Moving to Nice
Over 4 million tourists a year flock to Nice, the largest city on the Côte d'Azur, for the warm sun, the Mediterranean Sea and the cuisine Provençal. Staying year round is but a dream for most of these visitors but for those who fall in love with the soft light and the picturesque squares, and who are able to make that dream a reality, life can become a whole lot Nicer.
The Greeks, renowned seafarers and explorers, were the first to found a city at what they called Nikaia - naming it after the god of victory - in around 350 BC. Quite a victory its discovery was: nestled between wooded slopes of the southern Alpine foothills on a stretch of coastline with a sheltered harbour, it rapidly became an important trading port of the Classical age.
Today the economy of Nice rests largely on tourism. It has the second busiest airport in France and also the most dramatic - where planes land and take off just yards from the azure sea. The port is still busy running ferries to Corsica, and there is a technology park just outside town which is home to internet, electronics, pharma and biotech companies.
Thinking of moving to Nice?
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Moving to Nice from the UK
For those who are moving to Nice from the UK - and therefore already EU citizens and free to move and work where they please within the European Union - the most obvious barrier is the language. French is the only official language and learning it will not only make finding work possible but also greatly improve your chances of integrating and ease transactions with officialdom.
Fortunately, there are plenty of French language courses on offer, though beginning the process prior to moving to Nice will be a tremendous help.
Retiring to Nice can also be economically beneficial to retirees making the transition gradually, as a tax treaty with the UK means that many forms of tax paid in Britain count towards your French tax bill. With French mortgage rates at all time lows it could be a very good time to retire in Nice.
Comparing Nice to London
Nice sees 85% more hours of sunshine per annum than London, and while there is more precipitation on the Riviera, it almost all falls between September and December, leaving warm, dry and sunny summers. Average high and low temps are very similar to those of London, but with slightly warmer winters, ranging between 5 °C and 27 °C.
The cost of living in Nice is considerably lower than that in London, principally because of lower rents, cheaper restaurants, transport and utilities. You will pay more for groceries but you can also expect a higher quality of fresh produce.
Residents of Nice report greater feelings of safety, vastly better standards of health care, lower commute times and less pollution.
As well as glorious beaches and wonderful cuisine Nice also has many sights and attractions to keep inhabitants occupied all year round. The city has long inspired artists and composers and Nice wears its cultural bona fides on its sleeve with numerous museums, such as Musée Marc Chagall and Musée Matisse, as well as the Opéra de Nice.
Property prices in Nice and the surrounding areas are higher than most of France, due to its prime location on the French Riviera. They have lowered since the credit crunch, however, they still remain high. For that reason, most expats and residents rent in Nice.
Rental prices for a 1 bedroom apartment ranges from £700-1000 on average in the city centre and £550-800 in the suburbs. A 3 bedroom apartment ranges £1000-£1500 in the city centre and £700-£1100 in the suburbs.
If you’re considering investing in real estate, it’s approximately £3500-5000 per square metre in the city centre and £2300-£4000 in the suburbs on average. This amount varies depending on area, however, property prices are, on the whole, considerably lower than in London. The average cost per square metre in Nice is £3,380.65 in comparison to London’s staggering £15,169.50.
With old, historic quarters, modern and happening neighbourhoods, quiet, tranquil suburbs as well as mansion complexes with swimming pools and tennis courts – Nice cannot be defined as just one neighbourhood.
Family friendly: On the hilltops overlooking Vieux Nice is the tranquil neighbourhood of Cimiez. You are close enough to have leisure centres, schools and play parks, but removed from the city hustle and bustle. Fabron is another family-friendly neighbour to the west of the city. There’s a park close by, Parc de l’Indochine and with spectacular views of the Mediterranean, it’s an ideal place for the family to settle.
Upmarket: The Carré d’Or is the most high-end neighbourhood in Nice city. But what else would you expect with Golden in the title? However, if you want luxurious surroundings, you need to head further out to VIllefranche-sur-Mer. It’s a playground for the rich, beautiful and famous, boasting huge, multi-million pound complexes with pools and tennis courts.
Hip and trendy: The gentrified neighbourhood of Vieux-Nice is at the heart of Nice’s nocturnal goings-on, despite being slightly cut off from the rest of the city. Fashionable second-homers have settled in Vieux-Nice and with it, trendy bars and restaurants have arrived. It’s a neighbourhood, which expats and residents alike, flock to in the daytime and the night time.
Up and coming: Neighbouring Vieux-Nice are the eastern neighbourhoods of Saint-Roch and Riquier. Thanks to significant development projects, the area has been rejuvenated. But if you want to be ahead of the trend, the Port is fast becoming the place to be in Nice. It’s home to a burgeoning restaurant scene and it offers better housing options, with all the mod cons.
Schools and education
The French school system is, on the whole, similar to the British system, with one of the biggest exceptions being the ages of compulsory education. In France, children begin compulsory education at the age of 6, ending at the age of 16. Children can attend école maternelle from the ages of 3 until they start école primaire.
There are a few international schools in Nice, with the International School of Nice offering education from the age of 4 up until the age of 18.
The French school system is as follows: children attend école primaire from the age of 6 until the age of 11. They then attend collège, with collège studies finishing with the brevet examinations (equivalent to GCSE).
After completing the brevet, around the age of 15/16, children have the choice to study at a lycée, a sixth form college, or a vocational education college. Students will study the baccalauréat, equivalent to A Level, or vocational qualifications.
The French education system tends to focus on core subjects such as French, Maths and Science, with less of a focus on the arts. Subject study is broader, with the baccalauréat focusing on 6 subjects, instead of the A Levels 3 or 4. Like with all public institutions, schools are secular and any signs of religious symbols, e.g., hijabs or crosses are not allowed.
Comparing living costs
Living costs in Nice are lower than in London, however, elsewhere in the UK, living costs in Nice work out about the same.
Groceries are just slightly lower than groceries in London at just over 10% cheaper. However, quality of produce is generally higher than produce available in the UK. Dining out is 13% cheaper in Nice, compared to London prices. The biggest saving is made in public transport – a monthly transport pass is 83% cheaper in Nice than in London. Monthly utilities for a 85 m2 apartment work out 17% cheaper, with 6Mbps broadband working out around £20 per month.
Healthcare works out more expensive in Nice than in the UK. Whilst the majority of healthcare is state-funded in France, the state only funds 70%. To cover the remaining 30%, most expats will pay into a mutuelle scheme, which is a top-up medical insurance.