Are you moving to France? With our comprehensive moving checklist, you can ensure that you are fully prepared for everything in French.

France is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. There is a lot to fall in love with, from the rugged peaks of the Alps and Pyrenees to the sweeping beaches of the Atlantic coastline. And that’s without even mentioning the numerous historic cities, vibrant culture, and delectable French cuisine.

But it’s not just tourists who adore France. On the contrary, the country is popular among expats seeking fun. However, whether you want to live in Montmartre or Montpelier, there are a few things you should think about before making the big move, such as visa requirements and housing options. 

Do Your Research

Many people associate living in France with sipping a café au lait beneath the Eiffel Tower while serenaded by a local accordionist. After all, it’s easy to be swept away by the romanticized portrayal of the country that we see in movies all the time. However, everyday life in the country is far from Hollywood, and you must investigate what life is like in France before moving.

Your research should include everything from the general cost of living and the cost of groceries at your local supermarket to the quality of schools in your area. It would be best if you also connected with the local expat community in the area where you are relocating.

Decide Where You Want To Live

After researching and determining how much you like the sound of French life, the next step is to consider where you want to live. Outside forces, such as family obligations or a job offer, may determine this for some expats. If your options are open, make sure you give careful consideration to where you want to settle. After all, it’ll be your new home away from home.

France, as one might expect from a country of its size, is a land of contrasts due to its diverse geography. While some expats will seek the hustle and bustle of Paris, others will flock to verdant rural communities or mountain and coastal resorts.

Arrange Your French Visa

Once you’ve decided to relocate to France and decide which department you want to live in, you’ll need to consider your visa options. Because France is a member of the European Union (EU), citizens of EU/EEA member states have the right to move there under the Freedom of Movement Act. However, if you are a UK citizen, you must check the French government’s Accueil des Étrangers website for the most up-to-date visa requirements following the UK’s choice and decision to leave the EU in 2016.

If you are not from an EU/EEA country, you may need a visa to enter France, even for a short time. However, the requirements vary depending on your nationality, so double-check ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Non-EU/EEA citizens must apply for a long-term French visa (visa long de séjour) and residence permit if their stay exceeds 90 days.

Move Your Belongings To France

Working out how to transport your belongings is one of the most important aspects of international relocation, and this process will be heavily influenced by where you are coming from. Some expats find international removals daunting, so start early and give yourself plenty of time to pack before the move.

It may appear not easy to transport your belongings across borders and oceans, but it does not have to be. Many expats prefer the security of working with a global relocation firm. These are corporate and personal relocation experts and should be your first point of contact for the move. They also offer storage options, which can be extremely useful if you still need to get a home in France. Relocation firms include:

  • Crown Relocations
  • The Relocator
  • ReloAdvisor
  • Parcel ABC
  • Sirelo
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Arrange Your Pet’s Move To France

France, fortunately for animal lovers, is a wonderful place for pets. Whether you have a dog who enjoys running along the Normandy beaches or a cat who enjoys basking in the warm Mediterranean sun, they will have the time of their lives in l’Hexagone. However, if you want to relocate with your pet, taking care of their needs should be at the top of your moving to France checklist. Just be aware that the process may be lengthy, depending on where you are moving from. This is especially true if you are arriving from a non-EU country, so start planning.

While it’s important to understand the rules and requirements for bringing a pet into France on your own, plenty of resources are available to assist you. Many relocation companies, for example, can assist you in planning your pet’s journey, from obtaining the necessary paperwork to arranging any accommodations your four-legged friends may require. While the journey may be stressful for your pet, rest assured that they will quickly fall in love with their new home in France.

Think About Health Insurance

All residents in France, including newcomers, are required by law to have health insurance. Most expats who relocate to France are eligible for the country’s universal public healthcare system, Protection Maladie Universelle (PUMA). However, if you are not eligible for the PUMA or want to supplement your coverage, you should consider purchasing private health insurance.

Fortunately, there are numerous options for obtaining health insurance in France. Many international arrivals opt for a policy with a global health insurance provider, such as the ones listed below:

Organizing your health insurance coverage ahead of time can provide you and your family with peace of mind. At the same time, you are busy planning your move to France, especially if certain details are still pending confirmation.

Start Looking For A Job

Some expats moving to France will be fortunate enough to have a job offer before even setting foot on French soil. However, for many people, relocating to France means entering the job market immediately. If this describes you, you can get a leg up on the competition by starting your job search before you leave your house.

The French job market is geographically diverse, with some regions and cities faring much better than others. If you’re still working on your language skills, you’ll find more job opportunities in one of France’s major cities. However, if your French is fantastic, you’ll have many more opportunities. You should get a jump start on your competition by writing your resume in the local French style.

Sort Out Your Finances

Having a good understanding of your financial situation throughout the relocation process is vital. After all, even if you’re moving intending to save money wherever possible, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your money disappears. Unfortunately, there always seem to be extra payments and costs that even the most meticulously planned move needs to account for.

When transferring funds overseas, you should use an online money transfer platform to keep costs to a minimum. These can be an amazing way to avoid bank fees when transferring money to France and tide you over until that all-important first paycheck arrives. Some of the most famous money transfer services are:

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Find Somewhere To Stay

Do you fantasize about that Provence cottage? Or how about a mountain chalet? Whatever your ideal French home looks like, chances are you’ll need to find temporary housing when you first move to France. This is not only the easiest type of accommodation to find, but it also gives you a lot of time to get your bearings and decide where you and your family want to live in France.

Some expats will be fortunate enough to have their new employer arrange for them to live in the country upon their arrival. Remember, this is not the case for the vast majority of people. A serviced apartment can be a great option if you only need a place to stay for a few weeks or months. Alternatively, some online accommodation portals may have longer-term leases available. This would allow you to plan your next move and decide whether to rent or buy a property in France.

Think About French Education

If you’re moving to France with children, you should consider schools before packing. In general, you can choose between public and private schools. Although public education is available to all French citizens, education is, as one might expect, in French.

Many parents who relocate to France will send their children to local private or international schools. While these are frequently a better option for older children, be aware that they can be significantly more expensive than what you are accustomed to. However, some cheaper independent schools are “under contract” (sous contrat) with the French government, so do your homework to find the best option for your children.

Get An International Driving Permit

You can drive in France for up to 12 months if you are over 18 and have a valid driving license. If your license were issued by an EU/EEA country, you would be able to use it indefinitely; however, you may prefer to exchange it for a local license.

Non-EU/EEA nationals must exchange their driving license for a French version within their first 12 months in the country. You may also be required to present an International Driving Permit, which lets you drive legally in France. Notably, these are normally much easier to obtain in your home country, so apply early to avoid being stuck in first gear.

Brush Up On Your French

This may seem obvious, but if you plan to relocate to France, you should spend some time learning the language. You’ll undoubtedly need to speak French daily, whether shopping at the local market or chatting with your new neighbors.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to learn French, including downloading simple apps like these:

Of course, there is the traditional method of going to a classroom and opening a textbook. You can look online for French lessons near you so that you’re fully prepared to embrace the culture and language when you move to France.

Indulge In French Culture

Are you eager to begin your exciting French adventure? Then give yourself a few tasters before making the big move by learning about the culture of your new home. Fortunately, there are numerous options. To begin, why not try some of these delectable French recipes? If you have children, check out these kid-friendly French foods they will enjoy.

If crêpes aren’t your thing, check out some of these excellent French books that will give you a glimpse into local life. There is also a wealth of useful information about France on Expatica. We’ve covered everything from shopping at a French supermarket to discovering the best festivals in France.

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14 Pros And Cons Of Life In France

I’d always wanted to live in France. I pictured eating fresh croissants every morning, visiting world-class museums on weekends, and indulging in wine and cheese in the evenings. France impressed me in every way. While it is a wonderful place to live, there are some drawbacks to living in France.

Pros Of Living In France

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Excellent Health Care

One of the best aspects of living in France is the healthcare system.

Regardless of income, all residents in France have access to universal health care. And, unlike in the United States, you are not turned away if you have a preexisting condition. There are private insurance companies, but government-funded organizations cover 75%-100% of the costs. This includes everything from doctor’s appointments to dental care and prescriptions.

So, how exactly does it work?

You must have lived in France for a minimum of three months before applying. You can then register at your local CPAM (Caisse primaire assurance Maladie).

When approved, you will be given a French health card known as a carte vitale. It contains all of the information required to reimburse your medical expenses.

When you visit your primary care physician or fill a prescription, you must pay a small fee that is then reimbursed. A doctor’s visit, for example, costs, on average, 23€, but 75%-100% is reimbursed, lowering the overall cost to 0-6€.

Good Work-Life Balance

The French work to live, not to live, and they have an excellent work-life balance.

The standard number of paid vacation days is 25, but some positions offer more than 40! (That’s much better than the 14 that many Canadians get).

Then there are 11 public holidays (13 in some departments).

The French work so that they can spend time with their families and relax during their vacations. And, even though the average workweek is 35 hours, the French are not slackers. The standard workweek was developed to ensure that employees are compensated for working overtime.

Coming from the United States, I was unfamiliar with this concept. I was never given more than ten vacation days, and working overtime without pay was always expected.

I’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy the French way of life.

It’s Affordable To Live In France

Depending on where you live, the cost of living in France can be a pro or a con.

If you choose to live in Paris near the Eiffel Tower, you will need help paying your monthly rent. However, if you are willing to live elsewhere, even in a less expensive neighborhood of Paris, France is more than affordable.

Education, healthcare, and transportation are significantly less expensive than in the United States. To begin with, everyone, regardless of income, has access to education and healthcare. Taxes fund both, so the out-of-pocket cost is nearly zero.

This means that the French are not drowning in debt as a result of student loans or surgical procedures.

Then, if you use public transportation, your employer must reimburse you 50% of the cost. This not only encourages the use of public transportation but also lowers your monthly expenses.

Diverse Landscapes

France has it all when it comes to landscape diversity.

You can find some of Europe’s best ski slopes, beautiful beaches, and lavender-filled valleys in one country.

Then there’s France’s capital, of course. There is so much to do in Paris that you could spend your entire life wandering the streets.

To top it all off, everything is within reach. You can travel and go from the Vosges mountains in the east directly to the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast in less than 6 hours. There is never a shortage of epic France road trips.

One thing is certain: with this much variety, you will never be bored!

Delicious Food And Wine

From buttery croissants to legendary wines and cheeses, France is unrivaled in the culinary world! They also have strict protocols to ensure their food’s quality. The highest-quality products are even labeled with stickers (appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC)).

Shopping for groceries in France is an adventure.

Markets and grocery stores are brimming with such beautiful produce that it’s easy to understand why the food is so delicious. It transforms mealtimes into a pleasurable experience rather than a chore.

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Job Security

The labor laws are one of the most advantageous aspects of working in France. All employees are hired over a contract that guarantees the worker’s rights.

A permanent contract (known as CDI or contrat à durée indéterminée) and a fixed term contract (contrat à durée déterminée or CDD) are the two types of contracts in general. It is a relief to know you have rights, that your job is secure, and that your vacation days are guaranteed.

It is undoubtedly one of the most significant advantages of living in France.

Rich In History And Culture

France is rich in history, art, and culture.

From the Louvre, which houses the Mona Lisa, to the beaches of Normandy, France has played an important role in European history. For centuries, they have also influenced art and fashion and continue to be a leader. And, no matter where you go in France, there is a clear link between the past and the present.

Buildings with historical significance are almost never demolished. And a lot of work goes into restoring them. It is common to find sleek modern buildings next to 18th-century houses in cities like Strasbourg and Paris.

Cons Of Living In France

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Paperwork

France is known for its excessive bureaucracy. It’s not uncommon to spend a significant amount of time attempting to figure out what you need to do for seemingly simple tasks such as registering a new address. It’s even worse if you don’t speak French.

Some government websites list the forms you need, but that is irrelevant. It is entirely dependent on the person handling your file and their current mood.

And once you’ve submitted everything, you’ll have to wait an eternity for an answer.

It took me over two years to exchange my driver’s license. The person in charge of my file at each appointment changed their mind. My application was accepted after ten interviews. In Switzerland, it took me 15 minutes to complete the paperwork. My Swiss driving license arrived the next morning in my mailbox.

Visa Renewals Are A Nightmare

This one is related to the French bureaucracy mentioned above. However, because it is so aggravating, it deserves its own section.

One of the most difficult tasks you will face as an expat in France is renewing your visa. I’ve gone through four renewals, each one more painful than the last.

You must begin the renewal process approximately six months before your visa expires. The procedure is the same for all visas, whether a student visa or a long-stay visa. And you’ll have to restart the process by the time you get your new visa, which is usually three months late.

Overall, for each renewal, you will be without a visa for 3-6 months, preventing you from leaving the country.

In one case, I had a job offer from the United Kingdom and needed to leave France to sign the contract. Despite submitting everything six months in advance, the French administration needed to catch up. They told me that my only option was to resign from the position; fortunately, the company that hired me was more accommodating.

High Taxes

In France, there are a lot of taxes. It is even a permanent fixture on the list of the top ten countries with the highest taxes.

Currently, the income tax in France is 46%. However, there are other taxes. There is also a housing tax, a television tax, and a surcharge on excessively high salaries. In fact, there are so many layers that it would take a lifetime to understand how everything works.

While it may appear that you are always paying taxes, there are numerous benefits. In France, taxes pay for things like healthcare, unemployment, education, and transportation. Moving to France has both advantages and disadvantages.

The Language Barrier Can Be Difficult

Most European countries now speak English, but France is not one of them. If you decide to relocate to France, you will need to learn French.

You will discover all of the advantages once you bite the bullet and begin learning. Making friends, finding a job, seeing a doctor, and dealing with bureaucracy will be easier. There are numerous low-cost classes available, both in-person and online. Furthermore, the government provides free courses if you have a long-term visa.

It was difficult for me when I first arrived in France because I didn’t speak a word of French. But once I learned French, I realized all of the above benefits, and my life became much easier.

Jobs Are Scarce

One disadvantage of living in France is the job market. When companies want to set up a shop in Europe, France is usually last on the list. This, of course, is related to taxes.

To employ you, your employer must pay a tax known as charges patronales (employer contributions). The percentage can range between 25 and 45% of your gross salary.

For example, if your annual salary after taxes is 30,000 euros, the total cost of hiring you is 58,000 euros. That’s a tax of 26%! It’s an extra cost that’s so unappealing that companies prefer to locate elsewhere in Europe.

There Are A Lot Of Strikes

The words France and strike are interchangeable. There are so many strikes that France frequently ranks first in the world in terms of the number of working days lost every year.

It is part of the culture, and it will have an impact on your life. Transportation strikes are the most disruptive. Trains stop running, and flights are canceled without warning. If you plan any travel at any time of year, including getting to work, you must be prepared with alternate transportation.

In my case, I relocated so that I could walk to work. However, the majority of people, particularly those living in Paris, purchase a car.

Traveling Across France Is Expensive

France has a complex network of high-speed trains that run throughout the country, making travel extremely convenient. The cost is the disadvantage. If you want to travel by train during peak season, be prepared to pay a premium. It can be so expensive that traveling from Paris to Berlin is sometimes cheaper than from Paris to Strasbourg. France is undeniably beautiful, but if you want to see it, be prepared to pay!

Final Words

This article includes everything you need to think about before moving to France to give you an idea of what you need to do. Best of luck making an informed decision and moving to France!