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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

French Expats: Educated & Experienced in the Expat Game

Over one in seven French expats (15%) have lived in five or more countries in the past, and even more (66%) are in an intercultural relationship, giving many French expats the ultimate international experience.
  • 41% of French managers work in top management.
  • Over three-quarters (76%) have completed a postgraduate degree.
  • 66% are in an intercultural relationship.
  • Nearly half (47%) describe their social circle as mixed.

Return Home? The French Aren’t Sure

Like many other Western European expats, the French tend to stay in their new country for quite some time: over two-thirds of French expats (68%) have been living abroad for at least two years — 27% have even been an expat in their current country of residence for more than ten years. These results, though, are not too far off the global averages of 66% and 24%, respectively.

While 28% of all survey respondents are living abroad for the first time, this is true for just 16% of French expats. In fact, 15% say they have lived abroad in five or more countries prior to their current stay, a portion that is five percentage points higher than the global average of 10%. Still, this doesn’t seem to affect how successfully they can settle into a new country: more than three in five French expats (63%) say they feel at home in their new country, close to the global average of 64%.

Regardless of whether or not the French feel at home as expats, opinions are still divided on returning home. About one in five (21%) say that returning home at one point is not likely at all for them, but three in ten (29%) also say that it is very likely that they will return to France at some future point — both percentages are below the global average (24% and 31%, respectively). French expats rather seem to still be undecided: half are either neutral in the matter or not strongly opinionated one way or the other. Close to one in five (18%) also say they don’t know yet how long they will be staying in their current country of residence.

Bilingual French Expat Not a Rarity

Excluding expats for whom the language of their new country is the same as their native tongue, well over half (58%) report being able to speak the local language(s) of their host country at least fairly well — 38% of them even very well, compared to 46% and 27% of all respondents, respectively. More than half (51%) also say they considered language a potential benefit before moving, and for 16% improving their language skills was a reason for relocating abroad. Many French expats (46%) report ease in picking up on the local language of their host countries, compared to 36% of all respondents.

Working French Expats Don’t Fit the Global Mold

Global averages show that many expats move abroad because they either found a job abroad on their own (12%) or they were sent by their employer (10%). This is also true for French expats: 14% found a job, and 13% were sent — two and three percentage points above the global standard. Similarly, while only 7% of global expats were recruited by a local company, 9% of French expats give this as their main reason for the move.

Compared to a worldwide average of 25%, 32% of the French abroad name being an employee as their main employment status. Similarly, seven percentage points more French expats than the global average work as managers (21% vs. 14% globally). For those who are employed in management specifically, 41% work in top management, while the global average is a bit lower at 35%.

With one out of ten French expats being an entrepreneur or business owner, this group is overrepresented compared to the global 7%. Pensioners, on the other hand, are underrepresented among French expats: an average 11% of expats globally are retirees, whereas only 6% of French expats also fit this employment status.

When working, French expats are just about on par with the global average regarding their time spent at work: the net full-time hours per week are 44.0, while the French work 43.6 hours per week in full-time positions.

Regarding respondents’ highest academic degree, on the other hand, 76% of French expats have a postgraduate degree (master’s degree, PhD, or similar). Compared to the 48% globally who have also completed a postgraduate degree, French expats definitely don’t fit the mold.

Intercultural Relationships Normal among French Expats

Of the 63% of French expats who are in a relationship, 66% are together with someone not from France. An above-average 28% met in a country that was neither France nor the respondent’s current host country (compared to 19% globally), and 36% say they only met their partner after relocating to their current country of residence.

Just one in ten is in an international long-distance relationship. All things considered, relationship satisfaction among French expats is quite average: 8% are generally not satisfied with their relationship, compared to 6% worldwide. One French expat living in Morocco emphasizes how great the “human relationships” are in her life.

Diverse Social Circles but Few Socializing Opportunities

French expats report having fairly mixed friend groups: nearly half (47%) would describe their list of friends and acquaintances as including both locals and other expats. Only 16% say that their social circle consists mainly of local residents.

Despite the social circle diversity among French expats, high percentages report unhappiness when it comes to meeting new people and dealing with culture shock. Nearly two-thirds of French expats who are dissatisfied with their life abroad (64%) say that not having enough socializing opportunities significantly contributed to this unhappiness — over ten percentage points higher than the global average of 52%. Three in ten similarly say that they have been dealing with culture shock and that this is a reason for their dissatisfaction with life abroad.

Further Reading