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QUALITY OF LIFE

Survey shows that strong majority of the French are ‘happy’

Their international reputation inclines more towards the grumpy, but the latest national mood survey shows that most French people are 'happy' and a significant amount are even 'very happy'.

Survey shows that strong majority of the French are 'happy'
Pedestrians cross the Champs-Elysee avenue in front of the Arc De Triomphe monument in Paris. (Photo by AFP)

The study by the Elabe Institute showed that 68 percent of respondents said they were happy, and a third (32 percent) even said they were “very happy” – despite serious concerns about the rising cost of living and the climate crisis.

While these figures are down on the 2021 study, which showed 11 percent more French people responding that they were “happy” and seven percent more saying they were “very happy,” it is safe to say that the French population is still quite content.

However, the survey did show some differences when considering certain factors.

READ MORE: MAP: Where are the happiest areas of France?

Income level

81 percent of people who “make ends meet without financial restrictions” reported being happy, while only 54 percent who experience financial restrictions said they were happy.

The same was true within companies – executives and heads of organisations were much more likely to say they were happy (87 percent) than their subordinates.

Political preferences

When looking at how French people voted – 77 percent of the people who supported President Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the presidential election responded that “things are going well” when asked in the survey their personal situation.

This is higher than both people who voted further to the political Left and Right. As for those who supported Left-wing Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round, 63 percent said “things are going well.” This number was even lower for first-round supporters of Marine Le Pen – only 58 percent said “things are going well.”

Inflation and climate change

Almost all the people surveyed (91 percent) said they were concerned about a loss of household purchasing power due to inflation in the coming months.

And the French mood has dropped since October 2021, when the last survey was conducted. Overall, respondents feel less confident than they did last year (-4 percent), less “serenity” (-5 percent) and less satisfaction (-7 percent). 

People also feel generally more weary, nostalgic, sad, angry, and fearful than they did in 2021.

Many are particularly concerned about how global issues like the climate crisis and inflation could impact their daily lives. 89 percent reported being worried that their day-to-day life will deteriorate as a result of price increases, and 85 percent reported being afraid of the consequences of climate change (eg flooding, natural disasters, and drought).

A large number of French people (74 percent) also said that they worry about their health deteriorating due to pollution and environmental problems.

Other surveys echo these results, showing an increase in concern over climatic events in France, particularly since the summer of 2022, which was marked by three significant heatwaves, forest fires, and widespread drought.

READ MORE: France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record

A poll published in August by Odoxa showed that seven out of ten French people “fear being personally affected by a climatic hazard.”

Of those feeling climate-anxious, age played a role, with 81 percent of those under 25 responding that they are personally afraid, in comparison of 62 percent of those aged over 65. 

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DRIVING

Reader question: Do I have to swap my driving licence in France?

If you're living in France you may eventually need to swap your driving licence for a French one - but how long you have to make the swap and exactly how you do it depends on where your licence was issued. Here's the low-down.

Reader question: Do I have to swap my driving licence in France?

First things first, how long are you staying in France?

Holiday driving

If you’re just in France for a short period, such as for a holiday, you will usually be able to drive a vehicle using your usual driving licence.

You may also need an International Driving Permit – it’s basically a translation of a domestic driving licence that allows the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country or jurisdiction that recognises the document.

Check with driving authorities in your home country to see if you need one to drive in France. 

Drivers with European licences and UK and NI licence-holders are exempt from the International Driving Permit requirement.

French resident

So far, so simple. It starts to get a bit trickier if you plan to move to France for a longer period. Then, everything depends on the country in which your driving licence was issued (and not your nationality, in this case it’s all about where the licence was issued).

READ ALSO Driving in France: Understanding the new French traffic laws

If you hold a licence from an EU / EEA country

These are relatively straightforward. Because of freedom of movement rules within the EU full driving licences from Member States are valid in France. EEA country licences have the same status.

Holders of an EU/EEA driver’s licence are not required to exchange their foreign licence for a French one as long as they have not picked up any points on their licence through committing traffic offences such as speeding.

READ ALSO Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you move to France permanently, you may, however, change your licence for a French one, by following this procedure.

What if you’re from the UK?

For a while, official advice left many in limbo and others stranded without a licence altogether

But – Good News! – British and French authorities announced in June 2021 that a reciprocal agreement had been reached that allows people who live in France to drive on a UK or NI licence that was issued before January 1st, 2021 to continue using them.

They only need to exchange when their photocard or actual licence runs out. You can apply to exchange your licence for a French one once you get within six months of the expiry date of either the licence or the photocard, whichever is first.

You may also be ordered to exchange your licence if you commit certain traffic offences.

Anyone whose licence was issued after January 1st, 2021, will need to exchange it for a French one within one year of moving to France. 

Full details on the rules and how to do the exchange are available here

Non-European licences

Anyone who holds a non-European driving licence may drive in France for a year after their legal residence in France is confirmed on their original licence. After that, if they stay in France any longer, they should apply for a French driving licence.

This is where things get a little tricky. If the state that issued the non-European licence has signed a bilateral agreement with France, the exchange is relatively straightforward. It involves applying to the French driving licence agency ANTS and providing them with all the necessary information.

READ ALSO Grace period for fines over France’s new law on winter tyres

If, however, the driver passed their test in a country that does not have such an agreement in place, then they will have to take a French driving test before they can legally continue driving in France.

The French government has a list of countries that have a swap rule with France listed here (pdf) and on its Welcome to France website for people looking to move to the country.

You can find the online portal to make the swap here.

US and Canadian licences

If you have an American or Canadian licence things are even more complicated, because it depends on the state that your licence was issued in. 

The following US States have licence swap agreements with France.

  • Delaware*,  Maryland*, Ohio*, Pennsylvania**, Virginia*, South Carolina, Massachusetts,  New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin*, Arkansas*, Oklahoma*, Texas*, Colorado*, Florida**, Connecticut**

* Swap for Permis B licences in France,
** Swap for Permis A and/or B licences in France
see below for what this means

Drivers with licences from States not listed above cannot simply swap their licence, instead they have to take a French driving test within a year of moving to France, or stop driving.

The following Canadian provinces have licence swap agreements with France:

  • Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland et Labrador, Québec, Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia

Only New Brunswick offers a straight like-for-like swap. All the others swap full Canadian licences for French B permits. Drivers with licences issued from other provinces will have to pass a French driving test before they can hold a French driving licence.

Permis A, Permis B

The Permis A French licence is basically for motorbikes. Holders can ride two- or three-wheeled vehicles, with or without a sidecar.

The Permis B French driving licence allows holders to drive a vehicle with a maximum weight of 3.5 tonnes, which seats no more than nine people. This includes standard passenger cars, people carriers and minibuses.

READ ALSO What to do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in France?

What else you need to know

First things first. Unlike numerous other nations, including the UK, having points on your licence in France is a good thing. 

Full, ‘clean’ French licences have 12 points, with motorists losing points if they are guilty of motoring offences.

Anyone who has been driving for more than three years, and who exchanges a full, clean licence in France will, therefore, receive a French licence with 12 points. 

READ ALSO COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Provisional French licences – issued to motorists who passed their tests within the past three years – are loaded with six points, rising to the full 12 after three years of ‘clean’ driving here.

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