France is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, but some travelers love it so much that they decide to relocate there permanently. If you’re thinking about the pros and cons of living in France, there are definitely a few things to consider.
Moving to France has plenty of advantages, such as the stellar healthcare system and work-life balance that goes hand in hand with French culture. At the same time, you may also deal with a few downsides, like super high taxes and a high cost of living.
As someone with family in France, I can shed a little light on what it’s really like living in one of the most visited countries in the world. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of living in France!
A Quick Overview & Comparison
|Pros of Living in France||Cons of Living in France|
|Strong healthcare system||Dated housing|
|Paid holidays||High cost of living|
|Stress-free culture||High taxes|
|Great public transport||Language barrier|
The Pros of Living in ‘France
1. Strong Healthcare System
In a post-COVID world, a good healthcare system is important, and France is known to have one of the best in the world.
Both the individual and the state come together to pay for healthcare costs in France, and the scheme is available to expats who have been living in France for three months and intend to live there for another three months minimum.
The quality of healthcare has contributed to the life expectancy of the average French resident being 83. There is also one doctor for every 1,000 citizens, and appointments are generally easy to get (without long wait times).
You can see a specialist in France without first getting a referral, and there are free preventive procedures available, including free medical check-ups every two years.
2. Paid Holidays
France is one of the best countries in Europe when it comes to paid holidays. Employees get 30 days of annual leave per year.
There are also additional paid days off given in some circumstances, depending on how long someone has been employed by the company.
There are 11 public holidays in France, with many employers considering them to be paid time off. If you do work on Labour Day in France as an employee, you’ll be entitled to 200% of your pay.
If that weren’t good enough, the average working week in France is shorter than you might be used to, at just 35 hours.
3. Stress-Free Culture
The general pace of life tends to be more relaxed in France (and other southern European nations) than it is in the U.K. and the U.S.A. As meals are considered a staple part of French culture, it’s not unusual to have a 90-minute lunch on a working day.
In some parts of France, businesses close for two hours in the middle of the day, allowing their employees to relax during a long lunch, and then stay open later .
It’s hardly surprising, then, that a 2018 survey cited by Move Hub found that 79% of people who moved to France were happy with their choice to relocate.
4. Great Public Transport
France is brimming with amazing destinations that you’ll want to visit when you live there, and thankfully, the solid public transport system makes it easy to get around.
In particular, the system of high-speed trains will allow you to travel great distances from one side of the country to the other in minimal time. The train network also allows you to easily visit many smaller towns that are off the beaten track.
When it comes to Paris, in particular, the city is served by a convenient metro system that has 380 stations to help you get around the city with ease.
5. Gender Equality
In terms of gender equality, France is one of the more progressive countries of Europe. In 2019, France was found to legally guarantee equality across genders (and was one of just six nations to do so).
There are workplace laws in France that target sexual harassment, as well as those targeting domestic violence. France also offers 16 weeks of paid parental leave for expectant mothers.
France is relatively progressive when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, having decriminalized same-sex marriage before both the U.S. and the U.K., and was ranked third in the world in 2018 by Rainbow Europe for protecting LGBTQ+ rights.
The Cons of Living in France
6. Dated Housing
Before you get your hopes up, living in the average accommodation in France is a far cry from the Palace of Versailles. Housing is understandably dated, which means there might be a lack of modern creature comforts or appliances that you consider a necessity in your digs.
Living in an historic French home might be a tick on your bucket list, but the reality is many homes require refurbishments—or an adjustment in modern standards—to be considered liveable. When homes do have more space and amenities, they tend to be quite expensive.
7. High Cost of Living
The cost of living in France is higher than in other European nations, such as Italy. Some cities in France are cheaper than others, but some are also extremely costly even by world standards—Paris is actually the second most expensive city on the planet.
It’s important to keep in mind that the average French salary is higher compared to elsewhere in Europe, to correlate with the higher cost of living.
If you’d like to live in France but are worried about budgeting, housing, and utilities will likely be cheaper in cities such as Bordeaux.
8. High Taxes
For a long time, France had the highest taxes in Europe. That’s no longer the case, as Denmark took the top spot in 2019. However, French taxes are still relatively high by world standards.
Personal income in France can be taxed at a rate of 45%, plus there are surtaxes on portions of personal income over EUR 250,000.
Note that there are lower tax rates for those supporting children, and people are taxed on household earnings rather than individual earnings.
9. Language Barrier
One of the biggest disadvantages of living in France for an English speaker is the language barrier. Obviously, French is spoken in France, and many locals will expect you to at least have a basic understanding of their language if you’re living there.
However, there are several cost-effective resources you can use to learn French before you move over, whether you decide to attend French classes or use an app like Duolingo.
Immersion is one of the best techniques you can use to learn a language, so you’ll probably find that you pick up more fluency once you move to France and participate in daily life activities, like shopping and working.
France is known for its progressive values when it comes to some fronts, but there are still undercurrents of discrimination running through French society.
Notably, French lawmakers banned religious head coverings in schools and government buildings in 2004, and full face coverings in public spaces in 2011.
The country is culturally diverse and migrant communities can thrive in France, but laws like the above prevent total freedom for all residents.
This is only a con depending on what country you’re coming from, but French weather is known for being gray and bleak.
If you’re relocating from London, for example, you’ll be used to cloudy skies, so dealing with the French weather will be no problem. But if you’re coming from somewhere that’s a little sunnier, even in winter, you may be in for a shock.
Of course, if you’re moving to the south of France, you’ll get to enjoy Mediterranean conditions which will hopefully offer a little more sunshine. Otherwise, expect rainy springs and autumns and cold winters with gray skies.
What are the safest areas in France?
France is listed at number 67 on the Global Peace Index in 2023, which means that, statistically speaking, it’s not the safest country in Europe to live in. That said, it is still significantly safer than the United States, which is ranked at 131.
Despite this not-great peace ranking, many travelers and expats feel totally safe in France. But you can feel even safer by choosing areas that are known to have lower levels of crime.
According to Travel Safe Abroad, the safest cities in France include Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Le Havre, and Nice.
What are the unsafe areas in France?
The area of France that has the highest level of crime is Nantes, which sits on the Loire River in western France. The gun death rate here is 2.83 per 100,000 residents (via Teleport).
It goes without saying that whenever you visit a tourist hotspot, whether you’re in France or anywhere else, it’s important to stay vigilant. Cities like Paris may be statistically safe where violent crime is concerned, however tourists attract scammers and perpetrators of petty crime, such as pickpockets and muggers.
Regardless of where you choose to live in France, always keep your wits about you. In areas with higher crime rates, it’s advisable to avoid walking alone at night.
What are the best places to live in France?
When many people dream of living in France, their first thought is Paris. While Paris can be a great place to live, there are still many other fantastic destinations in France to consider.
If you’re trying to decide where to live in France, consider your personal needs. For example, if safety and security is something you’re worried about, stick to statistically safe destinations, such as Bordeaux.
On the other hand, if you want to live somewhere with nice weather, a village in Dordogne, with its 200 days per year of sunshine, would be a great pick.
Montpellier is a great option if you’re looking for a larger city but don’t want to deal with the tourists you’d get in Paris. On the flip side, if you want to live life in the fast lane in France, there’s no harm in relocating to a hotspot like Nice or Paris. Along with those crowds come opportunities for a thriving work and social life.
Are there sharks in the water in France?
Though you wouldn’t typically connect French waters with sharks, there have indeed been shark sightings in France. In total, 47 species have been found in French waters (via Sharks Insider).
Most of the sharks in France are found in the Mediterranean Sea, though there are also those in the English Channel and in the North Atlantic.
While shark attacks in France are rare, it’s still important to listen to local warnings about beaches which are safe for swimming, and those that aren’t.
Is France a good place to retire?
If you’re at retirement age, France can be an ideal destination in which to base yourself. The country isn’t work-obsessed, instead being renowned for 90-minute workday lunches, so it’s a great place to connect with others who aren’t completely consumed by their careers (whether they’ve retired or not).
In general, the pace of life in France is slower, which may suit a retiree as they start to slow down themselves. There are also many fantastic travel destinations within France, from gems in the French Riviera to alpine villages in the north, so you’d rarely run out of things to do with your free time.
Additionally, France has great healthcare and a long life expectancy, so there’s a sense of security in knowing that if you were to get sick or need medical assistance, it would be accessible.
What’s the median home price in France?
As of July 2023, the average price of a house in France is $519,000, while the average apartment costs $329,000 (via My Dolce Casa).
Keep in mind that this is just an average. Exact prices will vary depending on where in France they’re located and what kind of property it is.
What types of properties are in France?
There are several different kinds of properties in France, one of the most iconic being the Haussmann style that you’ll see in much of Paris.
These buildings are categorized by having around six storeys and usually stairs rather than elevator access, as many date back to the 19th century (via Property Guides).
You can also get more modern dwellings in France, along with traditional properties such as longère homes that are similar to longhouses and found in the country, and of course, chalets, farmhouses, and chateau properties.
What is the food like in France?
French cuisine is renowned around the world, and you’ll get to enjoy the very best of it made with authentic, local, and superior ingredients.
Though many think of fine dining and Michelin stars when thinking of French cuisine, you can also get plenty of more relaxed meals throughout France, particularly in non-touristy areas.
That said, if you’d like to eat the best of the best, there are 630 Michelin-star restaurants in the country.
Though escargot, French onion soup, and crème brulee may sometimes be on the menu, staples in the typical French diet include bread, butter, full-fat cheese, grilled and sauteed vegetables, fresh fruit, fish and chicken (and sometimes red meat), dark chocolate, and of course, wine (via WebMD).