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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Politically Unstable France Improves for Personal Finance

Expats in France generally enjoy a good quality of life, but poor career prospects and difficulties settling in are causing problems.
  • France has fallen 16 places for political stability.
  • Expats rate the country 4th out of 64 for the quality of healthcare.
  • Only 14% of expats find it easy to live in France without speaking the language.
  • France ranks eleven places higher for personal finance than in 2018.
  • 64% say moving abroad has made them happier (vs. 61% globally).

Political Instability Worse Than Ever Before

France has dropped 16 places for political stability, from ranking 19th out of 68 countries in 2018 to 35th out of 64 countries in 2019. This is France’s worst performance since this separate rating factor was introduced in 2015. Only 15% of expats in France rate the political stability of the country as very good, which is just half the global average (30%). Recent gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests might have affected the ranking: a South African expat, for example, criticizes that “protesters do not appreciate how good the standard of living in France is”.

Protesters do not appreciate how good the standard of living in France is.

In terms of safety and security as a whole, France has fallen eleven places to 40th in 2019. However, other areas regarding the quality of life remain strong. France places eighth in the Health & Well-Being subcategory, ranking fourth and fifth, respectively, for the quality of healthcare and its affordability. Half the expats in France (50%) believe the quality of medical care in their host country is very good, compared to just under three in ten expats globally (29%).

However, France has fallen eight places to rank 32nd out of 64 countries for socializing and leisure activities in 2019. To put things into perspective, 64% of expats are satisfied with this factor in 2019 (vs. 65% worldwide), but in 2018, 73% rated it positively, compared to 66% globally. However, when it comes to available leisure activities in general, over two in five expats in France (41%) rate them as very good (vs. 36% globally).

Below Par for Personal Finance

France has climbed eleven ranks in the Personal Finance Index, placing 44th out of 64 countries in 2019. It has moved up nine places for both ranking factors that make up the index: financial situation and whether the disposable household income is enough to cover daily costs, ranking 40th and 50th, respectively. The country typically does very poorly in the Personal Finance Index, and though it sees sizeable improvement this year, it still performs below par.

Only about two out of five expats (42%) feel their disposable household income is more than enough to cover all their daily expenses (vs. 49% globally). Additionally, just two out of five working expats (40%) rate their current income as higher than back home for a similar job or position, which is 15 percentage points less than the global average (55%).

Cost of Education in the Top 5

In France, the price of education particularly pleases expat parents. Nearly four out of five expats with children (78%) believe that education is affordable in their new country of residence, in comparison to just under half worldwide (49%). France ranks 5th out of 36 countries for affordable education in 2019. One Nigerian expat comments that she particularly likes “the low cost of education in France”.

Raising a family in France isn’t always easy, though: in fact, it can be quite unfriendly at times. France places 31st out of 36 countries in terms of a friendly attitude towards families with children. Just under one-third of expat parents (32%) believe the attitude to be very friendly, whereas 44% globally think likewise.

French Keeps Challenging Expats

Expats in France once again struggle with the French language. In the Language subcategory, France is fourth from the bottom, ranking 61st out of 64 countries in 2019, four ranks lower than its 2018 position of 57th out of 68 countries. The local language is the same as their mother tongue for only 3% of expats in France (vs. 11% worldwide), and learning the local language isn’t particularly easy: France ranks in the mid-field in 30th place for this factor.

If I was fluent in French, then my life would be far easier!

However, the greater challenge for expats is living in France without speaking the local language. France is third from bottom for this factor, with just 14% agreeing that it’s easy to live there without knowing the language (vs. 45% globally). An expat from Canada comments: “If I was fluent in French, then my life would be far easier!”

Not only does French — the language — affect expats, but the French — the people — aren’t always particularly helpful, it seems. A Danish expat says that “the French culture is very different, and the French are often not very welcoming”, a view reflected in the 2019 ranking: France has dropped 14 places to 43rd out of 64 for the ease of getting used to the local culture.

Safer Jobs but Worse Career Prospects

France has climbed eleven places from ranking 39th out of 68 countries in 2018 to 28th out of 64 countries in 2019 for job security. Despite this rise, France has dropped eight places in the Working Abroad Index, partly due to the decline in career prospects: France has fallen five places into the bottom 10 (57th out of 64) for this factor. In fact, nearly one-third of expats (32%) are unhappy with their career prospects, compared to just under one-quarter globally (24%), and with France ranking below average for the state of the economy (38th), it might not be surprising that expats aren’t necessarily moving to France for work. Globally, expats finding a job on their own is the main reason why they move abroad (14%), but it is only the third-most popular cause in France (9%), with moving for love at the top of the chart (14%).

Further Reading