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Montmarte District in Paris
Montmarte District in Paris
Montmarte District in Paris

Living in France

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 10, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees discuss what it is like to live in France: Cost of living, Finding a home, Meeting People and more.

William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

What do I need to know about living in France?

Live in France? Answer this Question

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to France, they said:

"Check out nancy.OnVaSortir.com to find out about events that are planned by locals (and therefore not promoted by any public methods), and follow the city on Facebook to get updates about festivals and other happenings around town," explained one expat living in Epinal, France.

"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! And if you have any question or want to explore more, have a look at my blog: shopaholicfromhome.com where I continue discovering France & Lyon," said another expat in Lyon.

"This is France as you see it in black and white movies, it's like going back in time fifty years ago, sales people in stores always take the time to chat with you, the pace is not hurried, everybody takes a 2 hours lunch break. Serene, peaceful, beautiful, no tourists, not on the map, I love it," added another expat who made the move to Moulins.

"It is a big city and finding a place to live is fairly tricky (rent). However the weathers great and it is a nice place to live," explained one expat living in Toulouse, France.

"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," mentioned another in Orleans.

"Be aware of the housing costs - extremely high by French standards, and most companies base their salaries and relocation offers on the standard French cost of living index. That might be fine in rural France, but housing and food costs here are astronomical by comparison with everywhere except Paris and Lyon. Be sure of what you're accepting before you accept it! The city is great if you like cities! The surrounding areas are beautiful and inspiring, and much less polluted. If you have children, I would avoid the city as it's unpleasantly hot and polluted in the summer. Don't go too high up the mountains into the middle of nowhere, though, or you will feel pretty isolated when the snows come. There's a reason why the towns of Meylan, Biviers, St Ismier etc are the most expensive - they're pretty, less polluted, good schools, and still completely accessible when the bad weather takes hold. The French take a while to get used to, and the bureaucracy can be overwhelming at first. Once you've got everything sorted, though, their systems are very efficient and the health care is excellent," explained one expat who made the move to Grenoble.

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

How do I meet people in France?

Live in France? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in France about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"I have been nicely surprised on how big the community of expats is in France. We are lucky to have: meetup.com/cities/fr/lyon/ - smaller groups of expats who organizes meetings close to their interests onlylyon.com - very useful for info and events happening in Lyon internations.org/start, which actively organizes events for expats," explained one expat living in Lyon, France.

"- join the English Club, or if there is none, create one (the city hall will advertise it and provide a room to meet). I joined one and it's been great; half the people are native English speakers--so you feel at home--half are French--so you branch out and make friends with French people. Many French people are eager to join to practice and improve their English. The club organises activities, visits to restaurants, castles, etc. People in it are well travelled and cosmoplitan, many have lived in foreign countries before," said another expat in Moulins.

"There is a club for English speaking women which welcomes all nationalities of woman who speak English or want to improve their English. It's called the International Women's Club. They organize coffees, book reviews, activities for children and outings for the women members like visits to other cities," added another expat who made the move to Orleans.

"For English speakers of any nationality, try Open House which offers activities of many sorts (from the cerebral to the just plain silly!) It aims to cater for all. The majority of members are American so activities are perhaps a little biased that way, but the aim is to welcome everyone. For French speakers, or those aspiring to speak French, don't forget AVF (Accueil Villes Francaises). This is actually an organisation for French people moving to a new town (the name means New Town Welcome), but they are very welcoming to all newcomers," explained one expat living in Grenoble, France.

"Even after being here for 21 months, I am still finding it hard to meet people. The students only seem to mix with students and people seem very clicky and not willing to let you into their established 'group'. Have joined a gym and am a member of the English Speaking Community, but they hold events during work hours, which is a bit of a dead end for me," mentioned another in Strasbourg.

"In Grenoble, Open House is nothing short of fantastic. They are English-speakers of all nationalities and French joining together for varied activities. All ages and interests are served. From hiking to book clubs to baby and toddler groups, there is something for everyone. They maintain lists of recommendations and services with English speaking providers. Find more info at http://www.geocities.com/open_house_grenoble/," explained one expat who made the move to Grenoble.

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

What is life like in France?

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When we asked people living in France what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Work, socializing, sports, festivals & community celebrations in centre-ville. Lots of opportunities to be active with a climbing gym, sports halls, dance classes, martial arts clubs, etc," added another expat in Epinal.

"J'adore Lyon! It's an amazing place! Not only because of the history and landscape, but I especially love it because of the people. They are very authentic French! They love their city, they love their food, they enjoy life and they appreciate good quality of life. What I noticed is that they are very family oriented, they spend time together and do many activities, they care about the city and they appreciate it. They are very welcoming and helpful....and they will help you learn French as English is not popular here as in Paris ;-)," remarked another expat who made the move to Lyon.

"Work generally, with lots of activities organised by the company you work for. There is plenty to do restaurants, bars cinema in the city," explained one expat living in Toulouse, France.

"Since we are retired, our lives do not revolve around a job or company. We socialize with our neighbors and have developed some very close friends among them. Of course, it helps if you speak French. We socialize with families with children although we don't have children ourselves. There isn't any problem with that," said another expat in Orleans.

"Depends on the person! Many people are here as expats working for semiconductor-based companies (there is a large fab at Crolles which is supported by many ancillary companies). There is also a nuclear research establishment, plus computing and other industries. The university is enormous, with something like 50000 students, so there is a good social scene for younger people too. At weekends in particular, the whole area becomes a mecca for snowsport fanatics and lovers of other outdoor activities. If you like the big outdoors, this is the big outdoors! Families are well catered for at the ski resorts, and there are plenty of pools and other activities for those with young kids. A warning though - for stay-at-home parents of young children, be aware that - like everywhere in France - activities tend to open much later than we would expect in the UK, for example, so don't imagine you can go to a library or swimming pool just when it suits you! From an education perspective, there is already an "International School" of sorts from age 6 to 18, but this follows the French curriculum with some emphasis on international matters. Reports vary on how good they are. There are also plans for a "real international school" (with fees to match) following the British education system. This is due to open Sept 2005. French schools are good in this area, so if you want your child to integrate quickly, this is probably the quickest way although obviously their lessons will be entirely in French and will follow the French curriculum exclusively," added another expat who made the move to Grenoble.

"Work and family...though they seem to be fitness mad too - you can't walk down a main street without seeing a jogger," explained one expat living in Strasbourg, France.

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Is there a lot of crime in France?

Live in France? Answer this Question

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Not more then other comparably sized cities in Europe. I find that if I stay out of the troubled areas and habits the crime does not affect me on a personal level. Know what parts of the cities to avoid," commented one expat who made the move to Marseille.

"No, fortunately there is not. However, when the fair or circus is in town/the villages round and about then it is wise to be more careful when in the garden and to make sure all windows and doors are locked," remarked another expat living in Aude and Herault Departments, France.

"Crime?? None that I'm aware of. If you drop a 20 euros bill on the sidewalk, somneone will stop you to tell you. Outside of Paris and the tourist areas people are very honest," added another expat in Pezenas.

Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in France accepting of differences?

Live in France? Answer this Question

"As a small town with few expats & international visitors, there is not an overtly diverse culture, but there are various religious institutions, celebrations of other culture (like "American Night" in the summer), and an organization called "EST Solidarite" dedicated to solidarity with foreigners," explained one expat living in Epinal, France.

"There is no problems with this here. There are many churches different religious groups you can attend. I didn't feel any pressure but only welcomed in new communities," said another expat in Lyon.

"Not very diverse, accepting of differences yes. The people in the English club are very diverse," added another expat who made the move to Moulins.

"Diverse ethnic mix - I am white british and my wife is indian and we have experienced no issues at all. They seem very accepting and polite," explained one expat living in Toulouse, France.

"Religion is never a topic of discussion so I don't know what religious beliefs our friends have. I see many Muslims here and there are many Catholic and Protestant churches and I'm sure there are Jewish temples as well. No one seems to express any opinion on one group of the other so there seems to be a lot of religious tolerance," mentioned another in Orleans.

"The town is a huge mish-mash of people. As with all French towns, there is an ethnic quarter where the less fortunate (financially) often end up living. However, I've never seen or heard of any religious tension per se. During the Iraq war, there was talk of American houses being daubed with paint, but these tended to be the ones with the stars and stripes painted on their garage doors, so maybe they asked for it. Grenoble is basically an affluent city, with pretty much everyone accepted. Like the man said - trouble is like a snake. If you don't go looking for it, it won't come looking for you," explained one expat who made the move to Grenoble.

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

What are the schools in France like?

Live in France? Answer this Question

"Please think CAREFULLY before moving your child to that school as the Group who owns currently focusing on making money not academics, bare in mind that they also own (International School of Nice (ISN), ICS (named ebica before), mainly all the International private schools in the South of France. Doesn't value the money. Low quality of teachers specially English level is a disaster for a British school. Teachers leave in the middle of the course without being replaced except with online recording videos," remarked another expat living in Mougins - Cote D'Azur with children attending Mougins School.

"If you child does not care if he/she will have friends then this is the school for you. Make sure you put on your make up and heels before leaving you house to meet any parents. Big let down at this school. I am glad we are leaving," said another expat in Paris with children at Internatioinal school of Paris.

"I would ask to meet the teachers. The team is strickingly dedicated and passionate. When we first visited, one of the primary teachers (who is a male for once) showed us the experiments they had been doing that afternoon; the children (6 or 7 year-olds) has been designing their own electric circuits ! The teacher was very keen to tell us all about it, and one child explained in a lot detail how he had built his circuit board (my husband and I were rather impressed)," remarked another parent with kids at Forest International School in The western suburb in a town called Mareil Marly.

"This school is not the 'traditional' French model (and that, many say, is why they like it!). Be prepared for lots of homework and your child being closely followed by regular teachers' meetings etc. We are very happy with the school; our children are amongst those like themselves and are very motivated to learn and do well," explained one expat living in Maisons-Laffitte, France.

"If school you do not require or want your child to be in a rigorous academic environment then you will be happy. If you do not plan on transitioning back to the US or an Asian country, then it might be OK. Like I said earlier, I have found the academics behind what we left in the states. They are unwilling to work with you even though they say they will. There has been no communication with the teacher on what is taught in the classroom, little homework, few tests and only one report card 7 months into the year. Also, the kids learn very little French. I have found that they do a great sales job on the school, but do not live up to it. My child is in the lower school. I am not the only one who is unhappy and I also have friends with children in the Upper and middle schools who comment about the same things. So, I would either go in with low expectations for academics and be happy that your child will have other English speaking friends and also a more American like school with sports, prom, graduation or look elsewhere," said another parent with children at The American School of Paris in St Cloud.

"If you want an intimate, enriching environment for your children, with small classes and high teacher engagement, this is a good school. If you are looking for an elite school which puts its reputation first, you would be disappointed here," commented one expat when asked about Ecole Bilingue Eridan in Montpellier.

Is the cost of living in France high?

Live in France? Answer this Question

We asked people how much they someone comfortably live on in France, they wrote:

"This of course depends widely on where you live and what luxuries you will require. To give you an good idea you can find a city centre one bedroom apartment for about 700Euro and a three course meal at a restaurant generally costs me about 50Euro. Groceries are much cheaper then restaurants of course," remarked another expat who made the move to Marseille.

"That all depends on the size of the accommodation, and the lifestyle of the people concerned. Many people seen on the Homes in the Sun programmes buy old, 3 storey properties out in the sticks (beautiful views but not very sensible as you get older). Stay realistic about where you will be in 5 and 10yrs. time. If you are 60 now, then stairs will be a little more difficult in 10yrs. Easy access to daily shopping and living facilities shoul be the top prioriry. If possible, have all you need within walking distance - walking is good for you and makes more sense than getting the car out to get a loaf of bread or pop to the post office for 1 letter," explained one expat living in Aude and Herault Departments, France.

"Comfort depends on your definition. If you expect to have servants, forget it. My income as a retiree is less than $35k and my lifestyle is simple. I travel as a retiree getting discounts where they are available. Often times travel agents will my age and then give me the discount without questions," said another expat in Pezenas.

"Affordable. It's a small town, which means housing and food costs are low, but there's lots of cultural value to be had, which makes the living experience even more valuable," said another expat.

What type of recreational facilities are in France?

Live in France? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in France about recreational activities, they mentioned:

"There are several youth and culture centers (MJCs: Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture) that offer classes and social opportunities on topics like guitar, dance, English, pottery, martial arts, etc. There is also an Olympic pool, great hiking in nearby La Bresse, and several very nice parks within the city (the city rose garden, the park that houses the castle on top of the hill)," remarked another expat living in Epinal.

What is the weather like in France?

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"Temperate. Winters are chilly but bearable, with not much snow. Summers are lovely," mentioned another expat inEpinal.

Are there good restaurants in France?

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"Mostly typical French cuisine. A few foreign cuisines like Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese. There aren't many bars at all. The main hangout is the Irish Pub, which is really small but a fun place to enjoy a beer," said an expat in Epinal.

Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in France?

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"In the downtown area there's a MonoPrix and a Intermarche, and a bit further but still within town is a large E. LeClerq with plenty of selection, There's also a covered marketplace open on Sundays in town, where all the locals prefer to buy fresh cheese, fish, meat, produce, etc. And of course there are plenty of boulangeries for fresh bread and pastries," added one expat living in Epinal.

What are the visa & residency requirements in France?

Live in France? Answer this Question

"Carte de sejour/titre de sejour: residence card. This can be obtained through enrollment in a French university, sponsorship by an employer, marriage to a French citizen, or a few other ways. Details here https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/getting-a-visa/," remarked another expat living in Epinal.

Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in France?

Live in France? Answer this Question

"Very affordable, even before I was on the healthcare system I paid less than 100 euros for full x-rays and a cast for a broken wrist. With healthcare, it's simply covered thanks to higher taxes," remarked another expat in Epinal.

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

France GuideFrance Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in France.

France Forum France Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in France on our France forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

France Index France Index
An index of all of our site's France information.

Contribute to France Network Contribute
Help others in France by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in France.

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