The Challenges of Being an Expat in Paris

Moving to Paris can bring huge benefits. The French capital is a city full of culture, amazing cuisine, and great expat insurance. Around 22,000 foreigners currently live in Paris, and it’s not hard to see why so many expats want to call Paris their home. But as with any new city, living in Paris can also bring challenges to expats.

Language Barrier

English is widely spoken in France, and if you visit as a tourist, you’ll find that you can get around the city just with a basic knowledge of the French language. However, if you plan to move to Paris, you’ll find it much easier to be fluent in French.

Knowing the language is a must if you’ll be working in the city and also if you want to be able to network and make friends. It’s also a necessity to make navigating French bureaucracy easier, so you can get a residence permit, open a bank account, and arrange your international health insurance.

French Bureaucracy

Speaking of which, dealing with French bureaucracy can be a challenge in itself. Disliked by both Parisian locals and expats, the bureaucracy can be full of red tape and long waiting times. People often cite the frustration of having to deal with the administration in the city, constantly being obstructed and redirected.

If you don’t yet have a good grasp of the French language, you may find it helpful to take a translator with you to speak with officials.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Paris is very high and it is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. Everything from fuel, food, and clothing can be expensive – although shopping in the suburbs will be cheaper.

The high cost of living also applies to rent. Accommodation is in high demand and space is limited, which amounts to high rent but small spaces. Also, to rent a property in Paris you will usually need to prove that you are earning around three times the rent, which can make finding a suitable property difficult if you are new to the city or have a partner that hasn’t started working yet.

Competitive Expat Job Market

Finding a job can be difficult in Paris, especially for foreigners. The job market is competitive and there are many skilled local workers who are also applying for roles. Expats will find themselves at a disadvantage as they will need to secure a visa sponsorship from their employers to be able to work, unless they are an EU-EEA or Swiss national. However, the French government has recently introduced the ‘talent passport’ which allows highly skilled workers to live and work in the country for a set period of time.

Expats who can’t speak French will also really struggle to find a suitable role. It’s advised that you learn the language before attempting to find a job in Paris. If this isn’t possible, you can probably find a role in education, teaching English, or as a nanny. These roles will usually only require a basic understanding of the language.


Paris is often highly congested with traffic, which can make driving around the city difficult. Parking can also be a problem, as parking meters require a prepaid card and will not accept coins.

However, the public transport system in Paris is generally seen as good, affordable, and safe. Many Paris residents will travel on the Metro or by bus rather than attempt to drive around the city.

Shopping Hours

The standard shopping hours in Paris can prove a challenge for some expats who may be used to 24-hour convenience. Whilst a few areas now have seven-day opening, many shops will be shut on Sundays. Independent retailers will sometimes change their opening hours last minute and will also usually be shut for holidays in the summer, between mid-July and the end of August.

However, a lot of shops will be open until 7pm and department stores often have one late night opening a week, until 9pm.

Difficult to Make Friends

One challenge that can arise for expats is making friends in the city. Parisians have earned a reputation for being unfriendly, which can make it tricky to integrate into Parisian society. Some expats find that whilst Parisians will be polite at work, it’s hard to make the next step from colleagues to friends.

However, with such a large expat community in the city, it can be easier to find other foreigners to connect with. You can try joining expat groups on social media to find other people in your area. Learning French will also be a huge help to connecting with locals.

At Expatriate Group, we know that moving abroad can bring both challenges and monumental benefits. If you’re moving to Paris, you’ll want international health insurance to make sure you’re covered for any eventuality. Get a free, no-obligation quote today, or speak to one of our expert advisers by calling +44 (0)20 3551 6634 or email

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