The Pros and Cons of Expat Life in France -

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The Pros and Cons of Expat Life in France

France is a country full of history, culture, cuisine and couture. It is a nation that for many, evokes visions of stunning countryside, incredible cityscapes, and vintage wines.

These, among with many other factors, are why France is one of the leading choices for those looking to start a life abroad. Our recent study into the best cities in the world for mental wellbeing saw Paris ranking 20th. Its healthcare, fitness facilities happiness of residents and quality of sleep all fared exceptionally well.

So, if France is on your list of potential places to relocate, have a look at our guide to the pros and cons of expat life in France.

Pros of expat life in France

Places to live in France

France is one of the largest countries in Europe, covering a huge 543,000km. Being over 2 times the size of the UK means there is plenty of variety and choice when it comes to places to live or places to have a domestic holiday. With a mixture of bustling cities, stunning scenery, and historic sites it offers something for everyone. With easy connections to the UK as well, it is easy to organise visiting home. Add to this the plentiful routes to Spain, Switzerland and Germany, among others, and stunning road trips across Europe are made easy.

Work life balance in France

France is an international powerhouse and that could largely be because employers give back a little more to their employees. It currently offers the shortest amount of work hours with the longest amount of paid holiday days. Full-time contracts tend to be around the 35-hour mark and a 2-hour lunch break is not uncommon. This more relaxed approach to working gives more opportunity to enjoy your new home, embrace experiences, and indulge in the culture.

French healthcare system

The French healthcare system is one of the best in Europe and in 2008 was named by the WHO as the best in the world in terms of availability and organisation of healthcare providers. In most cases, the French government will refund a patient 70% of healthcare costs with the remaining 30% covered by insurance. 100% of fees are covered for costly or long-term conditions. As in many countries, contributions towards the running of healthcare are supported by national insurance contributions. As an expat in France, you will not be introduced to the healthcare system until you have lived there for 3 months or are working in the country. Therefore, it is advisable to seek out your own international healthcare to ensure you’re fully covered as soon as you get there.

Rental prices in France

The cost of living is one that always raises alarm bells, and it is the cost of renting that often gives people the most cause for concern. When moving to France, if you start off renting you may be in a great position. A recent look at the worldwide cost of living indicated that renting in France was 24% cheaper than in the UK. This allows for more enjoyment of your new surroundings or more chance to save towards your dream chateau.

French food and drink

The reputation of French food and drink needs no introduction. It is widely known to be among the best in the world. Different areas offer expertise in different cooking styles and wines are created out of a passion for the product. Quiet and quaint cafes adorn picturesque villages, Michelin star restaurants fill towns and cities. With the 2-hour lunch break from your employer and the extended leave on offer, you can indulge in a variety of culinary adventures almost daily!

Education in France

The French school system is seen as one of the best in the world. It operates its day much like those in employment. 2-hour lunch breaks and later finishes (4:30-5pm) are thought to help prepare children for working life. Higher education tends to have lower tuition fees than many other countries as the costs of the education are largely funded by the state.

Cons of expat life in France

French bureaucracy

Nobody enjoys having to complete paperwork. It can be a long laborious task at the best of times. In France though, it is taken to another level. Things such as setting up utility bills are often extremely complicated and can be expensive. Setting up a bank account, obtaining a driving licence or applying for insurance all take considerable time and expense, whereas in other countries it can be significantly easier.

Cost of living

The general cost of things in France is seen to be more expensive than in many other places. Previously energy bills in France were considerably more expensive than in the UK but with the recent energy cap increase in Britain, they are closer than before. The French government has limited the increases to just 12.6% compared to 54% in the UK. Council tax payments are very high in France and in some cases can be 200% higher than in the UK. With a wide range of things to enjoy in France, budgeting to be able to do so is extremely important.


France has quite the reputation for workers going on strike, be it disputes over pay, working conditions, or tax. This can often lead to certain parts of the infrastructure of the country stuttering to a halt, leaving those not on strike struggling to complete relatively straightforward tasks. To give you some context, the French railway network has had a strike every year for the past 70+ years.


In France, there are a lot of taxes to pay. This can be seen as a negative due to the way it hinders your disposable income, yet also a positive due to the fact it covers your healthcare, unemployment, education, and transportation. Just be aware that there will be many to factor into your budget.

Job opportunities

With France having such high taxes, many businesses put locating there further down the list of priorities. This often means jobs are restricted to the companies already operating there. A tax known as patronales can cost an employer anything from 25-45% of the gross salary.



Moving to France is an exciting opportunity for anyone, as it is a country full of opportunity, beauty and culture. If it is somewhere you are considering, ensure you are covered from all eventualities first. We provide comprehensive healthcare cover as well as single trip travel insurance. Contact us today for a free quote and see how Expatriate Group can help make your transition to life in France a little smoother.

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