Lyon, reclining across two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône, is France’s oldest and second-largest city. This leading European silk producer was also once famed for its printing presses and mercantilism, and today the city of Lyon is still an important business and financial hub. It is home to international organizations such as Interpol, Euronews, WHO (World Health Organization) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
France’s capital of gastronomy boasts over 1000 restaurants with a healthy sprinkling of Michelin stars, leaving food lovers (along with those who can’t be bothered, or don’t know how to cook) with no shortage of choice. Even so, it is advisable to book in advance; the highly sociable Lyonnaise themselves are gourmands, and the city’s tables are always filled.
Lyon is an inspiring and beautiful city to live in. A rewarding hike up to La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière reveals a visual cornucopia; the Basilique’s unique octagonal towers gaze out across the ancient city’s fusion of Roman, medieval and utopian architecture to the Croix-Rousse in the Rhone-Alpes region.
Its clear striking distance of southern Alp ski resorts and the French Riviera makes Lyon an enviable relocation destination. With the Lyon-Saint Exupéry international airport and three TGV high-speed train stations, Lyon is connected to all major European cities and rest of the world, making it an easy city from which to conduct business, or to return home to.
What is special or unique about your city?
The capital city of the Rhone Alps region, Lyon was classed as a World Heritage City by UNESCO in
December 1998. Founded more than 2000 years ago, the city was initially named Lugdunum by the
Romans, who saw it as an important crossroads between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Alps.
Today, France’s second city is a fascinating mix of architecture, cultures and people. One of the most charming districts in town is the Vieux Lyon area lying between the west bank of the Saône and the Hill of "Fourviere." Broken into three villages, Saint Jean, Saint Paul and Saint George, Vieux Lyon is home to the largest collection of Renaissance buildings in Europe. Its narrow winding streets are filled with "Bouchons" - small Lyonnais restaurants for which the city is famous - as well as street performers, cafes, pubs and the workshops of local artists, craftsmen and sculptors.
The fact that the city is split in between the Rhône and the Saône rivers makes the city unique, and at first you may not know on which riverside you really are!
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Generally, newcomers find that Lyon is beautiful, rich in history, and everyone is so friendly.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Most likely not. Abounding in the uniqueness of its two rivers, Lyon has an irresistible appeal and impressions of this unique haven will most likely last a lifetime.
What is the local language?
French is the official language, but many people know and speak English as a second language.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
If you are an English speaker, you should have no problem. English is widely spoken or at least understood, particularly by the younger generations, because English is taught as a second language in high schools. Furthermore, Lyon hosts a large and diverse expat community, which means that there are probably opportunities to speak your native language if it is something other than English.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Mainly, as in anywhere else in the world, be courteous and respectful of others. French people value politeness and diplomacy. Generally, you will find French people to be sociable and pleasant, particularly if they are approached with a friendly smile and a polite "bonjour." In fact, if you fail to do so, you may be reminded about it by the person you approach!
Here are some additional tips to help you avoid offending residents of Lyon:
- The French tend to speak at a closer distance than some other cultures.
- Backing away when someone is talking to you is considered rude.
- Chewing gum in public is seen as vulgar.
- Slapping an open palm over a closed fist or snapping your fingers is offensive and obscene.
- Yawning in public or patting someone on the back is considered rude and unacceptable.
- Do not put your hands in your pockets when in public.
- Eating while walking down the street is frowned upon although you will still see people doing this.
- The "O.K." sign (forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger) means "zero" or "useless" in France.
- Women acquaintances greet each other with alternating kisses on the cheeks. And it's common for men to embrace, so don't be surprised.
- Talking with your hands in your pockets is perceived as a sign of bad manners.
- Blowing your nose in public is also considered unacceptable.
- Today, the courtesy title "Mademoiselle" is rarely used and should be avoided.
- For casual contacts such as waiters, titles such as "Monsieur" or "Madame" will do fine. When entering a store or restaurant, you may say "bonjour" or "bonsoir", and "au revoir" upon leaving.
- When you speak their language, be gracious if the French correct your mistakes in grammar or pronunciation.
- It is highly recommended that you learn some basic French and use it whenever you can.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Typically, the weather in Lyon is cold during the winter and hot during the summer. Average temperatures range from a low 1 degree Celsius in January and February to a high 29 degrees Celsius in July and August. It is not uncommon to see a few days of snow in the city during the winter.
It can also be fairly windy during the summer as Lyon sits in the Rhône Valley corridor.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
The Presqu’ile (peninsula), which lies between the city’s two great rivers, is home to fashionable shopping streets such as Rue Victor Hugo. The beautifully elegant Place des Terreaux is at the heart of Lyon civic life and plays host to numerous restaurants, cafes and bars in the most idyllic of settings.
Just behind Terreaux on Place de la Comedie is the National Opera House, an amazing architectural example of old meeting new. The trendy Croix-Rousse area is home to the Traboules Lyonnaises: secret passageways that wind for hundreds of meters through and under buildings and streets. Initially used by the Silk traders as shortcuts, they were to be used centuries later by the Resistance during the Second World War. Don’t miss the "Trompe l’Oeil" while in Croix-Rousse. These are huge mural frescoes that cover entire sides of buildings. The commercial part of the city lies east of the Rhône.
Here you’ll find the Lumiere Institute, which celebrates the Lumiere brothers’ contribution to cinema, and the Tony Garnier Urban Museum, an unusual outdoor museum showcasing the work of this Lyon-born architect.
Also, Lyon is divided into 9 arrondissements (districts) with their own mairies (town halls), mayors and councils. Each district has its own schools, police stations and social services. Another unique characteristic of France is that government administration is very powerful and complex in France.
Nothing gets done without the proper paperwork.