Moving to France

Moving to France from Germany: An Expat's Guide

Are you considering making the move to France as an expat? Whether it's for work, study, or simply a change of scenery, moving to a new country can be both exciting and daunting.

From understanding the visa process to settling in and managing your finances, this guide covers all aspects of relocating to France.
France offers expats a rich cultural heritage, exceptional quality of life, diverse landscapes, renowned cuisine, language immersion opportunities, and access to arts, education, and entertainment, making it an appealing destination in Europe. 

Before packing your bags and boarding a plane to France, there are a few essential things to consider. Read on to understand some of the essential factors that you as the expat need to understand beforehand.

With over 50 years of helping expats relocate globally, we have identified these 5 important areas that most people care about.

Understanding Visas & Residency Permit for Expats Moving to France

Moving to France involves understanding the French visa requirements, which vary depending on the purpose of your stay. 

Those planning to work in France will need to obtain a work visa. Each type of visa comes with specific conditions and documentation requirements set by the French government. 

The visa and residency requirements for moving to France depend on your nationality and the purpose of your stay.

EU/EEA Citizens: If you are a citizen of an EU or EEA country, you have the right to live, work, and study in France without a visa under the Freedom of Movement Act. However, you will need to obtain a French residence permit (carte de séjour) if you plan to stay for more than 90 days. 

Non-EU/EEA Citizens: If you are not an EU or EEA citizen, you will need to apply for a visa to enter and stay in France. The most common visas for expats are:

  • Short-stay visa (Schengen visa): Allows a stay of up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.
  • Long-stay visa (visa long de séjour): Allows a stay of more than 90 days for purposes such as work, study, or family reunification. This visa must be renewed annually.  
france visa
To apply for a long-stay visa, you will need to submit various documents, including a completed application form, passport, proof of accommodation, health insurance, and financial resources. 

The application process can take up to six months, so it's important to start early.  

Residency Permits: After arriving in France, non-EU/EEA citizens will need to apply for a residency permit (carte de séjour) from the local prefecture. This permit must be renewed annually and can eventually lead to permanent residency or French citizenship. 


Obtaining a Carte de Séjour for Living in France

For expats looking to live in France long-term, obtaining a Carte de Séjour is crucial. This residence permit allows individuals to stay and work legally in the country. 

The application process for a Carte de Séjour involves providing various documents such as proof of accommodation, financial stability, and health insurance. 

It's essential to understand the application process and requirements set by the French government to ensure a successful application and a smooth transition to living in France.

Cost of Living in France

France is known for its high quality of life, but this comes with a relatively higher cost of living, especially in major cities like Paris, Bordeaux, and Marseille. 

Understanding the expenses involved in day-to-day life can help expats budget effectively and avoid any financial surprises.

Expats living in France will encounter various costs, including accommodation, food, transportation, healthcare, education, and entertainment. The cost of living can vary significantly depending on the region you choose to reside in. 

For instance, living in Paris will generally be more expensive compared to smaller towns or rural areas.

However, with careful budgeting, expats can enjoy the country's many charms.

Here are the estimates of the cost of living in France based on some of the categories below:   
living in France


The average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Paris is around €1,200 ($1,300) per month, while in smaller French cities, it can drop to €700 ($750) per month.   

Groceries & Food

The average monthly grocery bill for one person is approximately €300 ($325). Eating out can be quite expensive, with a meal at an inexpensive restaurant costing around €12-15 ($13-16).  


The average monthly cost of utilities (electricity, heating, water, garbage) for a 900 sq ft apartment is around €150 ($160).  


Public transportation in major cities like Paris is efficient and affordable, with a monthly pass costing around €75-90 ($80-100). Owning a car can be costly, with average monthly expenses of €300-400 ($325-435) for insurance, fuel, and maintenance.  

Housing Options for Expats in France

When moving to France, finding suitable accommodation is a crucial step for expats. Whether you prefer the vibrant city life of Paris or the serene countryside, there are various options to consider. 

Renting or buying a property in France's major cities can be expensive, so it's essential to research different neighbourhoods and housing prices. 

Factors like proximity to amenities and public transportation should also influence your decision.

Finding Accommodation

Securing suitable accommodation is a crucial step in the relocation process. 

Here are some tips for finding a place to live in France: 


The most common option for expats is to rent an apartment or house. Popular rental platforms include Leboncoin, SeLoger, and PAP. It's also common to work with a real estate agent (agence immobilière) to find a property.

Expats looking to rent a property in France should consider several factors to ensure a smooth and successful experience.  

  • Property Type
  • Living Space
  • Furnished vs. Unfurnished
  • Utility Connections
  • Location


Purchasing a property in France is possible for expats, but it can be a complex process. There are several taxes and fees to consider, including:

Property Purchase Fees:
  • Notaire Fees: Typically between six and eight percent of the property value, payable upon completion of the sale.
  • Loan Registration Fee: Up to 2% of the loan value if purchasing with a loan.
  • Property Agent's Commission: Can range from 5% to 10% of the property value, with an average around 6%.
  • Legal Representation Fees: Hiring a lawyer for legal assistance, with fees varying based on the lawyer's pricing structure.
Ownership Fees and Taxes:
  • Taxe Foncière: A land tax paid by the property owner annually, based on factors like property size and location.
  • Taxe d'Habitation: A residence tax paid by the property owner unless the property is rented out long-term.

Short Stay

For short-term stays, expats can consider options like Airbnb, hotels, or serviced apartments, especially when first arriving in France.  

The average rental prices for short-term accommodations in France vary depending on the type of accommodation and location. For instance, the nightly price of accommodations in France starts at $33, with an average price of $184 per night for an apartment rental and $254 per night for a house rental. 

For student housing, the average rent for a studio apartment amounts to 557 euros per month for a one-room apartment. It's important to note that short-term rentals in France cannot exceed 90 days for the same tenant in both the secondary and principal residences, and principal residences cannot be leased for more than 120 days per year. 

Best place to live in France for Expats

For expats looking for the best places to live in France, factors like job opportunities, quality of life, and cost of living play a crucial role. 

Cities like Lyon, Bordeaux, and Toulouse are popular choices for expats due to their cultural offerings, amenities, and vibrant expat communities. 

Researching different regions and their unique characteristics can help you find the ideal location to call home in France.
Neighbourhood The Attractions
Paris As the capital and largest city, Paris offers a global center of fashion, business, culture, and the arts. It can be challenging to find affordable housing, but the city's vibrant atmosphere and amenities make it an attractive option for many expats.
Lyon France's second-largest city, Lyon is known for its cuisine, historic architecture, and thriving economy. It offers a more manageable size compared to Paris while still providing a cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Bordeaux Often referred to as the "wine capital of the world," Bordeaux is a popular destination for expats drawn to its rich culture, beautiful scenery, and high quality of life.
Toulouse The fourth-largest city in France, Toulouse is praised for its Mediterranean climate, diverse culture, and strong economy, particularly in the aerospace industry. It's considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
Nice Located on the French Riviera, Nice offers a picturesque coastal setting, mild weather, and a vibrant international community. It's a popular destination for retirees and those seeking a relaxed, luxury lifestyle.

Navigating France HealthCare System

France has a comprehensive public healthcare system, the Securité Sociale, which covers a significant portion of medical expenses for both French citizens and legal residents.

Public Healthcare: To access the public healthcare system, expats will need to register with the Securité Sociale and obtain a social security number (numéro de Sécurité sociale). This process can take several weeks or months.  

Private Insurance: Many expats choose to supplement the public healthcare system with private insurance, which can cover additional expenses such as dental care, vision, and specialized treatments. Private insurance can be obtained through French insurance companies or international providers.  

Healthcare Costs: The Securité Sociale typically covers around 70% of medical expenses, with the remaining 30% paid by the patient. Expats may need to pay upfront for some services and then seek reimbursement from the Securité Sociale and their private insurer.

Understanding the healthcare system in France is essential for expats looking to reside in the country. France has a comprehensive healthcare system that provides high-quality medical services to residents. Expats moving to France will have access to this system, but it's crucial to understand how health insurance works in the country.

Health Insurance Options in France

Here is a summary of the key health insurance options for expats living in France:
  • France has a universal public healthcare system called PUMA (Protection Universelle Maladie) that covers all legal residents, regardless of employment status.
  • To be eligible for PUMA, expats must have lived in France for at least 3 consecutive months to stay for at least 6 months per year.  
  • PUMA covers around 70-80% of medical costs, with the remaining 20-30% paid by the patient or supplementary private insurance.  
  • PUMA provides access to a wide network of healthcare providers and facilities across France.  
  • Most French residents, including expats, opt to purchase private supplementary insurance called a "mutuelle" to cover the remaining costs not covered by PUMA.
  • Mutuelle plans can provide more comprehensive coverage, including services like dental, vision, and alternative therapies.  
  • The average cost of private health insurance for an expat in France is around €40-45 per month.  
  • Private insurance can also provide coverage for expats during the initial 3-month waiting period before they are eligible for PUMA.  
  • Expats who are not eligible for PUMA, such as short-term visitors or those in France for less than 3 months, must purchase comprehensive international private health insurance.  
  • Recommended international health insurance providers for expats in France include Cigna Global and GeoBlue Xplorer. These plans offer worldwide coverage and access to a wide network of healthcare providers.  
In summary, the French healthcare system provides excellent public coverage through PUMA, but expats often supplement this with private insurance to get more comprehensive benefits and avoid out-of-pocket costs. 

Proper planning and understanding of the options are key for expats to ensure they have adequate health coverage in France.

Education System for Expats’ Kid Moving to France

Moving to a new country can be an exciting but challenging experience, especially when it comes to finding the right education system for your children. 

For expats moving to France, navigating the French education system may seem daunting at first. With its unique structure and curriculum, understanding how to enrol your child in school and ensure they receive a quality education can be overwhelming.

France has a diverse educational system that caters to both French citizens and expats. Here are some options for expat families:
Public schools in France are free for French citizens and EU nationals. The curriculum is taught in French, so expat children may need additional language support.
France has a network of international schools that offer education in English and other languages. These schools typically follow international curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or American-based programs. Tuition fees can be quite high, ranging from €10,000 to €25,000 ($10,800 to $27,000) per child per year. 
Expat children and adults can enrol in French language courses to help them adapt to the local education system and culture. Many schools, language centres, and universities offer French language programs.   
France has a well-respected higher education system, with both public and private universities. Tuition fees for public universities are generally lower than in other European countries, making them an attractive option for expat students.

Adapting to French Culture and Language

For expats relocating to France, the process of adjusting to French customs and communication can be both daunting and fulfilling. French culture is known for its rich history, exquisite cuisine, and passionate people, making it a unique and vibrant place to live.

Learning the language is not only a practical necessity but also a way to connect with locals and immerse oneself in the French way of life.

Here are some tips to help you adjust:

Language Learning: Learning French is crucial for navigating daily life in France. Consider taking language classes, using language learning apps, or practising with French conversation partners.  

Cultural Etiquette: France has a unique set of social norms and etiquette that are important to understand. For example, greetings, personal space, and socializing with coworkers outside of work are all governed by specific cultural expectations.  

Embracing the "Joie de Vivre": The French are known for their appreciation of good food, wine, and leisure time. Embracing this "joie de vivre" (joy of living) can help you fully immerse yourself in the French lifestyle.  

Networking and Making Friends: Joining expat groups, attending local events, and engaging with the community can help you build a social network and make new friends in France. 


In conclusion, moving to France as an expat can be a rewarding experience for those who are willing to embrace the challenges and cultural differences that come with living in a new country. This comprehensive guide provides valuable information on various aspects of expat life in France.

It emphasizes the importance of doing thorough research and planning ahead to ensure a smooth transition to life in France. By following the tips and advice outlined in this guide, expats can navigate the complexities of relocating to France with confidence and better integrate into their new surroundings.

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