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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

France: Great Healthcare but Tricky Language for Expats

Expats in France appreciate its outstanding quality of medical care, but they struggle with the country’s heavy administration and the French language.

France comes 33rd out of 53 destinations in the Expat Insider 2023 survey. It receives its highest ranking for Healthcare (6th). In fact, France is the 3rd best destination worldwide for the affordability of medical care, and 6th for its quality. But the bureaucracy and the language (both 45th) frustrate expats. Overall, 75% of expats are happy with their life in France, compared to 72% globally.  

Medical Care Remains Top-Tier 

Since InterNations published the first Expat Insider survey in 2014, France has always ranked among the top 10 for its exceptional quality of healthcare. In 2023, 84% say they are happy with this factor (vs. 70% globally), and 83% find medical care affordable (vs. 62% globally). “The healthcare is just great!” confirms an expat from the USA. 

Quality of Life Pleases Expats 

Overall, expats adore the French lifestyle. Although it falls short of the top 10 in the Quality of Life Index (14th), expats in France enjoy the Environment & Climate (15th), the availability of green goods and services (6th), and the Leisure Options (15th). As a Latvian expat explains: “I love the fact that people spend loads of time outdoors, as well as the food and wine, the people in general, and the quality of life.” She is not alone in that: 84% are happy with the culinary variety and dining options (vs. 77% globally).  

“The French are obsessed with gastronomy — just like me. I enjoy the culture of going to the farmers’ market and butcher’s.  And I love the ‘apéro’: a get-together with snacks and a drink.” – Taiwanese expat  

The Language Makes It Hard to Get Settled 

Over the last decade, when asked how easy it was to live in France without speaking French, expats have continuously voted the country among the bottom 10 destinations. Also in 2023, more than half (59%) find it difficult to live in France without speaking the local language, compared to only 32% worldwide. This is a problem, as only 35% say that it is easy to learn French (vs. 40% globally).  

And it does seem that expats in France work harder than others to learn the language of their country of residence, as 70% say they speak it fairly to very well compared to only 55% globally. Yet, the frustrations of not being understood remain. 

“I have, on multiple occasions, attempted to speak French with French people who claim not to understand me. Apparently, my pronunciation is imperfect, so they cannot comprehend me when speaking.” – British expat  

French Administration among the Worst  

Apart from language issues, expats also encounter bureaucratic hurdles, as France finds itself among the bottom 10 countries for Admin Topics (45th). More than half (53%) say it is difficult to deal with the local bureaucracy (vs. 38% globally). And only 49% say it is easy to open a local bank account, which is 13 percentage points less than the global average (62%). The country does better for its Digital Life (24th) and Housing (33rd), but it is still voted among the bottom 5 in the Expat Essentials Index (49th). “The government websites are not user friendly. Dealing with the prefecture to renew one's visa is time-consuming and frustrating,“ says a US American expat. 

Business Culture Remains at the Bottom 

France ranks in the middle of the Working Abroad Index (26th). Expats are fairly happy with their job security, where France ranks 17th, but are less content with the Work Culture & Satisfaction (36th). Only 38% find that the local business culture promotes independent work and/or flat hierarchies (vs. 46% globally). Still, 66% rate their overall job satisfaction positively, two percentage points higher than the global average (64%). When it comes to Personal Finance (31st), France ranks slightly below average.

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