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

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.

France judged one of the hardest countries in the world for foreigners to settle in
Photo: Deposit photos

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.

(You can share your views with us for a follow up article in the questionnaire below – scroll to bottom)

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 






Member comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    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.

    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.

  4. 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!
    Shamefully, we are known in the Saumur area, as ‘les Anglais qui parlent français’, which is an indictment of our fellow Brits.
    Apart from the bureaucracy, we have no regrets.

  5. 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.

    Maybe then there would be a least one comment which goes along with the results of the study….

    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.

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. This topic is worthy of it’s own thesis; but, maybe, not here.

    My (our; my wife still works in the UK to date) experience is both positive yet frustrating.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    In conclusion; learn the local customs; practise the language, make every effort to integrate.

    After all – it’s not ‘their’ fault they can’t understand us.

  9. 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

  10. 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

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For members


What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.