France

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Make Every Cent Count: Living Costs in France

While Paris is notorious for being a particularly expensive city, the cost of living varies greatly across different French regions. Our guide gives a little insight into some of the expenses you should be prepared for when moving to France.

At a Glance:

  • The average net annual salary for employees in France is 26,327 EUR.
  • Rent in Paris is dramatically higher than in other cities throughout France: rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the capital can cost around 1,065 EUR per month.
  • Healthcare fees must be paid upfront by the individual, but will be reimbursed an average of 70% of the cost.

 

According to the latest cost of living survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit, Paris is Europe’s third most expensive city, and the 8th most expensive globally. Although Paris is, justifiably, a particularly popular expat destination, there are also other equally enticing areas of France with plenty to offer, and all with a lower cost of living.

Cost of living depends greatly on where in France you are, with cities inevitably costing more to live in than rural areas. According to the 2017 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Paris (62nd) and Lyon (137th) are the most expensive cities in France. Costs are all relative though — Paris ranks surprisingly low down in the survey, below London (29th) and three of Switzerland’s major cities, Zurich (4th), Geneva (7th), and Bern (10th).

How Much Can You Expect To Earn?

France has the sixth highest minimum wage (salaire minimum or SMIC) in the EU, slightly lower than in Germany but more than in the UK. As of July 2017, the gross monthly minimum wage is about 1,480 EUR (for a 35-hour working week).

However, average salaries in France vary depending on position, sector, and also region. The latest data released by INSEE in 2014 show the net annual salary (after taxation, etc.) to stand at around 26,327 EUR, which is slightly higher the EU average. Those expats in skilled, managerial positions, can even potentially expect an annual salary of around 50,000 EUR.

Household Expenses

According to data published by the World Bank in 2016, average household expenditure in France is marginally lower than the EU average, at 55 percent of the GDP.

Prior to moving, it is a good idea to take a look at your current expenses at home (e.g. rent, transport, food, utility bills, etc.) and compare them with the average costs in France. Doing this will help you to work out whether a move to France is suitable for your budget. As costs can vary vastly in different regions of France, planning ahead like this can also help you to work out which region would be the most affordable.

Paying Rent: Different Costs in Different Cities

Looking at statistics published by Numbeo, it is the cost of accommodation that sees the most variation across France. For a one-bedroom apartment in the city center, residents of Paris should be willing to pay an average of 1,065 EUR per month, while in Nantes, a popular expat destination in Brittany, the average rent is significantly lower, at approximately 497 EUR — a massive 114% difference! The cost of utilities (water, electricity and gas, internet, etc.) can depend on location, as well as on the provider, and need to be considered when planning your budget. For more information read our article on Utilities in France.

VAT

At 20%, France’s value added tax (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée — TVA) is higher than the OECD average, making many everyday goods that little bit more expensive than in some other countries. However, it is by no means the most expensive in Europe — the Scandinavian countries, in particular, charge much higher VAT rates. In France, there are also certain goods and services that are subject to reduced VAT rates:

  • 10% — including, but not limited to, public transportation, some pharmaceutical products, and restaurants
  • 5.5% — some foodstuffs, utilities, tickets for cultural activities (sporting events, cinema, museums, etc.)

Public Transportation: Won’t Leave You Out of Pocket

France has an extensive public transportation network, providing convenient connections between all the regions, as well as throughout the country’s numerous cities. Public transportation in Paris will, unsurprisingly, set you back a little more than in other cities, with a monthly travel pass costing up to 75 EUR, while in other cities it can cost as little as 30 EUR in Bordeaux and Lyon. Our article on Public Transportation in France will provide you with more information on all of France’s transportation options.

Healthcare: How to Pay

Healthcare is another cost that you will need to take into consideration in France. As mentioned in our article on Healthcare in France, the system is paid for by both the state and the individual. You must pay for the treatment upfront at the point of delivery, but, providing you are registered with the state healthcare system, the government will reimburse approximately 70% of the cost.

 

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