Living in France: Three key steps to help you settle in faster

France is a dream destination in which to live and work for many around the world. Somehow, the French have managed to combine the good life, with a strong reputation for thriving business, cultural excellence and academia.

Living in France: Three key steps to help you settle in faster

The good news is that it’s a relatively easy place to settle in compared to some nations. However, there are some quirks and nuances that you may encounter.

Together with fully mobile ‘challenger’ bank bunq we explore the process of starting your life in France and what you need to know to make it all easier.

Find out how you can open a mobile bank account in less than 5 minutes with bunq

STEP ONE – Get registered

Non-EU citizens arriving to work or study in France, on a visa, are required to register at a local town hall or mairie within a set period of time of their arrival – usually this is between two to three months.

If you’re an EU citizen, you are not required to register at all. 

If you haven’t already, you’ll need a residence permit, or carte de séjour to register, which you can obtain at your local prefecture – that’s the centre of administration for the commune in which you live.

They’ll generally require your passport, proof of employment or study, proof of insurance if you’re studying and most importantly, the visa that was obtained prior to your arrival in France.  

You will then receive documentation covering your stay, until you receive your carte de séjour, at which point you can visit the mairie to register your residence. 

While it sounds complicated, most of the time it’s a fairly straightforward experience – don’t hesitate to ask questions of the staff there, and be sure to make a checklist of all the documentation you’re asked for. This can avoid delays and make the experience much smoother. 

STEP TWO – Get insured

When you work or study in France, whether you’re a French citizen or an international worker or student, it’s compulsory to hold health insurance. If you’re studying, you’ll need to show proof of insurance before you can obtain your residence permit. 

All workers are covered by what is known as the Protection Universelle Malade (PUMA), a system of universal healthcare paid from the income tax of individuals. That said, you’ll often have to pay up front to see a doctor, or get some medical procedures. You can claim this expense, and you’ll generally be reimbursed up to 70 percent of the cost. 

This is where the mutuelle comes in. It might be easiest to think of mutuelle much like private health insurance, but there are a few key differences. They don’t give you access to better healthcare, or specialist clinics, and they can’t charge premiums for pre-existing conditions. 

What mutuelle do is ensure that your costs are covered, generally up to 100 percent, and don’t leave you out of pocket after a medical emergency. They also often offer medical and dental coverage, which is good idea to have, especially if you’re going to be in France indefinitely. 

Some workplaces offer membership of a mutuelle as part of their employment package. Otherwise, there are literally hundreds of them across the country – some serving the entire nation, some only a small area – and it pays to ask around as to which offer the best deal for your personal needs. 

Make your transition to life in France easier. Learn how bunq removes banking obstacles today 

Pic: Getty

STEP THREE – Get a bank account 

When The Local reached out to our readers to better understand the process of opening a French bank account, we had strong and singular feedback. As it turns out, opening a French bank account may be the most complicated part of getting settled in France – and that can pose difficulties, considering it’s where you’ll receive your pay or will want to use for accessing other funds. 

As one reader, James, pointed out, French banks haven’t kept up to date with the streamlining that many other services have undergone, telling us: “Their systems and processes weren’t set up to deal with people who hadn’t lived their lives in France, had French passports and documentation.”

What this means is that you’ll often find yourself having to submit a lot of documentation when opening a French back account, in order to circumvent the need for banks to have specific identification. When you couple this with the fact that bank staff may not speak fluent English, the onboarding process to opening your account can be onerous, and you may end up without the flexibility of banking you need. 

One way to get around this is to open an account with an online bank such as bunq. This is an especially good choice for those arriving in France, as bunq is now able to offer French IBANs. This is important, as it will make the payment of your salary, or money transfers within France instant. 

Customers with bunq are also offered flexible banking. Those opening a new account can choose whether they receive a Maestro or Mastercard, credit or debit card, which opens up a wider range of payment options. When you bank with bunq, you can also transfer money between up to 25 sub-accounts, so you can save up for vacations and quintessential French experiences. You can also access spending insights and set up automatic saving, making saving money even easier. 

Verifying yourself with bunq is easy. Video identification takes less than ten minutes, and you’ve got three months to confirm your place of residence and social security number once you’ve opened your account. Compared to hours spent in queues at your local French bank, or navigating language issues, it’s easy as can be. 

Living and working in France can be the experience of a lifetime, once you’ve settled in. Getting to that point can take time and effort. 

Make the experience of settling in France much easier and inject some joie de vivre. Open your flexible, fully mobile bunq account today

Member comments

  1. I used bunq for the last 1.5 years – no complaints. It is very convenient and works great with Apple Pay.

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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.