Moving to Marseille from the UK
If you’re looking to escape the cruel British weather, there’s no better place than France’s sunniest city – Marseille. In fact, if you’re looking for a change of scenery that’s close to home, but culturally worlds apart, you’ve come to the right place. Marseille is the city for you.
Marseille is not your average French city. It’s crazy, chaotic, a cultural melting pot, with a character like no other. Marseille mixes French, Italian, Spanish, North African and even more nationalities and cultures to create the inimitable Marseillais culture. Marseille is a far cry from its Gallic counterparts.
If you’re looking for glitz and glamour, similar to that of the French Riviera, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you can look past that, you’ll find a diamond in the rough. One, which has recently had a bit more shine, thanks to it recently being awarded European City of Culture in 2013. Marseille is a city rich in history, culture and vibrancy.
If you’re a sun seeker wishing to avoid the crowds around the French Riviera, Marseille could be a good choice. It has the Mediterranean Sea and beautiful beaches on its doorstep, and you can do it at half the price than further along the coast. Marseille is often an underestimated expat destination. But that’s the beauty of it – it’s still a well-kept secret, or at least, for now.
Moving to Marseille
It may be stating the obvious but learning French is highly advisable before your move to Marseille. With all of the other obstacles you will encounter during your move, it helps to have a sound knowledge of French. It is worth noting, however, the Marseille accent is very different to standard French, so bear that in mind.
To say you will have a lot of paperwork when you move to Marseille is an understatement. The French administrative system loves bureaucracy and even for the simplest processes, you will need paperwork. Prepare for this onslaught by ensuring you have multiple copies of legal and financial documents. For official documents, translations by certified translators are required too.
There are a few options for travelling to Marseille from the UK: You can either get a direct flight from London Heathrow, Bristol, or Edinburgh to Marseille Provence airport. Or, you can get the Eurostar from London St Pancras direct to Marseille. If you fancy it, you could also drive to Marseille from the UK, which would approximately take a day.
Comparing Marseille to London
To be honest, the two cities couldn’t be more different. Firstly, there’s the obvious difference which is primarily the climate – London’s cold to mild climate, even in the heights of summer, contrasts with Marseille’s Mediterranean climate. Marseille easily reaches temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius in July and rarely goes below zero in the winter.
With the Mediterranean climate comes the laid-back way of living. Things go at a slower pace in Marseille, with no eating on the go - lunch always eaten sat down. As previously mentioned, Marseille offers a cosmopolitan city, very much like the London lifestyle.
One big difference between Marseille and London is affordability. Expats in Marseille have considerably more disposable income than those in London. Other quality of life factors differ too – the French healthcare system is more advanced that its British counterpart. However, the crime rate in Marseille is slightly higher than in London.
Living costs, on the whole, are considerably less expensive in Marseille, especially in comparison to London. Groceries are, in addition, of better quality than in the UK. On average, groceries are 36% lower in Marseille. Public transport monthly passes are 75% lower, meals out in Marseille are also 30% lower when comparing prices with London.
The biggest savings are made in rental and property prices. Rent prices are a staggering 73% lower in Marseille than rental prices in London. The cost per square metre difference is unbelievable: for a city centre property in Marseille, the average cost is £2,136.87. In London, it would be just over £15,000.
The one exception to the rule is healthcare. Whilst the majority of healthcare is state-funded in France, residents are obliged to cover at least 30% of treatment costs. Most will pay into a monthly top-up insurance (mutuelle) to reimburse medical treatment costs.
Most Marseille residents rent, especially considering the recent global recession. This means for newly arrived expats finding accommodation should be relatively easy, with many rental options available.
You get a lot more bang for your buck when it comes to rental and property prices in Marseille. 1 bedroom apartment rent ranges from £320-£430 per month in the city centre and £210-£290 in the suburbs. A 3 bedroom apartment will be approximately £710-£925 in the city centre and £530-£925 in the suburbs, with more house options on offer. Especially when you compare rental prices with those of London, you will make big savings.
Property prices have been dropping since the global recession, having dropped 1.1% in 2014 alone. Once again, property prices are lower in Marseille in comparison to the UK average. The average price per square metre in the city centre is around £2000-£2500, whereas the outskirts range from £1400-£1800.
In the past, Marseille was a collection of small villages. Over time, they have joined together to make 16 arrondissements (quarters) with 111 individual neighbourhoods.
- Family Friendly: Away from the hectic city life, Longchamp offers a tranquil environment, perfect for the family. Far from hectic city life, it’s close enough to have all the facilities you could ever need. The “golden triangle” of primary and secondary schools, along with plenty of green spaces, make the eighth arrondissement neighbourhoods of Prado, Paradis and Michelet family friendly too.
- Up Market: For the very best neighbourhoods in Marseille, look no further than Le Roucas Blanc and Bompard. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into a Provence village, despite being right in the middle of the city. Here, you are treated to some of the best views of the Mediterranean, as well as having parks nearby to get a breath of fresh air.
- Hip and Trendy: Shoreditch may have a contender in the form of Marseille’s Cours Julien. It has completely transformed, in the past being a notorious no-go area, it’s nowadays the stomping ground of Marseille’s hipsters. Nearby, Place Jean Jaurès, or la Plaine, could also compete with its next-door neighbour for the most achingly hip neighbourhood in Marseille.
- Up-and-Coming: Despite its rich historic past, le Panier was going to waste. That’s until Marseille was awarded European Capital of Culture in 2013. Ever since, Le Panier has made a dramatic turnaround. It’s now the heart and soul of Marseille’s cultural renaissance with MuCEM, Vielle Charité and numerous artist workshops right on its doorstep.
Schools and Education
Compulsory education starts at the age of 6 in France. France operates a three-tier system, of école élémentaire, collège and lycée, similar to the primary and secondary schools, sixth form college system in the UK. Children attend école élémentaire until the age of 11. They then attend college until the age of 15/16, which is when mandatory education ends.
Once children have completed compulsory education, they have the choice to attend lycée or a vocational education college, depending on the studies they choose to pursue. If you wish to enrol your children in an international school, there are EPIM or Marseille International School offering bilingual education. There are more options in nearby Aix-en-Provence, due to its more developed expat community.
France’s education system has a greater focus on core subjects such as French, Maths and Science and subject study tends to be broader, especially when it comes to student studying for their final exams, the baccalauréat. As in all public institutions, France’s education is secular, therefore wearing religious symbols such as hijabs or crosses is forbidden.