Why expats are still happy about life in France

Despite the fear over the heightened risk of terror attacks, expats are still very much content with the quality of life in France, a new survey has shown. Although there are drawbacks as well as positives.

Why expats are still happy about life in France
Photo: Dennis Jarvis/FLickr

Looking on from abroad France may seem like a country in turmoil right now given the terror threat, the community tensions in certain areas and the often poisonous political debate shown in the recent burqini row, but expats still rate the quality of life on offer, according to the new Expat Insider survey by expat network InterNations.

Overall France ranked a lowly 41 out of 67 countries in the Top Destinations for Expats in 2016, with Taiwan, Malta, Ecuador topping the table, although this was a rise on last year’s position of 47th.

But there were plenty of positives to take from the report, which is based on the views of expats.

For a start even with its political instability and the ongoing terrorist threat, 77 percent of participants in the latest InterNations survey said they still felt safe living in France, although this was down from last year’s figure of 84 percent. 

And despite being ranked 41st overall, France did score highly in certain areas, which can explain why the country continues to be attractive to those who move here – particularly pensioners.

The Positives

Quality of life

France ranked 15th out of the 67 countries when it came to overall quality of life.

Some 78 percent of expats surveyed by InterNations were satisfied with the quality of life in the land of cheese and wine, with opportunities to travel around the country and healthcare options being amongst the main perks.

Expats reported satisfaction with the country’s infrastructure and 83 percent of them said they were particularly happy with the transport infrastructure. Anyone who has whizzed across France on a TGV train will no doubt vouch for that.

The country’s healthcare also got a positive rating, with four out of six expats finding the price of healthcare to be very affordable. 

One American expat said: “I love the joie de vivre, the appreciation of nature, food, and culture. I like that healthcare is affordable for all and I’m not sure I can ever get used to US healthcare costs again after living here. 
“I love the six to eight weeks of vacation time my husband has, so we can travel a lot more than we ever
could back in the US.
Leisure time

French are known for being better at getting the work/life balance right and for prioritizing their joie de vivre. 

With comparably less working hours than their global counterparts (just 36.3 hours a week as a opposed to the global average of 41.4 hours) employed expats in France have more time to have fun.

The InterNations survey found that expats in France particularly appreciate this aspect of French life, 84 percent of them were happy with their increased leisure time.

Family life

With better and more affordable childcare, expats in France consider the quality of family life as a big advantage to living in the country.

Some 69 percent of expat parents in France are satisfied with childcare options in the country, which is above the global average of 60 percent.

Whilst it has been knocked of the top ten this year in the Family Life Index (it's ranked 11th), France is still viewed favourably among parents with costs and options for childcare and education all receiving positive opinions from expats. 

But being ranked 41st out of 67 suggests there are drawbacks…

The Negatives

The economy

France’s fragile economy is pointed out as a problem for expats in France, with only one in twenty feeling “very good” about the state of the economy (compared to a worldwide average of 17 percent).

Some expats find they are financially worse off upon starting a new life in France, with their incomes decreasing.

Money worries are also some of the biggest potential disadvantages for expats, including the levels of taxation and the cost of living in France.

Difficulty settling in

The French get a bad reputation for being rude to visitors, and while many of The Local France's readers will fiercely dispute this, the expats who responded to the InterNations survey suggested the perceived lack of warmth from the hosts was an issue.

Many expats reported the lack of a warm welcome in France as being one of the more difficult aspects of life there.

The friendliness of the French is rated as below average by expats, with only 14 percent of them happy with the general friendliness of the population (compared to the global average 29 percent).

“It is difficult to make French friends, they tend to have closed, tight-knit communities,” said one respondent to the survey.

The language

Most expats also agree that it is hard to settle in without being able to speak the language, with some even complaining about the lack of English spoken in everyday situations.

In a comment that will no doubt rile many who have managed to master the language, one expat said: “The language barrier is a pain. A real pain that I would change if I could. I came for an English MBA, but outside of my school, no one speaks English. It is hard to shop for food, go to restaurants, get a mobile plan, etc. The basics are tough, even going to see a doctor.”

Essentially expats concluded that it is vital to speak French if you want to be happy in France.

There may not be many expats who would disagree with that.

A typical expat?

The survey revealed that in France the average age of an expat in France is around 44, but France is also a favourite amongst retirees. Some 12 percent of expats in France are retired, which is significantly higher than the global average.

There are more female expats than male in France, with 60 percent of the expat population being female. Women are also more likely than their male counterparts to move to France, with 13 percent of female expats stating that as their primary reason for relocating. But whilst moving to be with a partner or for a new job are among some of the popular reasons for expats coming to France, a better quality of life appears as the top reason for making the move.

CLICK HERE for a look at the full survey.

by Fatima Al-Kassab

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


From TV to snacks: Tips for how to get your home comforts in France

Here are some tips for how to get your favourite TV shows and snacks whilst living in France so you can enjoy at least some of the comforts from home.

From TV to snacks: Tips for how to get your home comforts in France
Photo: AFP
There’s nothing quite like sitting down in front of the TV with a cup of tea and Mars Bar or Snickers.
But tuning into the your favourite shows or hunting down your favourite tea bags isn’t always easy when you’re living in France.

The easiest way to tune into English-language TV from your home in France is via a satellite dish. 

For Brits living in France, installing a dish and FreeSat box will get you up to 140 TV and radio channels from back home, so you can tune into the latest series of the Great British Bake Off without a hitch. 

You make a one-off payment and then you’re set – no contract necessary.

To set your satellite connection up and pointed in the right direction, get in touch with an installer such as The French HouseDD ElectronicsDigiTV Solutions or FreeSat in France

But if you don't fancy (or just can't) install a big dish on your house then watching TV via the internet is your other option.

There are sites like Film On TV, which used to be free, but now you'll probably have to pay to watch your favourite channels, although it still offers some programmes free for a certain amount of time.

Many expats have turned to VPNs (Virtual Private Network) for their laptops which essentially disguises what country you are in, so you can watch your favourite TV programmes online.

But TV companies like the BBC and Sky are cracking down on VPNs and making it harder for expats to connect. However the EU is putting pressure on broadcasters to allow people to watch TV no matter what country they are in. SO things may change for the better in the future.

Finally, British expats who split their time between the UK and France BBC iPlayerAll4Sky Go and ITV Hub all allow UK TV licence payers to download programmes and keep them for around 30 days. So you could stock up when you go home and settle into the sofa for 30 days when you get back.

American readers missing their TV shows will be pleased to know there's an option for you too. 

Digital satellite provider CanalSat will make sports fans very happy – it broadcasts ESPN so you never have to miss a baseball, NFL, and American football game again.

You can also tune in to CNN, NBC, and even catch The Tonight Show. 

As long as you don't mind waiting a few months after the programmes have been aired, a subscription to Netflix may be the perfect solution.. 

Netflix gives you access to its latest original TV series and many others, including shows from NBC, the CW, ABC and the BBC. 

Hulu's also a great alternative, with SNL, South Park, and Modern Family ready to watch at any time, from anywhere. 

Once you’re sat in front of your favourite series, the matter of finding your favourite snacks from home can be just as difficult. 

Some French supermarkets have world food aisles where you might be able to strike it lucky.

But more often than not they're a jumble of products and you never know what you might find. 

Brits missing out on Marmite, Cup-a-Soup, and McVitie’s biscuits can place online orders with websites like British Cornershop and Brit Superstore who deliver straight to your door. 

And if you're in Paris, don't forget there's always WH Smiths on Rue de Rivoli and the numerous Marks & Spencer outlets around town, which offe plenty of snacks and indeed some decent meals.

The American equivalents, My Little America and My American Market, also promise all the Pop Tarts, Hershey's and Lucky Charms money can buy. 

If you’re based in the capital, a trip to La Grande Epicerie in the 7th arrondissement will satisfy any food cravings. 

The upmarket shop has treats from America, the UK, Italy, India and Asia

But it will come at a cost: one can of Heinz baked beans will set you back almost three euros and a box of Froot Loops cereal costs €12.25. There is also the English, Scottish, Irish epicerie at cité de Vauxhall near Place de la Republique which offers English ales, cereals and sweets.

With the American holiday season coming up very soon, make sure to stop by Thanksgiving grocery store in Paris' 4th arrondissement (for the non-Parisians, there's an online shop too). 

Aside from New York bagels, Jello, and hot sauces, the shop stocks all the must-haves for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners: yams, cranberries, and turkeys, as well as home-made desserts. 

Amazon is also any expat's friend for finding the taste of home. 

But getting your family and friends to bring your favourite snacks from home is always going to be the least expensive, and most reliable, way to source your home comforts. 

By Anna Schaverien