21 Things to Know Before You Move to France
So you want to start living in France? Mais oui! We can’t imagine a better life than one where you’re surrounded by brioches, wine, and magnifique art galleries like the Louvre and Pompidou. Whether you’re living in culturally vibrant Paris or the beautiful beach city of Nice, there’s plenty to see, do, and consume. And with dozens of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the rest of Europe on your doorstep, you’ll never be bored.
This could be you, gazing out at the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background
So what are you waiting for? Fill in the form at the top of this page to receive up to six free shipping quotes, and see how much it would cost to make the exciting leap into life in France. Here are the five best reasons to start living in France:
- You can tour vineyards and castles, hike or ski in the Alps, or just relax on any of France’s white-sand beaches.
- The food and drink is world-class.
- France has universal healthcare.
- You can balance work with the rest of your life.
- It’s different, but not too different – France’s laws, weather and food will all feel familiar to you.
But before you bid adieu and start living la vie en rose, you’ll need to be prepared. So to ensure that you’re singing “Non, je ne regrette rien” after you make the move to France, here are some tips and advice to make your bon voyage as smooth as possible.
1. Are you ready to increase your joie de vivre?
Just like Shakira’s hips, the stats don’t lie: 79% of people who move to France are generally satisfied they made the leap, according to InterNations’ 2018 Expat Insider survey.
Meanwhile, in HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey 2018, France came third for how much people enjoyed family life – which should soften the blow of moving your loved ones to a new land. You can also look forward to living in a nation which ranked second for raising kids, and providing them with education and childcare. Plus, you’ll be that much closer to Disneyland Paris.
Life expectancy is higher in France too, according to World Health Organisation data from 2016. On average, people in France can look forward to spending 82.4 years on this earth – more than the UK’s 81.2, or the US’s upsettingly low 79.3.
2. France is great for your kids
Since all work and no play makes Jacques a dull boy, don’t fret: France has plenty of opportunities for kids to have adventures.
Lonely Planet reveals that if you’re living in Paris, there are many interactive museums to spark your children’s curiosity. This is made even better by the fact that entry to national museums is free for anyone under the age of 18. Fun also awaits with the Musée d’Orsay’s family-friendly treasure hunt, the Musée Grévin’s celebrity waxworks, and guided tours to teach families about prehistory, human evolution and world cultures.
Travel up north to Brittany or Normandy for a classic beach holiday or pirate adventure (depending on your imagination), or take your family to the Alps to enjoy winters in whatever way you want, from skiing to simple snowman-building.
You can also enjoy a summer holiday on the beaches of the French Riviera, or take a jaunt to Corsica, where you and the kids can go cycling, kayaking, sailing, or snorkelling to your hearts’ content.
As well as providing plenty of opportunities for travel and fun, the country is generally good for kids. HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey 2018 found that 64% of expats said their children’s health and wellbeing was better in France.
3. If you love travel, France is a wonderful home
This is a special country for sheer variety. With stunning beaches in the south, hiking and skiing locations in the Alps, and fairytale castles in the north, France has something for everyone.
It also boasts the joint-fourth-most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the world, with 44 wonders for you to check off during your travels. These range from imposing man-made buildings, like the fortified city of Carcassonne and Palace of Versailles, to natural wonders like the Loire Valley and Mont Perdu.
France is, of course, just a stone’s throw from a host of other exciting European countries, bordering Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. Africa is also within easy reach – use a comparison website or two, and a trip to Algeria, Morocco, or Tunisia will leave you with plenty of spending money.
4. You’ve got good healthcare options
After being accepted for your sojourn to the land of Marie Antoinette and Johnny Hallyday, your mind will inevitably turn to protecting yourself. Thankfully, France has universal healthcare.
You can get around 70% of your medical costs reimbursed in France, thanks to a system which sees citizens and long-term residents pay a monthly contribution. And if you have a chronic condition like cancer, AIDS or a severe mental illness, the government will cover 100% of your medical expenses.
Changing country is never easy, but it’s always better when you can rest safe in the knowledge that should disaster strike, you and your family won’t be financially shipwrecked.
According to Expatica, to register for French healthcare, you’ll need:
- To have lived in the country for three months
- To show documents which may include your passport, ID card, and proof of long-term residence and income in France
- Marriage and birth certificates, if you’re also registering your family
However, if you’re considering taking out some private medical cover before your big move, we can help – we’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in France. With over 95 million customers protected worldwide, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.
Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.
5. It’s not all about the money – but it helps
Speaking of cash, you’re also more likely to earn better by moving to France than other countries. One in three expats rake in a yearly household income of at least £77,000, according to InterNations’ 2018 Expat Insider survey, while HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey 2018 places an expat’s average income at £61,500.
As far as taxes go, you’ll have to check with your employer whether you will continue to be taxed by the British government. If you’re planning on making France your main residence, then prepare to file a tax return – either at the end of May if you’re doing it offline, or the end of June if you’re online.
In another departure from British policies, the French government will take income tax from the amount your household earns, rather than from your individual earnings. That means a lower rate if you’re financially supporting children (who count as half a person each for these purposes), and/or a partner. For example, if you have three kids and a spouse who doesn’t work, your earnings will be divided by 3.5 before they’re taxed. The larger the family, the lower the tax rate.
If you’re moving to France with a partner, you can also enjoy all the legal benefits of marriage without having to actually tie the knot – and that’s not the only benefit of working in France.
6. Get ready for long lunchtimes at work
Depending on which city and company you’re working at, lunchtimes can stretch to anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. French culture places a lot of importance on food and coffee, so it makes sense that lunch would be valued in this way.
In this vein, employers are obliged to provide you with either a kitchen or an on-site cafeteria that’s often subsidised – but in many cases, they simply hand out lunch vouchers. These tickets repas can take several euros off your lunch bill, meaning you can indulge yourself at fancy restaurants several times per week.
However your employer handles lunch, they may well expect you to eat a full meal with your colleagues every day – providing you with an excellent chance to get to know them while enjoying some delicious food.
Bond with your colleagues during France’s luxurious lunchtimes. Bon appétit
7. Working in France means more free time
As well as lengthy lunchtimes, people in France also enjoy a legally mandated 35-hour working week. If you’re moving from Britain, that means at least a 13-hour reduction. It’s a win-win-win-win (or gagner-gagner-gagner-gagner): work less, eat better, earn more, and increase the time you spend with your loved ones.
Even if you do end up staying at the office a bit longer each day, you’ll be compensated, with up to 22 days of holiday available for working extra hours. The amount of annual paid leave is also among the highest in the world, with workers entitled to 30 days off per year. Yes, you read that right – a whole month to be paid for doing nothing.
For many employees, this means taking the whole of August off. Spend a month in a sunny beach town with some local wines and cheeses, and you’ll never want to leave. And since you can never have too much paid time off, you’ll also be able to celebrate 11 public holidays in your new country – three more than the UK. Vive la France!
8. Eat and drink to your stomach’s delight, though maybe not your heart
With all your free time, you’ll have your pick of wonderful places to indulge your appetite. There are 27 restaurants in France with three Michelin stars – the most of any country in the world – and 632 restaurants with at least one star. Your stomach will say merci as you indulge your desire for crêpes, escargot, beef bourguignon, and more.
And of course, no mention of French cuisine would be complete without paying tribute to its wonderful wine, beer and champagne – not to mention the country’s more unique offerings like Chambord, Grand Marnier, Cointreau and Chartreuse, among other delicious drinks.
You can even take your family on picturesque tours of vineyards across the country, as well as try out the delicious cider from the northern regions of Brittany and Normandy. We don’t want to spark an international incident, but it’s safe to say that this product is roughly a million times better than British favourites like Strongbow and Bulmers.
9. Not only is it tastier, it’s also cheaper to live in Paris than London
No, we’re not pulling your jambe – you’re about to save a considerable amount of money by moving to France. As of May 2019, more than 1,000 people on Numbeo have contributed to the statistic that renting a three-bedroom flat in the centre of Paris is about one-third less wallet-destroying than it is in London, at around £2,180 per month.
If life outside of the city centre is more what you’re looking for, you should expect to pay somewhere in the region of £1,460 – which again is considerably less than in London. This will leave you with more euros to spend on beer and wine, which are also both cheaper in the French capital.
Be sure to also save some money by getting a monthly Metro pass for just £65 – not bad when you consider that the same pass on the London Underground can come to anywhere between £135 and £350. Be warned, though: meat, cheese and clothes can cost a pretty penny in Paris if you’re not careful, although these expenses should be more than offset by your other savings.
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10. Choose your new home carefully
This may sound obvious, but your experience living in a vibrant city like Paris will be hugely different to relaxing on the south coast in Cannes. If you’re moving for work, you’ll probably end up in one of the major cities – Paris, Marseille, Lyon or Toulouse, for instance – but even so, you’ll be able to choose between a variety of different homes.
Don’t assume that you’ll only be able to rent, either – purchasing prices are dramatically lower outside of Paris, falling by up to 70% in the cities listed above, according to Numbeo. The average wage is also lower, but not by nearly as much.
Wherever you land, it’s likely to be less hectic than where you’re coming from. While the likes of London, New York City and Sydney all have populations of more than 4 million, France only has one city with more than a million residents: Paris, at 2.1 million. As always, choose the location which matches your lifestyle.
11. If you want to live in France, learn French
Almost 90% of expats in France are fluent or learning French, according to the Expat Explorer Survey 2018 – so make sure you follow suit. French people are typically pretty unforgiving when it comes to foreigners who don’t make the effort, which makes sense. No-one’s saying you have to start eating blue cheese or wearing a beret if you don’t want to – but if you’re going to move to France, learn some French.
In order to ensure a smooth passage into French life, make sure to also get a national ID card. Request one as soon as possible, as the Consulate General of France in London says it can take up to three months to be processed.
12. Move your belongings to France in the least stressful way possible
We’ve calculated the average international shipping rates for some of our most popular journeys from the UK (London), the US (New York), Australia (Sydney), and Canada (Montreal) to Rouen in France. The rates are sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth £40,000 – the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom house (according to Admiral Insurance). These prices were last updated in May 2019.
|New York, USA||£1,400|
Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.
13. Which documents do you need before moving to France?
Once you’ve sorted out how your precious belongings will be making the journey, it’s time to gain permission for the most important cargo: you.
If you’re moving from the UK, these are the documents you may need, according to the British government. Check with your employer in France to see which ones you’ll require.
- A UK criminal record check, which will provide you with a Police Certificate and hopefully prove you’re not a secret bank robber. You can apply through the Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office (ACRO).
- If you’re going to work with children, you may need to ask ACRO to conduct a specific criminal record check so that you can get an International Child Protection Certificate.
- Once you’re in France, go to your local prefecture and get a residence card (carte de séjour).
If/when Brexit happens, bear in mind that your right to work in other European Union countries will be guaranteed until the end of the deal’s implementation period. If Britain leaves with no deal, you’ll have six months from the day it happens to apply for a residence card, and will receive it before another six months have passed.
If you’re moving from the US, you’ll need to apply for a visa de long séjour, which enables you to stay for up to a year without a residence permit. According to Expatica, this requires you to be any of the following:
- Employed on a year-long contract, or a temporary worker with a contract between three months and a year
- A scientific researcher
- A student or intern
- Married to a French citizen
- The spouse of a foreign national living legally in France
14. France is famed for its high culture, and with good reason
With healthcare and official documents sorted, you and your family can move on to enjoying yourselves. France is blessed in this area, with incredible art. In Paris alone, you can gaze at stunning modern art in the Pompidou Centre, or classics like The Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo in the Louvre, before visiting museums dedicated to the works of Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, and Pablo Picasso, among others.
If you’re interested in everything aesthetically pleasing, you’ll also be able to enjoy Paris’s status as the global capital of fashion. Legendary brands from Chanel and Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton were created in the French capital – and it shows. Speaking of shows, make sure not to miss the twice-annual Paris Fashion Week, which will next take place between 23 September and 1 October 2019.
And if you’re looking to pair external beauty with internal depth, look no further. In the land of Sartre, Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, Derrida, Descartes and Voltaire, a good coffee shop conversation about ethical consumption in a capitalist society is not just expected, but encouraged. Get ready to free your mind and get into some deep debates over un café crème.
15. Do you favour films over fashion? No problem
If clothes, paintings and philosophy fail to get your blood pumping, don’t sweat it. France has had an impressive cinematic tradition ever since the Lumière brothers invented the cinematograph in the 1890s, and Paris is packed with cinemas. You can also visit its arthouse and multiplexes safe in the knowledge that many will screen English-language films, and often even provide English subtitles for French flicks.
France also has a pedigree for producing high-quality theatre, from Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit – which inspired US sitcom The Good Place – to the legendary Les Misérables. If the stage is where you belong, you can find a home at Paris’s Palais Garnier, The Royal Opera in Versailles, Lyon’s Théâtre des Célestins, and dozens of other gorgeous theatres all over the country.
If music is your jam, ignore the stereotypes and dive straight in. You might be expecting Eurovision and bad techno, but France has so much more to offer (no offence to Eurovision fans). The home of Edith Piaf and Daft Punk can currently boast stars like Christine and the Queens, David Guetta, and the chart-topping Angèle, all of whom are performing in France this year.
16. Can you see world-class live sport in France?
We’re offended that you would even ask. The nation of Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini and Thierry Henry won the most recent World Cup, and is home to one of the top leagues in world football. In Paris, you can see the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé strut their stuff, while the popular cities of Marseilles, Nice and Lyon all have top-tier sides to follow. The women’s team will host the 2019 World Cup this summer and are one of the two favourites to win the trophy, along with the US.
And it’s not just football where France excels. The country can satisfy your craving for all manner of world-class sporting events with the Tour de France, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the French Open.
If you’re worried about missing rugby, never fear: the French national men’s team has won 17 Six Nations tournaments and reached three World Cup finals, while the women’s side marked 2018 with a Six Nations Grand Slam.
17. France has liberté, égalité and fraternité – of sorts
You can look forward to a relatively high level of cultural diversity in France. 19% of the metropolitan population wasn’t born in the country, meaning you can expect a rich mix of races, religions and languages. The legendary status of footballers who come from immigrant families, like Zidane, Paul Pogba and Claude Makélélé, also shows it is possible for minorities to succeed in France – but there are underlying issues.
Since 2010, France has banned the niqab, a veil which some Muslim women use to cover their face. In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Committee said this law violated Muslim women’s human rights. The country has also seen a worrying amount of attacks on its Muslim and Jewish populations in recent years. Since 1958, France has guaranteed equal treatment for everyone, regardless of race or religion – however, the country refuses to record ethnic origins on official censuses, leading to issues in catering to its minorities and combatting hatred.
18. What are LGBT+ rights like in France?
On the flipside, France is a welcoming place if you’re part of the LGBT+ community. Rainbow Europe ranked France third in Europe in 2018 for protecting LGBT+ rights. The country has allowed same-sex civil unions since 1999, and legalised same-sex marriage in 2013 – before the UK and the US – along with same-sex adoption.
France was also the first nation to declassify being transgender as a mental illness, and continued its role as a trailblazer in 2017 when it allowed trans folk to change their legal gender without undergoing surgery or a diagnosis. That means that if you’re trans and looking to move to France, you can be recognised as your gender with ease – unless you’re non-binary, unfortunately.
You’ll also be protected against hate speech, as anyone found guilty of making abusive comments against minorities – including LGBT+ people – can be fined as much as €45,000 (£38,500) and imprisoned for up to 12 months.
19. France is a world leader in gender equality
As of March 2019, France was one of just six countries in the world which legally guarantees equality across gender, according to the World Bank. The report on women, business and the law gave France (as well as Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden) a perfect score, after the country made key improvements. Unless you’re travelling from one of these other five countries, you should be set for better treatment in France than your home country.
Over the past decade, France has introduced paid parental leave (16 weeks for the mother and 11 days for the father, with both doubled for a multiple birth), as well as laws tackling domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.
France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also in the midst of a five-year plan to “improve the situation of women around the world” by 2022. Among other things, this strategy aims to grant universal access to sexual and reproductive rights, and to create more French female ambassadors.
20. Is France a safe place to live?
You can also be comforted by the fact that France has a low crime rate, with the US government advising that there is a “moderate risk from crime in Paris, and minimal risk from crime in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Rennes, Strasbourg, and Toulouse.” And reassuringly, it follows this up by calling Paris “generally a safe destination for tourists, students, business travelers, and others.”
Data collected by the United Nations in 2016 on intentional homicides identified France as one of the safest territories in the world, with a murder rate of 1.35 per 100,000 inhabitants. This was well below the European average of 3.0, and four times less than the American rate of 5.35.
However, watch out for the populist Gilets jaunes protests, which have been ongoing since November 2018.
21. So who should move to France?
Everyone, to put it simply. France has a sterling quality of life, wonderful food and travel opportunities, a functioning democracy, and the sixth-largest GDP in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund’s 2018 figures. It also protects minorities – both in law and through its healthcare system – and has legally mandated gender equality.
And with Brexit still looming large, it’s the perfect time for Brits to start living in France. Head on over to our International Container Shipping Costs page and see how much it would take to set you up in your new French home. Or, to start receiving quotes for shipping to France, simply fill in this form and our professional suppliers will get back to you!