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Top Tips For Expats Moving To France

As with all overseas assignments, research before moving to France is key and a short trip to learn more about a potential destination will be well advised.

In addition, it is also good advice that anybody thinking of moving to France on a long-term basis should make some effort to learn the language; French is the only official language and though many people can speak English, making the effort to converse in French will pay dividends.One big attraction of moving to France as an expat is the excellent transport links to other French cities as well as neighbouring countries.

France is not just a popular destination for those expats looking to live and work for several years; it’s also a popular choice for expat retirees who get excellent social welfare and a decent quality of life.

There’s no doubt that living in France gives access to a very good healthcare system, though expats will need to have private healthcare insurance cover as well.

Understand immigration issues

The first tip when moving to France is to appreciate the country’s immigration requirements, so for expats from other EU countries they can move there and take up a job offer, while those from outside of the European Union will need to get a visa.

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It should be appreciated that for skilled and highly qualified expats, gaining a visa is relatively straightforward but for expats who don’t have the skills required by French employers then the process may be more difficult.

Where in France?

France is a very large country with a variety of climates and not all of the expat opportunities are in Paris – there are excellent opportunities spread around the country though they tend to be in the larger cities.

In recent years there has been a population drift towards urban centres so the cities themselves are actually very large whilst the countryside is relatively sparse. It’s worth bearing this in mind when an expat is offered an opportunity in France since the urban centres will have more opportunity, better skills and better transport links.

Find somewhere to live

Housing in France can be relatively expensive, though not for expats moving from Los Angeles or London, for instance, but the price of accommodation will be more expensive than most expats are probably budgeting for.

There are also downsides in trying to source housing while in an expat’s home country. Paris is particularly difficult to find an apartment to buy or rent because prices are very high and demand means they are not available for long.

It may be a good idea to find temporary housing for the first month or two and then the expat has time to find something more permanent for their longer-term aims.

Culture shock

All expats moving to another country suffer a degree of culture shock but France has some of its own specific surprises, and not just an insistence to speak French in public places.

There will be a learning curve and many expats will need to appreciate little things like saying ‘bonjour’ when entering a shop or cafe and ‘merci beaucoup, au revoir’ when leaving. This is a traditional greeting and a sign of respect for those it is directed to.

In addition, some expats may be taken aback at the lack of online access for various things, particularly with local councils and government departments. For instance, they may be used to paying for their child’s school lunches via an online platform but it’s more than likely while in France they will need to prepay their child’s lunches with a small ticket bought from a shop.

Another good tip for expats new to France is to do part of their research on French language sites of popular favourites such as TripAdviser and Timeout – not only will this help them polish their language skills but the reviews will be more honest and helpful to the expat. They can always use Google Translate if struggling.

Keep calm

In a similar vein to the culture shock an expat may experience in France, they should also know how to greet French people properly which means usually a kiss or two on the cheek, sometimes three or even four times. French people will rarely hug those they do not know very well.

Also, expats moving to France in 2017 should also appreciate that the French are formal most of the time so it will be a requirement to use the terms Monsieur or Madame and use ‘vous’ instead of ‘tu’ until the French person invites an expat to use their first name.

Also, the French way of doing many things may appear to be slow and laborious, particularly where bureaucracy is involved, but expats should not lose patience at what can be a frustrating experience and should always remember to keep every piece of official paperwork they receive – just in case.


Finally, this article would not be complete without talking about money; while France can be an expensive country to live in, there’s also a lot to recommend living like the locals, certainly more so than in other countries.

That’s because there are still some very cheap cafes and bistros available offering traditional cuisine and lots of markets for preparing fresh meals as well.

Indeed, by immersing themselves into the local culture, an expat will find their life in France is not just rewarding but also life changing in a country that has so much to offer those who are willing to learn and adapt to the French way of life.

Have you lived in France? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

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