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LIVING IN FRANCE

Cars, passports, junk mail and wine: 6 essential articles for life in France

From cities with vehicle restrictions, to travel tips for dual-nationals, via junk mail and the secrets of French supermarkets’ foires aux vin, here are more essential articles for life in France.

Cars, passports, junk mail and wine: 6 essential articles for life in France
Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

If you’re planning a road trip that takes in a French city, it’s likely that there will be rules in place limiting vehicle circulation.

In order to control pollution levels in France, cities across the country are bringing in ‘low-emission zones,’ called “Zone à faible émissions mobilité” (ZFE).

Some places have complete vehicle bans, while others have bans on certain types of vehicles or restrictions at certain times, while others only implement restrictions if the pollution level is high. In all cases, the system is based on the Crit’Air sticker.

Here’s what you need to know.

MAP: Which French cities have vehicle bans or restrictions?

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

All over France people optimistically put ‘pas de pub‘ (no advertising) stickers on their mailboxes, only to often find them filled to overflowing with unsolicited mail.

But now a new scheme, being trialled in 14 areas of France, aims to make it illegal to deliver unwanted post.

France trials complete ban on junk mail

Insulation, ventilation, heating – given the cost-of-living crisis that’s affecting France as much as many other countries, it’s understandable that there is a lot of talk right now about improving energy efficiency in homes.

But, if you’re renting, you might think your options are limited. You can do more than you think.

Tenants in France: How to make your home more energy efficient

Now, it’s a bit niche, but – should you ever get into a discussion with someone over the relative merits of two more more countries and the debate moves to inventions, you can stand up for France with this article.

Because, from technology to medicine, transport to fashion, French inventors are responsible for many of the things that shape the modern world.

12 world-changing inventions that came from France

As always, we’ve saved the best, most important stuff for last.

In France, early autumn is an ideal time to stock up on high-quality French wine, as supermarkets, cavistes, and websites alike get ready for the Foire aux vins.

Foire aux vins: How to find bargains on high quality wine in France

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EDUCATION

Fees to class sizes – what you need to know about private schools in France

In many countries, private schools are the preserve of the wealthy elite, but France has a wide network of private schools that are well within the financial reach of ordinary families - James Harrington explains more.

Fees to class sizes - what you need to know about private schools in France

The education system in France has its problems – at the start of the new school year some 4,000 teaching posts were unfilled and the government has launched an ‘emergency plan’ for English language lessons – but there’s no doubting there are wonderful schools and wonderful teachers making every effort to ensure children from aged three to 18 get the education they deserve.

However the country also has a sizeable network of private schools and around 15 percent of French children go to a private school. While some are undoubtedly expensive and elite, others are surprisingly affordable and provide an extra option for parents when deciding on  a school for their children.

Here’s what you need to know; 

Different types

There are two types of private school – sous contrat and hors contrat.

Sous contrat schools, of which there are about 7,500 in France, are part-funded by the state – teachers are paid by the Department of Education, for example – but also charge fees. France’s numerous Catholic schools, or regional language schools are usually sous contrat.

Hors contrat schools – which number about 2,500 – must still meet general education requirements but can choose their teaching methods and have no state funding. Private international schools found in most big cities, such as the American School of Paris, are hors contrat, but still follow mainstream teaching methods.

For comparison, there are around 60,000 state schools in France.

Prices

Yes, there are expensive private schools in France. Sending your child to the exclusive Ecole des Roches Private Boarding School, for example, will set you back more than €12,000 a term – not quite Eton or Winchester-level fees, but still well out of the reach of a large portion of the population. But, like Eton and Winchester, they’re not the norm. 

On average, fees for a day pupil – one who goes home at the end of the school day, rather than one who boards at the school – are in the region of around €2,250 a year. Meals are not included, and are generally charged at a slightly higher daily price than at state schools.

Financial aid, including scholarships, may be available for less well-off families.

READ ALSO French school canteens to cut cheese course as inflation bites

Boarding and hours

A large number of state and private schools offer Monday-Thursday boarding. It is not uncommon for pupils who excel at certain subjects or sports to attend collèges or lycées some distance from home, and board during the week.

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Daily school hours, meanwhile, are broadly similar, with children generally starting their school day at around 8am and finishing soon after 4pm on school days. Collège and lycée pupils also go into school on Wednesday mornings, and some may have classes on a Saturday, too.

Popularity

Smaller class sizes and a reputation for “better” results means that private schools are increasingly popular. The number of French private schools has increased steadily over the last decade, and now 15-20 percent of pupils go to a private establishment of some form. 

On the whole, private schools tend to do better in results league tables – perhaps in part because of the additional investment from parents, but also because class sizes tend to be smaller, which allows for more one-to-one education. Smaller class sizes and more individual attention mean they may also be a better option for children who struggle in big schools.

READ ALSO What kind of school in France is best for my kids?

Qualifications

State schools and sous contrat schools teach to the national curriculum, which leads, in turn, to brevet and baccalaureate qualifications.

In contrast, some hors contrat private schools offer different qualifications, including American High School Diplomas and SATs, British GCSEs and A-Levels, or the international baccalaureate.

Religion

Although many sous contrat schools are Catholic, most readily accept non-Catholic children and are not allowed to indoctrinate the Catholic faith. Hors contrat schools, on the other hand, may include a religious element to their teaching.

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