Moving to Toulouse from the UK
Toulouse, on the banks of the River Garonne 660km south-west of the French capital is an attractive and vibrant city of just over 400,000 inhabitants. In recent years the city has gained a reputation as a leader in the fields of science and technology. The international headquarters of Airbus are located in the suburb of Blagnac and there is an important cancer research centre, the national meteorological research centre and many international companies with offices in the city. It also has a large student population.
The pace of life and the above average sunshine levels in Toulouse put its atmosphere squarely in the south of France. It is the capital of the Midi-Pyrenées region and will soon merge with the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. This new super-region will take up the entire south-west of France as far as Montpellier on the Mediterranean.
A very historic city with roots that reach all the way back to the Neolithic period, Toulouse is often called “la ville rose” or the pink city. You will soon see why as the sunlight reflects off the terracotta bricks that were used to build many of the city’s older buildings and monuments. Toulouse is also a city for lovers of all things cultural and musical.
Like many cities in the UK, a lot of people living in Toulouse choose to live in one or other of the suburbs of the city to enjoy a better quality of life and live in affordable houses with gardens. Apart from Blagnac, where both the international airport and the Airbus headquarters are located, some of the other popular suburbs include Tournefeuille and Balma.
Toulouse is similar in size to Bristol in the UK, a city that is twinned with Toulouse’s neighbour Bordeaux.
Moving to Toulouse
Blagnac International Airport welcomes flights from all over the world and British Airways, Jet2.com and EasyJet all operate flights from the UK. It is also possible to drive to Toulouse. From Paris, the journey is around 6.5 hours by car. The driving time from a port such as Calais is roughly 10 hours. Another option is to use the SNCF train service which can take your car from Paris to Toulouse for you. If you bring your car and are staying for more than 6 months, you will need to change your licence plates, but your UK driving licence is valid in France.
Your first port of call when you come to a new city in France should be the town hall or Mairie. Here you will find all sorts of useful and local information, be able to register for schools and the electoral role (only municipal and European elections for EU member states) and find out about many aspects of local life, such as list of associations and other leisure activities.
Living in Toulouse will seem pleasantly inexpensive for anyone used to paying the high prices of London or Paris. Even in the city centre, rental prices are between 30% and 50% lower than in London. Taking the example of Bristol, a similar-sized city to Toulouse, prices in the French city are lower across the board. Consumer prices are around 20% lower, rent prices almost 40% lower and grocery shopping is 24% cheaper. Transport costs are also slightly cheaper in Toulouse.
When it comes to food and drink, eating out is only slightly cheaper in Toulouse than in a city like Bristol. Expect to pay around £10 for a 3-course lunch. In terms of alcohol, as you might expect in France, a bottle of locally-produced wine will cost less in Toulouse than in the UK (an average of £4.50 per bottle), while beer and bottled water will be more expensive.
The property market in Toulouse has been holding its own during the economic crisis of recent years, with only a very small fall in house prices. Prices do, however, vary widely depending on the location and size of the property and whether it is a new and energy-efficient construction (more expensive) or an old building (cheaper). The owner – tenant ratio in Toulouse is 60 – 40, with mostly apartment-living in the city centre. With the rise in the city’s population in recent years, more and more modern apartment buildings have been springing up in the suburbs in response to the increased housing demand.
Schools and Education
Toulouse has the same primary and secondary education system in place as in the rest of France, with 104 public pre-schools and 22 private ones, and 93 public primary schools and 22 private primary schools. Primary schools are attributed according to where the pupil lives, with the city divided into sectors, so you cannot be sure which school your child will attend without a visit to the local town hall.
While school is only mandatory from the age of six, most children start pre-school at the age of three. Hours will seem quite long to anyone used to schooling in the UK, but rest assured that there is a long lunch break and younger children usually have a nap after lunch to keep them going. Children do not generally wear school uniforms in France. In terms of secondary schools, the city boasts 24 public collèges (for children aged 11-15) and 12 public lycées (ages 15-18). School in France is compulsory up to the end of collège and entrance to lycée is merit-based. Pupils who do not make the cut for general lycée usually go on to studies that have a specific focus on a trade or craft. Sending your children to the local school is a good way for expat parents to get to know other parents, both local and international ones.