For many expatriates planning on living and working in France, it is the famed French lifestyle that is one of the key attractions. The work/life balance is renowned, with plenty of time for leisure activities alongside a high-level professional career.
Expat life in France can vary depending on the region you opt to settle in. The cities, for example, can be faster-paced than the more relaxed rural towns. However, there are some lifestyle traits that are consistent across the country.
Our moving to France tips will help you embrace your new lifestyle and get the best out of your relocation.
France attracts professionals from all over the world, drawn to its strong economy and work ethic. The French workplace is productive and efficient, making it a good option for those looking to progress their career in Europe.
However, as well as high standards of excellence, employees are well looked-after. Wellbeing and quality of life is of equal importance to workplace success. The legal working week is 35 hours, though many will work more than this. According to data compiled by Eurostat, workers in France average 39 hours a week, among the lowest in Europe. By comparison, full-time employees in the UK spend the highest number of hours at work, with an average of 42.3 per week. Alongside this, workers in France are entitled to five weeks’ annual leave, as well as ‘recovery’ days intended for those who work over the 35-hour limit.
It can take a little getting used to as an expatriate, but it’s worth embracing this quality of working life. Long lunches are common – up to two hours – and this can be a good opportunity to socialise with colleagues outside of the office. By spending less time in the workplace, expatriates will also find this gives them more leisure time to spend on hobbies and with family.
Gastronomy and fine wine are synonymous with France, and part of the expatriate experience is in sampling the local delicacies. Go off the beaten tourist track to find authentic restaurants serving classic home-cooked dishes. As the home of the Michelin Guide, there are also some of the world’s top Michelin-starred restaurants in France.
Food and cooking is a large part of French culture. Food is not something to be rushed; it is to be enjoyed leisurely with friends and family. Hosting dinner parties is a popular evening choice and is a good way to build social connections. Dinners are typically several courses and served over a long period of time, with each course paired with a specifically chosen wine.
The French often eat seasonally, shopping for groceries at local markets, butchers and bakeries. Everything from bread to coffee is renowned for its high quality. Even if you’re not a foodie, France’s food obsessed culture will likely rub off on you the more time you spend there.
France is a country with a rich and varied history. It has been home to some of the greatest artists, writers and performers of the last few centuries. When first relocating to France, spend some time visiting the popular galleries and museums.
Paris has a cluster of popular galleries, including the Louvre, Centre Georges Pompidou and Musée d’Orsay. However, if you are living more rurally or in the South, there are still plenty of options. Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence has over 12,000 artworks from classical artists including Picasso, Van Gogh and Cézanne, who was born locally.
While it’s possible to get by in France without speaking the language, particularly in a business environment, you will find it easier to integrate into the local community with some French skills. French nationals are generally more accepting of expatriates who demonstrate basic conversational skills and show a keenness to develop their knowledge of the language.
It’s worth knowing enough to at least converse and order in cafes, shops and restaurants. It’s also wise getting to grips with French for practical reasons – being able to understand utility bills and documents, for example. Find out more about what it’s like to move to France without knowing French in our detailed blog.