Living in France presents a number of opportunities, and one of them involves cutting the general cost of living. Average salaries in France are not as high as they are in Germany and the UK; however, government subsidies and help for businesses mean employees are afforded favorable terms of employment and several added benefits. Of course, the cost of living depends on a person's lifestyle, but the cost of basic products and the essential bills is lower than in the UK in many cases - and that can lead to a better overall quality of life.
France is one of the richest economies in the world, and its left-leaning tendencies have protected wage levels and workers' benefits for years. In terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, France is the richest of all the G8 countries. These factors make the country a highly attractive destination for British expats. However, not everything is cheaper in France, so people considering a move should be in possession of all the facts before making a final decision.
Food and Drink
France is a net producer of food, and that makes it one of the cheapest major countries in Europe in which to live. Dining out is a way of life and thousands of restaurants and cafes make France the unofficial food capital of the world. Whilst eating out in the major cities is relatively expensive, grocery shopping is significantly cheaper than in the UK. Sticking to fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products produced in France will keep shopping bills to a minimum.
Paris is considered one of the world's leading centres for fashion, and clothes bought in the city can be expensive; however, the same could be said for central London. The expensive designer boutiques will obviously charge a premium for the latest designs, but department stores in France offer far cheaper alternatives. The influx of clothes from China and Bangladesh has also led to falling clothing prices in France, and that means bargains can be picked up in most cities and large towns.
Property prices in France have risen considerably over the last three decades. And although the real estate sector has slowed somewhat since the crash of 2007, it is still outperforming most other major property markets of the world. One of the reasons for its success is the fact that France remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world; it is also extremely popular with people looking for attractive foreign locations for a second home.
France is a country of two halves. Those in rural communities and in small towns can expect to pay as little as 500€ per month for a one-bedroomed flat - not too different from the going rate in the UK. However, the same flats in cities such as Lyon and Marseille could cost 800€ to 1000€ per month, or even 1000€ in Paris. Anyone looking for a three-bedroomed flat, however, should expect to pay at least 900€ in the countryside and more than 1200€ per month in France's metropolitan areas.
Buying property in France can be a complicated process, and the fees to real estate agents and notaires (government-employed property lawyers) are generally higher than those paid in the UK. However, France's property market is heavily regulated, and the consumer is provided with a number of legal protections that aren't available in other European countries.
Dining Out and Entertainment
France, and particularly Paris, is considered to be the gastronomic capital of the world, and eating in the finest restaurants can be very expensive. A freshly-cooked meal in a fine dining establishment could cost as much as 100€ per person. However, a quaint, local cafe will offer black coffees from just 2€ and the classic croque monsieur sandwich from as little as 3.50€. The equivalent of the 'black cabs' in London are usually significantly cheaper in France - a typical inner-city trip costing between 6€ and 8€. A trip to the cinema for two people can cost as little as 15€, and that represents a huge saving when compared with prices in central London.
Unlike in the UK, utility companies are partly owned by the state, and that results in significantly lower electricity, gas, and water bills. An average apartment will cost around 100€ per month to run; in some areas of the UK, the cost of monthly utilities is more than double that figure.
The French health system is considered to be one of the most effective in the world. It combines state-ownership with private investment, but all permanent residents will be able to access the state security system that includes health insurance.
France is just like other developing countries, insomuch that the cost of living will depend heavily on a person's lifestyle. However, the significantly lower food and utility prices mean that Brits who make the move across the Channel can expect to have more money in their pockets if they enjoy a relatively simple lifestyle.