bonjour" ("good day") or "parlez-vous Anglais?" ("Do you speak English?").  

Various language schools offer French classes  to foreign-language speakers. They all cater to various levels of proficiency and need. Even for the more fluent speaker, there are conversation classes that offer an opportunity to speak to French speakers who are learning English.


Etiquette in France

Etiquette is extremely important to people in France and it is not unusual to see people being subtly disregarded by salespeople, waiters or others in the service industry for not minding their manners. At any service counter, even if in a rush, the most observed form of etiquette is greeting. Rushing in to make demands or a request without a brief "bonjour" can earn one a frosty response. 

The bisous (kissing on both cheeks) is reserved for people one is familiar with and, even then, locals will always be first to initiate. This can appear over-familiar to some expats, but it's a common greeting in France.


Time in France

The issue of time in social situations perplexes many expats that are used to the notion of being on time. In French society, being invited for a meal at someone’s house prescribes that one does not arrive exactly on time. It is best to err on the side of being fashionably late and arrive 15 to 20 minutes after the set time. That said, if invited to a restaurant or a business function, it's acceptable to arrive at the specified time. 


Dining etiquette in France

As a rule, the French don't have much tolerance for picky eaters. While it's fairly common to customise an order of food according to one’s preferences in foreign restaurants, this behaviour isn't acceptable in most French establishments or at someone’s home. 

Once the usual questions around food allergies have been addressed, the host/hostess expects guests to finish what they're served. It is frowned upon to leave food on a plate, especially as servings aren't typically large and food preparation, particularly in someone’s home, is a labour of love that can only be reciprocated through appreciation and enjoyment of the meal.


Cultural nuances in France

The French aren't known for being gregarious and open. Restraint and reserve play a big role in most interactions, and overt friendliness is not something one encounters overnight. Expats should prepare to be patient when it comes to fostering connections with locals.

The mixing of professional and private lives, such as socialising with colleagues outside of working hours, is seldom done in French companies. Speaking too loudly or laughing too raucously in public places can earn sideway glances. Discretion is key in all situations.

The French can be very direct, which can be misconstrued as rude, especially if one is not used to such forthrightness. Expats should learn not to take this honesty personally. 


Shopping hours in France

One of the most common complaints cited by expats from the UK and the US is the somewhat mysterious French shopping hours. On Sundays nearly everything is closed, with the exception of cafés. While this may seem like an irritation, expats should try to follow the lead of the locals and take advantage of Sundays to relax and unwind.

Additionally, many stores will close for two to three hours over lunch throughout the week, but this is more common outside of metropolitan centres.

Accommodation in France

Expats moving to France will find plenty of reasonably priced, comfortable housing options. The standard of accommodation in France is similar to other Western European countries, with comfortable but small living quarters dominating the housing market. 

Housing in France varies from studio apartments and condos to cottages, farmhouses and even chateaux. It is generally best for expats to know well in advance the type of accommodation they're in the market for. 


Types of accommodation in France

The type of accommodation available in France depends largely on the region. Most cities offer apartments and studios, while as one travels further from the cities iconic French châteaux, farm cottages and stone houses are more readily available.

Expats should be aware that unfurnished accommodation in France, as opposed to other destinations, does not usually include any white-label appliances, like refrigerators or washing machines. Air conditioning is not a common feature, except in the south of the country, while an adequate heating system is essential for the country’s cold winters.

While shipping furniture to France is a viable option, expats can rest assured that they won't have much difficulty finding furniture after arriving in the country. Paris in particular is wonderfully shopper-friendly, boasting a famous range of second-hand and antique stores as well as a number of modern superstores. 

Some of the types of accommodation available in France include:

Apartments

By far the most common type of accommodation in French cities, apartments are usually rented out on a monthly basis. They vary in size from small studio apartments to sprawling high-end condos, with an equally vast range in price. 

Cottages

Cottages are more common in the rural areas of France. These are usually for sale, but some are rented out on a short-term basis for holidaymakers, especially near the coastal regions in the south of France. Cottages in rural France are also frequently available as renovation projects. These can be bought for a low price, but are usually in need of considerable restoration.

Cottages vary considerably in price depending on their condition, location and size. They can be suitable for expat families planning to live in France for a long period of time or those who want to avoid the fast pace of city life.

Chateaux

Expats with a slightly larger budget may consider buying a stunning chateau, many of which have rich histories dating back to the middle ages. That said, most have been renovated over the years and have all the amenities expected of a modern home. 


Finding accommodation in France

One of the best ways for expats in France to find accommodation is through the classifieds in various print and online publications. These adverts often include a time and date for interested parties to view the property. 

Expats may find it difficult to secure accommodation in France before moving into the country, as most landlords and property owners prefer doing business with people they've met. It is usually also best to see the property in person before committing to a lease.

For these reasons, another way to find accommodation in France is networking. Due to extremely high competition among potential tenants, some of the best properties available may not be advertised publicly. Expats are advised to make connections and ask around to find out if anyone in their social circle may know of something. 

Expats who don’t mind the extra fees or don't want to deal directly with a landlord can always use a real estate agency. This option is good for expats who are in a rush and don’t have time to browse the market themselves. 


Renting property in France

Most expats will probably decide to rent property in France. Expats will find that housing costs are mainly determined by location. The golden rule is that the closer the accommodation is to the city centre, the higher the rent will be. As a result, it is not uncommon for expats to seek accommodation in slightly outlying districts of French cities. These areas often offer bigger properties that are in better shape and boast more creature comforts, such as air conditioning and double glazing, than anything available in the downtown areas.

Expats should note that, should they rent property in an apartment building or government-subsidised housing complex, their monthly utility bills will more than likely be included in their rental fees.

Finding a property to rent in France can be a little testing. Expats may need to provide three recent payslips to prove that their monthly salary is at least three times the rent value. This is primarily a result of the many French laws in place protecting the tenant once a lease is signed. Furthermore, estate agent fees can be as high as one month's rent.

See more on renting property in France

Renting property in France

For expats moving to France, the process of finding a suitable home and renting a property with ease will be central to the success of their expat assignment.

Most new arrivals enlist the help of a real estate agent to assist them in sourcing a home that meets their requirements. Not only do these professionals have access to a greater number of properties, they also have an intimate knowledge of the local property market and will certainly make the whole process more straightforward, especially for those with limited knowledge of the French language. 


Choosing a rental property in France

Expats looking to rent property in France will have to consider a number of factors before they begin their search, including location, size of the property, type of property, length of available rental period as well as additional running costs associated with the property.

Wherever possible it is best to view the property before moving in. Many expats stay in temporary accommodation while looking for a more permanent rental property. For those who want to secure a property before moving to France, it is best to correspond in writing with a landlord or estate agent and also keep a close record of all correspondence.

When looking for rental accommodation be sure to visit a number of properties before simply settling on a place. This allows expats to get a good idea about average rental prices they can expect to pay for various types of property. 


Signing a lease in France

When expats have found a suitable property it is important to ask the landlord to provide a condition report on the property before signing a lease. The cost for this report will usually be shared between the landlord and tenant.

Leases in France are generally for a year, but expats may be able to negotiate a six-month contract with the landlord. Expats must be sure to read their lease agreement carefully before signing any documents. The lease will stipulate any additional costs renters will be required to pay over and above the monthly rental fee for the accommodation.  

Tenants are required to pay a rental deposit, which cannot be more than one month’s rent for an unfurnished property. However, in France, there is no limit on the deposit required on a furnished rental.

Most expats use the services of an estate agent, for which an additional agency fee may need to be paid. Whether this is paid by the landlord or tenant is open to negotiation. In the big cities like Paris, where property is in high demand, the chances are the renter will be made to pay these fees. 


Utility costs in France

Expats renting property in France will find that there are also costs involved in connecting utility services. Generally, renters are responsible for making the necessary arrangements to have the electricity, gas, telephone, internet and water connected. A good landlord and even an estate agent will often assist with these processes, but it’s best for expats to do their research and be involved in the process, so they can ensure they are getting the best deal to suit their personal needs.

Buying Property in France

Buying a house in France is a very well-regulated exercise. However, there are some points worth noting before beginning the process.

Tips for buying a house in France

  • The process becomes legally binding quickly, so expats shouldn't rush into signing anything

  • Bear in mind that the fees associated with buying a house are high. These can include agent's fees, lawyer's fees and even stamp duty. For a second-hand property, one can usually add on an estimated 15 percent of the asking price for these hidden costs.

  • Homebuyers' surveys are not normally carried out. Expats who are concerned about this can usually find English-speaking surveyors working in France through the internet. Unfortunately, many English speakers are not familiar with French architecture and building methods and thus are not always the best options to survey a property.

  • Expats should not expect state-of-the-art appliances, floor layouts, or conveniences. Part of the charm of traditional French buildings is their age, and this generally applies to the kitchens and plumbing as well. 


How and where to buy property in France

Expats who wish to begin their property search in France from abroad will be able to either appoint an agent or research accommodation options on the internet. One advantage of using an agent is that they can often speak both English and the local language, and will be able to guide expats through each step of the process.

Foreigners already in France will be able to purchase property through a notary or an estate agent. It is recommended that expats check that all intermediary agents are members of a professional body such as FNAIM, SNPI or UNPI. Expats should also keep in mind that the properties presented to them will usually be properties aimed at foreigners, and may be relatively more expensive.

Buying property in Paris and other cities

Buying a property in Paris or another city is somewhat different from the rest of France. Expats should walk the streets to find an area they like, then hunt down some agencies that look promising. Listings and estate agents can be found in various magazines, newspapers, and on the internet. There is relatively little new construction in Paris, and expats will most likely be looking to purchase an apartment rather than a formal house. 

Listings are posted as À Louer (For Rent) and À Vendre (To Buy). They will also indicate which arrondissement the property is in. Perhaps most importantly, they will state the size in square meters and the number of rooms. Most apartments in Paris are small. Studios are 100 to 200 square feet, some smaller. Three-bedroom apartments are frequently under 1,000 square feet.

American expats in France should bear in mind that the French follow the European convention of counting the first floor as the ground floor (Rez-de-Chauseé or RdC); the second floor in American terminology would be the first floor in Europe. Generally speaking, the higher the floor, the more expensive the property.

More often than not, an apartment is sold with an empty kitchen. There are stores that will help design and install a customised kitchen, ranging from pre-fabricated cabinets at IKEA to a kitchen created by cuisinistes. It’s worthwhile to get at least three estimates and to collect references from friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

It is also important for expats to decide whether or not to purchase a car. Parking in Paris is difficult, and having a parking spot can greatly increase the resale value of a property.

Buying land in France

French land prices are generally quite expensive, particularly in agricultural or wine-growing regions. Buying land can often be more complicated than buying a house, as the French tend to be attached to their land and sometimes there are rights of way and other precedents pertaining to the use of land which have never been recorded, but which are legally binding nevertheless. 


Prices of property in France

In France, there is a local market which is quite separate to the formal market. Many local properties, especially in the countryside, are not advertised in any other way than having a homemade sign nailed to a fence. Only a small percentage of property sales in France occur with the help of agents and the rest are usually direct between buyer and seller.


Making the purchase

By law, the notaire is the only person permitted to handle conveyancing in France. The notaire does not represent any one party's interest and is merely engaged to ensure that the transaction is carried out in the correct legal manner. Therefore, it is common that the same notaire handles both the vendor's and the buyer's transactions for a fee that is usually between two and eight percent of the property price. 

Making an offer – Compromis de Vente

Once an expat has found a property and is interested in making an offer, they should ask to see the plans for the property and its land. These are held by the local mairie or prefecture and are known as the plan cadastres

Once a verbal offer has been made and accepted by the estate agent and the vendor a preliminary contract known as the Compromis de Vente is drawn up. Although it is only the preliminary contract, it is legally binding and therefore expats should ensure that all verbal agreements are included in writing. The contract usually contains the following:

  • The personal details of the buyer and seller

  • A description of the property

  • The price

  • The date by which completion must take place

  • Clauses suspensives 

The deposit, stamp duty and registration fees are paid at this point. The usual amount expected for a deposit is 10 percent, but it may be possible to negotiate less. When purchasing an apartment, buyers automatically become co-owners of the building and will have rights and responsibilities pertaining to its upkeep and regulations. 

Clauses suspensives

It is important that all major conditions for purchase are included in the Compromis de Vente as clauses suspensives to avoid penalties if the purchase is not completed. The loss of the deposit is usually the penalty for the buyers if they do not complete the sale. If the seller does not complete, they will normally refund the deposit and pay the same amount again to the buyer as a penalty. In this way, the deposit protects both the buyer and the seller from the other party backing out of the contract.

Cooling-off period

Once both the buyer and seller have signed the compromis there is a seven-day cooling-off period. During this time, the buyer can withdraw from the sale without incurring a penalty, but the seller cannot. Once the cooling-off period is over, the contract becomes legally binding for both parties.

Reports and Searches

Once the cooling-off period expires, the notaire begins the process of the searches on the property. These include the land registry, rights to ownership, boundaries and rights of way. However, in France the searches do not include investigating private planning applications. As such, expats should always ask to see the plans of the greater area. These are held by the local mairie or prefecture and are known as the plan communale

Lead, asbestos, termites, gas, electricity and energy reports are grouped together in a single report known as the Technical Diagnostic File (Dossier de Diagnostic Technique) or "DDT". The reports are all required by law and it is the responsibility of the vendor to ensure that up-to-date reports are attached to the Compromis de Vente. Termite reports are only necessary for some areas of France. Property vendors with swimming pools are obliged to commission a report on the safety features of the pool.

Acte de Vente and Taking Possession

It takes about 12 weeks before the final Acte de Vente is signed. Traditionally both buyer and seller are present to sign it, but expats who are not yet in the country can arrange a power of attorney. Before taking possession the final payment will need to be made to the notaire's account.

Vices cachés

Finally, the vendor must disclose any major problems with any parts of the property, such as problems with the pool, if a particular wall is unsound, etc. If after the purchase a major flaw is found which the vendor did not disclose but must have known about, buyers do have protection as these are hidden defects or vice cachés, not allowed under French law.

*This is not a comprehensive guide, and expats should take appropriate professional advice before purchasing any property in a foreign country.

Healthcare in France

World-renowned and ranked highly by the World Health Organization (WHO), healthcare in France hinges on an intricate public-private combination that is both efficient and generous.

While most locals claim to be happy with the healthcare system in France, many also supplement state-provided coverage with private insurance that covers comforts like private hospital rooms, dentistry and eye care.

Expats lucky enough to take advantage of the public system and the associated insurance will be spoiled for choice, but even those forced to shell out substantially more for private coverage will nonetheless be satisfied with the standard of care. 


Public healthcare in France

The network of public healthcare facilities in France is comprehensive. It includes more than 1,000 regional, university, local and general hospitals. The system upholds an exceptionally high standard and emphasizes primary care.

The French public healthcare system is generally free of the waiting lists associated with the socialised medical systems found in the UK and Canada. Expats will also find that they have plenty of choices when selecting a doctor or specialist in France.

The public health insurance system, known as Sécurité Sociale, provides basic coverage to those who qualify and is funded by tax contributions from salary deductions. Expats employed in France, those who are self-employed but make the necessary contributions and those who have reached official retirement age in their home country can all usually make use of the French public healthcare system once they have registered at their local social security office.

The public system covers the major part of medical bills. However, most locals and foreigners use private supplemental insurance to cover themselves for the remaining part of the medical fees. Those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer will find that the government covers 100 percent of their medical bills, including surgery, therapy and drugs.

Expats using the public healthcare system should keep in mind that even though the choice of doctor is left up to the patient, going to the same doctor will assure higher compensation from social security. A referral must also be acquired before a specialist is consulted or the state will lower its contribution. Certain professionals, such as psychiatrists and dentists, are exceptions to this rule.

It is worth noting that payment is upfront for some appointments and patients are only reimbursed at a later date.


Private healthcare in France

Private healthcare is available in France but provides little advantage in terms of quality of care over the public system.

Most healthcare providers in France work in private offices and run fee-for-service practices. The French government still plays a strong role in negotiating medical fees and costs associated with prescription drugs. Most private physicians accept the state-negotiated fees, but some doctors in the major urban centres and select sub-specialists may bill extra. 


Medicines and pharmacies in France

Pharmacies are plentiful in France, especially in its major cities. Over-the-counter medicine can only be sold in a pharmacy, and it is unlikely that basic medication like painkillers or flu medicine will be available in a supermarket. Pharmacies can be identified by their large illuminated cross sign, which is normally red or green.

Most pharmacies are open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm. Late-night pharmacies (Pharmacie de Garde) can also be found in major cities. A list of nearby late-night pharmacies is normally posted on the door of a pharmacy.


Private health insurance in France

As previously mentioned, even though public health insurance covers a substantial portion of medical bills, most of the French population also has some form of private health insurance. These private health plans are often supplied by employers. Expats moving to France for work should try to negotiate this into their package before signing a contract.

Due to the success of the public health insurance system, there are far fewer providers of private healthcare insurance in France than in many other destinations.  


Emergency services in France

Most serious medical emergencies in France are handled by SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence), which is a publically run organisation that provides ambulance services as well as other specialist medical assistance. In case of an emergency, expats should dial 15 if using a landline, or 112 if phoning from a mobile.

Education and Schools in France

The education system in France may be more complicated than most expats may be accustomed to, but it's generally of a high standard. There are a variety of school types in France, including public, private, bilingual and international schools. Parents will need to consider the language barrier, cost and curriculum before deciding which type of institution will be best for their children.


Public schools in France

Education in France is highly centralised, with most public and private schools following the national curriculum mandated by the Ministry of Education. Public school in France is free for citizens and for those who can show proof of residence in the form of a signed lease or a utility bill. Public schools attendance is based on catchment areas.

School attendance is compulsory for students between six and 16, but parents often enrol their children in a maternelle (kindergarten) from the age of two. Students generally spend two or three years at this level before advancing.

Many expat parents choose to send their younger children to their local nursery school, as it's practical and free of charge. Children of this age tend to overcome the language barrier quickly and as there are few formal educational demands, the difficulties of reading and writing in French are irrelevant.

As in most destinations, schooling standards can vary immensely from one neighbourhood or city to the next. Certain public schools in France run a curriculum geared towards teaching French to non-Francophone students, known as a Section Internationale, to eventually integrate the students into the French system. Few primary schools offer this programme. It's largely reserved for middle and high schools in France's large cities. 


Private schools in France

Private schools in France are either state-sponsored or privately funded. These tend to afford smaller class sizes, more individualised instruction, better facilities and improved access to teachers. Most private schools in France are Catholic, meaning that the curriculum incorporates a faith-based value system. 

Expats should note that state-sponsored private schools have a better reputation than their privately funded counterparts.

French is the primary teaching language in most private schools. However, expats will find that there are more bilingual options in this category than in public schooling. Private schools are also more likely to make an effort to hold special classes for non-Francophone students. Parent associations tend to be stronger and more prevalent in private schools.

Admission requirements and tuition fees of private schools in France may vary considerably. Proof of residence is not usually required, but some schools may request previous school records and entrance exams. Tuition for state-sponsored schools is generally significantly less than that of privately funded schools.


International schools in France

There are many international schools in France, though most are located in its large commercial centres such as Paris. These schools generally either uphold the teaching language and curriculum of an expat's home country or subscribe to the International Baccalaureate curriculum and teach in English.

Turnover rates for both teachers and students tend to be high in international schools in France, though this is largely the result of expat families not living in a country for more than a few years at a time.

While educational standards and school size tend to vary, high tuition fees are generally constant. Nevertheless, international schools in France are ideal for expat families who would like to maintain consistency in their child's education, who plan to stay in France for a short time, or who have high school-aged children looking to attend university in their home country.


Private tutors in France

The private tutoring marketing in France is booming. Generally speaking, most private tutors offer one on one sessions with students but there are also some who offer small group tutoring sessions. With the rise of tutoring agencies, the industry in France is now more regulated and by working through reputable agencies parents can rest assured that tutors are suitably qualified.

There are lots of tutors that are qualified to teach the French curriculum and the International Baccalaureate. However, there are smaller numbers available to teach other curricula such as the British or French curriculum.

Expats looking to relocate to France in the long-term often get a French language tutor to improve their children’s language abilities at a faster rate. Naturally, French tutors are available in abundance however it's worth vetting their qualifications to see if they are qualified teachers or simply native speakers of the language. Expat students who require extra assistance on a particular subject can also look at tutors that are subject matter experts rather than those that follow a particular curriculum.

Parents will find that their children’s school and networking with other expat parents may be a good starting point for sourcing good private tutors. Axiom Academic is a global tutoring database which offers access to a large number of tutors throughout France.

 


Special needs education in France

The infrastructure in place to support people with special needs in France is fairly good. Where possible both public and private schools in France try to cater for the needs of students with special needs through the use of specialist teaching assistants. The maison départmenetale des personnes handicapeés  (MDPH) is the organisation charged with evaluating a child's special needs and work with Commission des droits et de l'autonomie des personnes handicapeés (CDAPH) to create a personalised learning plan. 

When it isn’t possible for a special needs student to accommodate in a mainstream school, there may be options of special schools or private tutors. The availability of additional staff and facilities to accommodate special needs students often depends on the school as well as the area in which it's located. Expat parents are most likely to find this type of support at a good public school or a private school as well as those located in major French cities.

Transport and Driving in France

France has one of the densest road and railway networks in Europe. The country boasts some of the fastest high-speed trains in the world, making travelling cross-country a breeze, while most of France’s cities also have tram lines which make getting around fast and simple. 


Public transport in France

Trains

Trains link all major cities in France with each other, as well as many other destinations in Europe. The railway system in France is dense and highly centralised. The main train stations in Paris are Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz and Gare Montparnasse, all of which can be reached via the metro.

The Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) is France’s high-speed rail network which connects all its major cities. The TGV travels at high speeds, so journeys between cities at opposite sides of the country are only between one and three hours long.

A France Pass is available to those wanting to use the TGV and local trains frequently. This pass allows travellers to hop on and off trains and travel to many destinations with just one ticket. Travellers can also use the Transport Express Regional (TER) to travel short distances around France.

Trains can also be used to travel to neighbouring countries such as Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Italy. 

Eurotunnel 

Opened in 1994, the Eurotunnel links France and England via a dry-land tunnel under the English Channel. High-speed trains transport cars, buses and passengers underneath the ocean. The shuttle runs every day of the year and departures are very frequent. 

Buses

Buses in France are more affordable than trains, but are slower and less luxurious. While most cities have urban bus routes, intercity buses are limited. France does not have a long-distance coach network, making trains the only option apart from driving. Buses are more frequent in rural areas, such as Brittany and Normandy, where there are few train lines.

Metro

The Paris Metro system is comprehensive and is the easiest way to get around the city. It is fast, reliable and relatively easy to navigate. 


Driving in France

Highway diving in France is usually a relaxed affair. France has a large network of highways (autoroutes) connecting its cities. Many are toll (peage) roads, except for those around major cities.

EU citizens can drive in France with their national driving licence, while those who are not EU citizens need to apply for an international driving licence. Agreements exist with certain countries and states where an exchange can be done within the first year of legal residency in France. If the licence cannot be exchanged, a full French theory and practical driving exam must be taken.

All expats will also need a certificate of registration (la carte grise) and a certificate of insurance. Expats planning to stay in France for more than six months will need a French driving licence and must have their car inspected. The minimum driving age in France is 18 years.

City driving in France can be more stressful and difficult than highway driving. It is often best to park in a suburban area before entering a city and then use trams, the metro or buses to get around.


Air travel in France

The national carrier is Air France, a full-service international airline that flies to 20 domestic destinations in France. The average flight time between cities in France is only one hour. France’s two major international airports – Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Orly – are both in Paris. Bordeaux, Nice and Toulouse also have international airports that service many destinations within Europe.

Buying a Car in France

Buying a car in France is a relatively straightforward process which requires a fair amount of paperwork. Those in the market for a new car will find that much the same as anywhere else in greater Europe, the dealer takes care of all the administration. Prices of new cars appear to be roughly in line with those in other European countries. Importing a car to France is a complicated and expensive process. It's generally easier for expats to buy a car in France than it is to import one.

Buying used or pre-owned cars in France can be far more expensive than it would be in some other countries. However, this is counterbalanced by the fact that a second-hand car will usually maintain a high resale value.


Choosing a vehicle

The French are loyal to their own local automotive brands. The roadsides in most French cities are littered with Renault, Citroen and Peugeot dealers. If expats choose to purchase a local car brand, they'll be able to easily find service centres and spare parts.

International car dealerships in France are also plentiful. In a more rural area, there won't necessarily be as large of an international selection of second-hand cars or dealerships that deal with foreign brands. The number of garages with a stock of the parts required for car servicing will also be considerably lower. 


Buying a new car in France

Buying a car from a dealership in France is usually very easy. As a foreigner unfamiliar with the purchasing process, going through a dealership can greatly reduce the administrative burden attached to buying a car. However, purchasing a car through a dealership is often more expensive than a private sale would be. Expats should also note that many dealers are closed between 12pm and 2pm.

Expats who have the time and are willing to put in the extra effort should consider buying a car from an individual seller. Buying a pre-owned car in France is a highly-regulated process. As a result, it’s unlikely that expats will be scammed or sold a stolen car.


Buying a used car in France

Expats looking to buy a used car in France should first consult online classifieds, virtual marketplaces and used car dealerships to find their ideal vehicle. 

All used cars in France over four years old must pass a garage inspection before they can be rightfully sold. This inspection is known as a contrôle technique, and it must be conducted no more than six months before the date of sale. Successfully inspected cars will have a sticker in the corner of their windscreen. If no sticker is present, expats should be sure to insist that the vehicle is inspected. 

If expats are buying from a used car dealer, the dealership will likely manage most of the paperwork. However, if buying from an individual, expats will need to ensure they are provided with all of the necessary documents. These can be verified at the nearest préfecture.

Once all the paperwork is in order the sale can be made. Account transfers or personal cheques accompanied by multiple forms of identification are usually accepted. It’s often best to have signed up with an insurance provider before the transaction as proof of insurance will be needed to register the car.


Registering a car in France

Within one week of purchasing a car, expats will need to visit the local préfecture or sous-préfecture to register the car in their name. This will require several documents, usually including proof of residence and proof of insurance. The registration fee varies depending on the horsepower of the vehicle. 


Driving in France

The French seem to have adopted a slightly different attitude toward their vehicles than that of most Westerners. The number of cars that drive around with dents and scratches is quite noticeable, and locals seem satisfied that this is a likely destiny for their vehicle.

Expats should remember that it's a legal obligation to keep the carte grise (registration certificate) in the car, as police can stop and ask for it at any time. It's also a legal requirement to keep a warning triangle and a fluorescent yellow jacket or bib in the car in case of an accident. These aren't supplied when the vehicle is purchased and expats will have to source them independently. 

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 can be used both for internet and for television streaming. 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 Bouygues Telecom. Since 2012, independent provider Free Mobile has created some competition in the market with competitively priced tariffs. However, consumers have complained that Free Mobile's customer service and strength of reception are not quite as impressive as their price tag. 


Mobile phones in France

Mobile service providers in France use a GSM network. All GSM-compatible phones should work in the country, but the 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 for a certain number of minutes per month or on an unlimited basis. To sign up for a contract expats will usually need their passport and proof of residence. There are also options for prepaid packages 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. The problem with this obviously tempting package is that in some areas mobile reception is not always available. 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, landline usage has been on the decline. However, they have begun to grow in popularity again now that major telecoms companies offer media boxes which combine internet, cable and landline services.

To garner even more interest, providers have widened the spectrum of free landline calls abroad. All four major French telecoms companies (Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free) offer packages with free landline-to-landline calls around France and the entire EU. These packages vary, with some including the US and Canada and others focusing more on the Middle East or Asian markets. These services can be an 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 efficient. This may come as a surprise to many expats, as it is an entirely state-owned organisation which also offers a full array of banking services. But with this efficiency comes a price and although it is an affordable service within France, international delivery can be expensive. 


English-language media in France

France has several free public television stations, but cable will be essential for watching English-language television or channels from home. Expats should note that most programmes on television in France are dubbed to French, including popular shows from the US. France24 is the only public channel that is not broadcast exclusively in French. It is a worldwide news channel offered in English, French and Arabic.

Satellite television is available through shared or individual satellite dishes, 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.

Shipping and Removals in France

Expats will find shipping to France a fairly painless affair. The country has plenty of ports, a high-density rail system and is home to one of the largest international airports in the world, Charles de Gaulle. 

It follows that expats can choose to ship by sea, by air or by land. There are plenty of service providers who can help to ship goods from door-to-door, or who can simply rather take responsibility for part of the process.

Despite the apparent ease of sending goods abroad, expats should note that shipping is usually expensive. It’s often the case that one can purchase new or used household goods upon arrival for less, or can simply find furnished accommodation.

Those committed to keeping their furniture should pay attention to a few key points if planning to ship to France. First, expats should seek at least three quotes from shipping service providers, and make sure that their chosen provider ticks all the boxes.

Common services to look for in a shipper

  • Pick-up of goods at your location

  • Basic disassembly and reassembly of furniture

  • Border clearance and customs formalities at the destination

  • Professional wrapping of all wooden, metal and fabric furniture

  • Export documents for household goods only

  • Wooden crate lift van or palletizing

  • Preparing a professional inventory list

  • Unloading of all items to destination residence, and setting all items per request

  • Agent fees and NVOCC deconsolidation charges

  • Removal of packing debris from destination resident

Most shippers will charge by the weight and/or volume of the items. Expats should be aware that shippers often tack on additional expenses for certain packing materials, handling and hoisting of excessively large items, as well as for certain processing requirements.

Expats are advised to purchase insurance from a company other than the shipping company used, thus ensuring reliable coverage for broken cargo. 


Shipping duty-free to France

Expats can ship used household goods and personal belongings duty-free to France, provided the goods are more than six months old and they have lived outside of the EU for more than a year. In order to do so though, expats must have proof of residency in France along with additional paperwork.

Because such stipulations are subject to change at short notice, expats are advised to check with the relevant government department for an up-to-date list of terms and requirements before shipping duty-free to France.

Articles about France

Banking, Money and Taxes in France

The banking and tax systems in France are well-managed, easily navigable for expats and highly sophisticated. The biggest difficulty foreign nationals may encounter is negotiating the language barrier but even so, English speakers in the financial sector can usually be found with relative ease. 


Money in France

As is the case in all EU member states, the official currency in France is the Euro (€). One euro is divided into 100 cents.

  • Notes: 5 EUR, 10 EUR, 20 EUR, 50 EUR, 100 EUR, 200 EUR and 500 EUR

  • Coins: 1 EUR and  2 EUR, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents

Large numbers are written with full-stops (.), and decimal places are denoted with a comma (,). For example, five million would be written 5.000.000, while 20 euro and ten cents would be written 20,10 EUR.

Most debit and credit cards are accepted in France. ATMs can be found nearly everywhere and generally offer the best exchange rates (transaction charges for international card use can quickly add up). 

Otherwise, expats and travellers can exchange cash at bank branches, bureaux de change, and even in post offices, which surprisingly offer highly competitive rates. 


Banking in France

Expats will find a solid selection of local and international banks in France. All banks in France uphold high service standards and offer modern conveniences like internet and telephone banking. Most have multilingual support staff, and, in heavily expat-favoured areas like the French Riviera, foreigners will even find local banks that cater specifically to English speakers.

Whether an expat prefers to use a local or an international bank is a decision that depends on their priorities.

Local French banks pay no interest, but there is usually a small monthly charge for maintaining an account. Expats living in France can open either a resident or non-resident account (compte non-résident).

Non-resident accounts are best suited to those living in the country for less than three months, or those who cannot provide proof of employment or a residence permit. These accounts are generally more restrictive than resident accounts and tend to have no overdraft facility. They also often demand a higher initial opening deposit.

Not all bank branches can grant non-resident accounts, so expats will need to find an international branch to do this. 

There are three primary types of bank accounts in France:

  • Private current accounts (compte courantcompte à vue or compte de depôt) are equivalent to an individually held, standard cheque account. The holder can receive payments, make deposits and authorise withdrawals. No interest is paid on this account.

  • Deposit accounts primarily function as savings accounts to store funds not required immediately. 

  • Joint accounts are an option for couples or those who prefer to manage their finances as a unit. 

Banking hours in the urban centres are generally from 8.30am or 9am until 4pm to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Banking hours in rural areas may differ.

Cheque books and debit cards are standard features that come with most French bank accounts and both are readily accepted in France. Post-dated cheques are technically illegal and bouncing a cheque is also taken very seriously in France, often being equated to fraud.

In France, it is possible to pay recurring bills via automated cheque transfers. To do this, expats simply need the banking details of the party they are paying, known as the RIB (Relevé d'Identité Bancaire – this includes the account number, bank code and sort code). If they would like to have a payment automatically deducted from their account regularly, expats can issue a once-off authorisation for a TIP (Titre Interbancaire de Paiement).

Opening a bank account in France

Opening a bank account in France is simple, but the requirements vary slightly depending on the type of account and which bank is involved.

Opening a non-resident’s bank account in France may require the following documents:

  • Proof of identity in the form of a passport or birth certificate

  • Proof of residence. Expats can use a utility bill for this.

  • An initial deposit which in some cases may be as high as 10,500 EUR

Opening a resident’s bank account in France may require the following:

  • Proof of identity. Expats should be able to use their passport or EU identification card.

  • Proof of earnings or status. This usually means a work contract, proof of earnings, or student card. If retired, expats may need to provide proof that they can sustain themselves in France. 

  • Resident status or carte de sejour


Taxes in France

Compulsory deductions for income tax and social security are the norm in the French tax system. Taxes are imposed on those who work, reside and invest in France. 

Roughly 21 percent of a resident's gross income will go into social security deductions. However, a further income tax of between five percent and 40 percent may be imposed on net income. This progressive system is tiered, which means those with a high income will pay significantly more tax than a lower-income worker. Those who own property or are self-employed are subject to additional taxes, making starting a business in France an unattractive proposition for most foreigners.

Expats are advised to remember that income tax must be declared separately from social security contributions. It is wise to set aside the expected amount every month so that there is enough cash available to pay the collector when tax is due.

Recovering Value Added Tax (VAT) upon leaving France

All EU-member states will pay VAT for goods taken out of the region when a person leaves the EU. For expats who only intend to stay a few years, it is worth contacting a VAT expert to determine what one will be entitled to claim, as this can often translate to a hefty sum.

Expat Experiences in France

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in France and would like to share your story. 


Dorian Cliffe is a Canadian expat living in Paris. Their favourite thing about the city is hanging out next to the Seine river with friends. To finance their love of French cheese and wine, Dorian works as an English teacher in the city. Read more about their expat experience in Paris. Dorian_Paris_0.jpg

Carey is an American expat living in Toulouse, where he moved in 2015 to study a Master's degree in Musicology. Learn more about his expat experience of Toulouse.

Aga from Poland moved to Lyon, France with her French partner. From a girl who didn't know a word of French or anything about French culture when she arrived, she has now settled into Lyon's way of life and shares her experiences with other new arrivals via her blog. Read more about her expat experience of Lyon.

Rita is a Russian-born expat living in Paris, France, She moved there with her husband and children for a job – although the job didn't work out, she now owns and runs an inspirational website giving advice to expat women who are struggling to settle in. Read more about her expat experience in Paris.

Jenny Lovett is a British expat living in France. She moved from Manchester to the northwestern department of Finistere, in the Brittany region, with her partner John in search of a different and easier way of life. They both left careers and businesses behind and now spend their time renovating a derelict house in the small village of Heulgoat. Read more about her expat experience in France.

John Krueger relocated with his family from the United States to Paris, France, when his wife was offered a job there. John is a stay-at-home dad who has thoroughly enjoyed helping his two children settle into Parisian life. He enjoys learning about the history of the city and exploring its chateaus and restaurants. Read about his expat life in Paris.

 

Liene Kukainis is an expatriate from the United States living with her family in Clermont-Ferrand, central France. After earning a degree in forestry and working as a wildland firefighter in the US, she is currently working on raising two boys, learning French, travelling Europe and writing her blog, Femme au Foyer. Read about her expat life in France

David Downie is an award-winning writer whose insightful account of Paris has inspired many a journey to the City of Lights. He has written many books, hundreds of articles for international publications, and now, he has written his impressions of life in Paris for Expat Arrivals. Read David's eloquent take on expat life Paris-style.



 

Anne Marsella is better qualified than most expats to write about her experiences: she is an award-winning novelist who has published in both English and French, the latter achievement proof of her thorough enculturation into French life after two decades in Paris. Read about her impressions of life in Paris.

Sholu Pande and her husband bought their French house in a beautiful village in south-west France in 2004 and are running a bed and breakfast as well as painting holidays, gourmet breaks and day trips into the stunning Pyrenees and rolling hills of the Gers, the Tuscany of France. Read about her expat life in France in this interesting interview.



 

Cynthia Caughey Annet fell in love with a Frenchman in 2005 who she met during a train ride in Provence. After 2.5 years of a long-distance relationship between Los Angeles and Chambery, she sold her house and business, and moved to Chambéry in the heart of the Savoy region of France. Read about her expat life in France here.


 

Wendy Johnson is an English 42-year-old mother living with her French husband in a small village near Montpellier. She has lived in France for 11 years now, spending her time helping people move to France and settle in. Read about her expat life in France her.


 

Kimberlee Mancha describes herself as a somewhat contrary, 40-something woman who decided to leave corporate life in the USA behind and reinvent her life in France. She runs a small business, The Bohemians, a petite boutique in Brantôme with gifts, clothes, and décor items for the home. Read about her expat life in France here.


 

Dedene Nelson-Court lives in central France between Orléans and Gien near the Loire River and Sully-sur-Loire. She grew up in Oregon and moved all over the U.S. before finally settling in France in 1989. Dedene says she came for work and stayed for love. Read about her expat experiences in France here.


 

Julie Mautner was a founding editor of Food Arts Magazine in New York and was its executive editor for ten years. She is now a freelance food, wine and travel writer who lives most of the year in Provence, France. Read about her experience of being an expat in France.


 

Mark Greenside was originally from New York, moved to California, and then was dragged by his girlfriend to a tiny Celtic village in Brittany at the westernmost edge of France, in Finistère, where he wrote his book 'I'll Never Be French (No matter what I do)'. Read about his experience of being an expat in France.


 

Gillian Green (aka Olga Swan) is a writer originally from England but moved to South West France with her husband five years ago upon retirement. They now spend their days in the fresh country air of the French countryside. Read about her expat life in France.


 

Heather Markel is a culture transition specialist who spent a sweet year in Paris working for a French telecommunications office.  Though now back to her native New York, she reminisces about expat life in France


 

Jennifer Greco is a food-loving expat living in a small village in the heart of the south of France. She blogs extensively about the cuisine and culture of the region and shares with us some of her insights about expat life in France.