Moving to Marseille
Right on the Mediterranean’s doorstep, you can soak up that enviable sun, sea and sand lifestyle along with all of the offerings of a vibrant city. Welcome to France’s sunniest city – Marseille.
Marseille manages to seamlessly blend cultures from all over the world, with considerable African, Portuguese, Italian, Middle Eastern and Spanish communities. Marseille may not be the France we all know and picture, but regardless of their origins, its residents are vehemently proud to be Marseillais first and foremost.
Thanks to being awarded the accolade of European City of Culture in 2013, Marseille has seen a cultural renaissance, which has rejuvenated the city as well as adding to its distinct charm. Nowadays, the lease of new life has given the city a creative and entrepreneurial edge, with artists setting up shop in Marseille and start-ups popping up almost every week.
Whilst Marseille may not be quite as polished as its nearby neighbour, the French Riviera or its fiercest rival, Paris, expats will find it hard to tire of the city. There are numerous museums, bars, restaurants and shops close at hand and the Mediterranean coast on its doorstep to keep even the fussiest expat occupied.
Thanks to Marseille’s port being a major stop in the Mediterranean and its established transportation infrastructure, international trade and industry make up a substantial proportion of Marseille’s economy.
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Marseille is also becoming a leader in the French R&D industry with Marseille Aix Université being home to over 3,000 research scientists alone. Thanks to its proximity to the ITER project, an energy research project which seeks to experiment with atomic energy for our own energy needs, the technology sector in Marseille is on the rise too.
Among many corporate enterprises which are based in Marseille, some of the most prominent are Pernod-Ricard, one of the world’s leading spirits and wine producers, Catering International & Services, an on-shore and offshore catering enterprise for the gas and petrol industry and CMA CGM, the third largest shipping container company in the world.
The unemployment rate, averaging at 12% last year is higher than the national average. However, there are skills shortages in industries such as engineering, R&D or the technology sector, which are high in demand and knowing which industries to target will be key to your job search.
If expats are targeting Marseille’s aforementioned emerging industries, this will strengthen their chances of getting a job in Marseille. In addition, knowledge of French will boost your chances of landing a job and knowledge of other languages are a plus, especially when you consider the amount of international trade in Marseille.
Groceries come in at reasonable prices with staple buys such as a litre of milk coming in at 0.75€, 1kg of most fruits and vegetables being around the €1.00-€1.50 mark, a 500g loaf of fresh white bread averages at €1.30, a dozen of eggs €3.25, 1kg of local cheese will be around the €8 mark and 1kg of skinless chicken breasts will usually cost around €6.
Alcohol bought at the supermarket is inexpensive with a mid-range bottle of wine costing approximately €4, a 0.5l bottle of domestic beer costing €1.11 on average and a 0.33l bottle of imported beer costing around €1.17.
If you don’t want to slave away in the kitchen, you can treat yourself to a three course meal for two for approximately €40. Alcohol is considerably more expensive when dining out with a 0.5l draught domestic beer costing €4 and a glass of 125ml wine around this mark too.
Getting around the city will cost around €1.50-€1.80 for a one-way ticket with a monthly pass costing around €50. If you don’t fancy waiting for public transport, a litre of petrol is around the €1.30-€1.40 mark at the time of writing.
Rent prices for a furnished 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost you approximately 530€ per month and on the outskirts, rental prices lower to just over 350€ per month. For a furnished 3 bedroom apartment in the city centre, you will spend around 1,100€ per month. Were you to rent a 3 bedroom property in the outskirts, it would cost you around 950€.
To put rent into perspective, Marseille is about 30% cheaper than Paris, 20% cheaper than Nice, and 15% cheaper than Lyon.
Monthly living costs for utilities for an 85m2 apartment will set you back approximately €100 and 6Mps broadband with unlimited data will cost around the €25 to €30 mark.
Healthcare in Marseille is on the whole funded by the state. To be covered by the French social system, however, residents in France are obliged to have health insurance.
The majority of city centre accommodation options are apartments. Towards the outskirts of the city and surrounding towns and villages, you will find more house options on offer.
Sale prices for Marseille properties are lower than those of its Provence neighbours Nice and Aix-en-Provence. The average price per square meter in Marseille’s city centre is around €3,000 whilst on the outskirts of the city, it falls to €2,150.
Recently, house prices have fallen gradually since the global recession in the late 00s with a 1.1% drop in house prices in 2014. However, with the new Eurostar direct service from London to Marseille, it’s likely there will be a surge in real estate investment from British house buyers.
Marseille is made up of 111 neighbourhoods forming part of 16 arrondissements (quarters). In the past the neighbourhoods were separate villages, which over time, have joined together to become part of the Marseille we know today.
Family-friendly: Longchamp in the fourth arrondissement distances itself from the fast-paced city hustle and bustle, whilst still being conveniently located close to all the commodities you’ll ever need. The eighth arrondissement neighbourhoods of Prado, Paradis and Michelet are set up for families with green spaces and a “golden triangle” of primary and secondary schools.
Up Market: The 7th arrondissement gives you the sense of living in a Provence village, right in the middle of the city. The most sought-after neighbourhoods of Le Roucas Blanc and Bompard offer stunning views of the Mediterranean along the La Corniche roadway.
Hip and Trendy: Cours Julien is unmistakably the home of Marseille’s hipster community. Once a no-go area, Cours Julien is now the life and soul of Marseille’s nightlife. Nearby to Cours Julien is Place Jean Jaurès, locally known as la Plaine, which is also just as naturally hip as its next-door neighbour.
Up-and-Coming: Once run-down, thanks to Marseille being named European Capital of Culture in 2013, le Panier, the city’s oldest quarter has been lovingly restored. It is now the epicentre of Marseille’s cultural movement, being home to MuCEM, Vielle Charité and numerous artist workshops whilst still retaining its historic character.
Cost of Moving
Shipping cost estimates for the average family requiring a 20 foot container FCL to Marseille are as follows:
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Schools and Education
In Marseille, there are just under 700 state-ran schools, providing education from the age of 3 up until 18. Private schools are present in most arrondissements in Marseille too.
Ecole maternelle looks after and educates children from the age of 3 until 6. Compulsory education begins at the age of 6 at école primaire before going to école secondaire at the age of 11 until the age of 16. Afterwards, students can progress to lycées and specialist colleges. International schools offering bilingual education such as EPIM or Marseille International School are in the area too.
The largest university in the French speaking world, Aix Marseille Université has campuses in Marseille. It is particularly prominent in the Research and Development domain as well as notable alumni being awarded as Nobel Prize Laureates, as well as prominent accolades such as the Pulitzer Prize and the César Prize.
Ranking in the World
Whilst Marseille cannot compete with the likes of Paris and the French Riviera when it comes to sophistication and style, Marseille makes up for it with its exciting blend of worldwide cultures. The European City of Culture accolade in 2013, has seen Marseille have a cultural renaissance with museums and art galleries being renovated and constructed.
In comparison to many other major French cities, Marseille boasts more spending power and disposable income for expats. However, Marseille’s expat community is not as well developed as in other French cities. Whilst the Marseillais are still getting used to welcoming foreign tourists and expats alike, the cosmopolitan blend of cultures in Marseille will ensure, as an expat, you don’t feel isolated.
Day in the Life
What better way than by starting your day off in true French style than at a market. Head to one of Marseille’s most emblematic stops – the Noailles market. There you can find yourself amongst venders and buyers selling and buying wares from all over the world, which is what makes it distinctly Marseillais.
After shopping until you’ve dropped, it’s time to put up your tired feet and refuel. Nearby, duck into one of the many restaurants or cafés the achingly cool Cours Julien neighbourhood has to offer.
Once you’ve been fed and rested, it’s time for a relaxing stroll around Marseille. You can get lost in the labyrinthine streets of Malmousque, acquaint yourself with the city’s history in the city’s oldest neighbourhood Le Panier or wander along the rugged coastline of the Corniche du President Kennedy, just in time for the sunset.
Finish off your day by cooking up storm in the kitchen with the fresh produce you bought earlier at the market, preferably with a bottle of wine, or enjoy a mellow meal out at Le Vieux Port.