France judged one of the hardest countries in the world for foreigners to settle in

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 18 Sep, 2019 Updated Wed 18 Sep 2019 13:47 CEST
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Speaking the local language - or the inability to - and making friends among French people remain one of the main hurdles for foreigners trying to settle in the country, according to a new global survey. Although there were many positives for those moving to France.


Some 64 countries were ranked by 20,259 participants from around the globe in the annual Expat Insider survey by Internations.

The survey looks at the "best and worst places for expats" to live judged on several criteria such as quality of life, ease of settling in, personal finance and work and family life.

In the overall ranking France was placed a lowly 42nd out of 64, just above Ireland and just below Hong Kong. Taiwan topped the list, with Kuwait coming last as apparently the worst country to live in for expats or immigrants as many foreign citizens living abroad prefer to be referred as.

The reason why France appears to struggle in the rankings is a lot do with its poor score when it comes to "ease of settling in".

It was ranked 52 out of 64 countries in a category where respondents were asked to judge the country on friendliness, ease of making friends, feeling at home and language, in other words how well you can settle in if you don' t speak French.

France scored poorly on all categories but in particular the language aspect.

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It seems foreign citizens living in France continue to struggle with the French language and find it hard to settle when they are not fluent.

Only 14% of foreigners in France agree that it's easy to live in the country without speaking the language compared to 45 percent globally.

That low score was enough to see it ranked 61 out of 64 worldwide in the language category, in other words the task of mastering French was a major drawback to settling in for respondents.

“If I was fluent in French, then my life would be far easier!” said one Canadian respondent who was perhaps stating the obvious.

READ ALSO: How you can live happily in Paris without speaking French

The survey also had this to say:

"Not only does French — the language — affect expats, but the French — the people — aren’t always particularly helpful, it seems. A Danish expat says that “the French culture is very different, and the French are often not very welcoming”, a view reflected in the 2019 ranking: France has dropped 14 places to 43rd out of 64 for the ease of getting used to the local culture."



BUT.... France is a good country to get sick in

France also suffered in the rankings in other areas. It dropped 16 places in the category of political stability, no doubt linked to the yellow vest protests and it also scored badly for career prospects for expats.

France did however score highly in certain categories, not least health.

No one wants to get sick anywhere, but if if you do need medical care, France is a very good country for it. It ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, for the quality of healthcare and its affordability.

The price of education also rated very highly. Nearly four out of five expats with children (78 percent) believe that education is affordable in their new country of residence, in comparison to just under half worldwide (49 percent). France ranks 5th out of 36 countries in terms of the affordability of education in 2019. 

Mind you, raising a family in France isn’t always easy. Respondents found that it can actually be quite unfriendly at times. France places 31st out of 36 countries in terms of a friendly attitude towards families with children. 

Money - and the lack of it - remains an issue in France. It is hard to get a full time contract in France as a foreigner and only about two out of five expats (42 percent) feel their disposable household income is more than enough to cover all their daily expenses. This is less than the global average.

Additionally, just two out of five working expats rate their current income as higher than back in their country of origin for a similar job or position.

But despite the downsides some 64 percent of respondents in France said moving to the country had made them happier, compared to 61 percent globally.

READ ALSO: How your quality of life improves when you move to France 








The Local 2019/09/18 13:47

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[email protected] 2019/09/23 21:53
Boggy. You . sound very jaundiced in your opinions. I have 9 grandchildren who visit from 20 to 2 years old. The older ones speak almost no French but love the whole family gatherings. The younger ones 6 7 8 year olds speak no French but play in the gardens with neighbours' kids all laughing their heads off
[email protected] 2019/09/20 16:56
I agree with most of the above. Boggy: Don’t for one minute assume people over 50 are rich, maybe just more laid back and willing to try and fit in and not so afraid of making fools of themselves on the language front. My husband still can’t speak much French after 2 1/2 years here, but has made friends with so many people just because he’s so smiley and makes people laugh with him. Our neighbours have been fantastic and so welcoming and helpful. Admittedly we are in rural Var, land of rosé wines and sunshine, so as with all sun blessed countryside people are more relaxed. Cities the world over are harder to live in as everyone is so busy and often stressed. Final comment : be open, polite, make an effort to integrate, have parties and invite everyone you meet and go to FLE classes
[email protected] 2019/09/19 13:14
This topic is worthy of it's own thesis; but, maybe, not here.<br /><br />My (our; my wife still works in the UK to date) experience is both positive yet frustrating.<br /><br />Positives; Our area is as much Catalan as French - many would say Catalan before French - so they have an innate sense of being slightly outside the mainstream. I was fortunate enough - fourteen years ago, on my formal visit to sign the various documents for our house (hovel) purchase - to befriend the local (small) town 'sage', in the local town bar. His status was unknown to me at that time. <br /><br />We became and remain good friends. He speaks very little English and our French is, to say the least, extremely limited and idiosyncratic. As a "tourist" town, the locals are, generally, professionally polite but not, always, friendly. His local 'status' opened all doors and protected us from rejection.<br /><br />Negatives; we (my wife and I) are considered reasonably educated and intelligent people - in English. We always intended to retire to France and took the trouble to learn some of the history and customs of our region. We began with the absolute intent to integrate with the locals. Before purchasing our house; we questioned the response of locals as to their opinion of "les anglais" moving into their lives - generally positive.<br /><br />Language remains a huge challenge. Where, in English, we can construct, present, and debate almost any topic cogently - in French we are all but mute. This can make social occasions extremely difficult and frustrating. <br /><br />I've endeavoured to explain that we suffer some distorted form of dyslexia. We are not stupid, (on the contrary) our syntax and grammar is sophisticated - in English - but we fail to understand the French symbols and sounds.<br /><br />As educators (ex' in my case) we are all too familiar with the challenge of attempting to convey complex information and constructs to non English speaking people. The nuance and especially humour is, literally, lost in translation.<br /><br />It remains difficult for us to integrate. Casual 'cafe' conversation is challenging. Patience, humour, and generosity of spirit, especially the ability to laugh at oneself, goes a long way toward melting any ice.<br /><br />In conclusion; learn the local customs; practise the language, make every effort to integrate. <br /><br />After all - it's not 'their' fault they can't understand us.
[email protected] 2019/09/19 12:42
Not sure why you generalise people as guilded expats, we are not all sipping wine and making television programs about Chateaux and food. I work a normal life, like several other immigrants from the UK in a factory close to Lyon. I certainly understand the complexities of Brexit, from my experience with residency, taxes, pension rights etc, it puts the much complained about French Administration into perspective, UK civil servants can be just as bad even worse. In France its slow and rigorous, in the UK its just downright incompetency.
[email protected] 2019/09/19 10:07
Sorry, "human warmth", not "worth". Younger people (i.e. under 55) find that the French culture - allegedly so superior - makes it very tough on immigrants - check the survey, fellow posters.
[email protected] 2019/09/19 09:59
Anybody commenting here actually living in the capital? And not a gilded expat - and being too underpaid to afford merely a 17th century house doesn't qualify.<br /><br />Maybe then there would be a least one comment which goes along with the results of the study....<br /><br />Most immigrants say - and from all over and of all ethnicities have told me - by far the most interesting and genuine people you meet in Paris aren't French. City life can wear you down, but Paris is not what you read in books. Parisians are just plain cold inside, and walk around in their own little dramas (which are not comedies). The elitism is incredible, and they'd rather feel superior than feel friendliness and human worth. Paris is full of a huge number of sad people and people who are angry, standoffish and smug to cover up their sadness. In smaller towns they can be better, but it's not like they lack this existential hatred for life (and especially life in others) which is so very French. I was surprised, given how much they have going for them. <br /><br />The old people who can't understand this survey or Brexit or why things aren't like they were in their youth also can't understand why France is - as the headline says - such a hard place to settle in. These gilded expats are already settled - the young people have a much tougher row to hoe.
[email protected] 2019/09/18 22:20
We bought a 16th century house, restored it, and moved here from Belgium, the most recent of our foreign residences. We were made most welcome, first of all because we restored the decrepit 16th century hotel particulier in the centre of a medieval walled town, then because we participated in local events, and translated, free, all the town's tourist, and other documentation. Obviously, we spoke French, both of us, before we arrived, but our new French friends told us that wine-producing areas (we are in the Saumurois) are much more welcoming than non-wine producing areas. Hurray!<br />Shamefully, we are known in the Saumur area, as 'les Anglais qui parlent français', which is an indictment of our fellow Brits.<br />Apart from the bureaucracy, we have no regrets.
[email protected] 2019/09/18 22:10
One of the things that makes France an easy place to live is that most people can't afford to be materialistic. You don't often see nice cars, expensive phones etc etc.<br /><br />I live near Germany and Switzerland where there are many more nice things but the overwhelming feeling in those countries is a lack of space and tranquility.<br /><br />So for quality of life without the stress of needing to keep up with the neighbours France is a good place, as long as you have enough income to be better off than your neighbours.
[email protected] 2019/09/18 19:11
I've been fortunate enough to VISIT France 12 times, often for 4 to 6 weeks at time. My experiences have all been overwhelmingly positive and at times, even joyful, probably for two major reasons: (1) For four years (in my Massachusetts public high school) I'd had the same terrific Parisian French teacher who not only taught us French, but ABOUT the French (customs, MANNERS, culture, traditions) and (2) she taught us to pronounce French well. Thus I arrived in France totally appreciative of its (to me wonderful) "quirks," and knowledgeably respectful of France. Everyone I met was always surprised that I am an American. SO: people having "bad experiences" in France need to look in the mirror and consider how much RESEARCH they have done before arriving. Most I suspect haven't a clue about cultural differences and manage to accidentally range from "inappropriate" to astonishingly rude-seeming.
[email protected] 2019/09/18 18:32
I couldn't disagree more with this article, on France being one of the hardest countries to integrate in. I have lived in several countries and several places in France, compared to all, I find France to be the most fulfilling. If you respect the culture and make the effort to at least try and learn French you will be rewarded with the utmost generosity. My advice to those finding it difficult, is to join in, sports clubs, cultural organisations, neighbourhood groups. Integration everywhere is a 2 way process, in my experience and that of my family if you put in the effort you will be rewarded tenfold. Never turn down the opportunity to participate, if someone invites you to play cards or join a book club and its not your thing, do it anyway.. In many respects its easier for foreigners to integrate than local residents, you have the benefit of being seen as exotic. My French neighbours, friends and colleagues are the most generous and helpful people I know. I can only think that the people answering the survey are disappointed not to find things they are familiar with and maybe a little lazy when it comes to learn the language, which is difficult but if you don't try you are disrespecting the people you are trying to integrate with.

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