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Where to Live for Expats in France

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2013

In one recent survey, France was rated as the world’s most desirable country to live in. As with any country though, some areas are more desirable than others, and finding the right place to live in France depends on many factors. There are practical criteria such as accommodation prices, the cost of living and proximity of work and local amenities. There are also emotional considerations, such as the desirability of a place – whether what you desire is happiness, safety, friendly locals, an active social life, or other things.

The most active area for the French housing market is Paris, then the southeast and southwest coasts. The Île de France is the most expensive area for property. Paris, at its centre, is one of the great world cities, in a league of its own in many ways. The city has low rates of unemployment and is one of the most desirable places to live in in France. However, as prices in central Paris are very expensive (up to €13,800 per square metre), many expats buy property in the western suburbs such as Versailles and Poissy. In this area, property is around €5,000 per m2. There are many fine international schools in this area, and public transport connections with the city centre are excellent.

For more details on property prices throughout France, see this map:


The second most popular – and expensive – area of France is the South-East. This is particularly the case in the French Riviera, due to the world-famous beaches and relaxed lifestyle in cities such as Cannes and St Tropez. Properties are also in high demand in some areas of Savoy (the two départements of Savoie and Haute Savoie), near the French Alps, due to the desirability of the skiing resorts.

In most countries, expats gravitate towards the larger cities, where most of the employment opportunities are. While this is still true for France, a substantial number of expats live in rural France. Many of these are Britons, either retiring or attempting to escape the rat race.

Property in the predominantly rural central regions such as Auvergne, Centre and Limousin can be as low as €800 per m2. This is la France profonde (‘deep France’), the beautiful, nearly unspoilt heart of the country. Bargain properties on offer in this area have a chance of being snapped up by expats, particularly the British. Note that it will be much more important to speak French well if you want to settle in this area.

The South-West is another popular area. This area has an abundance of fine beaches and historical buildings. A typical city is Toulouse, which has also been voted the most liveable city in France. The Dordogne and the Bordeaux area are also very popular among expats.

North-West France also has its charms. Brittany has affordable accommodation and a distinctive culture, while the Pays de la Loire region is especially good for its rented accommodation.

If you are moving to France with the aim of finding work, the best areas for employment are Paris and its western suburbs, south-central France and the eastern areas near Switzerland. The French Riviera has a high unemployment rate, though there are also a high number of jobs available.

The departments with the highest levels of unemployment, meanwhile, are in the far north, in the area around Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the declining industrial region on the Belgian border. Many northern and north-eastern departments do not score as well as other areas on the liveability scales. An exception is Alsace, which offers an intriguing blend of French and German culture, is both attractive and not especially popular with expats and tourists.

Overseas Departments & Territories

France has several dependencies which are considered to be overseas departments and territories. These are chiefly to be found in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Life is very different in such places, though it is beyond the scope of this article to go into any detail about them.



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