Country Facts – France
This information is provided to offer guidance to those seeking to live and work overseas. For more information we recommend that you speak with your national government Foreign Office (or equivalent).
Living and working in France
A country known for its sleepy villages and bustling cities, delicious foods, fine wines and breathtaking works of art, France could be the dream destination for those looking to live and work abroad.
Of course, before you make your move, it’s a good idea to get to know what life will be like and it’s important to remember that experiences will differ depending on which of the 27 administrative regions you’ll be living in.
The country’s varied landscape ranges from the towering Alps to the sweeping beaches of the Cote d’Azur, as well as the rolling hills of Burgundy. There’s also historic Normandy and cosmopolitan Paris. Indeed, there are plenty of options to choose from – and the right location will depend on your preferences, as well as the type of work you do.
Local laws and customs
If you’re planning on driving in France, be aware that as of July 1st 2012, all motorists must carry at least two single-use breathalysers in their vehicles. Drivers must also carry warning triangles and reflective jackets at all times. In addition, remember that the legal driving age is 18, regardless of whether an underage driver holds a valid license in their home country.
French law has also banned people from concealing their face in public places. This law includes any garment, regardless of intent, such as full veils, masks and balaclavas. Tourists and visitors are not exempt from this law and the penalty could be a fine of up to 150 euros.
The official language is French, and there is an official authority – L’Academie francaise – which attempts to regulate the use, vocabulary and grammar of the tongue. However, the Academie is often considered a conservative body and its recommendations are sometimes ignored – this is especially true when it comes to so-called loanwords that come from other languages.
In certain areas, the locals may speak various dialects or completely different tongues. For example, Catalan, Basque and Flemish are just some of the regional languages you might come across.
French healthcare is often extolled as one of world’s best. The state system is paid for by employed people and is available to all residents, although there are often co-payments for certain treatments and medicines.
It is for this reason that those who can afford it often opt for private medical cover and expatriate health insurance may be a good idea for those living abroad in France
Schooling for kids
Compulsory education begins at age six and continues until students are 16 years old. State-run education is free and includes books, while private schools are also available but are subject to tuition fees. Private schools are generally religion-based or provide an international education.
The school year usually begins in September and ends in July. Depending on the region, primary school classes may be held four or five days a week. Traditionally, no lessons are held on Wednesdays.
Secondary education spans from age 11 to 15 and upon completion, the student will receive a diploma called a brevet des colleges.
Students then go on to the compulsory second cycle, which can continue until age 18 at a lycee. During this part of their education, children will specialise in a chosen field and when finished, they will receive a baccalaureat – the qualification necessary for entering university.
France is known for its wonderful lifestyle and those new to the country shouldn’t worry about meeting new people, making friends and enjoying a fabulous array of cultural events and activities.
Spending time with loved ones could mean relaxing in a quiet cafe to enjoy a hot drink and a delicious French pastry, or getting together for a lavish meal and some fine wine.
What’s more, taking part in your favourite activities can be a great way to get to know people. Whether that means watching a sporting event, going skiing, spending a day on the links or exploring a local museum, there’s plenty to keep you busy, no matter what part of France you’re living in.
For more information on moving abroad visit www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.
Of course, if you’re planning on travelling to France please ensure you have adequate expat travel insurance.