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Choosing a place to live

Claiming the title of the world’s most visited country.

France is expected to greet over 100 million visitors a year by 2020 and has long been a popular destination for people looking to change their way of life. Whether you’re craving the culturally vibrant, artistic and bustling centre of Paris, or the rolling lavender fields and stunning rural vistas of Provence, France is rich with possibility.

City or Country?

Before you begin your search, it’s advisable to narrow down the type of area you’d like to live and decide on whether rural or urban living would suit you best. Cities obviously offer a faster pace of life and instant access to a multitude of amenities and public transport links, but the draws of the French countryside are numerous and include a more laid-back attitude, the opportunity to enjoy the land, and a traditional way of living. An apartment in Paris and a farmhouse with land in the Dordogne may cost you about the same but will offer very different lifestyle opportunities. France is a large, diverse place and deciding where you are going to live will depend on your priorities — employment possibilities, climate, house prices, safety, schools, accessibility, and your budget will all play a part.

If you’re being transferred via a multinational corporation, it's likely that your job will dictate the region you’ll choose, but you still have the option of being in the city or commuting to work from the suburbs or smaller towns — depending on available public transport. If on the other hand, your job relates to tourism, such as running a gite, you’ll need to make sure you’re near an area with high tourist traffic to reap the benefits. The Cote d’Azur or Nice are two popular choices.

Thinking of living in France and commuting to England? Somewhere near a coastal port is probably your best bet, such as Normandy, Brittany, or Calais, rather than an obscure inland village with poor transport links. If you have a generous budget, places like the stunning Provence, Cotes d’Azur, French Riveria, Languedoc (popular with English, Scandinavian and Dutch and French from North), or the Ille de France area surrounding Paris (or indeed the capital itself), are no doubt among the most popular and beautiful places in France.

Another consideration should be whether you’d rather be in an area full of other expatriates, such as some parts of the Dordogne like Eymet, and Brittany in Northern France, or if you’re prepared to fully embrace the French lifestyle and immerse yourself amongst the locals living off the beaten track. If the latter is more appealing, investigating other options like Correze in Limousin, or Jura in North-East France, would be worthwhile.

Education

The school system in France is of a high standard throughout the country, with a choice between the public school system, private schools, and international schools. Public and private schools both follow the national curriculum, and the former is free if you can prove residency in France.  Some public schools have an international section, which is geared towards teaching French to students from different countries and integrating them into the culture. These are mainly found in middle and high schools, which in turn are primarily found in larger cities. Private schools tend to offer better facilities but most are still Catholic, so this is something to bear in mind, as well as the variance in fees. International schools, which will maintain more closely the curriculum of the students’ home country, are located in larger cities such as Paris. They tend to have a relatively high turnover of students and their fees are consistently high.

Climate

Whatever the region you decide on, make sure you visit the area in both summer and winter, as France can be a very different place in the colder months.

North/ North Western France

Similar weather to Southern England you’re likely to experience rain throughout the year, moderate winters, and warm summers but it’s not as hot as other destinations in the country.

Mediterranean regions

This is perhaps the most appealing climate with lots of sun, hot summers, and mild winters. The Mistral (cold wind) blows before Spring, and there are occasional thunderstorms.

South/ South West regions of France

Like the Mediterranean, you can expect lots of sun, hot summers, and mild winters and the Mistral. South of the Loire river and west towards the Charente claims most hours of sunlight after Cote d’Azur.

Central/Eastern

A continental climate with very cold winters and warm summers. Snow is possible in the winter months.

Mountain regions

The wettest and coldest of all the regions, snow falls between three and six months of the year.

Locations

Areas popular with expats include those with a temperate climate, relatively low cost of living, low crime rate, and excellent quality of life.

Val-d’Isere, Savoie

Just five miles from Italy this popular ski resort has excellent transport links to Lyon and Geneva.

Antibes-Juan les Pins, Cote D'Azur

With stunning vistas and a temperate climate, this is a very attractive destination for expats including those looking to retire abroad. With beautiful stretches of coastline, and only 13kim from Nice airport.

Toulouse, Haute

Voted most attractive place to live by both expatriates and locals this is the fourth largest city in France with over 350,000 residents.

Saint Gauden, Haute

Originally the capital of Haute-Garonne area until Toulouse took over, this small, quaint town is steeped in history, dating back over 30,000 years. With stunning architecture and scenery its popular with families and retired expatriates.

Aquitaine, Bordeaux

One of the most popular locations for young expatriates, Aquitaine is a beautiful town offering an excellent quality of life and some of the best schools in France.

Marseille, Bouches du Rhone

Dating back to 600 BC, and the second largest city in France, Marseille enjoys a diverse mix of nationalities. A boom in the tourism industry has created more jobs for expatriates who relocate there for its rich culture, museums, galleries, restaurants, and amenities. Port City Located on the South East Coast and enjoys an excellent climate.

Limoges, Haute-Vienne

A town surrounded by beautiful countryside, Limoges has recently become more popular with expatriates for its lower than average house prices and a wide variety of local places of interest to visit.

Nice

Located on the south-east coast, Nice is the fifth largest city in France known for its incredible architecture and cultural heritage. Enjoying a booming tourism industry, there are many job opportunities for expatriates who relocate there from around the world.

Lyon

With a growing economy creating many job opportunities in a variety of industries expatriates from all over the world are drawn to the city. The food capital of France, there is a myriad of excellent restaurants, and the city's wealth of museums, art galleries and stunning architecture make it a pleasure to visit. With excellent schools and a wonderful climate, including long summers from May — October and mild winters, it’s no wonder so many expats make Lyon their home.

Rennes – Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany

A culturally vibrant city with wonderful architecture and fascinating history, Rennes is spilt into Old Town and New, separated by the Vilaine River. The city is popular with expatriates thanks to its thriving job market.

Finally, the Poitou-Charentes area has become more popular recently, and cheap flights are opening up more accessibility to places like Bergerac and Montpelier. Limousin, Burgundy, and the Ardeche are regions somewhat neglected by a foreign buyer, so they offer good value. The Dordogne has historically proven popular with the British — a combination of good climate and attractive vistas, accessibility, and English-speaking communities.

Settling on where you want to live can prove difficult, but organising health insurance shouldn't be. Pick up the phone and talk to us about how we can help keep you happy and healthy in your plans for the future.

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