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Where in France do all the Americans live?

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Where in France do all the Americans live?
Photo: AFP
16:51 CET+01:00
Americans have been leaving the US for a fresh start in France for a long time now. But where do they all live?

Judging by the number of Americans who were reading stories on how to move France the day after Trump's win, many more have designs on heading over the Pond.

So we've taken a step back to see where France's current population of Americans live. 

After all, if you're thinking of moving to France you'll want to know where to find (or where to avoid) your fellow countrymen, right?

According to official data sent to the The Local from France's national statistics agency INSEE, the number of Americans in France is around the 34,000 mark, although the real number is likely to be much higher, with the US embassy talking of around 100,000 "yankees" in France.

But if we stick to the official data taken from the 2011 census, it does give us an insight into which regions of France (before some of them were merged in recent reforms) Americans end up living.

Paris, Ile de France, Photo: Flickr/Henrik Berger Jørgensen

You can probably guess where most American expats choose to settle in France. That’s right: the City of Light. Ile de France, the region around Paris, is officially home to about 16,500 Americans (more than half of all Americans in France), making it the clear top choice.

Perhaps that's no surprise given Americans' obsession with Paris for which we can (partly) thank Hollywood. Plus if an American wants to work in France then the capital gives them by the far the best chance of finding a job.

American firms with headquarters in the Paris region are a good source of employment. 

Then there's the American University, the American Library, the American Church and even the restaurant the American Kitchen, so despite being far from home there's a tight knit American community in the French capital.

Number of Americans living in each region, according to 2011 census data.

Jeff Steiner, writer and webmaster of the Americans in France site says "yankees" want to live near other Americans, or at least other English speakers. 

Paris has a concentration of English-speaking clubs and groups, he points out. It’s also a major travel hub, whereas it can be difficult to travel if you live a in rural French village.

One American reader of The Local, named Joey Beaudreau, pointed out that the visa and immigration issues Americans face in France, which the Brits don't, make it hard for them to live away from big cities like Paris.

"Most of us have to be near big cities with jobs that will sponsor us," he said. "The French government makes it quite difficult and it's not something Brits have to worry about.

"While I love Paris, I'd happily consider somewhere else if I didn't have to worry about labour/immigration problems."

Lyon, Rhone-Alpes, Photo: Flickr/Martin Pilat

The numbers show that Americans seem to be drawn to regions with large metropolitan areas. The next favourite region for Americans is the Rhone-Alpes in southeastern France, with 3,254 Americans calling it home. 

The region's main city of Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of the country, which is perhaps a pull for Americans tired of nachos, hot dogs and pizzas.

Coming in third place for Americans is Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. With its irresistible combination of sun, sea, mountains and rosé wine, it’s not hard to see why at least 2,837 Americans have chosen to live on the French Riviera. 

Harriet Welty-Rochefort, an American writer and former journalism professor at Sciences Po, and longtime resident of Paris, says that it’s mainly word of mouth that has brought so many Americans to places like the south of France. 

“The French Riviera was frequented by American writers and artists in the 1920s,” she said. “And then they went back to the States and talked about the Riviera and then of course everyone wanted to go there. So of course Americans love it now. Provence is beautiful, what can you say?”

Nice, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, Photo: Flickr/Dennis Jarvis

The next most-often picked regions are also home to some of France’s major cities. About 1,226 Americans live in the Languedoc Roussillon in the southwest. The roughly 1,140 Americans who live in Aquitaine are most likely drawn there by the city of Bordeaux and the chance to sample the wine from the region's vineyards.

But there are a few regions of France that Americans are apparently not too crazy about. 

Corsica gets the least amount of love, with only about 55 Americans calling it home. The Mediterranean island is nicknamed the “island of beauty” but it’s also called the “murder capital of Europe” due to feuding drug and mafia gangs, so maybe some are put off by that.

But the reality is there's no big city on the island to provide a source of jobs.

Americans are not too keen on central France either. Limousin and Franche-Comté are the other two least-desired regions, each counting only 133 and 155 Americans respectively. Both rural areas with no major cities, these regions see a low number of foreign residents in general. 

Basically Americans don't seem too fond of La France Profonde unlike their British cousins, who can't get enough of it.

Limousin, Photo: Flickr/Tourisme Haute-Vienne

Jeff Steiner from the Americans in France site says Americans avoid such areas, even if they're beautiful, because of the isolation.

“If you live in a small village in the Cantal, there's just not much there,” he said. “It’s a culture shock, it’s a language shock, it’s a big shock.”

Burgundy has fewer than 400 Americans, as do the two former regions of Upper and Lower Normandy. Champagne-Ardenne can count just 202 American citizens among its natives. Picardie has 388 and Nord-Pas-de-Calais has 391.

Brittany however has a few more, but still only just over 700. Perhaps there are too many Brits for their liking.

Cantal, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, Photo: Flickr/Balisolo

Welty-Rochefort says that Americans often overlook certain parts of the country, such as the center, simply because they don’t know about them, and people choose what they know. 

“It’s amazing how conformist people are,” she said. “There are places that are beautiful but Americans wouldn’t venture to go there because they don’t know about it.”

She also suggests that tourism departments in certain regions don’t try as hard to attract Americans.

Welty-Rochefort thinks that more Americans should try to step out of their comfort zones and settle in lesser-known parts of the country because “they’ll find joie de vivre anywhere in France”.

by Katie Warren

A version of this story was first published in 2016.

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