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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to France
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10 Things to Know Before Moving to France

By Betsy Burlingame

French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
French Riviera House Hunting - FRH

Summary: If you're planning a move to France, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to France.

France, the land of wine, cheese, and romance, is a dream destination for many. However, moving to a new country is a big step and requires careful planning and preparation. Here are ten things you should know before packing your bags and heading to France.

1. Understanding the French Lifestyle

French lifestyle is a blend of tradition and modernity. The French value their leisure time and have a strong work-life balance. They enjoy long meals with family and friends, and food is an integral part of their culture. It's not uncommon for shops to close for a couple of hours in the afternoon for lunch. Also, remember that most stores are closed on Sundays, so plan your shopping accordingly.

2. Mastering the French Language

While it's possible to get by with English in major cities like Paris, knowing French will make your life much easier. It will help you integrate into the community, understand the culture better, and navigate day-to-day tasks. Consider taking French classes before you move or once you're there.

3. Navigating the French Bureaucracy

France is known for its bureaucracy. From opening a bank account to getting a residence permit, be prepared for a lot of paperwork. Patience is key, and having a basic understanding of French will be helpful. It's a good idea to keep multiple copies of all your important documents.

4. Embracing the French Healthcare System

France has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. As an expat, you'll have access to this system once you start contributing to the social security system. It's important to note that healthcare in France is not free, but it's heavily subsidized. You'll need to get a 'carte vitale' to access healthcare services.

5. Getting Used to French Dining Etiquette

French dining etiquette is a bit different from other countries. Meals are often long and leisurely, and it's common to have cheese after the main course and before dessert. Remember to say 'Bon appétit' before you start eating. Also, it's considered polite to finish everything on your plate.

6. Adapting to French Weather

France has a diverse climate, from the mild Mediterranean climate in the south to the cooler, wetter weather in the north. Winters can be cold, especially in the mountainous regions. Make sure you pack a variety of clothes to suit different weather conditions.

7. Understanding French Education System

If you're moving with children, it's important to understand the French education system. Schooling is compulsory from ages 6 to 16, and the system is divided into primary, secondary, and higher education. There are also many international schools in France if you prefer an English-speaking environment for your children.

8. Getting Around in France

France has an excellent public transportation system. The trains are efficient and punctual, and the country has a comprehensive network of roads. However, in rural areas, having a car can be more convenient. If you plan to drive, remember that France drives on the right side of the road.

9. Appreciating French Culture and History

France is rich in culture and history. From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the charming villages of Provence, there's so much to explore. The French are proud of their heritage, and you'll find museums and historical sites all over the country. Take the time to immerse yourself in the culture and history of your new home.

10. Preparing for French Taxes

France has a progressive tax system, and you'll need to file a tax return if you're a resident. The tax system can be complex, so it's a good idea to seek advice from a tax professional. Also, remember that France has a high cost of living, especially in cities like Paris and Nice.

Moving to France can be a wonderful adventure. With its rich culture, delicious food, and beautiful landscapes, it's a country that has a lot to offer. By understanding these aspects of French life, you'll be well-prepared for your move and ready to embrace your new home.

Expats talk about Moving to France

"So many beautiful areas in France - so many people spend months finding a house - stick to one area and search," said one expat living in Eymet.

"If he has a family it is a good place to live. If he or she is single, I can't advise them since I don't know the single scene here. There is a big university here so they may be able to connect with the students there but I don't know anything about the clubs or other diversions for single people," said one expat living in Orleans.

"Well, firstly - great to hear that there is nothing to wait for. Just start learning some French...take few documents with yourself as France seems to like red tape very much and you need papers for everything! Take some birth certificates for sure. Don't worry about the accommodation because here in Lyon you will get many estate agencies to help you out and they speak English! And mostly...read some blogs, forums, expats websites which will provide you with the up to date info," wrote a member in Lyon.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
French Riviera House Hunting - FRH

French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
French Riviera House Hunting - FRH

Villa in Ardeche, France

William Russell
William Russell

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
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