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Moving to France

Your guide to expat life in France. La vie est belle for expats in France

Want to move to France?

Expats certainly make the most of their time in France, immersing themselves in the country's rich heritage and lively atmosphere. Its capital city, Paris, is regularly voted as having the best, most diverse range of sights in the world. In addition, the Alps are the ideal destination for visitors who revel in the beauty of the mountains.

Although those moving to France are some of the best educated in the world, money is not their main motivation. They do not move there expecting a large salary boost, instead they take advantage of France's location on the doorstep of some of Europe's most famous sites. For international workers, the French working culture provides them with the work-life balance to enjoy their travels.

While a relaxed approach to life can be part of France’s appeal, this can be a source of frustration when you first arrive. But once you slow down and embrace the ‘c’est la vie’ attitude, you’ll start to appreciate the Gallic lifestyle.

Given everything the country has to offer, it is no surprise that more and more expats are choosing to make the country their permanent home. Buying property is a key indicator of expats establishing themselves permanently somewhere and, with half of those in France already owning property in the country, its long-term appeal is unmistakable.

Basic info about France

  • Population: Over 67 million
  • Capital city: Paris (also the largest city)
  • Main languages: French is the official language, but English is spoken and understood
  • Main religion: Christianity. Other religions include Islam, Judaism and Hinduism
  • Political system: Constitutional republic
  • Time: GMT+1. Clocks move forward an hour in March and back an hour in October
  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • International dialling code: +33
  • Internet domain: .fr
  • Emergency numbers: 112 (European general emergency number), 17 (police), 15 (specialist medical services) and 18 (fire and accident)
  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Weather in France

The weather in France is variable and depends on the region. The south coast has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The mountainous Alpine regions are the coldest and wettest parts of the country, with heavy snow in winter. Rainfall is moderate throughout the year – the wettest months are usually May and June.

Key phrases in French

  • Hello Bonjour
  • Good evening Bonsoir
  • Goodbye Au revoir
  • How are you? Ça va?
  • Thank you Merci
  • Yes Oui
  • No Non
  • Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais?
  • Can you help me? Pouvez-vous m'aider?
  • Sorry Pardon?

Shipping to France

With many ports, an extensive railway network and one of the largest international airports in the world, shipping goods to France is relatively hassle free. You can import household goods and personal belongings duty free as long as they’re more than six months old.

Banned items

Items banned from import into France include meat and milk products from non-EU countries and anything made of ivory, tortoiseshell or coral.

Air vs sea

Air freight is more expensive but it’s usually quicker. When you’re getting quotes for shipping costs, it’s worth checking whether they include services such as customs clearance, unloading and furniture reassembly.


Animals coming from other EU countries must be older than three months, microchipped and have a rabies vaccination. Dogs from high-risk rabies countries must also have a blood test when they arrive. If you’re from outside the EU, you’ll need a health certificate signed by a vet from your home country. Dog breeds such as pitbulls can’t be taken to France.

Top tips for France

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in France.

Integrate in to the local community at all opportunities. Even if you don't know the language well, attending events will help with the language, you'll get to know other people and you won't be isolated. If you are seen to be making an effort, local people will help you.
Don't only socialise with other expats, but instead mix as much as possible with your local community. And introduce yourself to the local mayor!
France is very rich in cultural places to visit and food to experience but the cost of accommodation can be high and work hard to find.
Learn French, watch iconic French movies, only hang out with French people to quickly improve your language and cultural knowledge, swap your home country driving licence with a French one.
A life change we wish we'd made years ago, France is so much better in terms of career, finances and children's education. We feel we'll retire here and have no reason to ever go back to Ireland.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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