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An evening view of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. Chris Karidis on Unsplash

Moving to France: Monito’s In-Depth Guide To Moving to and Living in France in 2022

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France is a top draw for foreigners wanting to live abroad, from digital nomads, location-independent freelancers, to expats working for local or international companies to retirees. It's an especially popular country for Brits because it's close to the UK yet offers a different lifestyle, in some cases sunnier and cheaper, and offers a unique joie de vivre that is unique to France.

The country is packed with heaps of coastal area, from the colder, rougher Atlantic Coast and English channel to the sunny Mediterranean, picturesque Alps, bucolic countryside like the Provence and Brittany, lively, well-connected cities, world-revered cuisine, and a culture that celebrates food, life, the outdoors, and the fine arts.

Economic Attractiveness

7.4

Economic Opportunities

Good wages, but unemployment rate is fairly high at around 8.6%,

Cost of living & Purchasing Power

Reasonable cost of living balanced out by good purchasing power.

Tax competitiveness

A fairly low income take rate on the average salary.

Prosperity

High prosperity and low inequality.

Economic Attractiveness

France is a good country to live all round, offering good wages and fair economic opportunity for skilled workers. We go through the main details below: ⁠—

Cost of Living in France

Alban Martel on Unsplash

Is it really cheaper to live in France? It depends where you are moving from and what part of France you are moving to. If you're coming from a major city in North America, Western or Central Europe or Australia — it’s often cheaper, unless you live in Paris. For example, if you’re moving from the US or UK to France, your money tends to go further for groceries (mainly if you shop at local fruit and vegetable markets), public transport, taxi fare and gym membership. Unless you need to indulge in 5-star-dining with costly French champagne, eating out and drinking is less expensive if you opt for local favourites and avoid tourist-focused spots. Rent is often cheaper, though common sense applies. (Want a ten bedroom villa overlooking the Mediterranean, a private pool and a personal chef? That’ll cost you but go for a reasonable property in a location where locals live, and you can often do better than at home. If you come from North America or Australia, apartments tend to be smaller in France. And Paris is always expensive.

As a rough guide, according to Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment for rent in central Paris costs around €1,200 and €1,500, whereas, in Aix-en-Provence, this will run approximately €900 to €1,000. A three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two in either city is about €45 to €50). According to Nomadlist, coworking spaces in Paris are currently around €250 to €400 per month.

Paying Bills in France

Paying online and direct deposit is quite common in France. However, if your income comes from another country, you often want to transfer funds to a local bank account to avoid foreign transaction fees of expensive currency exchanges to pay an electric or phone bill. You’ll always want to search for the best exchange rate, avoid hidden fees, and make sure you have an international bank account.

lilzidesigns on Unsplash

Opening a Bank Account in France

To open a bank account in France, you’ll need the following:

  • A valid passport or official photo ID
  • Proof of residence. This can be a recent utility bill or a tax receipt from a property bill. The definition of recent can be anywhere between one and three months. Aim to bring the most recent bill you have that is less than three months old. If you do not have proof of residence, you may be able to open an account if you intend to buy a property or prove that you are working for a local company with a work contract.
  • A minimum deposit (varies by bank, but generally between €100 and €500)
  • A visa: This is inconsistent and tricky. Many banks require a temporary or permanent resident visa for non-EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. Some banks occasionally accept a tourist visa. There is no way to know 100%, so your best bet is to head into a branch physically, ask politely, and be armed with as much paperwork as possible. You’ll need to open the account in person in most cases anyway.

Take a look at our complete guide to open a bank account in France (even as a non-resident) to find out more.

Banks in France

HSBC, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale,  BPCE and Crédit Mutuel are some of the biggest banks in France. If the bank you use at home has branches in France, this is an excellent option as it may facilitate opening an account. If you transfer money via the two bank websites, the per-transaction fees should — in theory — be lower than interbank transfer fees. Still, you’ll get a better exchange rate sending money to France if you search for the best deal among money transfer providers.

Multi-Currency Accounts & Euros

You can also manage your money and exchange rates across multiple currencies with options like Wise’s Multi-Currency Account, which supports Euros and comes with a Euro account (the account also comes with a free debit card). The account also allows you to receive money from other people in five currencies — the US, Australian and New Zealand dollars, Euros and British Pounds and add funds to your account in over 50 currencies. If you’re particularly savvy and set up an alert for when the exchange rate is in your favour, you can exchange your money for Euros and save a bunch at a reasonable rate.

Healthcare & Safety

8.2

Life Expectancy

Details about life expectancy in this country

Healthcare Access & Quality

Details about healthcare access and quality in this country

Overall Safety

Details about overall safety in this country

Safety and Healthcare

Healthcare in France

French healthcare is highly regarded. It provides cover in public and private hospitals, and access to doctors and other medical professionals. It is a system that applies to all residents of France regardless of a person’s age, income or status. In short, the French health care system and coverage are available to everyone living here, even foreigners.

Most French healthcare costs are covered by the state through the public French healthcare insurance scheme. Residents in France must have to register with a local French health insurer via a CPAM office near their domicile. It is also mandatory to register with a French doctor, who becomes your GP (General Practitioner). in order to be reimbursed by the French healthcare system, residents go to this GPR for most treatments or initial assessments and, if referred by their GP, they will go to a specialist for certain needs.

Safety in France

France is a safe country will low crime rates and corruption all around. While crime does exist, it usually involves non-violent offenses such as theft and pickpocketing.

Migration Process

8.8

Ease of migration

Many visa programs available for different types of immigrants and expats.

Ease of acquiring citizenship

French citizenship can be acquired by foreigners after 5 years of naturalisation.

Migration Process

Bureaucracy is one of the most common elements of French life that foreigners have a tough time getting used to. Many details of basic French life involve paperwork and administrative tasks that must be managed in person and can’t be done online, which is challenging for anyone accustomed to relocation processes that are more streamlined or digital. This is changing in part, but it is a slow process, and requirements and procedures often vary depending on where you relocate.

In most cases, you must apply for the visa at the French consulate or embassy outside of France. For the most up-to-date information, visit the government website or contact your local French embassy.

Léonard Cotte on Unsplash

Entry Requirements

You need a valid passport or national ID to enter France. If you're coming from a Schengen country in the EU, you may be able to enter France without border control, though IDs are sometimes asked for despite the open borders.

Visa-Exempt Countries

Citizens of many visa-exempt countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia can travel to France for up to 3 months without needing to do anything official. After that, you must apply for a Visa.

Citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland can live and work in France without a Visa.

Visas (Including the Profession Libérale)

There are a mind-numbing number of Visa types and what you are eligible for may vary according to your nationality, but a popular Visa that foreigners apply for is the Profession Libérale visa. This enables freelance work in France and can be renewed. Requirements and procedures are often different for every person so it is best to research the most up to date information online, approach your local French embassy and possibly hire an immigration specialist. Regardless of how you approach this, it often involves letters explaining your purpose and work, proof that you can support yourself financially and have access to some savings, hold some kind of international health insurance and can pass a criminal check. This is one of the most common ways to live in France if you are not from the EU, EEA or Switzerland and can often lead to other types of more permanent resident status.

What About the Primary Countries That Immigrate To France?

The largest foreign immigrants to France consist of Portuguese, Algeria, and Morocco followed by the United Kingdom and Spain — according to the 2014 census by INSEE (the official statistics body for France). It’s a popular country to retire in if often favoured as a place where the pace of life is slower and it is possible to embrace a joi de vivre, where food and culture are highly regarded and costs may be lower than someone’s home country.

Quality of Life

7.9

Quality of life

Excellent scores on quality of life metrics.

Happiness

Fairly high levels of happiness all around.

Climate

A mild climate free from natural disasters.

Bureaucracy

Some bureaucracy, but still effective and efficient.

What's Life Like in France?

Right. Pros and cons are highly subjective. It’s all about your attitude and how you approach issues and challenges. Be open. Accept that things won’t be the same as at home (and that you will probably face heaps of bureaucracy plus strikes that interrupt daily life — more on that later). No country is perfect — there will always be reasons why you may not want to move to France. But, adapting, integrating and discovering a country — including both its shiny, lovely features and its drawbacks — is part of the adventure of moving and living abroad.

Rhys Kentish on Unsplash

Weather in France

France is vast, and its climate is highly variable. If you’re heading to Paris or central France, the climate is continental with four distinct seasons. Cold, wet winters, sometimes with snow. Summers are generally warm, spring and autumn bring temperate changeable fare. There’s the oceanic type of climate in the western parts of France with a more limited temperature range. This climate is defined by plenty of rain and high humidity, cooler summers, and chilly but seldom extremely cold or snowy winters. The Mediterranean climate dominates the south of France (but not the southern alps, which are colder) and offers cool winters, hot summers, low rainfall and lots of sunshine. The alpine region offers cold, snowy winters, short but temperate summers and chilly autumn and spring.

Transportation

Larger cities like Paris, Lyon and Marseille have extensive metro systems and it’s easy to get around by public transport. Beyond these, most major, substantial cities and towns have a local bus or tram system. For longer distances, trains and bus systems run by offer decent connections.  In rural areas, bus and/or train service may be limited and cars are the best way to get around. A recent addition to transport options is Bla Bla Car, a ride-sharing/carpool service that is popular across Europe and is headquartered in Paris. Your search for a route via their mobile app and get connected to drivers and see the costs, and can read reviews for drivers too. It’s often an affordable way to get around and sometimes offers better options for routes not served well by public transport

If you want to own a car, which is quite mandatory if you live in the French countryside. France’s road network is extensive and is generally in good shape. Most major motorways are toll roads.

Strikes (La Grève)

Strikes (la grève in French) are a part of life in France. It is a cultural element of local society and can affect every part of daily life, from transport and the post to public service offices and beyond. In general, there is a strike season that usually begins around April and lasts for a few months, sometimes longer, but strikes can happen any time of year. There are a variety of strike calendars, including C’est la grève, though there are countless, especially on a local level. Individual sites, like SNCF and TER (the main nationwide and regional train companies), will also list strikes in advance on their websites.

What Are the Best Places To Live in France?

Foreigners live across France. While there are some regions that see a larger number of foreigners or specifically retirees, non-French residents are spread across the country. Sun worshippers and retirees often head for the South of France, from coastal areas of the Cote d’Azur to more hilly and inland Provence, while many people working full-time tend to live in Paris, the centre of business and commerce, or Rhone Alpes, where many foreigners live in France but work across the border in Geneva, Switzerland. Apart from that, other rural areas often attract foreigners who want a taste of the French countryside, from Normandy and Brittany (popular with Brits who don’t want hot weather and would like to be closer to the UK) to central areas like the Loire or Poitou-Charentes regions.

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