One of the more popular destinations for expats is France. France is one of the cultural centers of the world and those of us who are interested in the arts, nightlife, education, the Mediterranean, and European history will be fascinated by France. For most Americans, becoming an expat in France is easily accomplished. However, visitors who are not students or retirees might experience some difficulty. It may be possible to surpass this difficulty by either entering France as a representative of one’s employer (company) or by establishing a business. It is relatively easy to travel in and out of France with a visitor’s visa. Visas are usually valid for 90 days. After the 90 day period, a visitor’s visa can be renewed by leaving and then returning to France.
France offers its visitors the best of two worlds. Whether a visitor wants to live in a major city such as Paris or enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle made popular in Nice, St. Tropez, and the rest of Provence, he/she can do both in France. With so much diversity and interesting things to keep anyone occupied for a lifetime, France could possibly be the top destination for an American expat.
France is a rather large European country that boasts many different regions, each with a different climate. Most of the country has a seasonal climate, similar to that of the United States. Paris has four seasons that mimic some US cities, however the weather in France tends to be less extreme than the United States’. Paris gets cold in the winter and it snows from time to time. However, large snow storms are very rare. The spring time usually comes a little sooner and it can be very hot in the summer. However, the heat does not usually go beyond the 80’s, and is accompanied by a lovely breeze.
France is also home to the Alps, a mountain range that runs through sections of France. Alps weather is characterized by much harsher conditions, especially during the winter months. The vast amount of snow transforms the French Alps into a winter wonderland for people who enjoy winter activities like skiing and snowboarding.
The South of France offers much milder weather. Cities such as Nice and Cannes and towns such as St. Tropez are mild all year round with some hot spots during the summer. Anyone who enjoys sunny weather should definitely visit the South of France.
The government of France has a deep history of democracy and was in fact one of the driving forces behind the Americans developing their own democracy and constitution. Today, the government of France is based on a semi-presidential system. The current French government declares itself secular, democratic, and a social republic. France is one of the many countries in Europe that has a socialist ideology and government. However, those who want to establish a business or purchase real estate do not have to worry as the market is relatively open and free.
Most expats can stay in France for up to 90 days on a tourist visa. When the 90 days expire, they must leave the country, get their passport stamped in a non-Schengen country, and then can reenter France. French employers should provide their foreign employees with the necessary tools to get a long term working visa.
The tax rates in France are notoriously high. Fortunately, the wages paid in France are high as well. The top rate for individual income tax is around 48.1%, much higher than many European countries. Corporate tax rates are a little lower, but still high at 33.8%. There is a value added tax and a business tax. Tax revenue makes up a significant portion (43.7%) of the gross domestic product.
Medical care in France is one of the best in the world. Hospitals, clinics, and doctors offices offer modern, well equipped, and comfortable medical experiences. France has always been one of the leaders in health care, and getting coverage and finding medical care in almost any region is usually easy to do.
Most U.S health insurers will reimburse expats who are traveling abroad. French companies that employ expats will provide health insurance for them. The French government provides an 85% medical care subsidy for its citizens. Healthcare in France is much more affordable for expats than it is in the US.
Expats who are not employed in France but want health insurance should purchase travel medical insurance. It costs about $3 a day and covers serious injuries, illnesses, and hospitalization. Additionally, there is usually a provision for evacuation.
The cost of French real estate is very high, especially in desirable places such as Paris and the South of France. France’s strong currency, the Euro, makes it even more difficult to afford real estate there. While it is relatively easy to purchase a house or apartment in France, renting one can be difficult. Most landlords require documents such as official work permits before renting out an apartment. French employers can help their employees get an apartment, especially in the city.
Many apartments in France are at least 100 years old. This means that the buyer/renter may have to do some renovations and that apartments may not be as modern or comfortable as they are in the U.S. However, this is part of the charm of living in France.
Homes cost from EU200K to well over one million Euros in big cities. Good quality apartments have rental fees of EU2000 per month. Expats have the option of sharing a flat with friends, which will cost them between EU400 and EU600 per month.
France has some of the best shopping in the world. Visitors can find almost anything their heart desires, from dollar stores to top of the line couture boutique shops. Some of the world’s rich and famous come to France simply to shop for some of the world’s best clothing, food, and crafts.
French food is considered one of the best in the world. France is littered with many wonderful bistros and full service restaurants that cook amazing dishes. French dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients and their creams, cheeses, meats, bread, and fish are of the finest quality. Expats are also attracted by the wonderful open markets that sell fresh cheeses, meats, produce, fish, and flowers.
Expats are also drawn to France’s wonderful entertainment which includes theater, live music, art exhibitions, museums, and of course street performers. Wine lovers probably already know that France is one of the largest producers of wine and champagne in the world and the quality is second to none. Expats who need inspiration, energy, and constant excitement will have these desires fulfilled in France.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in France is one of the highest in the world. France should be one of the top destinations for wealthy visitors. Visitors with little cash to spare can also experience the thrills of France, though they might have to live below the level they are used to. Housing expenses take up the majority of one’s income. Food, transportation, taxes, and entertainment consume the rest.
Anyone who wants to briefly venture outside of the U.S. should visit France. Anyone who is interested in a long term stay needs a reasonable income to live comfortably.
Web Sites for Expats in France
Expat France is an online community for English speaking families living in France.
Americans in France is a web site aimed at helping Americans to better understand France, its people, and culture. It is run by Jeff Steiner, an American living in Reignier France, a guy with a laptop, an Internet connection and hopefully a good idea. Jeff does not think of himself as a Francophile. Instead, he considers himself to be someone who, over the last few years, has had the opportunity to study France and her culture; one who has seen and learned some of the differences between the French and Americans.
AngloINFO provides the English-language information you need for life in France.
Country guide to France from ExpatForum.com.
Excellent guide to Southern France.
Blogs from Expats in France
Living in France and daily life for a UK expat in France.
Vivi, who had lived on the East Coast of America all her life, married the love of her life in July, 2004, who just happened to be French. They moved to France in September, 2004 and she’s been blogging ever since.
La Coquette is a blog by Elisabeth Fourmont, a 26-year-old American who is really French and has returned to the land of her father(s). She lives in the Latin Quarter across the hall from her cousin Jeanne. She has no pets.
American expat in Nice working as a technical writer and French-English translator.
Paris has been my home for a decade. After living ‘in sin’ for 8 years, I left my partner for a man I met on my blog. I now live alone with my daughter Tadpole; her daddy, Mr Frog, lives nearby. Just when I thought things were back on an even keel, I got dooced.