Maybe you want to move to France for the job opportunities. Or the palaces of the Loire Valley, beaches of the Côte d’Azur and vineyards of Burgundy.
Let’s face it, maybe like most of us, you just love cheese.
But before you get swept up in the country’s charm and pack up your life to move abroad, there are a few things you should consider, like where exactly do you want to live… and why?
- How Do I Get a Visa to Work in France?
- How Much Does It Cost to Live in France?
- What’s French Culture Like?
- The 6 Best Places to Live in France
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How Do I Get a Visa to Work in France?
If you’re from a country in the European Union, great news—you don’t require a visa to live and work in France! However, if you come from another country, you’ll apply for either a short-term or long-term work visa.
For a stay over three months, you’ll need to work with a prospective employer who can provide you with the relevant documentation to apply for a work permit.
You can find more on the process of applying for a work permit and acquiring the correct documents on the French government’s visa website.
Besides permanent job opportunities, there are many areas of France that offer seasonal, tourist-based jobs, such as cities near the Alps or on the Côte d’Azur. These gigs are particularly popular with young people and students.
How Much Does It Cost to Live in France?
Like anywhere in Europe, living in big cities will cost the most.
The most expensive areas are around the Côte d’Azur and Paris, with a two-bedroom apartment costing a minimum of about 1,500 USD per month. That being said, if you’re okay with living in a cozier apartment, you’ll find your money goes a lot further.
In the smaller cities and regions—some of them the best places to live in France—housing is much more affordable, dropping to between 600 and 1,200 USD for a two-bedroom apartment. You’ll also find additional charges applied on top of your rent for building facilities, so don’t overstretch your rent budget!
Most French cities boast great public transportation systems, with bus, tram and subway networks available, helping to reduce transportation costs. A number of cities are bike-friendly, too. You can expect to pay around 200 USD per month for transportation.
Groceries will likely cost you around 400 USD per month. You’ll need to make sure you have sufficient health insurance to cover your stay, which will be a minimum of 50 USD per month.
What’s French Culture Like?
You can never prepare yourself entirely against culture shock, but most people find the French culture a relatively easy one to integrate into.
While reserved at first, the French will generally open up to foreigners and be keen to share their lifestyle of wining, dining and good conversation! However, outside of the major cities, you’ll need to speak French to be able to actively participate.
Etiquette in France is very important, and you might need to brush up on your knowledge. For example, it’s fundamental that you acknowledge and greet people politely, even if you’re in a hurry!
However, for your troubles, you’ll be a part of a society steeped in culture, tradition and amazing gastronomic offerings. You’ll never go hungry in the country that brought the world Champagne, Camembert, brioche and baguettes.
If you want to learn more about French culture and etiquette, authentic French media can give you insight on how you can integrate with locals. One resource that can help you with this is FluentU, a video-based platform with language learning features that can get you ready to communicate with the locals at a cafe in Paris or a sailboat in Brittany.
The 6 Best Places to Live in France
Once upon a time, expats flocked only to Paris to work. Or if they were feeling particularly exotic, Lyon or Nice.
However, some of the best opportunities to immerse yourself in French culture can be found outside of the biggest cities. The following places provide you a taste of the many options awaiting you in France.
If you’re a lover of the great outdoors, Annecy will be right up your alley.
It’s situated just a short drive from Geneva, Switzerland, but this French city offers a much cheaper cost of living, Annecy is a base for all sorts of outdoor activities. With skiing in winter and sailing, hiking, and cycling in summer, you’ll enjoy year-round activities in a gorgeous setting. For a truly beautiful sight, spend some time in its old town!
Annecy’s proximity to the Swiss border makes it the perfect base for travel through Europe.
As well as featuring in Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 classic “Where Do You Go To My Lovely?” Juan-les-Pins is famous for its laid-back attitude, pristine beaches and summer living.
It’s not cheap to reside on the beautiful Côte d’Azur, but Juan-les-Pins is much more cost effective than nearby Nice or Cannes—and much more relaxed.
Due to the job opportunities in the tourism industry in nearby Nice, many people make the short commute to the capital of the French Riviera. And with the Nice airport only 13 kilometers away, it offers ample opportunity to explore greater Europe.
Toulouse is consistently rated one of the best places to live in France. It’s perfect for families, with lots of quality institutions for all levels of study.
The beautiful pink city is a sight to behold. The climate benefits from the warm Mediterranean breezes, resulting in a balmy summer and mild winter, perfect for outdoor activities nearly all year round.
As well as offering a stable and peaceful work environment—particularly if you’re able to snaffle employment at Airbus, its largest company—it’s also a relaxing destination for tourists.
While it might not have some of the flashy attractions of the bigger French cities, Toulouse is the ideal location to raise a family and have a comfortable lifestyle. Well, as comfortable as one can be in a new country!
As someone who loves sailing, the rugged coastline of Brittany has always appealed to me. It seems to appeal to plenty of other foreigners, too, because Brittany is one of the most popular expat areas in France.
If you’re looking to buy a house, Brittany offers some of the cheapest real estate around, and in some of the quaintest villages.
With plenty of medieval towns, fresh seafood and the opportunity to explore the great outdoors by foot or boat, it’s a unique corner of France to reside.
Sick of the concrete-gray city life? Don’t give up yet! Nantes offers a fantastic compromise, with a wide range of job opportunities in a beautifully green city, dotted with parks and public spaces.
Most of the city’s inhabitants are close to a public transportation stop, and accommodation prices are a lot cheaper than the French capital.
Nantes offers a fantastic quality of life, with a cosmopolitan setting and educated population. The surrounding region offers everything from dense forests to seaside resorts. And if you have a yearning for the big city lights of Paris, it’s only two hours by high-speed train.
Speaking of which, it wouldn’t be an article about living in France without mentioning Paris.
The city of love and lights is a dream destination for many. Unfortunately, this does mean that living in the city is an expensive endeavor, with the cost of living being the highest in all of France.
However, don’t write off Paris just yet! The city is abuzz with employment opportunities in business, banking and legal.
Plus, if you’re willing to compromise on space, you can still find somewhat reasonably priced apartments near the city center. Let’s face it… with the restaurants of Paris on your doorstep, who needs a full size kitchen?
The opportunities to wander down the Rue de Rivoli on your lunch break and to explore the Tuileries on your weekend might be enough to justify living in a shoebox for a few years.
There’s no such thing as an ugly French city… or a bad French cheese. Regardless of your reasons for moving to France, know that you’re about to have the time of your life.
An experienced writer, traveler and communications professional, Samantha Wilson splits her time between New Zealand and Dubai, with a lot of travel packed in between—visiting 20 countries in 2017/2018. In her spare time, she blogs at The 58th Floor and shares photos of her travels on Instagram.
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