Moving to France
Things to know before moving to France
France borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Andorra, Spain, and the Netherlands. Most of France’s land borders have natural boundaries and geographic features.
Its overseas territories include French Guiana in South America, Saint Pierre and Miquelon in the North Atlantic, the French West Indies, and several islands in Oceania and the Indian Ocean. Due to its several coastal territories, France has the largest exclusive economic zone in the world.
France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country’s largest city and main cultural and commercial center; other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille, and Nice.
France retains its centuries-long status as a global center of art, science, and philosophy. It hosts the fifth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the world’s leading tourist destination, receiving over 89 million foreign visitors in 2018. France is a developed country with the world’s seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest by PPP; in terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development. It remains a great power in global affairs, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and an official nuclear-weapon state. France is a founding and leading member of the European Union and the Eurozone, as well as a key member of the Group of Seven, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and La Francophonie.
Why should you consider moving to France?
France has an incredible healthcare system which is one of universal health care largely financed by government national health insurance. This allows the system to cover 70-100% of your medical costs and up to 65% of your prescriptions. Childcare is also cheaper in France with the state heavily subsidizing carers for younger children. The Government provides a very much-needed helping hand to parents, especially when they cannot be physically present for the child.
France is a great place for raising children due to its high regard for spending quality time with loved ones. High importance is given to family time. Indeed, mealtimes are generally long in France and are always spent with the whole family.
Schools in France are considered of high quality. Schools here combine firm ethics with a friendly approach, and this ensures the best results.
France is a country that has so much to offer in terms of culture, lifestyle, opportunities, and food. English is not the first language spoken by the population. Therefore it is recommended to learn it a little bit before moving. In this way, you will increase your chance to find a job and socialize with locals.
- When deciding to move to France, unless you are already living there, it is better to get in touch with a relocation agent. The agent usually speaks both French and English and can be very useful when it comes to renting or buying a property.
- France does not impose rigid rules on the importation of goods. However, plants and food can be subjected to limitations. Therefore it is always recommended to check and verify any information on governmental websites.
- Moving to France with your pet is really easy. Nevertheless, your furry friend needs to have specific vaccinations before entering the border. If you are considering importing your dog, be aware that France has a list of prohibited breeds that cannot enter the French borders.
Culture of France
Living a good life in France is certainly a dream for many expats. The country offers a great variety of landscapes: French Alps, miles of coastline from north to the sun-kissed French Riviera, and countryside.
In this section, useful tips and tricks will be provided in order to help you to quickly integrate into French culture. An important fact to know is the way a French person communicates. This is done often in a very direct way. A possible reason for this is that the French language is quite precise and determined by factors such as social status, level of education, age, and part of the country people were raised in. This style of communication is often misunderstood as rude by expatriates or tourists. However, French people consider it diplomatic and polite. The main language spoken is French, but some may use their regional dialect.
Public transportation in France is very well developed and efficient. Train, metro, or bus can be easily used to get anywhere in the country. Even countrywide transport to get you between cities runs efficiently.
The French are immensely proud of their nation and government and any negative comments about their country can offend them. Because of this, non-French people often interpret their attitude toward foreigners as rude.
The country’s motto is “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood). Despite these three ideals being considered the pillars of France, many agree upon the fact that French people place higher importance on equality than the other two.
An interesting fact about this country is that in addition to traditional marriage, French couples also can agree upon the so-called pacte civil de solidarité (PACS). This type of union has similar benefits to the traditional marriage procedure, like tax breaks. However, PACS can be dissolved with a notice or by marrying someone else instead of through a divorce.
The most popular sport in France is football. An interesting fact is that the national league in France is called the Ligue 1, and it is considered the fifth-best European league. The second most loved sport is tennis. France hosts one of the major world tennis tournaments in Paris, the Roland Garros tournament. Finally, when talking about sports in France it is worthy to mention the Tour de France, an international cycling road race that attracts a large number of spectators each year.
Public Transport in France
The transport system in France is one of the densest in the world, with more than one million kilometers of roads. Additionally, there is 32,000 km of railways, many leading to and from the capital. Paris, as well as other large cities, shows a very efficient transport network, while in rural areas there is a lack of regular bus services.
French national railway companies run an efficient system, with clean trains and comfortable seats. Most trains have a special family carriage where children can play loudly. Trains start running at approximately 6 a.m and stop running at 12.45 a.m every day. Train trips within France cost an average of € 17.59 ($ 20.32) per 100 kilometers.
“Le Métro” (“the Metro” or subway system) becomes really useful when visiting Paris. There are a total of 16 lines that can get you anywhere in the city. On weekdays, the metro operates from 5:30 a.m. to about 1:15 a.m. On Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as on the eve of bank holidays, trains run until about 2:15 a.m. A single metro ticket costs €1.90 ($ 2,19) and can be used for one journey, including all connections.
Taxis do not have a distinct color as it happens in other cities, but they can be recognized thanks to the taxi sign on top of the car. The usual way to call a taxi In Paris is to hail. A second option is to book a taxi through a taxi app but this might cause extra costs, between € 4 ($4,62) and € 7 ($8,09) in Paris, more in suburban areas. A 5 km journey, for example, costs around € 8 ($ 9,25) per day.
Finding a suitable place in France can be exhausting and time-consuming, especially in Paris. The typical research can take between 2 – 3 weeks, but in Paris, it can be even more. Usually, the best time to start looking for a house in France is May to July while September and October are absolutely the worst months because people return from vacation, and students start a new year.
If your intention is to rent a decent apartment at the right price before your arrival in France, well maybe you should reconsider your option. Landlords strongly prefer to meet tenants in person before signing a contract. Moreover, it is not advisable to commit to renting a flat ‘unseen’. In order to help those who are not living in France yet to rent a property, it is recommended to be in touch with an apartment rental service in order to organize your living arrangements before you arrive.
On the other hand, buying a property in France is not a very difficult process per se but requires a lot of paperwork and due diligence, especially if you are a non-resident. Although there are no restrictions for foreigners who want to buy a house, France does not have a ‘Golden Visa’ or another investment scheme for property purchases. This means that non-EU citizen buyers need to go through the same process as any other non-EU citizen to obtain a visa.
Renting in France as a foreigner
Usually, apartments in Paris tend to be very small and high in price. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Paris city center can be around €1068 ($1238) per month, excluding utilities. However, the price for the same place, but outside of the center, can drop to €798 ($925).
In other French cities, you can more or less half your rental bill compared to living in the capital. Renting a one-bed city center apartment will be just over €600 ($695) a month in Bordeaux or Lyon, falling to an even lower price of just over €500 ($579) a month in Nantes, for example. Although most rentals are usually handled by an estate agent, some landlords prefer to not involve estate agents to save money on the fees. The deposit required for the tenants can be close to one month’s rent.
Furnished or unfurnished apartments?
Rental apartments or houses can be both rented furnished or unfurnished. However, the legislation involves different obligations for tenants.
- Unfurnished: the contract must last at least three years after which it is renewed automatically. This option gives you more rights as a tenant especially if the unfurnished place you found is your main residence.
- Furnished: for one-year minimum. Also in this case it is automatically renewed. Tenant rights, in this case, are slightly less protected because furnished houses tend to be used as holiday homes.
Before you start renting your place, you should find a guarantor on the tenancy. Finding someone who could help with this is fundamental since it’s a common request from landlords who prefer to have as a guarantor someone with a French name. Usually, your employer or bank can help you if you are a young professional.
Requirements and documents to rent
If you are looking to rent an apartment or house in France you should be aware of the documents required. For instance, as a professional, you will be asked to provide a copy of your personal documents, proof of your last tax declaration, proof of income which should be three times higher than the rent, and your residence permit.
Rental process and rules
Once you have found something interesting on the market, it is time to book an agent and a visit to your potential future place. This step should be done with a French speaker since it will make the whole process much smoother.
Once in your apartment or house check everything very carefully. In case you are renting a house in the countryside, your water might come from a nearby well. If so, the landlord must get the water analyzed once a year by the DDASS (abbreviation for the Departmental health and social affairs office).
There are different forms of kitchens:
- Cuisine aménagée
- Cuisine équipée
- Cuisine means the room used as a kitchen is without electric units. Unless specified otherwise, the kitchen room will be just an empty room with only a faucet out of the wall
- Cuisine aménagée, in this case, the room is equipped with cupboards but still without electric units
- Cuisine équipée, this type of kitchen has cupboards as well as some electric units
Rental contract and deposit
The maximum amount that a landlord can ask you for a deposit against damage or default in an unfurnished property is two months’ rent. However, there is no legal cap concerning furnished properties.
Buying a property as a foreigner
If you are considering buying a house in France as a foreigner there is good news for you. It has been estimated that around 64% of French people own property. This means that potentially the market offers wide opportunities. The process of purchasing a property is usually very well-regulated and the process becomes binding very quickly. However, you should bear in mind that there are high fees concerning buying a house. Moreover, you should be in contact with an agent who speaks both English and French to make the whole process smoother.
Requirements to buy a property in France
Foreigners can buy properties in France with no restrictions. However, as a non-resident, you might experience the purchasing process as more difficult. In other words, you will be subjected to extra paperwork. An estate agent can help you deal with the French bureaucracy more efficient and to speed up all the necessary steps. Nonetheless, even in this case, it is highly recommended to read carefully about what taxes you need to pay and what type of visa is required to own, in order to live in your new French property once you bought it.
House prices in France
Prices for property vary significantly across the country. However, it has been estimated that the real estate market will experience a +3.5% increase due to Covid, as the French economy has started to recover from the pandemic.
Average house prices in the largest cities in France located in the city center (calculated per sq meter):
- Paris: €13.852 ($16.049)
- Nice: € 6.325 ($ 7.328)
- Lyon: € 5.100 ($ 5908)
- Marseille: € 3.200 ($ 3707)
Get a mortgage in France
In general, a buyer is eligible to borrow up to 70–80% of a property’s value. However, it is your income that determines how much you can borrow for a mortgage. Furthermore, if your credits are 33% greater than your household income French banks will not be able to further credit you.
It’s always a good idea to get an overall understanding of the different fees that might be involved in a mortgage agreement. For example, notary fees are mostly fixed by law.
Process and steps to buy a house in France
Once you have found your desired french property it becomes crucial to make an offer to the agent as soon as possible. After this first step, the agent will be in contact with the vendor on your behalf and agree on the price that you have set. Until the pre-contract is signed, you will not be bound to any obligation.
The next step is to sign the ‘Compromis de Vente’. In this phase, the contract is signed by both the vendor and purchaser to seal the deal and outline the French property-purchase process.
Shortly after signing the compromis you will be required to pay a deposit to the Notaire and finally, you can sign the Final Contract.
It takes between 6 to 12 weeks to complete all the necessary paperwork for a property purchase.
Guide to additional expenses when buying a home in France
Additional expenses can be between 10 and 15% of the price of the house, in addition to the purchase. These are:
- 1% origination/arrangement fee
- Notary fees, which are fixed by law for the most part, and can be between 6–8% for used property, or 3–5% for properties for a new-build/ off-plan
- A 10% deposit to secure your desired property
Utility companies: Electricity and gas
The price of electricity is relatively low in France compared to the rest of the EU, and this is in part because the country has a developed nuclear power network. For gas and propane, you will find that prices are fairly similar to elsewhere in the EU.
Some of these companies are:
- TotalEnergies (electricity & gas)
- Planete OUI (electricity)
- EDF (electricity)
- Happ-e (gas)
- ENGIE (gas)
The level of water charges in France varies by the municipality as the cost of running the service will depend on many factors. Whilst water and sewerage charges in France remain modest, the costs have risen more noticeably in recent years.
Some water companies:
- EAU de Paris
- The SIAAP
What you need to know
- The provision of the water and drainage service is provided through the local councils
- When you have completed your house purchase you should visit the offices of the local Syndicat, which are normally located in the mairie. Many can also be contacted online.
- Your water supply is metered, so your bill comprises a fixed standing charge (abonnement) and a variable consumption charge.
- Testing of the drinking water supply that takes place in France indicates that there is almost 100% compliance with EU standards
Languages of France
The first and official language of France is French which is spoken by 88% of the population. Minority languages can also be found in specific regions. For example, eastern provinces speak German while Flemish is spoken in the northeast and Italian is spoken in the southeast.
About 300 million people currently speak French. This language can be categorized as the most significant Romance language in the world, with 28 different accents or dialects. It is also the most widespread language in the world and is officially spoken by 29 countries, which makes it the second-most used official language behind English. Although it’s still highly associated with France, most French speakers live in other countries. Some of these countries are:
Moreover, French is also the procedural language for the European Union, the only language used for deliberations at the Court of Justice for the EU, and one of the recognized working languages of the United Nations.
Here are some basic words translated into French:
Goodbye: Au revoir
Please: S’il te plaît
You’re welcome: De rien
In addition to French, there are other languages that part of the population knows, although not representing a consistent majority. In the following table we can see the percentage of the Frech population that speaks these languages:
- French: 88%
- German: 3%
- Arabic: 1.7%
- Italian: 1.7%
If you are considering moving to France you should know that according to the Eurobarometer report 2012, 39% of the French population speaks English. This means that, yes it is not impossible to find a job without speaking French, but it is going to be more difficult. Obviously, it depends on the type of job you are looking for and the region in France.
Minimum wage and average wage
The median annual salary in France is around € 37.713 ($ 43.755) which is just above the OECD average. However, residents are subjected to progressive tax rates.
The minimum wage in France (known as the SMIC) is expected to go up by 2.2% from October 1. As of yet, the minimum salary is €1,539 ($ 1785).
It should be borne in mind that those under 21 are entitled to a lower minimum wage
What is a good salary in France?
The typical salary in France for one year is around € 49,500 ($ 57,437). Salaries tend to range between € 12,500 ($ 14,504), which is the lowest average, to € 221,000 ($ 256,438 which represents the highest average. The average yearly salary indicated is comprehensive of housing, transport, and other expenses. Normally, the great difference between salaries depends on the differences between careers.
Average annual salary
When it comes to calculating the average salary different variables should be taken into account. For example, your field and experience will have a major influence.
Here are some examples of average annual wages:
Occupation Average salary in euros/ in USD:
- Nurse: € 35,900 – $ 41,656
- Primary teacher: € 45,547 – $ 52,850
- Architect: € 46,000 – $ 53,376
- Software Engineer: € 41,143 – $ 47,740
- UX Designer: € 41,637 – $ 48,313
- Web Developer: € 31,815 – $ 36,916
- Product manager: € 46,000 – $ 53,376
The most demanded jobs and their remuneration
France is home to many companies that provide those who are qualified with a diverse range of good jobs. Additionally, the majority of staff are unionized and this involves many rights and excellent job security. Despite this, there is a shortage of qualified workers to fill vacancies in the information technology (IT), health and engineering sectors.
Occupation Average salary in euros/ in USD:
- Professionals from computer science and IT € 45,700 – $ 54,300
- Allied professionals in the healthcare sector: € 74,000 – $ 87,930
- Aerospace, Automotive, Mechanical, Metallurgy, Engineering € 80,300 – $95,420
The work culture of France
- The French workplace is quite formal and conservative.
- Meetings are usually arranged well in advance. There is little time wasted in these meetings.
- There are rarely meetings held without a clear purpose and agenda.
- Usually, at a first meeting, the more formal Monsieur or Madame titles are used, and then introductions include full names.
- A handshake is common among professionals.
- It is considered rude to be late to a scheduled appointment. Punctuality is well-regarded
- There is very much a ‘work hard’ ethos across businesses in France. The usual day is from about 9 am to 6 pm, with a long lunch of anything up to two hours.
- It’s not uncommon to work late into the evening when necessary to meet deadlines.
- There is a little blurring of the boundaries between different job roles.
French Work Culture: Dress Code
In France much importance is given to fashion and appearance: men should wear dark-colored, formal suits. Women can also wear business suits or formal dresses in soft colors. First impressions are largely influenced by appearance. Accessories should be of high quality. One’s appearance is the reflection of his/her social status and success. Always try to wear stylish clothes to look good.
Relocation to France
When moving to France it is important to consider how to move your goods. Although this process might seem challenging, it is not. Many expats tend to choose global moving and relocation companies, due to their experience and reliability. Moreover, global movers can also provide you with storage options.
If you are considering relocating to France with your pets, there are things that need to be sorted out. The best advice is to create a checklist due to the fact that the process to move your pet, especially if you are non-European, can be long. Luckily, there are relocation companies that will be more than happy to help you import your pet to France.
Another matter that needs to be addressed as soon as you arrive in France is signing up for national health insurance. Most expats are eligible for the local universal public healthcare system, Protection Maladie Universelle (PUMA). Additionally to PUMA, there are also private options.
Customs regulations and permits for France
For third-country nationals / moving from outside the EU
There are currently no restrictions regarding the import of alcohol or medication for personal use. You can also import currency into the EU for up to €10,000. You may be checked by customs officers at the borders with countries outside the European Union (third countries). This can also happen anywhere within France or the Community customs territory. These checks are carried out for safety reasons.
Prohibited and restricted items in France:
- Plants and plant products require a Common Health Entry Document for Plant Protection.
- Live animals (including pets) and animal-based products are subject to a mandatory health inspection at the first point of entry on EU territory. They must also have a microchip or tattoo
- Meat, milk, and other dairy products for personal consumption are allowed in EU countries
- Plants, flowers, fruit, and vegetables are allowed in small quantities from EU countries and in some cases, non-EU countries
You cannot enter the following items in France:
- Narcotic and psychotropic drugs (except when accompanied by a prescription, medical certificate, or import and export authorization).
- Counterfeit goods.
- The following breeds of dogs are prohibited: Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Mastiffs/Boerboels, Tosas, and Molossers.
- Endangered species and their derivative products are protected under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- Pornographic products or objects include the representation of minors.
France requires different visas based on the purpose of your stay. Whether you are a student or a worker you need to make sure to be well informed on the visa requirements before your arrival.
A France residence permit is a document that allows its holder to stay in France and is mandatory for every foreigner that comes to France with the purpose of staying more than three months. Without it, you will be considered an illegal resident in France and be unable to get access to many state services and aid.
Nationals of the European Union and Switzerland are exempt from the requirement of obtaining a French residence permit. Nevertheless, they will still need to register with the authorities if they intend to remain in France for more than six months. Of course, even in this case, they too are suggested to obtain a residence permit, upon their arrival in France, in order to have access to state services and aid, as mentioned above.
France short-stay visa holders, who are permitted to stay in France for a maximum of three months, do not need to obtain a residence permit in France.
Work permits and employment-based visas
The company should submit the work permit application at least three months before the employee would be able to start working. The recruitment of a foreign employee who is not in possession of a visa or residence permit requires a specific work permit.
What documents do you need?
There are documents you may need when moving to work in France. These are the following:
- Completed French Work Visa Application Form.
- Proof of financial means.
- Certificate of criminal record showing that you have had no open crime case involvement.
- Proof of paid French work visa fee.
Whether you need a France long-stay Work Visa or not, it all depends on your nationality and the part of France you wish to visit.
There are some categories of internationals who wish to enter France for work purposes and remain for more than three months that do not need to obtain a long-stay visa in order to be permitted to stay.
Requirements for a work permit in France
There are some professions, such as doctors, lawyers, architects, etc. who will need authorization from the relevant professional body. In case you need a visa for working in an international organization, then you need to take an official assignment in France.
France work permit application form
The company should submit the work permit application at least three months before the employee is due to take up their role.
Do you need a residence permit in France?
A French residence permit is a document that allows you to stay in the country and is mandatory for every foreigner that comes to France with the purpose of staying more than three months. If you are a citizen of any European Union country, European Economic Area national, or Switzerland then you do not need a visa, work permit, or residence permit to settle in France.
In case you are a citizen of another state and you hold a visa or a residence permit issued by an EU, EEA, or Swiss member state then you can travel within the Schengen Area for up to 3 months. To work in France, you will normally have to apply for a work permit.
Long-term visa application
- Work visas
- Study visas
- Family visas
- Extended private stay visas