Where do all the English speaking expats live in France?

How many English-speaking folk live in France and where all they all? Here's what you need to know about where all the Australians, the Canadians, the Irish, the Brits, the Indians, the New Zealanders, the South Africans and Americans live in France.

Where do all the English speaking expats live in France?
Photo: Depositphotos

Can you guess how many Irish there are officially in France? What about Indians or Canadians? 

And what about where in France they all live? Are all Americans living within touching distance of the Eiffel Tower and all Brits packed into Dordogne like sardines? Not quite.

Stats given to The Local by France's statistics gods at INSEE reveal some interesting insights into the country's Anglophone population, which we narrowed down to Americans, British, Indians, Irish, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. So apologies to those we left out.

Now INSEE's stats are the latest available, so from 2014, and they are the official figures for those foreigners that French authorities believe are living here. The reality of course could be a little different.

Nevertheless they throw some light on where everyone likes to live. Here goes…

1. Total number

In all, according to INSEE there are 230,491 native English speakers in France and it won't surprise anyone who has been to Dordogneshire or even Charenteshire for that matter that Brits dominate the Anglophone population. Officially there are 151,767 rosbifs. There are likely many more who spend much of the year in France but are not officially residents.

In second place come Americans, of whom there are 31,000 in France. In third place are Indians, whose population totals 19,134, then Canadians (12,568), Irish (9,086), Australians (3,996) and then finally New Zealanders (1,393) and South Africans (1,367).

2. Paris region dominates

The one region of France with the most English speakers is, as you'd expect, Île-de-France, which includes the country's capital city Paris and its surrounding departments.

In total Île de France is home to 59,390 Anglophones including nearly 20,000 Brits, 15,500 Americans, 14,000 Indians, 1,531 Australians, nearly 5,000 Canadians and a few hundred South Africans and New Zealanders.

Just under 25,000 of Île-de-France's English-speaking residents live within the Périphérique ring road. That is to say in Paris. 

3. And the department with the most Anglophones is…

Obviously it's Paris, with 25,000 English speakers enjoying the cafe terraces and packed Metro, but outside the capital the department with the most English-speaking residents is Dordogne.
The 7,781 Anglophones in Dordogne are mostly Brits (7,285) but there are nine South Africans and around 150 Irish.
4. Room for more in central France
Of all the regions in mainland France that don't attract English speakers in big numbers, the most prominent are Centre-Val-de Loire and Bourgogne-Franche-Comte, where there are just 4,407 and 3,813 Anglophones respectively.
These are the two regions of mainland France which are the least densely populated, with only 50 residents per square kilometre in Bourgogne-Franche-Comte and 66 per square kilometre in Centre-Val de Loire.
The only departments in these two regions that are home to a decent number of English speakers are Indre-et-Loire (1,355) and Saône-et-Loire (1,118). So if you want to avoid English-speaking communities you know where to head to.

5. Brits like the banlieues more than Paris

While there are 8,222 Brits living in the City of Light, that is to say within the péripherique, there are many more living on the other side of that polluted noose around the capital's neck.

In the greater Paris region of Île-de-France, which includes the departments that immediately surround the capital, known as le Petit couronne as well as the outer-lying departments, there are nearly another 12,000 Brits.

But Brits don't go for just any old department, two in particular appeal more than the others: Yvelines (3,968) and Hauts-de-Seine (2,514), both to the west of Paris. The existence of international schools such as the British School of Paris in Croissy and easy access to the financial district of La Defense are just two of the reasons to explain the appeal of the western suburbs to Brits. Plus there is a British pub in the town of Saint-Germaine-en-Laye.

6. Indians live outside Paris

The Indian population of the Île-de-France region totals just over 14,000 (14,086) but only 2,188 of those live in Paris. Most live in the suburbs around Paris with the department of Seine-Saint-Denis being the most populated, with 5,002 living in department number 93 (see map above).

The rest of the Indian population of Île-de-France is spread fairly evenly throughout the other departments around Paris, with 1,381 in Essonne, 1,330 in Hauts-de-Seine, 1,092 in Val-de-Marne and 2,000 in Val de Oise.

No other region in France comes close to having the same number of Indians as Île-de-France. Of the official Indian population in France of 19,134, some 14,000 live in the greater Pars region.

For a greater insight into the Indian population in France CLICK HERE.


7. Australians love Paris

Around one quarter of France's Australian population (officially 3,996) live inside the péripherique. Or 917 to be precise. Although we know there are probably a few more Aussies than that in Paris given we personally know quite a few who are here with British or Irish passports.

The suburbs of the Paris region don't really seem to appeal to Aussies.

So it seems that if Australians are going to fly around the world and settle in the French capital then you might as well live in town.

CLICK HERE for a closer look at where all the Australians live in France.

8. The same can be said for Americans

Americans are even more likely than Australians to live in Paris rather than the surrounding suburbs. Americans have long had an infatuation with the French capital, thanks in part to the movies and the cultural differences so perhaps it's no surprise that nearly two thirds of the overall American population of the Île-de-France region (15,513) live in Paris (9,519).

Of the surrounding departments only Yvelines and Hauts-de-Seine have an American population that numbers more than 1,000.

9. Half of Americans in France live in Paris region

It is also perhaps unsurprising that out of the 31,180 Americans in France some 15,500 live in the Paris region.

Apart from the beauty of Paris it's also to do with wanting to live near jobs, administration centres and of course the American community.

CLICK HERE for a closer look at where all the Americans live in France and why.

10. But the Irish prefer the sunny south

While Brittany might be the closest region to Ireland both geographically and even culturally given the Celtic links, the Irish who have moved to France have headed further south. While Brittany is home to around 450, the regions in the southern half of France — Nouvelle Aquitaine, Occitanie, PACA and Auvergne-Rhône Alpes — all have around 1,000 Irish living there.

Could it be something to do with the sun?

CLICK HERE for a closer look at where the Irish live in France.

11. Empty departments

It might not surprise you to read that Brits have spread to every department in France, although not evenly.

And the Irish, Canadians, Americans and Indians also have a representative in each department, although in some case there is only one.

But for Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders who fancy themselves as pioneers, then here's where you need to head to. (Although it's possible that people have moved to these departments since we started writing this article!)

CLICK HERE for a closer look at where France's New Zealanders live

As far as INSEE tells us there are no South Africans in the following departments: Yonne in Burgundy, Ardennes, Aube, Vosges and Meuse in the east, Lozere in the south-west and Ardeche, Loire and Haute-Loire in central France.

There are no Kiwis living in Haute-Loire or South Corsica. Indre in central France has a vacancy for a Kiwi, as do Doubs, Ardennes and Haute-Marne in the east. Tarn-et-Garonne in the south-west is also up for grabs.

The department of Haute-Loire is home to no Australians or South Africans. Photo: AFP

As for Australians there is only one department in the whole of France that is missing an Aussie: Meuse in the east. Don't all head there at once.

CLICK HERE to find out more about where the South Africans live in France

12. The island of beauty does not impress

Corsica, known as the island of beauty, is not a big pull for English speakers. In fact it's the region of France that by far has the fewest number – only 289 in total.

That number includes one Irish person in southern Corsica and one Indian living in the north of the island. There are only a handful of people from each country. That fact might be explained by the higher cost of living, lack of transport links or major urban hub, and also the fact that Corsican nationalists have been known to blow up holiday homes from time to time.

13. Brits dominate the south-west

After Île-de-France, the region of France home to the most English speakers is Nouvelle-Acquitaine, which geographically is France's biggest region stretching down the west coast of France and deep into the heart of central France.

But while there are just under 44,000 Anglophones in Nouvelle Acquitaine that number is dominated by Brits, of whom there are just over 39,000. Of all the other countries, only the Irish (1,166) and the Americans (1,766) number more than 1,000.

With some six million people living in 84,000 square kilometres Nouvelle Acquitaine is one of France's least densely populated regions. And British residents are spread out across the region, although Dordogne an Charente are clearly out in front being home to 7,285 and 6,103 respectively.

CLICK HERE for more of an insight into how Brits have made south-west France their home


14. What's wrong with Lozère?

There are a few departments in France that just don't seem to attract English speakers at all. The eastern department of Territoire de Belfort, France's smallest in size outside the Paris area, has only 110 Anglophones. Meuse in the east has only 104, some 66 of whom are Brits. South Corsica is home to 113 including one Irish person. Ardennes in the east has only 88, including one Australian, two Irish people and three Canadians.

But the prize for the department with the fewest English speakers goes to Lozère in south central France, where officially there are only 79 Anglophones, 49 of whom are Brits along with 11 Americans. (Are you one of them? We'd love to hear from you.)

Lozère is France's least populous department with only 5,167 residents. It is mostly agricultural and is without any major urban centres. A chunk of the department is the Cevennes national park, which is why there are only 15 people per kilometre square. It certainly sounds and looks like a beautiful place to live.

15. Brittany more popular than Normandy

Brittany in western France and its neighbour Normandy rival each other when it comes to everything from tourism to Camembert cheese and from cider to who lays claim to Mont St Michel.

But when it comes to where the English speakers live, Brittany appears to win hands down with 14,581 calling the region home compared to 9,000 in Normandy. Morbihan (4,148) and Côtes d'Armor (5,352) are the two most popular departments in Brittany while Manche (3,605) is the most popular department in Normandy. Both regions' Anglophone populations are dominated by Brits. There are also nearly 700 Canadians, over 400 Irish and 700 Americans in Brittany.

Department by department: Where are all the Brits in France?

16. Haute Garonne the place to be in Occitanie

The huge region of Occitanie, made up of the former regions Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées is hugely popular, which perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise given it includes the southern Mediterranean, the Pyrennees, historic towns, and of course it has the sun.

But of all the departments in Occitanie it's Haute-Garonne, which includes the city of Toulouse and stretches up over the Pyrennees to the Spanish border, which attracts by far the most English speakers, almost 6,000 in total. It's popular with all nationalities, including several hundred Irish and over 800 Americans.


17. The lure of the Côte d'Azur

All along the sunny south coast of France there are thriving Anglophone populations.

The department of Pyrennees-Orientales is home to 2,300, neighbouring Aude department has just over 4,000, Herault has just under 5,000 and Gard around 1,800. Then in the Bouches-du-Rhône there are 3,700, including nearly 400 Indians and 150 Australians. 

In the Var there are nearly 3,300, including 2,500 Brits.

But it is the department of Alpes-Maritimes which includes the Côte d'Azur towns of Nice, Monaco and Antibes, that is home to the biggest concentration of English speakers on the south coast, with over 8,500 living among the hills and coves of the picturesque Riviera.

There are 250 Australians, over 400 Canadians, 380 Indians, nearly 500 Irish, 90 New Zealanders, 70 South Africans, over 1,000 Americans and nearly 6,000 Brits. And who could blame them? Although it does snow there sometimes.

18. They love the Alps
One of the departments with the highest number of English speakers is Haute-Savoie in the Alps.
Some 5,393 Anglophones live in the spectacular setting that is Haute-Savoie, including a few hundred Irish, Canadians, Americans, and 4,000 Brits.
Perhaps there's not a more beautiful place to live in France?

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Garant: How the French guarantor system works for property rental

If you're looking to rent an apartment in a larger city in France, you're likely to see announcements that require a 'garant'. Here is what you need to know about finding a guarantor in France.

Garant: How the French guarantor system works for property rental

Renting in large cities in France – particularly in Paris – is a known challenge for foreigners, especially new arrivals. In the countryside, it’s a bit easier, with less competition properties, but in the big cities compiling your dossier and landing the right place can be a challenge.

One of the biggest surprises for many people is that most landlords ask for a guarantor (garant) in order to sign a lease for an apartment. It is not a legal requirement, but in competitive real estate markets, it certainly feels like one.

Though asking for a garant might feel a bit juvenile, it is quite common, and applies to a lot more people than you might realise. Here is what you need to know:

Who typically needs a guarantor?

The most common group to need guarantors are students. However, if you are a foreigner who is not employed with a CDI (indefinite contract) and if you do not make over three times your monthly rent, you will likely need a guarantor as well.

If you don’t collect your income in France (or if you don’t have an income) you will need a guarantor.

You will also likely need one if you are still in the probationary period of your CDI, or if you cannot show three months worth of pay stubs from your job yet (even if you pay meets the three times a month requirement). If you do have a CDI, you could ask your employer to sign you an attestation d’employeur which verifies your monthly income. 

If your income is not steady or consistent (perhaps you are a freelancer). Typically, if you use an agency during the leasing process, they will require a guarantor, especially if any of these conditions apply to you. 

It is worth noting that showing bank statements typically do not suffice – landlords are looking for proof of ongoing income, not savings.

Who can count as a guarantor?

The guarantor should be a third party, such as a parent or close relative who agrees to pay your rent if you fail to pay.

This person must fulfil all the requirements outlined above (ie earning more than three times your rent with an indefinite contract).

The other tricky part is that this person must work and live in France, and usually it’s best that they are French themselves.

However, this can pose a problem for foreigners who might not know anyone that fits that description, so thankfully there are some other options fill this requirement, like taking out a caution bancaire or using an online agency. We explained the ins-and-outs of these bellow.

What does my guarantor need to show?

The guarantor needs to put together a dossier of documents including;

  • Proof of identification (a passport or French ID card)
  • Proof of residence that is less than three months old (eg utility bills).
  • Most recent tax returns
  • Employment contract and typically three months worth of payslips
  • If they earn money via real estate, they must also provide documentation for this
  • If the person in question is retired, they must provide proof of pension (again, this must exceed your monthly rent threefold). 

So, what if I don’t have a French person who can be my guarantor? There are a few options for you:

Use an online service

There are two main online services that can act as guarantors for foreigners in France.

The first is Visale, which is accessible primarily to foreign students.

This is a programme offered via the French state through “Action Logement” and it covers up to three years of unpaid rent. You must be between 18 and 30 years old to apply, and you must hold a long-stay visa (VLS-TS) – either a student visa or a ‘talent’ one.

For students who are already citizens of a European Union country, then simply presenting a student card and a valid passport will be sufficient. It can be applied to private housing and student residences, but it is ultimately up to the landlord as to whether they will accept a tenant who uses Visale as their guarantor. The main benefit to Visale is that it is free for the user.

Visale does come with some restrictions, however. Your rent (including charges) cannot exceed €1,500 in Paris, and €1,300 in the rest of the country. In addition, the lease must be for a primary residence, and your rent should not exceed 50 percent of your total income.

Another option is GarantMe, a paid online website that can also serve as an official guarantor.

Landlords might actually prefer this service over a physical guarantor who might refuse to pay or for whatever reason not have the funds to do so. The benefit to GarantMe is that they accept a wider range of tenants for their service, but the downside is that there is a fee. The minimum payment (per year) is €150, but the fee is normally 3.5 percent of the annual rent (including charges) and it renews automatically.

The nice thing about GarantMe, is that in order to apply for the service, you basically need to create a full dossier that will be identical to what you’ll need for your apartment search anyways.

Take out a Caution Bancaire

Basically, a caution bancaire is a bank guarantee, and typically its a bit more of a last resort option because it is quite restrictive for the tenant. It involves blocking off a large sum of money to be used to pay rent if you fail to do so.

Depending on the landlord (and the bank), they might ask you to block between six months worth of rent to sometimes up to two years. This would be used as guarantee during the duration of your lease, but it takes a bit of administrative coordination and obviously requires a large sum of liquid funds.

Sometimes activating a bank guarantee can take a few weeks, and for foreigners, of course, this would require already having a French bank account. There can also be fees, depending on the bank, for using a caution bancaire, and simply closing of caution bancaire account in itself can involve fees.

The other downside to this is that not all landlords will accept it, which is why this option might be best served as a last resort.

Attempt to find an apartment that does not require a garant

This is quite difficult in Paris (and other large cities around France). It is possible sometimes if you stick to foreigner-oriented sites like NY Habitat or Paris Attitude. Another possible loophole could be to see if your insurance plan offers coverage of unpaid rent. This is quite uncommon, but could be a possible option. If you rent specifically particulier-à-particulier (meaning you do not use an agency at all) you might be able to negotiate with the landlord, or if you have a sub-lease you might not need to show proof of a guarantor.

Ultimately, however, in most cases when renting in France’s large cities, you’ll likely need a guarantor.

What should I be aware of when it comes to guarantor websites?

As mentioned previously, Visale is only for people in the 18-30 age group, so unfortunately it does not apply to everyone. It is also intended for lower income people or students, so if you are a high earner you might be rejected.

Regarding using a website like GarantMe, beware that they will charge you every year – it is not a one time fee. This will be deducted from the card you put on the site and the only way to cancel the charge will be to show proof that you have moved out (i.e. an état des lieux or letter releasing you from the obligation signed from your landlord)