21 Pros and Cons of Living in France (from a Local Expat)

Looking for the pros and cons of living in France?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

For over half a decade I’ve been living in France. And during that time I’ve immersed myself in the culture, learned the language, savored the cuisine, and navigated everyday life.

From watching the sunrise over the Eiffel Tower to strolling the cobbled streets of Colmar, it’s a country that has captured my heart.

But, like anywhere, there are downsides to living here.

So, in this post, I want to share with you my firsthand experience and insights about life as an expat in France. I’ll cover all the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right place for you.

Let’s get started.

Pros and Cons of Living in France
Living in France Pros and Cons

Pros of Living in France

The French have turned living well into an art form. Whether it’s food, fashion, or architecture, there’s something special about the culture.

Imagine having access to the world’s finest museums, enjoying fresh croissants every morning, and unwinding with a glass of Bordeaux in the evenings.

And that’s only a few of the pros.

Below I’ll go over all the advantages of living here so you know what to expect.

1. Convenient Public Transportation

Public Transportation is excellent
Efficient Public Transportation

The public transportation system in France is incredibly convenient. Trains and buses are frequent, and, for the most part, reliable. Not only that but monthly passes and one-way tickets are very affordable. There are even applications where you can get special offers and discounts.

But the best part is, your employer is obligated to pay 50% of your monthly expenses. Even though it’s only for the route you use to go to work, it’s still a huge savings!

I’ve lived in quite a few places in France, including Strasbourg and Paris. So, I know what it’s like to use public transport on a daily basis here. And while big cities like Paris have a larger network, the transportation options in smaller towns are still impressive.

2. Fantastic Healthcare

Healthcare products from a pharmacy in France. There's a box of tea bags, a box of doliprane, a box of ibuprofen, a box of bandaids, and mouthwash.
Affordable Healthcare

The French healthcare system, Assurance Maladie, is one of the best in the world. It’s available to everyone, regardless of income or employment status. And it’s affordable!

Patients only pay a small percentage (0-25%) of the overall cost for doctor’s visits, prescriptions, and hospital stays. As an example, the average cost for a primary care doctor in France is €25. That means the final bill is only €7.50.

The combination of excellent facilities, highly trained doctors, and comprehensive coverage means that you’ll have top-notch care without emptying your wallet.

For me, this was a game changer. When I lived in the United States, I avoided going to the doctor. WebMD was my go-to for self-diagnosis.

It was a relief when I moved to France. I knew I could go to any doctor and it would be covered by the national healthcare. I’m much healthier because of it.

If I had to choose the biggest pro of living in France, this would be it!

Useful Tip: You have to live in France for three months before you can access the national healthcare system. You can see a doctor during these three months, but you won’t be reimbursed.

3. Quality of Life

The quality of life in France is a major pro of living in France
The Quality of Life in France is Excellent!

In France, the quality of life is incomparable, and it’s not just about the breathtaking scenery or the rich history. It’s also about the work-life balance, universal healthcare, and the emphasis on enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

Every year, France continues to rank in the top one hundred nations for the best quality of life. Of course, this is no surprise!

The French prioritize leisure and relaxation, and, with a 35-hour workweek, there’s plenty of time for enjoyment. The country’s healthcare system is one of the best, ensuring everyone has access to top-tier medical services.

And let’s not forget the “joie de vivre” or the art of enjoying life. Here meals can last hours and are seen as an opportunity to relax and enjoy good food and company. This balanced, wholesome life is what makes living here truly unique.

When I compare my quality of life in France to all the other places I’ve lived, there’s no doubt that France is the best. There’s a harmony between career, health, and personal happiness that’s unmatched.

4. Indulgent Cuisine

This is a photo of french produce in a typical French market. There are several varieties of apples and oranges. Then on the shelf there are several varieties of nuts.
Fresh Produce

When you think of France, the first thing that comes to mind is world-renowned food. From Michelin-starred restaurants to casual brasseries, French cuisine is known for elegance and sophistication.

But it’s not just the high-end restaurants that are worth mentioning. The everyday cafés and bistros offer some of the best food in the country.

And, what’s even better, it’s affordable.

So, why is French food so good?

The answer lies in the quality of the products used. French chefs take great pride in their cooking and use only the finest ingredients available. They make sure the produce is fresh and in season to ensure their dishes are full of flavor. It’s this attention to detail that results in some of the most delicious food you’ll ever have.

Useful Tip: Lyon is the Gastronomic Capital of France!

5. Breathtaking Scenery

France is full of breathtaking scenery
Just Look at that View!

If you love nature and the outdoors, France has no shortage of breathtaking scenery. Snow-capped Alps fill the sky in the east while sun-drenched beaches line the shores in the south. Then, there are rolling lavender fields, lush green forests, and never-ending vineyards in between.

And to reach all these wonderful places, you don’t have to travel very far. From Paris or any other big city, you can reach the beautiful seascapes in Les Sables-d’Olonne or the striking vistas in Annecy in only a few hours!

6. Affordable Education

Jen's Level A2 Textbook from Alliance Française in Paris
Affordable Textbooks

With world-renowned universities, like the Sorbonne, you would think that education in France would be expensive. But that’s far from reality.

France has some of the most affordable education in Europe. Whether you’re looking to study abroad or move your family here, you won’t have to worry about excessive tuition fees.

To give you an example, my bachelor’s degree from the United States was about $36,000 per year! I had scholarships and did work-study programs, but that hardly covered the costs.

I finished with about $40,000 in student loans.

In France, an equivalent degree would cost about $3000 per year (for non-residents). And that’s without tuition aid or scholarships. For most residents, the average cost is about $200 per year.

Textbooks and student housing are either free or offered at a low cost.

Then, on top of all that students receive discounts on public transport, museum passes, etc.

Useful Tip: It’s so affordable that I was able to study French in Paris without emptying my bank account. I took my first courses with Alliance Française de Paris. And, after I completed levels A1 and A2, I hired a private tutor.

7. Fascinating Culture

Most Beautiful Gothic Church in Europe is in Strasbourg, France. This is a photo of the exterior. It's made a red-pink stone. And it's decorated with very detailed sculptures.
Strasbourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral

France’s fascinating culture is undeniably an alluring part of expat life here. The country is a treasure trove of art, history, and culinary delights.

Everywhere you turn, there is a piece of history waiting to be explored. From Gothic cathedrals to Roman ruins, there’s no shortage of sites for history buffs.

Art aficionados will lose themselves in world-renowned museums like Musée d’Orsay, while foodies indulge in buttery pastries.

Then, there’s the architecture. Be it the awe-inspiring Eiffel Tower or the Palace of Versailles, these structures tell a tale of France’s rich past.

But it’s not limited to these iconic landmarks. Even a casual stroll through a small town in Alsace or a neighborhood in Nancy, reveals an array of styles from different eras.

France is also home to countless festivals. Throughout the year, you’ll have access to music, food, art, and wine events. It’s a vibrant cultural hub that’s hard to resist.

8. Strong Expat Community

One of the most important things to consider before moving to another country is your support network. And that goes for at home and in your new country. While there are several ways to build such a network, I’ve found expat communities to be the best.

Luckily, France has a thriving expat community. From English-speaking meetups to interactive French classes, there’s a group for everyone. Not only that but they are all welcoming and supportive, which is a huge plus when you’re getting settled.

9. Low Cost of Living

Cost of Living is low in France
France is Affordable

One of the reasons why France is so affordable is because the cost of living is very low. Rent, food, and transportation are all reasonably priced. Most people can afford the necessities as well as some luxuries.

Of course, the cost of living depends on the city. And, let me assure you, there are a lot of expensive cities in France.

For example, the cost of living in Paris is much higher than in smaller cities like Bordeaux or Toulouse. But, even in Paris, it’s possible to find affordable apartments and eat out on a budget.

10. A Lot of Vacation Days

This is a photo of Jen exploring Strasbourg on her day off. She's in La Petite France and there are two half-timbered houses behind her. She's wearing a blue jacket and cream-colored shorts.
Exploring Strasbourg on My Day Off

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to France was the number of vacation days.

First, there are 11 national holidays, which, to me, is a whopping number. That’s more than an American’s average number of vacation days for the whole year!

Then, there are your personal vacation days. The law guarantees you two and a half days for every month you work. That makes the national average 25, but most people have between 30 and 40.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t used to having so many days off, but I quickly adapted. Having so many vacation days gives me the chance to indulge in my hobbies while still finding time to relax. I’m able to build a good work-life balance that I would not be able to do otherwise. It’s definitely a huge benefit of living in France!

11. Centrally Located

This is a bird's eye view of Luxembourg's Neumünster abbey. It was an easy day trip that I did from France.
Luxembourg’s Neumünster Abbey

France is a great base for traveling and exploring other European countries.

Whether it’s a shopping spree in London or a short stay in Luxembourg, you’re just a short train or plane ride away.

And it’s not only about jetting off to other countries. France itself is diverse enough to satisfy your wanderlust.

From the bustling port city of Marseille to the ever-enchanting Colmar, there are a ton of places you can visit without crossing a border.

I’m always looking for my next adventure and I like knowing that I don’t have to plan my trips a year in advance. So, if you’re someone like me, there’s no better home base than France.

Cons of Living in France

While life in France can be incredible, it does have its fair share of challenges.

The bureaucracy is an endless maze of paperwork and finding a plumber on Sunday can be a nightmare.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider moving here.

It’s important to know the downsides so you can make an informed decision.

So, let’s dive in.

12. High Taxes

Taxes in France are Very High
France is known for its High Taxes

It’s no secret that France has some of the highest taxes in the world. The income tax alone is a whopping 45%. And that doesn’t include the housing tax, social security tax, and tax on goods and services.

Luckily, it all goes back into the country. About 31% of France’s GDP is spent on social programs like unemployment and healthcare. So, while it may seem like a lot is being taken, it’s going to services that you will inevitably use.

It’s only a con of living in France if you don’t consider all the benefits.

13. Endless Strikes

The French have a reputation for being very passionate. And a lot of that gusto is expressed through strikes, protests, and manifestations. It seems to be their go-to negotiation tactic for anything work-related.

And, while they do raise awareness, they are inconvenient.

The most disruptive strikes are those connected to public transportation. Trains, metros, and trams will suddenly stop running without warning. I’ve been left in the middle of nowhere more times than I can count because the train drivers wanted an extra vacation day.

Needless to say, they don’t have my sympathy!

14. Heavy Pollution

Small Streets contribute to the Large Amount of Pollution
Very Small Streets!

Pollution is one of the biggest cons of living in France. Cities swell with smog, and during the summer, it can be dangerous to go outside.

When I first moved to Paris, I developed a cough from the smog. I had a hard time breathing and it impacted my health. So much so that I, eventually, decided to move to Strasbourg.

So, why is it so bad?

There are a few reasons for this, but the most significant contributor is traffic. Of course, public transportation is an option, but, given the number of strikes, most opt for a car if they can afford it.

As more and more people choose to drive a car, the worse the pollution gets. And it doesn’t help that the cities are poorly designed. The streets are small and, oftentimes, only one way. So, as you can imagine, during rush hour, the smell of car exhaust is suffocating!

While there are efforts to decrease the amount of pollution and alleviate the traffic, it’s still a major problem in France.

15. People can be Unwelcoming

Living in a foreign country can be difficult. But when you live in France, it can be even more challenging. There are so many unwritten rules and social norms that you need to master before you can be considered a ‘local’.

It didn’t take me long after I arrived to learn that there was a ‘French way’ of doing things. And the phrase, “This is how things are done in France!” was frequently repeated to me.

It can be alienating and frustrating, but it’s something every expat must deal with at one time or another.

It’s also a much bigger problem in large cities like Paris and Lyon. You’ll find smaller places like Dijon have friendly and welcoming locals.

16. Difficult to Find Housing

It is difficult to find housing in France
Accommodation is Difficult to Find

Finding an apartment in France can be a daunting task.

First, landlords prefer to rent to someone who is already living in the county.

Second, you need a work contract, a bank account, and several other documents that you won’t have when you arrive.

Finally, the competition for housing is fierce. From locals to students and expats, there’s always someone who needs an apartment. And if you’re looking to live in one of the popular cities, you may have to settle on your third or fourth choice.

When I moved to Strasbourg, I had to settle on renting a less-than-perfect apartment for my first two years. It took me months to find something bigger than a studio and affordable.

Not surprisingly, most newcomers use this strategy. It’s the best way to avoid living in an expensive hotel or Airbnb.

17. Postal Service Sucks

This is a mailbox for La Poste in France. It's covered in stickers and graffiti. It's not a reliable service.
La Poste Sucks

If there is one thing I hate about France, it’s the postal service, aka La Poste. Now, I don’t like using such a strong phrase, but it’s well warranted here.

I have no idea why it’s so difficult to send and receive mail in France. Everything about the system is complicated, even the zip codes for Paris are a pain to deal with.

I also don’t understand why people feel the need to steal items out of mailboxes. It’s a reoccurring problem to which I’ve been unable to find a solution. In general, I try to avoid using the postal service at all costs. If I need to, then I use express services like DHL or FedEx.

18. Small Stores

Shops are very small in France
Small Stores can be Frustrating!

Another downside of living in France is the lack of variety when it comes to stores. There are a few chains such as Leclerc that resemble supercenters, but, even then, the options are very limited. I often have to go to two or three stores to find what I’m looking for.

Whereas in the United States, I was always able to find everything I needed in one store. Not only that but the variety was endless. There were aisles dedicated to cereal alone! Such a luxury doesn’t exist in France.

19. High Language Barrier

This is a photo of French words at a museum in France. It says votez pour votre futur, which means vote for your future. If you want to live in France you'll have to learn French.
You’ll have to learn French

The language barrier is one of the most difficult things to overcome in France. And, it’s this factor alone that makes it one of the most challenging countries to move to.

Without French, it’s almost impossible to do basic things like open a bank account or rent an apartment. And let’s not forget about the bureaucracy. If you don’t speak French, you’ll have a hard time renewing your visa.

When I learned French, my life changed. Everything was easier. I made friends, I could relate to my colleagues at work, and I was able to handle basic administrative tasks.

If you plan on moving to France, you’ll have to learn French.

Useful Tip: I recommend taking French classes with a group at first. It’s an affordable way to get started. Plus, you’ll meet other expats.

20. Winters are Grey and Dreary

Winters in France can be very Gloomy
A Very Gloomy Morning!

The weather is both a pro and con of living in France.

The summers are wonderful, but the winters are long, dark, and dreary. It’s not uncommon for it to be cloudy and raining for weeks on end. And, when it snows, it’s usually a light dusting that instantly melts, leaving behind a cold slushy mess.

After all these years in France, I’m still not used to it. I prefer cold, dry winters with a lot of snow, like when I was a kid growing up in Illinois. I love building snowmen and sipping hot chocolate after sledding. It’s way more fun than walking on a slushy sidewalk.

Of course, not every city in France has the same kind of winter. Many cities along the Mediterranean coast have mild winters. But the number of cloudy days is still more than sunny ones.

21. Bureaucracy is Slow

Jen's Long-Stay Visa Application and United States Passport. There was a lot of paperwork and the process was very slow. It's a con of living in France.
My Long-Stay Visa Application

It’s no secret that the French bureaucracy is notoriously slow. Every form needs to be impeccable, or else you have to start all over. And the definition of perfect depends on the person taking your documents. They all seem to have different sets of requirements. It’s like a game of Russian roulette, you never know what you’ll get.

Of the situations that you’ll encounter, visa renewals are the worst. From the moment you submit your documents to the time you receive your visa; it can take months.

In my most recent adventure, the prefecture ‘forgot’ to notify me that my resident permit was ready for pickup.

It’s a never-ending headache that you will have to accept if you decide to live in France.

FAQs About Life in France

What is the downside of living in France?

The biggest downside of living in France is the bureaucracy. It’s slow, time-consuming, and frustrating. I do my best to avoid it at all costs.

Is it worth living in France?

The pros and cons of living in France will vary depending on your individual circumstances. Some of the benefits include delicious food, diverse landscapes, and incredible healthcare. The biggest drawback is the slow and complex bureaucracy. I think the pros outweigh the cons. And that’s why I live in France.

What are the advantages of living in France?

There are a ton of advantages to living in France. But the biggest advantages include healthcare, good quality of life, delicious food, and stunning landscapes.

What is the average rent in France?

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in France is €851. But these prices can vary depending on the city. For example, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Paris is €1500 while in Strasbourg it’s only €700.

Is it hard to live in France without speaking French?

The official language in France is French, so it can be very difficult to get by without speaking French. Basic things such as opening a bank account or renting an apartment require at least some French. Then, of course, there is the paperwork. Your life will be much easier if you can read the documents and talk with the administration.

What part of France is best to live in?

France is so diverse it’s hard to choose which part is the best to live in. It depends on a few things. If you want to live in a big city, Paris and Lyon are ideal. Then, Toulouse, Marseille, and Nice are great if you want good weather year-round. And I can’t leave Strasbourg off the list. It’s a small city with access to some of the most beautiful mountains in the country.

Does France have free healthcare?

France has a universal healthcare system. It’s funded by taxes and contributions from employees and employers. Residents pay a small copay for doctor visits and prescriptions. On average, the cost of a doctor’s visit costs €0-7.50.

Is living in France better than the US?

It depends on your individual situation. France offers universal healthcare and delicious food, while the US boasts an open job market with more opportunities for professionals. Both countries have their advantages, so it’s up to you to decide which country is better for you. I, personally, love both places. And I often find myself torn between the two.

Is living in France better than the UK?

This depends on your personal preferences. France boasts a high quality of life and a good work-life balance, while the UK has a robust economy. I’ve lived in both countries, and I prefer living in France. I think the healthcare, food, and lifestyle are better.

How is living in France different from the US?

Living in France is quite different from the US. The biggest discrepancies can be seen in the culture, language, healthcare system, and lifestyle. In France, French is the main language. In the US, it’s English. Healthcare is also very different. The US has private health insurance companies while France has universal healthcare. Finally, the French culture put priority on maintaining a good work-life balance.

Conclusion: Living in France Pros and Cons

Living in France as an expat can be a challenging experience. The language barrier, grey winters, and slow bureaucracy are only some of the difficulties.

But there are also many pros. The quality of life is the best I’ve experienced, the food is amazing, and there’s a lot of history and culture to explore.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons, and it’s definitely worth moving here.

When you’re ready to make the leap, check out my expat guide to living abroad!


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Jen Ciesielski
Jen Ciesielski

Jen Ciesielski is the creator of Dabbling in Jet Lag. She has lived abroad for over ten years, traveled to more than 50 countries, and speaks French and English fluently. Her areas of expertise include moving abroad, learning languages, and travel planning. Originally from the United States, she now lives in France, where she has been for more than six years. She has also traveled extensively around the country. She shares her experiences as an expat living in France and helps thousands of people plan their trips every month.

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