Postcards & Passports

Moving to France: What You Need to Know

This post was most recently updated on November 9th, 2023

When you’re moving to a new country, things can get very tricky, very quickly, especially if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Moving to France is no different. That’s why it makes perfect sense to be well informed before you kick off the moving process.

That being said, if you’re considering moving to France, there are a few things you should know, aside from the obvious things like French lessons and accommodation options. So, without wasting any time, let’s take a look at what you need to know before moving to France.

The French Work to Live; They Don’t Live to Work

This is a pretty well-known fact, and it’s an attitude that’s been a staple of the French way of life for a long time. This is a pretty relaxed way of living, and it’s very attractive for people looking to relocate for a better work-life balance to their lives.

However, you should expect a variety of things, from different day structures, to different attitudes. It is common to work around 35 hours per week in France, and a lunch break is usually one to two hours long. The French are also famous for taking their time while dining. They want to savor both the meal and the company of the people they’re sharing it with. For this reason, living in France tends to be a lot less hectic than living in the US. One reason for moving to France could be to adapt a more laid-back lifestyle.

The French do appreciate their time off quite a bit, and as a benefit, they often receive paid time off. You are encouraged to switch off your phone and email after work, so you can enjoy your time off.

The downside to this, if you’re used to a faster pace, is that the shops and businesses close fairly early. Businesses are also seldom open on Sundays because that’s a family-centered rest day that the French appreciate.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of the infographic.

(Infographic provided by Three Movers)

You Should Take Care of Your Visa Beforehand

If you’re moving to France from the European Union, you won’t need a visa, and you won’t need a work permit. However, citizens that aren’t EU nationals will need both a long-term visa and a residence permit. It’s useful to find a job before you actually move because it’s very likely that you’ll need your employer to sponsor a visa.

The process itself isn’t very straightforward, and there are things to look out for at every turn. When moving to France, you’ll need an apartment deed or rental contract to apply for your visa. However, you can’t rent an apartment without a French bank account, and you need a visa to apply for an account. Things are very mixed up, so make sure you do your research and be sure everything is taken care of before you leave.

A Robust Bureaucratic System

The French are the nation behind the word bureaucracy, which is why you might expect that their system works admirably. Unfortunately, the downside here is that some processes might take a bit longer than you’re used to.

They’re also a lot more tedious when it comes to things that might seem trivial to you, such as opening a bank account or leasing an apartment, and you’ll need to provide a lot of documentation. From bank details to payslips to birth certificates, there’s a lot to the process itself. Oh, and it’s very well worth it to have some of these documents translated to French, by an official translator.

What About Healthcare?

The French have a pretty interesting healthcare system. It’s known as PUMA (Protection Universelle Maladie). In order to be eligible, you must be living or working in France for a minimum of three months. As soon as you’ve qualified, you’ll get your health card, or carte Vitale. That health card basically gives you a claim back on your healthcare costs. The refund can amount to about 70% of the whole fee, which definitely helps.

However, if for any reason you aren’t eligible for PUMA, it’s smart to cover yourself for those first three months. You should have enough to cover your expenses in terms of medical fees. 

Moving to France = Differences

This is something that might come as a surprise, initially. After you’ve lived in France a few months, each and every day is still a lesson in cultural differences. Even if you’re looking for a complete lifestyle overhaul, adapting to French customs could still be a culture shock. However, if you take your time and embrace these changes, you could end up with a better quality of life. 

Moving to France

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