Ask any self respecting Frenchman (or woman) to reveal the very best thing about France and they will pause for a second before replying, “The food of course, oh and the weather, and the landscapes” before continuing to list just about everything else before ending with “and the quality of life Of course!”. And, all of this is true, which is why France is such an incredibly popular relocation destination.
Reason 1: Real estate
Housing is plentiful and in the main, very affordable in comparison to prices in the UK and USA. There’s something for everyone, from city apartments in the classic Haussmannian style, to stunning stone manor houses, to traditional farms, cute cottages. Every region has its own unique and attractive style. Land is plentiful and if you have always yearned for a large garden or even a small holding, property prices in France make the dream entirely feasible. The sales process is straightforward, well regulated and relatively easy to navigate for overseas buyers. Gazumping doesn’t exist and once your offer has been accepted, you know that at some point the property will be yours and can plan accordingly. This factor alone removes some of the stress that comes with relocating to another country.
Reason 2: The weather (obviously)
Whilst the weather obviously varies from region to region, with the north being generally cooler and wetter, France is such a large country that micro-climates exist within every department and it’s often possible to find an area within a wet or windy region that is significantly drier or more sheltered than is the norm. Pretty much everywhere is a few degrees warmer than the UK and large swathes of France enjoy long hot summers. Having a swimming pool is common and south of the Loire, seen pretty much as a necessity, although obviously, being able to come home from work and jump in the pool for a swim before dinner is an absolute luxury!
France has a wonderfully varied landscape with both Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches, mountains, valleys and gorges along with miles and miles of hiking trails. It is a paradise for outdoor sports lovers and whether you want to surf, ski, snorkel or just stroll through the countryside, there’s going to be a region where you can do most, if not all, of the above!
Reason 3: Childcare & the education system
France is a great place to raise a family with paid maternity and paternity leave, generous child and family benefits and an excellent education system. Early years childcare is subsidised by the state through tax credits and there’s extensive provision for pre and after school childcare. This is known as la garderie and it is incredibly cheap in comparison to the UK ‘after school’ clubs. Holiday clubs are very reasonably priced as are the (means tested) residential holidays where your children can spend a week sailing, skiing, horse riding, quad biking and the like are available during half terms, Easter and the summer holidays.
The whole system is geared towards supporting family life and assisting working parents. State education is free, students do have to provide their own equipment, such as pens, art supplies, exercise books and textbooks (at high school) but generous grants are paid out to help with these costs at the start of every academic year. University fees are much lower than in many other countries with those on low incomes paying virtually nothing and means tested maintenance grants are also available. Each university campus will have restaurants offering heavily discounted meals. Overall, France is a great place to be a student both in terms of academic provision and student welfare.
Reason 4: The food (of course)
Eating well isn’t just a priority for students. The French take food and nutrition very seriously! Fresh produce is readily available and each region has its own specialities. Sampling regional delicacies is just one of the joys of living in France. The smallest town will have several restaurants offering reasonably priced lunch time menus. This is when the French traditionally eat their main meal of the day and the menu de jour normally features three courses and costs between around 12 to 20€ per head. Many employers offer luncheon voucher equivalents – ticket restaurants – so that their employees can eat properly as that is viewed as key to staying healthy.
Reason 5: Healthcare
If you do become ill and need treatment, you can rest assured that you will receive first rate care. Healthcare in France is excellent and scores consistently highly in global healthcare comparison studies. Everyone who is resident in France in a ‘regular’ manner (in other words complies with all the legal requirements for residency) can access the French system on exactly the same basis as a French national. Effectively this means that the state will pay a percentage of all your costs (usually around 70%) and you will come up with the remaining 30%. This can either be directly from your own pocket or more usually, via top-up health insurance commonly referred to as a Mutuelle.
A ‘Mutuelle’ policy can be provided by an employer (in which case the cost will be deducted directly from your salary) or taken out by an individual. They vary enormously in terms of cost, cover provided, value for money, reimbursement rates and so on. Choosing the right healthcare policy depends entirely on individual circumstances and cover requirements. So taking qualified, professional advice is key and will ensure that you are not paying for cover that you don’t need.