Expat’s Guide to living in france
Industries and income
The French economy is a big player globally and in Europe making it an attractive place for expats. The largest sectors are the service sector, with agriculture and industry also very important. Some of the top sectors for expat employment are engineering, IT, banking, civil jobs, and tourism. Teaching English is also another popular job.
Visas and right to work – What do I need before moving to France?
You’re likely to need a work permit for France unless you’re an EU national. If you have a permanent resident permit you will be able to work. Meanwhile, if you hold a provisional stay permit or short-stay permit you’ll need to apply for permission to work. Your options then will be a Temporary residency permit specifying the type of work you can undertake, a temporary work permit (for example if your employer is based overseas), or a Seasonal work contract.
You can find official information on the Public Service website.
France has a reputation for being very proud of its sole official language, and maybe a little judgemental about those who can’t speak it. However, English is still spoken by most people (particularly in larger centers) and basic Spanish and German are also widely spoken. With such a cultural flow through the borders an increasing number of languages can be heard on the streets on a daily basis.
Cost of living
As you might expect, Paris is one of the most expensive places to live in France. However, compared to London it’s about 21% cheaper overall. There are plenty of other amazing cities to choose from as well, from Annecy to Toulouse. Numbeo has some estimates of the cost of living based on location.
Don’t forget to shop at local markets! This can be a great way to save money as well as get healthy and fresh food. If you show up just before closing time (usually around 1pm) you can often get a good deal.
It can be difficult to find a job in France, so if you can secure a job before you leave it will be much easier. However, looking for a job when you arrive gives you time to scope out different locations and decide where you’d like to live or where the best opportunities are.
Two national job websites are Pôle Emploi and APEC (the latter of which specialises in professional and managerial jobs). There are a huge range of industry specific job boards and agencies online – you can search for agencies in the Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages).
Finding a place to live
There are plenty of options for living in France, depending on where you’re moving and when. For short term options, residence apartments can be a good choice. Most people in cities will rent, while those who live further afield tend to own their homes. Because so many people will raise families living in city apartments, it can be relatively easy to rent longer term, but if you’re staying in France longer than fives years you may want to buy.
According to Numbeo, renting a 3 bedroom apartment within a city centre will cost approximately €1,240.77 a month, while a 1 bedroom apartment out of the city could be as little as €536.03. The cost of house prices has also been on the rise since 2017, and France has a high property transaction cost at around 16%. If you are buying, make sure you know the rules first and deal with a broker who’s familiar with foreign buyers. You can look for both rental and for sale properties on French Property.com.
If you live in France, your children will be entitled to the high-quality free state education. School is compulsory between the ages of six and 16, but preschool is also popular and half students between 18 and 21 are in some form of education. Your child will have different subjects and courses of study open to them depending on their grades and interests in their final years at school. You can find information about the school system on the Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale.
If you choose to take the state school route, generally your child will be expected to attend the school in your area. There are also private schools, most but not all of which are contracted by the government. They often offer good support for English speaking students and the costs can still be very low. If you’re considering an international school, you can find information on the Council of International Schools website.
Fact: The world’s oldest woman was French – she lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days.