There's visiting Paris and there's actually living in Paris - no longer a tourist but living life as a local. One of the biggest cities in the world, the capital of France is definitely a must-see destination for its history, charm and chic. Day-to-day life while you're living and working in Paris as an expat offers a different set of challenges as well as surprises – from riding the Métro and finding your way around the different arrondissements to making sure your French is up to par. Let this Paris expat guide serve as your road map to living the best life in the City of Lights. Allez!
In October 2018, the population of France was estimated to be 67.3 million. Of these, over 2.2 million were living in its capital Paris in the first quarter of the same year, as revealed by INSEE (Institut National de la Statistique et des études économiques), the national statistics bureau of France. France also took the 11th position in HSBC's most recent Expat Explorer Survey, scoring high from respondents in terms of work-life balance and job security, quality of life and culture, healthcare, childcare, and school quality. Notably, the city ranked 19th on the 2018 Global Liveability Index released by The Economist Intelligence Unit, bouncing back from the 32nd place in 2017 due to terrorist incidents the capital suffered in 2015.
There's absolutely no doubt its capital Paris continues to entice visitors and expatriates alike with its history, charm and economic progress. In 2017 alone, the city received 23 million visitors based on hotel stays, with the majority coming from the United States, the UK, Germany, and China. It continues to be the most visited destination in the world in both 2016 and 2017, coming after Bangkok and London. Thanks to its two international airports, Paris-Charles de Gaulle – the second busiest airport in Europe after London Heathrow Airport – and Paris-Orly, plus a good number of regional airports and train stations, those living in France can travel within Europe with ease.
Paris' well-known landmarks, museums, and architecture are only a few of the many reasons why the city keeps attracting visitors from all over the globe. For many of its residents who live in the 20 arrondissements or municipal districts that comprise the capital, living in many of its historic buildings certainly, add to the appeal of life in Paris.
Paris the city and capital is part of the Paris Region or Île-de-France and is the most populous city in the entire country. The Paris Region itself has an estimated population of nearly 13 million and recorded a GDP of EUR 681 billion in 2016, which represented 31 percent of France's overall GDP.
While Lyon, another major French city, also made the list on the Global Liveability Index in 30th place, Paris remains to be the most populous city in France and has maintained its status as a major hub for finance, commerce, fashion, science and the arts since the 17th century.
The Louvre ranks as one of the most famous museums in the world, receiving over 8 million visitors in 2017. The Eiffel Tower dominates the city's skyline, while the Arc de Triomphe creates an imposing presence on the Champs-Élysées. The front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris serves as point zero from which all distances are measured.
Aside from being the seat of government, Paris is home to many of the top Fortune 500 companies and plays host to the headquarters of many international organizations including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Chamber of Commerce, the European Space Agency, and the International Federation for Human Rights, among others.
As a major stakeholder in the global economy, as well as in politics, education, entertainment, media, and the arts, Paris exerts considerable influence in world affairs. Paris is set to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which thrusts the city into the spotlight.
In addition, the historic Paris Agreement was drafted at Le Bourget, near Paris during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP21. The agreement is a global action plan to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
As part of its commitment, Paris has set the goal to be carbon-neutral and completely powered by renewable energy by the year 2050. Among its initial efforts are plans to transform school and college campuses into urban oases to the combat the urban heat island effect. This includes repaving surfaces with permeable and heat-sensitive materials, putting up more vegetation including trees, gardens, green walls and green roofs.
Paris also wants to become the start-up capital of Europe and was given the distinction of being named 2017's European Capital of Innovation, winning the first prize worth EUR 1 million. The city is home to Station F, the world's largest start-up campus situated in a former railway depot. Aside from offering aid in the form of financial support, accommodation or other services, the city of Paris will also allow companies to test their prototypes in real-world conditions before launching them.
According to Horizon Magazine, an online publication by the European Union, Paris also boasts an innovation arc, a series of networks spanning the city that offers small workshops called FabLabs, along with co-working spaces and urban farms that allow people to grow vegetables and learn how to minimize food waste.
According to INSEE, there were around 4.42 million foreigners living in metropolitan France in 2015, with a third hailing from the 28 member states of the European Union, 40% from Africa, and other countries and territories accounting for the rest. Nationals hailing from EU member states, Switzerland, and from the EFTA (European Free Trade) member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway can live, work and study in France without needing a French visa or permit.
In 2017, France granted long-stay visas or visa de long séjour to 210,223 non-EU nationals, according to the Immigration Department of the Ministry of The Interior (Ministère de l'Intérieur), and over 3.2 million short-stay visas or visa de court séjour. In addition, 92,759 first residence permits were issued for family reasons, 78,758 for students, and 27,556 for employment reasons. Citizens from Algeria, Morocco, China including Hong Kong, and the USA are among the biggest number of applicants for the permits.
In the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey results, France ranks high on the list when it comes to quality of living. Many cited improving their quality of life as the top reason for moving to a new country like France. Indeed, around 56 percent of the 432 respondents in the survey are retirees aged 55 and above who enjoy the rich culture, while 34 percent are between the ages of 35 and 54. The respondents who moved to France for employment are mostly working in the tourism industry and its related sectors such as travel, leisure, hospitality, and customer service. Compared to the global average of USD 99,903, expats in France earn around USD 79,429 or around EUR 71,572.
A majority of the expats who are currently living in France speak French or are learning to better integrate into their local communities, while two-thirds have lived and worked in the country for more than five years. Many of these expats encourage learning the basics of the language prior to moving especially for those who don't speak French at all, to help adjust to the culture better. For professionals in the process of finding a job in Paris, fluency in the language is a definite must.
: Housing, Healthcare, Education and Transport
The idea of an expat life that includes living in a country with a strong economy where people ostensibly enjoy a 35-hour workweek and where good food is affordable can certainly motivate many ambitious professionals to move to France. However, expats in Paris note that France is one of the countries with a high cost of living, and Paris consistently earns a spot in Mercer's annual Cost of Living Survey as one of the most expensive cities to live in.
Paris is a big city with a big population. With 2.2 million people in the city, this is equivalent to 21,000 persons per square kilometer, which means you're also competing with so many for living spaces. Many apartments in Paris may not be spacious enough for families and don't possess modern conveniences such as heating or cooling.
Finding the right accommodation is one of the most challenging tasks for expats moving to Paris. The city's 20 arrondissements are arranged in a clockwise, spiral shape starting from the city center, and any property closer to the center or a major transport hub will be expensive. Expats should do some preliminary research on the neighborhoods in the 20 arrondissements Paris before doing any negotiation for a rental property.
Are you looking for a place that's family-friendly, with schools nearby and green spaces? The city has plenty of public parks and gardens including the Bois de Vincennes, the Bois de Boulogne, the Parc de la Villette, the Tuileries Garden, and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
How about a more upbeat atmosphere, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and leisure options? Aside from trendy clubs and bars, there are open-air markets, flea markets, bookstores, and a wide variety of cultural events happening on a regular basis in the city. You can visit the website of the Paris City Hall (Mairie de Paris) at https://www.paris.fr/ for a useful guide to Paris as your new home.
Housing may take up a big chunk of your budget but living in Paris means you can also enjoy France's excellent public healthcare system. Considered one of the best in the world, the public healthcare system maintains a high doctor-to-patient ratio and a good number of private and public hospitals available. The country's public health insurance system covers up to 70 percent of healthcare costs and is funded by the government as well as employee contributions. Having a comprehensive international health insurance plan for you and your family allows you to make up for any remaining amount should you require it.
The quality of childcare in France ranks high on the Expat Explorer Survey, hitting the fourth place on the list. Public schools are free for all residents, and if you want your children to learn French at a young age and assimilate better, enrolling them in a public school is the best way to go about it. There are private schools that are state-funded which follow the national curriculum, and those that are privately funded, many of which are Catholic and have religious education included in the curriculum.
You also have the option of having your child attend an international school instead, many of which are in Paris, as well as in the other major cities in France such as Nice and Lyon. You can choose from those that offer a British, American, or German curriculum, or one that follows the International Baccalaureate system. As with most international schools, be prepared to pay high fees.
Paris may be known for its wide boulevards but it's also infamous for its congested roads. For a majority of Parisians, taking public transport is the best way to get around the city, with the Paris Métro as the most popular choice. With 302 stations, this rapid transit system navigates the Paris metropolitan area and travels mostly underground.
Your other options to go in, around and out of Paris are the RER or the Réseau Express Régional, a higher-speed train network that runs above and below ground to the farther suburban regions. Another rail network, the Transilien, helps connect the Paris train and RER stations to other suburban areas. To reach all the other main cities in France as well as travel to Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Luxembourg, there's the TGV or Train à Grande Vitesse, the country's high-speed rail service and one of the fastest in the world. If you want to visit neighboring England, there's always the Eurostar, another high-speed train network capable of carrying passengers, cars, and buses via a tunnel under the English Channel.
The city of Paris has always captivated millions with its wide boulevards and leafy cobblestoned streets, and thus known as the "City of Lights" and "City of Romance." Nevertheless, for the consummate professional, the opportunity to move to France and the experience of working and living in Paris is a noteworthy achievement. Planning to move to Paris is vastly different from actually living in Paris itself. Will all those expat guides live up to your own expat experience eventually? Find out what you need to know before moving to Paris as an expat.
Undoubtedly a beautiful city, there's certainly more to Paris than its famous landmarks and sights like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. The City of Paris is part of Île-de-France, also known as the Paris Region (région Parisienne), and the most densely populated among the 18 regions of France. It has an estimated current population of 12.24 million people and covers 12,012 square kilometers. Paris is one of the eight administrative departments that comprise Île-de-France, and the others are Paris, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Seine-et-Marne, Val-de-Marne, Val-d'Oise and Yvelines.
The Paris Region accounts for nearly 30 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of France and serves as the country's economic hub. Almost all of the 28 French companies in the Fortune Global 500 have their headquarters in the Paris Region. These include the country's major banks such as BNP Paribas, Société Générale, and Crédit Agricole, the telecommunications and electric utility companies of Orange S.A., Veolia, and Électricité de France, and the global oil company Total S.A. French automobile manufacturers Renault and Groupe PSA maintains their research centers and plants in the area.
The region is also home to other historical points of interest such as the Palace of Versailles, Palace of Fontainebleau, and Disneyland Paris. Housed in a historical building in the heart of Paris is the country's stock market, Euronext Paris, formerly known as Bourse de Paris. Euronext is ranked fourth among the global stock markets after New York, Tokyo, and London.
Paris is one of the world's top destinations, not only for tourism but for expatriates and immigrants as well, with visitor arrivals in 2017 reaching 23 million. According to data from INSEE, the national statistics bureau of France, the country's population was around 65.2 million in January 2012, including 5.7 million immigrants. Of these, 2.2 million people chose to live in the Paris urban area. In January 2018, the country's population reached an all-time high of 67.19 million and is expected to grow to 74 million by 2050, according to INSEE.
However, there's a big difference between visiting Paris as a tourist and living in Paris as a resident. Expats who moved to France cite a big improvement in their quality of living, as well as better childcare and education for their kids. Based on HSBC's most recent Expat Explorer Survey, France is one of the top 20 countries, placing 11th on the list. It also has the sixth largest economy in the world, and the third biggest in Europe after Germany and the United Kingdom. Paris is ranked as the 19th most liveable city in the world, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from The Economist.
Among the industries contributing to the current economy are its services sector and the fashion industry. With tourist arrivals in France averaging 84 million visitors per year, tourism provides a bulk of the job opportunities, with 70 percent of the working population employed in the service industry. Fashion is yet another major contributor, with Paris staging six Fashion Weeks per year that attracts millions, and fashion-related businesses generating around EUR 150 billion annually.
Paris is eager to cement its reputation as a global finance center by offering massive support to its fast-growing fintech sector. Analysts at global asset management firm Schroders state that due to the uncertainty surrounding the UK due to Brexit, Paris could attract more financial services from London, and entice those interested in finding a job in the industry. The French government under president Emmanuel Macron hopes to maintain the regulatory competitiveness of finance companies, lowering the costs of acquiring financial services staff in France, and cutting the country's corporate tax from 33 percent to 25 percent to attract more investors.
If you're moving to Paris for work, it's essential that you have a job offer from your company in order to obtain a valid entry visa and a work permit. The first thing you need to know is if you need a visa to enter France.
Nationals hailing from the 28 EU member states and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are not required to apply for a visa to enter France, guaranteeing them the right to travel, work, and live in France without any restrictions. If you're unsure whether you or your family require a visa to stay in France, visit the French government's French Visa website at https://france-visas.gouv.fr/ and use the Visa Wizard tool. For country-specific requirements, visit your home country's French embassy or consulate to find out how much time is needed for the application process.
For nationals from outside the European Union, there are two general types of visas you can apply for, depending on the purpose of your travel to France: the long-stay visa and short-stay visas.
Short-stay visas or visa de court séjour is also known as the Schengen visa and issued for the purposes of tourism, business trips or family visits. It's also available for those traveling to France in order to attend training programs, internships, conferences or corporate meetings that should not exceed 90 days.
On the other hand, if you're taking up paid employment in Paris longer than three months, then you need to apply for a long-stay visa, work permit and residence permit, which your employer must sponsor and obtain on your behalf. The long-stay visa only allows you to enter France, while the work permit and residence permit allow you to legally work and live in France.
Long-stay visas or visa de long séjourallows non-EU nationals to stay in France longer than 90 days, and give them the opportunity to obtain a residence permit to live in France for a specific period. If qualified, expats may try to apply for a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit or the VLS-TS (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour). This allows the holder not only to enter France but also to live in the country from three up to 12 months without having to apply for a residence permit.
The long-stay visa is applicable for those who wish to enter France for both personal and professional reasons, including family reunification, retirement or paid employment. The visa stipulates how long you can live in France and grants the holder the same rights as those who hold a temporary residence permit or multi-year residence permit. This also makes the visa holder eligible to apply for a residence permit at the Préfecture of their place of residence. For general information about long-stay visas, please visit https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/long-stay-visa.
If there's one thing that expats currently living in France agree about, it's the high cost of living in the French capital. Paris took second place in The Economist's Cost of Living Survey released in March 2018 but ranked 34th in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey published in June of the same year.
Accommodations take up the biggest expense in household income, especially if you choose to live in the more affluent arrondissements. The 20 arrondissements – similar to London's boroughs – are arranged in a clockwise, spiral shape starting from the city center and are numbered. Note that more than 60 percent of the buildings in Paris were built in 1949 or earlier, and around 20 percent were put up in 1949 in the aftermath of rebuilding the city after World War II.
While there are no restrictions on foreigners about buying property in Paris, many expats, especially first-timers, opt to rent an apartment instead. Apartment rentals in Paris are high, to begin with, and location definitely affects the rental costs, whether you end up living on the Left Bank or Right Bank, or near any of the Métro stations.
For expatriates with young children, the suburbs may offer more spacious accommodations. If you plan to live right in the city, expect to pay at least EUR 2,000 or more for unfurnished apartments while furnished ones with modern appliances may cost upwards of EUR 4,000. Residences are in high demand perpetually in Paris so be prepared to compete with other prospective tenants.
Many of the expats who moved to the city and ended up retiring in France later on mention that life in Paris as an expatriate can be good, perhaps even better than in their home country. For those with children, having their kids attend local French schools enables them to learn French and adjust to their new life. While English is spoken widely in France, those who speak French fluently definitely have an advantage over those who don't speak French at all.
Speaking the language will also help expats understand and navigate French bureaucracy that is part of everyday life in the country. According to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, 90 percent of the expats in France interviewed learned French or at least started learning it when they moved. Whether it's getting a residence permit at the Préfecture, opening a bank account or seeing a doctor, knowing and speaking even rudimentary French will make assimilating easier.
The public healthcare system in France is considered one of the best in the world and is funded by the government through taxes and employee contributions. However, for your own peace of mind, a comprehensive international health insurance plan may help offset any additional expenses for medical care for the duration of your stay.
France consistently ranks as one of the best countries for expats year on year, not only for having a strong economy but also for its quality of living. The opportunity of working in Paris represents a significant career milestone for many professionals. Working in France also offers a cultural and linguistic challenge for many, especially those who learned French and wish to become fluent in it. However, for expats who want to try living and working in Paris, mastery of the native language is only one of the many essentials they need to know before relocating. How easy is it to find jobs in Paris, especially for foreign nationals? What's the work culture like in one of the biggest cities in the world?
Before you can start living the expat life in Paris, knowing the current economic and working landscape in France provides you with a bigger picture of what life may be like for many expats in Paris.
France attracts a high number of foreign workers due to its global reputation in finance, technology, and manufacturing as well as its high standard of living especially its healthcare and social security system. According to data from INSEE, the national statistics bureau of France, of the 12 million people living in the Paris Region in 2012, there were 20,466 British citizens and around 16,000 US citizens.
Of the French companies listed in CNN Money's biggest 500 companies in the world, around 30 have their headquarters in Paris. These include BNP Paribas, AXA, Peugeot, Sanofi-Aventis, Christian Dior, and Alcatel-Lucent. Telecommunications, defense, machinery, and tourism are among the major contributing industries to the country's GDP. Tourism also offers many job opportunities owing to France's status as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Fashion is a major draw as Paris is also known to be the hub of haute couture. Fintech is a growing sector, as the country hopes to expand its role as one of the major financial hubs in Europe. The French government under Emmanuel Macron, who was elected in May 2017, promised to implement several economic reforms in order to boost growth, address the high unemployment rate that's above the EU average, and to open France to more business and investor opportunities.
A high number of foreign workers who moved to France relocate as part of an overseas transfer from their company. For people trying their luck finding a job in the city, many expats who have lived and worked in France suggest doing the job search months before your planned move. Keep an eye out for available positions in companies in Paris known to have a high number of international employees. Make sure you've secured a job offer before making plans to relocate.
Expats working in France emphasize that fluency in French is absolutely necessary if you wish to work in Paris, or thinking of living in France for the long term. Even for most entry-level positions, the ability to speak French can give you a better advantage than most job seekers who can only speak English. Many foreign nationals looking for jobs in Paris start as English language teachers or work as au pairs until they achieve acceptable fluency in French and apply for higher-paying positions.
Expats should also familiarize themselves with the work culture in Paris, such as the social practice of cheek kissing or faire la bise. Expats advise taking a cautious approach with la bise in the workplace to avoid any awkward situations. Also worth noting is that the average length of a working week in France in 2017 was 37.2 hours, not the 35-hour work week that many believe to be. In fact, for full-time employees, most work an average of 40.5 hours per week.
Expats need to fulfill stringent requirements in order to work in France. These requirements may vary depending on your country of origin or citizenship as indicated in your passport. For nationals from outside the European Union, the rules are somewhat more complicated. However, if you're hailing from any of the 28 member states of the EU or from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, which belong to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), you don't need a visa to move to France and work in Paris. For any country-specific restrictions, make sure to check with your home country's French embassy or consulate.
If you're moving to France to work as a foreign employee of a company based in France or abroad, one of the most important documents you must secure first is an authorization to work in France, the work permit. Regardless of the length of your stay in France, this work permit is required before you can apply for a visa and must come from your employer.
The employer should be the one to submit the work permit application on behalf of the employee, ideally at least two months before he commences work in France. One of the requirements for submitting an application is that the employer must make sure that they have made the requisite attempts to find a suitable candidate in the French labor market via government agencies or private organizations. Thus, any expats working outside of the EU or looking for jobs in Paris should make sure that their skills and qualifications are exceptional enough and not easily found among workers hailing from any of the EU or EEA (European Economic Area) member states.
Note that work permit applications for foreign employees may be rejected on the grounds of employment levels based on current market conditions. This depends on the level of employment in the particular sector or local administrative region where you'll be working.
For expats staying only for three months or less, a Schengen visa is needed before moving to Paris. The short-stay visa or visa de court séjour allows you to travel through all Schengen countries. Also known as a "uniform stay visa" or "type C Schengen visa," this visa is applicable for purposes such as tourism, family or personal visits, business trips, and for short courses of study or internships. However, it does not allow the visa holder to stay in France long-term, bring their family or to work.
Short-stay visas are only single-entry, and the visa holder cannot re-enter once they've left the Schengen area. However, a visa waiver can be granted depending on certain conditions such as the applicant's nationality, their specific status, and whether they hold a valid stay permit for the Schengen Area or a long-stay permit.
Expats who need to stay in France longer than three months to work, set up a business, or for personal reasons such as family or retirement should apply for a long-stay visa or visa de long séjour. This also allows them to obtain a residence permit to live in France for a specified period.
The other option is the long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit or VLS-TS (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour) which allows the permit holder to enter and live in France from three months up to one year without needing to apply for a separate residence permit. In most cases, the employer must apply for the worker's residence permit or carte de séjour on their behalf. For information about long-stay visas, please visit https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/long-stay-visa.
Possessing a long-stay visa grants the holder the same rights as those with a temporary residence permit or a multi-year residence permit. The provision of a multi-year residence permit is part of a recent law created by the French government as part of reforms to strengthen the right of residence for foreigners residing legally in France.
There various types of long-stay visas that correspond to the purpose of the applicant for staying in France for the long term. The requirements are more stringent for expats taking up what is called "salaried employment" which includes intra-company transfers (ICT), a one-off assignment on behalf of a French company or organization, or as part of a sizable international company. The visa for accompanying spouses or children also depends on the type of visa and permit you to get. Please note that routine medical examinations and a criminal record clearance may be done once you arrive in France. Visit https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/professional-purpose for more information.
The French government has also created the Talent Passport, a multi-year residence permit to attract highly-skilled foreign talent and self-employed persons to France in order to increase the country's competitiveness and influence in the world. Any applicant for the Talent Passport must ensure that their employment contract and stay in France must exceed three months. The Talent Passport allows the holder to stay up to a maximum of four years in France starting from their arrival date in the country.
The Talent Passport is ideal for those who are setting up a startup, forming a new company or hold the position of a director in a multinational company. It's also applicable to professionals who have a contract with an employer established in France.
However, for employees, there are certain requirements to be eligible for the Talent Passport. These include professionals who hold a highly skilled position in their current or previous company; employees who moved to France from another company in the same group or parent company and signed a local employment contract with the group's French entity; employees recruited by an innovative new company and skilled foreign talents who possess a master's degree in France. Get more information about the Talent Passport on Business France.
Paris is a dream destination for many expatriates, signifying a career milestone when it comes to their career trajectory. Nevertheless, what is the reality for expats living in Paris especially for those who don't understand or speak French? Is it possible to live in France reasonably? How much would you have to spend on food, monthly rent, childcare, transport, and leisure? Find out what's the current cost of living in Paris so you can come prepared.
As one of the major cities in Europe, Paris attracts investment dollars, the best companies, and highly skilled people. The City of Lights placed third in the Global Cities Report for 2018 done by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney that analyzes the factors behind these global cities' success and competitiveness. Paris remains in third place, unchanged from 2017, propelled primarily by increased business activity and scoring high on information exchange.
According to data from the Paris Region Key Figures 2018 report, Paris boasts of a young and cosmopolitan population that comprises 18.2 percent of France's total population and occupying 23 percent of the total jobs in France. The report further reveals that from the population in the Paris Region for 2014, around 1.6 million were foreigners. In 2013, one out of six jobs in Paris and in the Paris Region itself was in a foreign company, and 2016 saw 6,635 jobs in Paris created by 359 foreign firms.
As a big city, Paris commands a higher cost of living than the rest of France. Living there means you have to be prepared to pay higher than the average cost for basic goods and services compared to other European countries. The city came next to Singapore and tied with Zurich as the second most expensive city in the world in The Economist's Cost of Living Survey released in early 2018.
Based on feedback from 22,000 expatriates who participated in the most recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, respondents based in France earned an average salary of EUR 71,572 versus their London counterparts who earned approximately EUR 74,000. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also notes that in France, the average household net financial wealth per capita is estimated at USD 59,479, which is significantly lower than the OECD average of USD 90,570.
A full-time employee working in the private sector earns an average salary of EUR 27,200 compared to those working in the public sector at EUR 26,750, according to INSEE, France's National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies. However, it's worth noting that a significant percentage of employees working in private companies are temporary or part-time workers only.
At the beginning of 2018, new laws increased the hourly minimum wage in France by 1.24 percent to EUR 9.88, which represented a EUR 20 increase each month. However, according to a New York Times article, the current median monthly income in France is EUR 1,700 or about USD 1,930, with "half of the French workers paid less than that." At present, the monthly minimum wage is around EUR 1,498 for a 35-hour work week.
However, recent events may affect the city's ranking in the future owing to the protests that occurred in the capital and elsewhere in France. The Yellow Vest ("gilet jaunes") protests, which began in November 2018, stemmed from the French government's plan to raise fuel taxes, ostensibly to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels. To date, more and more people are voicing discontent over low wages, high taxes and persistently high unemployment rates at above 9 percent that has resulted in lower disposable income for the middle class and minimum-wage earners.
Data released by EUROSTAT which provides statistic information to the European Union institutions show that London was the most expensive capital city in 2015 in the EU with its high property and rental prices based on the cost of living in Brussels. Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Wien were among the capital cities that registered a higher cost of living than Brussels.
Despite the higher costs in Paris, a huge number of expatriates continue to work and live there, while many others chose to settle in France permanently. The results from the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey saw France in 11th place overall, with a significant number of expats citing improved quality of life. For those with families, France offered better benefits when it comes to childcare and education.
If your relocation package doesn't include housing allowances, expats will find that accommodation will take up a huge chunk of their regular expenses in Paris. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Paris. However, owing to high property prices, a majority of Paris residents opt to rent rather than buy, a practice that many first-time expats follow.
You can find apartments by enlisting the help of a property agent which means paying a percentage as a fee, or through contacts. There's also the option of going through classified ads, but this will require some fluency in French to conduct negotiations.
Housing is perpetually in high demand in the arrondissements so some judicious thinking and quick action are required as listings disappear within minutes of going up. Most apartments for rent in Paris are unfurnished and are slightly smaller than modern apartments elsewhere since more than half of the buildings in Paris are old, built in 1949 or earlier. If you prefer to have more space, especially if you have a family, the suburbs are your best option but may require a longer commute via car, or through the Paris public transportation system of buses, trams, the Paris Métro or the RER (Réseau Express Régional) rapid transit system.
Expect to pay at least EUR 2,400 monthly for a three-bedroom central apartment in Paris compared to a similarly-sized accommodation in London which may cost EUR 4,400. When it comes to utilities such as electricity, heating, and water for an 85 square-meter rental, the total may be around EUR 180 to EUR 200, but is slightly higher in London at EUR 225 approximately.
Tenants are usually required to pay anywhere from one to three months' worth of rent as a deposit, and this can go higher if the place comes furnished. The usual lease for an apartment is a minimum of three years, and a written notice of termination must be given at least three months before you move out, or the lease will be automatically renewed. French law requires that tenants take out home insurance for the apartment against theft, fire, and damage to communal areas of buildings. You can get more information about this at your local town hall.
Aside from the rent and utilities, there may also be additional fees for the concierge, if your building comes with one, and maintenance fees for facilities such as elevators, cleaning and maintenance and such. Tenants are also responsible for paying the annual taxe d’habitation or housing tax, equivalent to the council tax in the United Kingdom. At the beginning of 2018, the habitation tax has been lowered to one-third for single-person households who earn less than EUR 27,000 a year, couples who earn less than EUR 43,000 a year, and a couple with children earning less than EUR 49,000 a year.
In France, regardless of your nationality, you can be considered a resident of France for tax purposes if you or your family's permanent place of residence is in France, or if you hold dual permanent residency, that France is where your financial and personal interests are. Other criteria include residing in France for more than 183 days in one year, or if you're a French national.
For those who are not considered tax residents, they're only taxed on income received from French sources. If you're paid for work done on French territory, this income is taxable in France. As the French tax residency rule depends on internal regulations, reciprocal agreements and tax treaties, salaries that are paid to non-residents are subject to tax deducted at the source. Employees residing in France for less than 183 days don't need to pay tax for any income they earned working in the country, as long as their salary is paid by or on behalf of an employer not established in France. However, non-resident salaried employees still need to file an income tax return with the French tax authorities and to pay for any difference between the amount deducted at the source and the tax due, if necessary.
For helpful information about being considered a resident or non-resident in France, visit the French tax authority Ministère de l’action et des comptes publics at https://www.impots.gouv.fr/portail/international/particulier.
The French government offers special tax exemption schemes for expatriates primarily to help attract company directors and employees to move to France. These exemptions are subject to certain conditions and valid for a period of up to eight years. Those who may be considered eligible are employees and company directors of any nationality working as a full-time employee in a permanent or temporary capacity for a company established in France. Visit Business France for more information on tax exemptions for expatriates at https://www.welcometofrance.com/en/taxation/expatriate-exemption-scheme.
Currently, some of the planned taxes scheduled to take effect in 2019 are postponed for now. President Emmanuel Macron announced several emergency concessions in December 2018 as a response to the protests held in Paris and other French cities and towns dubbed the "Yellow Vest movement." These include scrapping the controversial diesel fuel tax and canceling a tax increase for low-income pensioners and on overtime pay. Among the other measures that were also approved by the French National Assembly and awaiting approval in the Senate is the increase in minimum wage by at least 6 percent or around EUR 100 per month, and giving incentives to employers to provide staff with tax-free bonuses.
Initially, France was set to impose a withholding tax for employee salaries in 2018. The previous practice meant employees were responsible for computing, filing and paying their taxes themselves. Starting January 2019, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system will be implemented to collect income tax using progressive tax rates based on the total income and composition of the household. Employers will deduct the appropriate taxes based on each employee's individual tax rate using a payroll system, with the amounts reflected in employees' monthly pay slips.
Social Security Contributions
France boasts one of the best welfare systems in the world, with a large network of agencies and insurances that provide coverage for all kinds of eventualities including sickness, pensions, and family benefits.
The social security contributions that fund France's welfare system are provided mostly through payments made by both employers and employees. In 2017, France recorded the highest share of non-wage costs, which are employers' social contributions, at 32.8 percent versus 24 percent for the 28 EU member states. In 2018, the government increased the CSG or general social contribution meant for France's social security system by 1.7 percent,. This meant that those who earn a pension of less than EUR 1,289 are exempted while at least 60 percent are affected by the increase which amounted to EUR 25 more per month.
Since October 2018, however, employees are no longer required to contribute to unemployment insurance health insurance, translating to at least EUR 250 more over the year, especially for those earning the minimum wage in the private sector.
For many expatriates, affordable and quality healthcare is essential when it comes to relocating for a work assignment. Concerns such as the ratio of doctors to patients, waiting times, the number of private and public hospitals available, the use of public and private health insurance options, and the quality of medical care are non-negotiables. For this reason, the French healthcare system is acknowledged as one of the best in the world. For a significant number of expats, the high standard of healthcare in Paris is one good reason for moving to Paris, and maybe even consider living in France in the near future. Here's what you need to know about getting healthcare in Paris.
The public healthcare system in France went through several reforms in 2004, which included the introduction of the Carte Vitale smart card system. In 2008, the World Health Organization named the French healthcare system as the best in the world when it comes to availability and organization of healthcare providers.
As one of the countries with universal healthcare coverage, France offers a combination of public and private medical services for all its residents regardless of age, income or status, including foreigners. A majority of French healthcare costs are covered by the government through a public health insurance scheme that mandates residents in France to register with a French health insurer and with a local attending doctor, such as a general practitioner (GP). General practitioners serve as the first point of contact in primary care for medical treatment and specialist referrals.
Paris has a big network of private hospitals and state-funded hospitals, and specialist clinics that are well equipped with facilities and state-of-the-art technology. Public hospitals in Paris are grouped under the Assistance Publique Hôpitaux Paris (AP-HP), which includes hospital groups, general, university-affiliated and specialist hospitals.
Private clinics are also available in Paris but may charge higher fees for services. If you require a specialist's treatment and decide to bypass your local GP, you're likely to receive a lower reimbursement and may have to pay higher out-of-pocket fees.
Medication, including over-the-counter drugs, can only be obtained in pharmacies, which are plentiful in Paris. Pharmacies are identified by the illuminated cross sign, which is usually red or green. Many are open Monday to Saturday, from 9 am to 6 pm, and there are late-night pharmacies open.
For a list of healthcare facilities in Paris such as hospitals, emergency services, and pharmacies, please visit the Health directory of the Paris City Hall. In the event of an emergency during late hours, expats can call 116 117 to find the nearest emergency doctor or dial 112 on their mobile phones. Translators are available to help you find an English-speaking doctor or information for the nearest hospital.
Nationals who hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by an EU member state may use it to obtain healthcare services in France. However, they have to be a tourist or on a temporary visit - not a resident of France or working in the country - in order to use the card. Unlike legal residents in France, EHIC holders are not required to register with a local GP to visit a specialist.
The French healthcare system obtains partial funding through mandatory social security contributions paid via salary deductions. Through this, the government is able to reimburse up to 70 percent of doctors' fees and up to 80 percent of hospital costs. The remaining balance is covered by a voluntary health insurance system which may take the form of private health insurance plans.
In 2016, employee contributions comprised 8 percent of their monthly salary, with employers paying approximately 13 percent for health costs. In 2018, the 0.75 percent employee contribution for health insurance was removed as well as the 2.4 percent contribution for unemployment. Employer contributions for health costs - which include maternity, disability, and death - and unemployment remains at 13 percent each month.
In 2016, the French government introduced a new universal healthcare system for foreigners called Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA), which replaced the previous Couverture Maladie Universelle (CMU) system.
Unlike CMU, PUMA extends healthcare coverage to all individuals working or residing in France for at least three months or longer. For those who are not employed, such as spouses of expatriates in France, they are also entitled to healthcare as long as they're living in France on a steady basis for at least three months. The new system reimburses any healthcare costs incurred by the insured persons and their minor dependents and provides daily sickness benefits for those who are temporarily unable to work.
Eligible expats under PUMA must register for French healthcare with a local GP and the appropriate French health insurance authority through their local CPAM (Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie) office via the Ameli website at https://www.ameli.fr. Employers of expatriates may do the preliminary registration for French social security on their behalf, after which, they can register with the French healthcare system themselves.
You need to show identification such as your passport or national ID, your residence permit, and marriage or birth certificates if you have your spouse and children with you. Proof of address and income and a declaration from your chosen local GP must be given to your local health insurance provider before you can avail of French healthcare.
Reimbursements, Fees, and Charges
Remember that you'll only get your reimbursement as long as you are officially referred to by your GP. Under PUMA, doctors and select medical personnel are paid directly by the government or health insurance company, instead of having patients pay upfront and claim reimbursement afterward. As the government reimburses only a certain percentage of healthcare costs, the patient pays the remaining balance or through a supplementary private health insurance company.
If you have a serious or chronic illness such as cancer, AIDS or diabetes, no co-payment is required and 100 percent of healthcare costs are covered. However, it's still advisable to have a comprehensive international health insurance plan to ensure that any contingency is adequately covered.
There are small mandatory co-payment fees such as a EUR 1 charge per GP visit, EUR 0.50 for each prescribed medicine, both of which are limited to EUR 50 annually; and a fee of EUR 16 to EUR 18 per day for hospital stays that mostly covers food and other small amenities.
Most French residents avail of complementary health insurance helps them pay their personal contribution. This type of private health insurance may be subsidized by employers of those working in France and offers basic packages enough for hospital costs and medication.
The Carte Vitale is a health insurance card issued in France to anyone aged 16 and older. The card includes a photo and is embedded with a chip containing your name, address, social security details and any relevant info for payment exemptions. No medical information is included in the chip.
For expats and their dependents must register with the French healthcare system to get their respective cards. However, it may take some time to get the card so best to follow up on the process and make sure all the necessary documents are provided to obtain one.
If you don't get your Carte Vitale quickly and require a health service, ask for a social security certificate as proof that you have access to French healthcare. You may have to pay upfront for the treatment and with it a Feuille de soins that serves as an invoice and states the treatment and any medication you received. You need to send your Feuille de soins to your local health insurance authority, the Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie, to get your reimbursement.
Bring your Carte Vitale whenever you have scheduled doctor visits, hospital or specialist appointments, or to a pharmacy. Doctors and pharmacists use a card reader to swipe the Carte Vitale. This enables you to get your reimbursement from the health insurance fund instead of having to submit a Feuille de soins. If you have an international health insurance plan, check that they're linked to the French healthcare system to ensure that any fees covered by your plan are reimbursed.
The French education system is highly regarded in the world and Paris itself is home to a number of excellent schools and universities. The city also attracts a high proportion of international students pursuing higher education. For many expat parents and their children relocating to the capital, what are the options when it comes to schools in Paris? How easy would it be for children to learn French and another foreign language? Where are the best international schools located? Is there a big difference in quality between private schools and public schools in Paris? In this guide, find out what you need to know about the French educational system and schools in Paris.
When it comes to family life, including childcare and education, expats give France a high score. In the most recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, expat respondents ranked France third overall, especially when it comes to the quality of childcare and schools.
According to the results of the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) run by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the average student in France scored 496 in reading literacy, maths, and sciences, higher than the OECD average of 486.
Schooling in France is mandatory for all children ages 6 to 16. The Ministry of Education is in charge of the French educational system and sets the national education curriculum. This means that most public schools and private schools follow the state curriculum.
Parents can send their children to a state school, private school, or a state-funded and controlled private school. All state schools in France are free for any child legally residing in France.
There are private schools which are under contract (sous contrat) to the French government and thus follow the national curriculum. The government pays the teachers' salaries, and this keeps the fees to a reasonable level.
Finally, there are private schools that are fully independent (hors contrat), including some international schools, but still, need to comply with French education law and subject to government inspections.
The schooling system in France begins in nursery at age three months, followed by preschool (école maternelle) from two to five years old. Primary school is accomplished from ages 6 to 10 years old, and middle school or junior high school (collège) at age 11 until 15. From there, senior high school (lycée) or secondary education follows for those aged 16 up to 18 years old, and they may choose to take up higher education by going to university.
The school year begins in early September and lasts 10 months, ending in late June or early July. There are different holiday dates for each academic zone, but major holidays include Christmas, New Year, All Saints' Day, winter and spring half-term breaks.
The French schooling system divides France into 15 academic regions, which are separated into three academic zones, labeled A, B and C. Zone A covers Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon, and Poitiers. Zone B features Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Caen, Lille, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, and Strasbourg. Zone C includes Créteil, Montpellier, Toulouse, Versailles, and Paris.
Public schooling in France offers a high standard of education comparable to private schools. It's also free of charge for all citizens and legal residents of France. Check with the local city hall of your arrondissement to find which schools are available in your area and the enrollment procedures.
Like many other countries, admission to a public school at any level is based on catchment areas, which means your child's school is assigned by the local municipal education authority. If you wish to send your child to a different state school outside your catchment area, this requires authorization from the mayor's office.
You may need to show identification, proof of residence and school records as part of the admission requirements. Please note that updated immunization certificates are also needed. For children born after January 1, 2018, aside from the mandatory vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, and polio, eight more are added, bringing the total to 11. The new vaccinations are for whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, Hepatitis B, influenza, pneumonia and meningitis C.
Many expat parents choose to enroll their children, especially those age 2 or up, in a local nursery school for practical reasons. It's free and it enables the children to learn the French language at a very young age. Some state-funded French schools offer bilingual education using French and English, but these are mostly done in middle schools and high schools in the major French cities.
In the French educational system, a French Baccalauréat diploma is awarded after taking up and finishing a specialist stream in senior high school. The general stream includes Literature, Economics & Social Sciences, and Science. The technology streams are more science-based, such as Laboratory Science and Technology, Industrial Science and Technology, and Science and Technology of Business Management, among others.
For more information about the registration of children from abroad for primary, junior high or senior high school, please visit the Family section of the official French administration website (French only).
Around 15 percent of French children attend private schools, which may have smaller classes, a higher teacher-to-student ratio, and updated facilities.
The private schools in France are either state-contracted to the French government, or non-contracted which means they operate independently. The state-funded schools follow the national curriculum and follow the same rules as public schools - all lessons, tests, and examinations are in French. The upside is that fees are slightly lower in these schools than independent ones, but may also have mandatory charges such as registration fees and school meals.
Non-contract private schools set their own curriculum and offer a wider choice of subjects, and extra-curricular activities such as arts, sports, music, etc. Many are Catholic or faith-based, which means the curriculum includes religious studies. Some private schools also offer bilingual education or offer classes for non-French speakers. Fees for private schools are generally higher than public school and the state-funded private schools. Admission procedures also vary with each school and may require proof of residence and school records.
Some private schools offer an International Option Baccalaureate (IOB) instead of the French Baccalaureate diploma for the final years of high school. To qualify, students must have studied in a school with an international program during the second and final year of the International Baccalaureate course.
The Paris Region is home to around 38 international schools, and like most, charge higher fees than private schools. However, they may also have more flexible admission policies when it comes to expatriate children.
International schools may follow the curriculum of a certain country or subscribe to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Among the international schools in Paris that offer the IB program are the American School of Paris and the International School of Paris.
Higher Education in Paris
Having a baccalauréat or its equivalent allows your children to enroll in a public university in Paris. One requirement is to prove their fluency in French is at a level appropriate for their chosen course via a written and oral test.
They may choose to apply at any of the universities in France, or in the Paris Region. Several renowned institutions such as the Research University Paris, École Polytechnique, Pierre, and Marie Curie University, University of Paris-Sud, and Paris-Sorbonne University are in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2018. Today, the Paris-Sorbonne University and Pierre and Marie Curie University, which used to be part of the University of Paris, are now known as Sorbonne University.
Interested students can choose to do one or two years of further study to enter some of the elite educational institutions in Paris, known as Les grandes écoles. These include engineering and business schools such as INSEAD and HEC Paris, which rank second and third, respectively, in the QS World University Rankings for the Global MBA category in 2018.
Once you've unpacked your boxes and unwrapped the furnishings, what's next is figuring out how your new home city works in terms of moving people. What's the best and fastest way to get from Point A to Point B in Paris? Is taking the Paris public transportation system better than getting a car? In this expat guide to the City of Lights, familiarize yourself with navigating the transport system in Paris like a local in no time.
Paris has an integrated and efficient transport infrastructure to ease geographic mobility inside and outside the region. These include not only Paris airports but also its public transport systems of trains and rail networks, roads, buses, and taxis.
The three international airports, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly and Le Bourget, serve as the country's major gateway to the rest of Europe and the world, easing travel to over 119 countries. The region is further connected via 1,280 kilometers of metro, train and tramway networks. These include the 14 lines of the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), the state-owned railway company which also operates the high-speed rail network TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse). There are over 385 stations throughout, and nearly 650 trains are in operation during rush hour simultaneously. This is complemented by bus lines that include 250 "green" buses which run on electricity or gas, and 47-night buses that cover 200 towns and cities.
The "Urban Transportation Systems" report by McKinsey & Company placed Paris' public transport in third place, buoyed by high scores on affordability and safety. While the city may have one of the highest costs of living in the world, its transport system was cited as "offering value for money" versus other European cities.
The public transport in Paris is governed by the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), which covers all transport from within and extending from the capital. On the other hand, the SNCF takes responsibility for all transport outside of Paris and entering the city.
In the works is the Grand Paris project which is envisioned to transform the Paris metropolitan area with the addition of 200 kilometers of automated metro lines, and 72 new stations to carry up to 2 million passengers a day. The project also plans to connect the three Paris airports to the research and development hubs, and business districts in the Paris Region.
Paris is divided into five zones that make it easy to calculate fares based on how many zones are traveled. Zones 1 and 2 cover the city center and its immediate vicinity, and zones 3 to 5 extend to the rest of Île-de-France.
"t+" is the name given to the standard single ticket used in the Paris public transport systems. It can be purchased per unit at the cost of EUR 1.90, or in a pack of ten – a carnet – priced at EUR 14.90. The t+ ticket can be used for multiple transfers within one and half hour from the first ride, and unlimited transfers using the same mode of transport. There are also other ticketing options available, including daily passes called Mobilis, and Ticket Jeunes for young people. Get more information about the t+ here.
The more popular option is the Navigo card (Carte Navigo), which used to be the Navigo pass, a contactless RFID smart card that can be bought at a station or linked to the account of anyone who lives or works in the Greater Paris Region. Daily, weekly and monthly Navigo cards are available and may be topped up easily, while the yearly card can be bought as a one-time purchase or in monthly payments. A monthly pass is more affordable in Paris at EUR 75 compared to a similar one in London at EUR 165. Both monthly and yearly cards offer unlimited travel across all zones.
The Paris Métro is undoubtedly the number one mode of transport in Paris and is the second busiest metro system in Europe. This rapid transit system operates underground within the city limits, and is 214 kilometers long with 16 lines and 302 stations throughout, with around 245 Métro stations located within the city of Paris itself.
The RER (Réseau Express Régional)express trains connect the center of Paris to its suburbs, as well as the rest of the Paris Region. Operating above and underground, the RER lines are labeled A to E and are considerably faster than the Paris Métro. Several RER stations are also shared with the Paris Métro lines.
On the other hand, the Transilien lines serve to connect other suburban locations, not within reach of the RER. The SCNF, which operates the Transilien, also runs the high-speed rail service TGV. It connects all the main cities in France and goes as far as Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Luxembourg.
The SCNF also maintains the Gare du Nord station, one of the six terminus stations for Paris, and the busiest railway station in Europe. It connects to the Métro, RER and Paris buses, and to trains traveling to Northern France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
The Paris bus system helps integrate travel throughout the suburban areas and bus stops provide real-time information. Paris bus routes are numbered and run from morning until 9:30 pm or until midnight, and the night buses – known as Noctilien – operate between 12:30 am and 5:30 am, and every 30 minutes during weekends.
Plenty of taxicabs ply the streets of Paris and are relatively affordable. But for expats unable to speak French, ride-sharing service Uber is quite convenient. This service provides a great alternative to booking or hailing taxis.
Paris suffers from traffic congestion, and residents prefer to use the public transport network than drive a car. Parking is also a problem. For expats driving in Paris, parking in the streets requires a Paris Carte (prepaid card) as the parking meters don't accept coins. Parking fees and fines also increased in 2018, as the French government allows each city to set the price for parking meters and fines. Cars not displaying a proper parking ticket in central Paris will be fined EUR 50.
Driving in France using a license issued by a foreign country is allowed under certain conditions. Those with licenses issued by an EU member state are valid in France indefinitely. Licenses issued by a non-European country are valid for use in France up to one year based on the starting date of your first French residence permit. If you have a VLS-TS visa (long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit), it will be based on the date of its approval by the French Immigration and Citizenship Office with the accompanying sticker and stamp on your passport.
Expats with a non-European driver's license coming from a country with a bilateral agreement with France must exchange their foreign license for a French license after their first year of residence. Those holding licenses issued by countries outside of the EU that are not on the bilateral agreement list must take the French driving test. For more information about driving in France, please visit the Driving section of Business France.