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 beautiful place to live, there are some drawbacks to living in France.

My first trip to France was on a work visa in 2012. I struggled at first with the language and navigating the bureaucracy. It was difficult, but after two years, France had won my heart. I knew I wanted to live in France one day.

I left for 3.5 years and returned in early 2020 on a spousal visa. It was much easier the second time around. I knew the drawbacks of moving to France and what to expect.

Now I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you. The 14 benefits and drawbacks of living in France are detailed below.

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 have 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 spent at least three months living in France before applying. You can then register at your local CPAM (Caisse primaire assurance Maladie).

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

When paying a visit to your primary care physician or filling a prescription, you must pay a small, reimbursed fee. 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! (This is far superior to the 14 that many Canadians receive.) Then there are 11 public holidays (13 in some departments).

The French people work to spend time with their families and relax during 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 US, this concept was new to me. I never had more than ten vacation days, and unpaid overtime was always expected.

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

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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 struggle to pay 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.

The French are not drowning in debt due to 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 everything 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.

Ultimately, everything is within reach. You can go from the Vosges mountains in the east to the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast in less than 6 hours. There will never be a shortage of epic France road trips.

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

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Delicious Food And Wine

France has rich 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.

Job Security

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

A permanent contract (contrat à durée indéterminée or CDI) and a fixed term contract (contrat à durée déterminée or CDD) are the two types of contracts in general. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but they always favor the worker. And it’s challenging to be laid off or fired as long as the company exists.

This took me some time to grasp because such contracts do not exist in the United States. Knowing I had rights, that my job was secure, and that my vacation days were guaranteed was a relief.

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

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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 essential role in European history. They have also influenced art and fashion for centuries and remain 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 seldom demolished. And a lot of work goes into restoring them. It’s not uncommon to find elegant modern buildings next to 18th-century houses in cities like Strasbourg and Paris.

Cons Of Living In France

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 depends entirely 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 give you an idea of how long it took me to exchange my driver’s license. The individual in charge of my file at each appointment changed their mind. My application was accepted after ten interviews. When I lived in Switzerland, completing the paperwork took me 15 minutes. My Swiss driving license arrived the following day in my mailbox.

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Visa Renewals Are A Nightmare

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

One of the most challenging tasks you will face as an expat in France is renewing your visa. I’ve gone through four renewals, each 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. The French administration was four months late despite submitting everything six months in advance. I was informed that the 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, that is not the only tax. There is also a housing tax, a television tax, and a surcharge on excessively high salaries. It would take a lifetime to understand how everything works with so many layers.

While it may appear that you are always paying taxes, there are numerous benefits. In France, taxes pay for 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 French. But once I learned French, I realized all of the above benefits, and my life became much more manageable.

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Jobs Are Scarce

One disadvantage of living in France is the job market. When companies want to 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 regarding the number of working days lost per year.

It’s 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, most people purchase a car, particularly those living in Paris.

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!

Transfer Money To France

Moving to France entails numerous steps. One of the most important is sending money to start your life here.

I used to use antiquated bank transfers and PayPal, which resulted in exorbitant fees and inflated exchange rates. I’d frequently lose thousands of dollars just trying to move my own money.

Then I discovered Wise.com.

I now only use them to send money around the world. I’ve used Wise.com to transfer money when moving to a new country, taking a gap year, or studying abroad to get the best rates.

If you’re still skeptical, they even have a tool that compares their service fees and exchange rates with other providers to show that they’re saving you the most money.

Sign up today to securely send money to France without exorbitant fees.

Get Travel Insurance

Nobody wants things to go wrong on vacation, but accidents happen. When things go wrong, you don’t need the added stress of dealing with medical bills, lost luggage, or delayed flights. It would be ideal if you had a travel insurance provider you could rely on to get you through the stressful times and to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.