28 February 2020

The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Expat in France

Becoming an expat in France is about more than simply visiting for a weekend break. France is a country which draws in roughly 90 million tourists each year. People are drawn to the romanticised markets, vineyards, sun-kissed terraces and freshly baked baguettes. Moving to France, however, is a whole different story.


Expats who choose to pack up their lives and relocate entirely to France are the ones truly committed to getting to know the country. It is about finding a job, applying for a visa, enrolling children in schools, buying a house and organising healthcare. So, if you have decided to make the big move to France, keep reading for our guide on how to successfully become an expat in France.


Getting healthcare in France


Once your location is decided upon, you will need to arrange healthcare for yourself in France. As an expat who works, you would be required to pay toward the French social security system. Healthcare in France is, in fact, not free. The French state pays 70% of fees for those who pay their social security. To pay, most employees use “La Sécu”, also known as the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (the primary health insurance fund). Patients with long term, chronic or acute conditions such as heart disease or cancer, or those needing more than a month stay in the hospital, will be covered 100% by the state.


Once individuals have registered for the French Healthcare system, they receive a Carte Vitale. This should be used when visiting the doctor, buying a prescription, etc. Residents in France are expected to pay for their treatments and prescriptions first and then receive reimbursement afterwards from the state. If you wish to have 100% of your healthcare covered, you must buy private healthcare on top in order to be fully covered.


Buying property in France


With under 60% of French citizens owning their own property, there is an open market for expats looking to buy. It is worth considering, however, why it is that French nationals prefer to rent rather than buy in the expensive market. In Paris for example, many French citizens cannot afford to buy in the centre and do not wish to venture out to the suburbs and give up their city lifestyle. However, if you are able to afford the city life or will happily settle in a quieter neighbourhood, then buying a property in France sounds like the fit for you.


When buying in France, expats are recommended to go through a real estate agent. If expats buy straight from the owner, the price will be inflated and it will be far harder to seek a property in the remote regions, unless you’re a fluent French-speaker. When selling directly to expats, French locals have a tendency to raise their prices significantly, which they will avoid if a real estate agent is present. So, although the estate agent will take roughly 6-10% of the fees, they still help you to save both time and money. Transferring funds through Paysend can also save money on your property move, allowing you to send money to a French bank account with a low, one off fee of £1 or €1.5.


Children’s education in France


France has one of the best education systems in the world. The system is split into several stages, all of which are free. It is mandatory for children aged 6 - 16 to attend an educational facility, with another two years for a baccalauréat exam if your child wishes to go to university. To attend school, a proof of residence is all that is required. Unlike many other countries, the grade in which children enter is calculated according to the year of birth as opposed to the academic year. Therefore, although the school year starts in September, children born between 1st January - 31 December will be in the same year.


The school week also varies for many. Students can attend school for roughly 24 - 28 hours a week, with some schools operating 4 days a week, some 4.5 and some 5 days. In certain regions schools are closed on a Wednesday afternoon and some are open on a Saturday. For expats who have recently moved to France, If you are wondering how to enrol your child into a school, contact the service des écoles at your local Mairie (the town hall in your area).


Where do expats live in France?


Moving to a new country can be a daunting experience. Therefore, there is no harm in wanting a few home comforts which can often come in the form of other international friends. It can be extremely satisfying to be in the company of other expats since their experiences will often be similar to your own. Here at Paysend, we break down the 5 most common areas to find other expats:


The Dordogne


This area attracts many expats for its idyllic lifestyle, allowing residents to benefit from vineyards, forests, and prehistoric sites. All this comes in at a reasonable price, with the region also giving expats access to nearby airports. The Dordogne is extremely popular with Brits looking to buy houses. Local communities welcome expats with open arms, perhaps an unusual factor which makes expats hesitant to move elsewhere in France.




According to The Local, Toulouse natives have been voted as having the best accent in France. This makes it the ideal destination for those wanting to learn fluent French. Also well known for its food and great location, Toulouse is a good fit for expats who want to travel to Spain regularly.




For British citizens looking to visit home often, Normandy is the place to be. This allows expats to have the best of both worlds; living in France but also being able to visit friends and family back home. There is a large community of British expats living in Normandy, making it a comforting area to live for those who tend to get homesick.




Paris is filled with international residents drawn into the appeal of the beautiful capital city. There are plenty of expats living in the city, however, the size of Paris can restrict the feeling of closeness which can be experienced in other areas of France. Moving to Paris is ideal for individuals who love to socialise and can afford to socialise.


Do expats like living in France?


It is not uncommon for expats moving to a new country to feel a little unsure. With the move to a new cultural environment, there is no guarantee of how international residents will be received. This is especially prevalent in Germany where expats have reported feelings of loneliness and isolation. Expats report having trouble making friends and bonding with locals in Germany, meaning they are restricted to finding friends in other expats within the country.


However, according to Complete France, expats in France feel more welcome than ever by French nationals in the country. In fact, only 24% of expats reported feeling dissatisfied with the attitude of French locals toward them. In comparison to Germany, this result demonstrates the openness in France towards expats. From this survey, 79% of expats were found to be happy with their life in France. With the world average at 76%, France is one of the more welcoming places to move to as an expat! 


If you are looking to move abroad to France, check out the Paysend services. Transferring money can be a big expense when moving to a new country so allow us to make it simple. With a fixed low cost for any transfer, we keep things easy and make your expat journey that little bit less stressful…