France is not only a top tourist destination - it's also a fantastic place to live full time! France consistently ranks highly as one of the most desired expat destinations, thanks to its high quality of life, great food and wine, great transport network and fast internet speeds.
But before you buy the next flight out of Australia - a word to the wise - life in France isn't all frolicking in lavender fields and drinking cafe au lait en terrasse. Expat life here can be difficult, especially if you don't speak the language.
And if you're considering moving to France, there are a few very important questions you need to be posing...
- Many expats dream of living in Paris, which is a great option for those with a job and income already set up there. On the downside, Paris can be expensive and unfriendly like any other big metropolis.
- Or perhaps a second-tier city such as Marseille, Toulouse or Lyon is more your speed. All these places have great connections to Paris, whilst you benefit from cheaper rent and housing prices and all the comforts of a big city.
- Or do you dream of purchasing a little cottage en pleine champagne?
You'll also need to consider how to find work in France. Unless you're retired or independently wealthy, you'll need to look for a job or have one set up before you go. English teaching is a common career for those arriving in France. Many jobs require you to be bilingual in English and French, but some companies will also offer French lessons to employees - plus you'll learn from immersion!
If you have school-aged children, you need to investigate the French education system. Will they attend an international school? A French school? A bilingual school?
France is also known for its high-quality healthcare system, but not all expats will be covered for everything instantly.
If you want to take your love affair with France to the next level and go from tourist to bona fide expat, you'll need to know the answers to these questions and much more. Let's get you started on the right foot...
Preparing for the big move? Find a teacher for French lessons Melbourne through Superprof.
The Australian Diaspora
Latest statistics tell us that 310,000 Australians are currently living abroad. That's around 1.3% of the total population. We have more expats per capita than the US, but slightly less than Ireland or New Zealand, for example.
Around a third of those expats live somewhere in Europe, yet only 5,500 Australians live in France.
So why do Australians choose to live overseas?
- Retirement: France can be very popular for independently wealthy retirees who wish to pass their sunset years soaking up all the great wine, food and art France has to offer.
- Work: as we mentioned, English teaching is very popular, but France now offers special tech visas and artist visas to people wanting to relocate and contribute to these thriving industries
- Starting a new business: in France, you can register as an "autoentrepreneur" and benefit from tax discounts in your first years of business
- Broader horizons: some intrepid Australians become serial expats and like the challenge of immersing themselves in a new language and culture
Things To Consider When Moving To France
Getting Set Up With Housing
When taking up residence in France, your first concern as a foreigner is housing.
Firstly, do you plan to rent or buy property right away?
If you've spent some time in France already, and speak the language reasonably well, you may be ready to put a down payment on a house in France. However, if you're not sure how long you want to stay, or don't speak French yet, renting is a much better idea.
Next - location, location, location. Do you dream of a little cottage in lush green Normandy or a chamber de bonne in the centre of Paris?
If you're already planning to work or study in France, your decision may already be made for you! You'll need somewhere within a short commute to your work. Keep in mind - you'll be pleasantly surprised at how good the transportation system is, so generally, you can afford to live a little further out if you need to.
Australians will also fall in love with French property prices. Paris is still incredibly expensive, but look a little further out and you can snap up a bargain you certainly couldn't get back home!
Before buying a property, do as much research as you can on the area, prices and local laws.
Finding A Job
Many Australians are tempted by the appeal of the French work week, which is only 35 hours full time and allows for lots of leisurely aperos.
Entrepreneurs will also be glad to hear that France is a supportive environment for new businesses - with lots of financial assistance offered by the French banks. However, make sure you do your research beforehand and know enough of the language to file the relevant paperwork!
You'll also need to meet certain criteria - you'll need valid work and residency permits, register with the tax office as an autoentrepreneur have the right qualifications and credentials.
There is also the NACRE scheme, which offers small business loans interest-free.
Navigating The French Education System
Did you know that France has over 105 international schools?
However, if you are encouraging your children to learn French, there is no better way to immerse your children in the language than sending them to a French school.
Make sure they're prepared for learning at a French language school by engaging a French tutor. We have lots of tutors who specialise in teaching French to children at Superprof.
And what about your education?
- You could enrol full-time in a French undergraduate or Masters course. Fees are generally much lower than in Australia - even for international students! And many of France's university's are ranked highly.
- France is also big on the concept of a formation (vocational training or professional development) where you upskill alongside your regular work.
Read up on the most useful French phrases that will have you speaking like a local!
Transport And Infrastructure In France
France is a nation with great infrastructure - from it's lightning-fast internet to its well-maintained motorways, extremely fast trains and well-designed airports.
You can get to most parts of the country in a couple of hours, and fast trains service the routes between major cities such as Paris, Marseille and Lyon. No need to do much driving! A large number of French people make do with train travel - only occasionally hiring a car for holidays.
France is well ahead of Australia in terms of internet speeds - so with more and more people working primarily online, France is a great place to live for the digital natives.
The French Health System
Many are seeking information on the healthcare system in their new chosen country, and what rights and benefits they have as expats. This is especially true for retirees hoping to live out their sunset years in France! You'll be glad to hear that the healthcare system in France is top-notch, generally doesn't cost too much and regularly ranks among the world's best.
Once you have a social security number and health care card (Carte Vitale), nearly everything is reimbursed and many services and medicines are free!
In France, you'll generally pay higher taxes than in Australia, but you'll benefit from great healthcare and well-maintained infrastructure. You can expect to pay social security fees through the URSSAF on top of your regular yearly taxes.
To ensure you're fully covered, make sure you take out a policy with a health insurance company (mutuel).
Immersing Yourself In The French Language And Culture
Emigrating to France is both a logistical and linguistic challenge
Whilst you can live in France with little to no French, we wouldn't recommend it. Everything from banking to finding a job to meeting new friends will be easier if you speak the language!
The first few months to a year can be hard in terms of integration. You may experience some culture shock - especially in bigger cities like Paris, it may be initially quite difficult to find friends.
The Australian expat community is very warm and helpful, and there are lots of British expats and Americans living here as well. You're never too far from an Aussie flat white or welcoming pub!
If you plan to move to France, a good idea is to join an online expat forum, and just pose any questions you may have whilst still living in Australia.
You can ask questions about visas, citizenship rights or public transport, or find buddies to travel with.
Our advice: plan ahead, be proactive about making connections and learn French. Being an expat can be incredibly challenging and rewarding.
You can even get a head start right now by learning French online - wherever you are!