Moving to Strasbourg from the UK
Strasbourg is a city of conflicts – it’s part French, part German, part medieval, and part thriving, modern business city. It may appear Strasbourg has an identity crisis but you’d be very much wrong. Strasbourg is an emblematic example of Alsatian culture, having a fine balance between French, German and European cultures to make it truly its very own.
Source: Flickr | Ledog64
This hybrid of European culture makes it ideal stomping ground for European institutions such as the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. It belongs to an elite group of cities, along with New York and Geneva, which are home to international institutions without being national capitals. Strasbourg is often called the “Capital of Europe” and for good reason.
The biggest financial hub after Paris, Strasbourg has plenty of professional and business opportunities available. Strasbourg has the second biggest university in France, making it a thriving city for talent. For those wanting to take advantage of the European market, in a cosmopolitan environment, Strasbourg is a mighty contender.
Trying to find a British equivalent is a challenge, but Edinburgh is probably the city which has the most in common with Strasbourg. Like Strasbourg, it has its very own medieval old town, as well as being home to the Scottish parliament and a big student population.
Moving to Strasbourg
Despite the international business environment, having knowledge of French prior to moving is advisable. This will make any initial moving easier and aid you and your family settling in. A bonus would be to have knowledge of German. Because of Strasbourg’s interlinked German past and the German border being nearby, it’s another useful language to have.
As with everywhere else in France, regardless of what you do, you’re going to need a lot of paperwork. Make sure any official documents are translated by a certified translator. Sort out and bring multiple copies of legal and financial documents before the big move and you’ll be thankful in the long run.
Just two hours away on the TGV, Strasbourg is well connected to Paris. You can also fly direct to Strasbourg from London Gatwick and London Heathrow. If you fancy the drive, driving to Strasbourg from the UK will approximately take a day.
Comparing Strasbourg to London
Whilst the two cities are very business-focused, expats may experience slight culture shock due to prominent European culture in Strasbourg. The unique blend of French, German and European cultures make life in Strasbourg fascinating, although it may take some adjusting to.
The quality of life in Strasbourg, however, is very high, especially when you consider the affordability, healthcare and everyday city life. Here in Strasbourg, expats have almost twice the purchase power than they did in London.
Climate-wise, Strasbourg has a mild continental climate with colder winters but warmer and sunnier summers than London. The winters tend to be snowy, making the annual Christmas markets particularly atmospheric, and of course, there’s the Alps nearby to take advantage of the snowy weather.
Living costs are considerably lower in comparison to London. That said most supermarket groceries cost approximately the same with groceries being just 5% lower than prices in London. Dining out is 21% lower in Strasbourg than in London. A monthly pass for public transport costs 75% less in Strasbourg. Monthly utilities for a 85m2 apartment are only slightly lower in Strasbourg at 8% and 6Mbps of broadband costs approximately the same at £20 monthly.
Another big saving you’ll make moving to Strasbourg from London is rental and property prices. Rental prices in the city centre and in the outskirts are 75%-80% less on average. If you’re looking to buy a property in Strasbourg, it’s just £2,500 on average per square metre in Strasbourg’s city centre. Whereas, the average cost per square metre in London is just over an astonishing £15,000.
The one exception to the rule is healthcare. Healthcare in France, whilst better quality than the UK, is more expensive. Most will pay into a monthly top-up insurance (mutuelle) to reimburse medical treatment costs.
Rental prices are quite high in Strasbourg, in comparison to most of France, however, in comparison to UK rental prices, they are more affordable. For that reason, most Strasbourg residents rent properties in the city.
Rental prices for a one bedroom apartment range from £400-£500 in the city centre and £320-450 in the outskirts. Three bedroom apartments range £730-£1000 in the city centre and £600-£850 in the suburbs per month. Property prices have fallen since the global recession and currently they stand at £2500-£4000 per square metre in the city centre and £2000-£3500 outside of the city centre.
In Strasbourg, there’s a varied selection of neighbourhoods from the historic and twee Petite-France to the high-end and modern districts such as Robertsau. There’s neighbourhoods suitable for families, young professionals, students and retirees.
- Family-Friendly: Robertsau, with its convenient location close the EU Parliament, is near to the Parc de l’Orangerie as well as reputable primary and secondary schools. The neighbourhood of Otswald in the suburbs is another suitable choice for the family. It has everything the family could need: reputable schools nearby, parks, leisure centres and good public transportation links.
- Upmarket: L’Orangerie holds the accolade as being the most high-end neighbourhood in Strasbourg. There’s Parc de l’Orangerie and the beautiful “nouvelle ville” architecture built by the Prussians when Strasbourg was part of Germany. Another high-end option is Tribunal which offers newly built apartments and housing, with amenities such as lifts and garages – a rarity for Strasbourg.
- Hip and Trendy: Whilst Kruteneau cannot compete with the likes of Hackeny for being on trend, it is the life and soul of Strasbourg’s nightlife. If you’re looking for a reprieve from city life, Koenigshoffen could offer the escape you’re looking for. With up-and-coming community projects and shared gardens, it gives you the country life without having to leave the city.
- Up-and-Coming: The TGV (high speed train line) has been a relatively new introduction to Strasbourg, with it arriving in 2006. What it has meant for the Quartier de la Gare, close to the train station, is that the neighbourhood has had a major face lift. It’s a buzzy and vibrant neighbourhood, but there are a few tranquil corners for those who are looking for a spot of peace and quiet.
Schools and Education
School children in France begin compulsory education at the age of 6. They attend école élémentaire until 11, progress to college and finish at the age of 15/16. They then decide whether to attend lycée (sixth form college) or a vocational training college to continue their studies.
Education in France focuses on core subjects such as French, Maths and Science, with less of an emphasis on the arts. Subject study is broader as is the case with the baccalauréat (equivalent of the A Levels). Baccalauréat students study 6 subjects, in comparison with A Level students 3 or 4 subjects. In addition, the French education system is secular. As is the case in public institutions, wear of religious symbols such as hijabs and crosses are not allowed.
Due to Strasbourg’s international environment, there are a few bilingual and international schools in Strasbourg. There also several state-ran schools with sections européennes, which provide teaching in foreign languages, if your child is already fluent in French. There are, however, more options for children with German language skills than English, due to Germany’s proximity.