Moving to France?
France is the home of beautiful scenery, blissful beaches and mouth-watering food and wine. The country offers centuries of vibrant culture alongside every possible advantage of modern life. Drawing expats looking for a peaceful life in a rustic chateau, as well as those moving for work, the French expat community is thriving.
As well as world-class opportunities in the country itself, France offers excellent connections to the rest of Europe and beyond. The only difficulty when moving here will be deciding which region to call home. Will you head for the bustle of Paris or the lively port of Marseille? The busy farmer’s markets of the Dordogne, or the turquoise waters of the Côte d’Azur?
Whether you’re relocating to take advantage of new career opportunities, to enjoy the excellent quality of life or just to bask in the climate and gastronome, you’re sure to find the perfect location. From rolling vineyards, spotless beaches and quiet villages, to vibrant cities filled with commerce, culture and glittering nightlife, there’s something for everyone in France.
French culture emphasises quality of life more than many others. Family life is very important, as is leisure and recreation. This is reflected in the work/life balance here and the emphasis put on time away from work and the importance of holidays.
Holidays tend to be quite long and the overall pace of life is slower than in many countries: longer lunchbreaks and more frequent breaks in general are the norm. It is not uncommon for a lunch break to take up several hours of the day, made up of a set menu featuring several courses and a glass or two of local wine.
Stores close in the evenings, on Sundays, and on public holidays which is big change for those used to a 24-hour city. During the summer, specifically in August, many businesses shut down and people often go on holiday to the Alps or Southern France in search of a cooler climate.
France is world famous for its food and wine. Much of the French social life is based on time spent together enjoying great food, whether that’s at home or out at a restaurant or
café. And while there are plenty of large supermarkets and department stores, small markets offering locally produced goods are the cultural shopping destination of choice. Trips to local food markets are often a whole event in and of themselves.
Sport is also a large part of French culture: from playing to watching. Both soccer/football and rugby are very popular, with most large matches being screened in bars and cafes. Everyone who moves to France should also give the traditional game of boules a go.
There are specific rules and etiquette that govern all aspects of French interactions, including dating, in the workplace, ordering in a restaurant and even greeting those in your new community. Most important is a good grasp of French – really nothing is more important when moving to France as learning the language. If you would like more information and guidance, our language and cultural training services prepare you for life in France.
The housing market in France is particularly competitive, with a high demand for properties and high prices, as well as unique terms and conditions that rule both rental and purchase property transactions.
It’s important to understand that in France, landlords can request that you take out insurance to cover certain types of damage as part of your rental terms. Failure to do so, when required, can result in your lease being terminated. Also, if you are moving with a family, access to schools will be determined by the catchment areas that include your property location.
Property types are very varied, and what is available to you will depend on where you move in France. The larger cities will have a mixture of houses, period properties and apartments. More rural locations are more likely to offer grandiose chateaus and rustic farmhouses.
Bear in mind that much of the housing on offer may be old, with a certain amount of character in the form of smaller rooms, sparse insulation or limited mod cons. This rustic character is highly sought after and appealing to some, but surprising to others. That said, it’s easy enough to find well-appointed dwellings with modern appliances.
Many hotels offer extended stays of a month or more so it’s easy to find a temporary dwelling while house-hunting. But if you would like help finding the perfect home in France and negotiating the legal requirements and paperwork let us help. Our Home Search service puts your move in the hands of our experts, making your move easy.
Education and family life
Compulsory education starts at age 3 and ends at 16 in France, although most children attend nursery first and stay on until aged 18. All residents in France are entitled to send their children to state schools for no fee but be aware that all classes will be in French. This is perfect for children with French language skills, or very young children who may be able to adapt quickly. However older children may need additional support, private language lessons or alternative schooling to succeed.
There are plenty of private international schools in France, including British and American institutions. Fees are competitive but vary widely so it’s important to really do your research.
If you would like an expert to complete your school search for your family, ensuring your new schools meet the needs of your family, we’re here to help. Our School Search service makes moving easy, finding your perfect school and walking you through the application process.
Working and living
If you are moving for a job in France, it’s important to understand what is required of you in terms of a visa. Depending on where you are moving from, most nationalities require a visa to reside in France for more than 3 months. Almost all nationalities outside of the EU or Switzerland require a visa to work or study in France. The rules governing European Union nationals are governed by the free movement of people rules for EU citizens under EU law.
There are a number of different French work permits, and many are reliant on you having a job in France agreed before you move. Also, most jobs require a substantial level of French language skills. Speaking French well is key to getting a job here and
settling in well. Be sure to commit time to learn French to a good standard before you begin your search to find a job in France.
Once in France you will be required to register with the Office of Immigration, in order to gain your residence card and residence permit. It’s also a legal requirement to have health insurance, whether that is though the French healthcare system or private. France is rather notorious for its bureaucracy. You will need time and patience when dealing with official processes, as everything you do will tend to generate additional paperwork. It’s also important to spend some time to understand the French taxation system and tax rates including what income tax will be payable on your earnings, before your arrival in France.
Travel in France
Urban public transport in France is very good. It’s convenient and inexpensive, with excellent metro, bus and other services. If you’re moving to a more rural area, you may need a car but roads are generally well maintained and free from traffic. Connections between cities are generally very reliable and cost-effective, as is air travel. Many French cities also operate bike rental systems which are cheap and incredibly popular.
Are you relocating employees? Discover our destination services designed to ensure a smooth transition and help your assignees settle in.