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Living in France: Pros & Cons

We’ve officially been living in France for 6 months now! By next month, this will be the longest we’ve ever spent in one apartment since we’ve gotten married. By two months after that, it will be the longest we’ve ever lived in one country since we’ve gotten married! France is quickly becoming the place that we want to call our “forever home.” So here are the things we think you should know before deciding to live in France: the Pros & Cons of living in France!

Pros of Living in France

There are quite a lot of Pros of living in this beautiful country and I could go on for a lot longer, but here are the main ones that you definitely should be aware of!

The country has a bit of everything

I honestly had no idea until we moved here how diverse the country of France is. There are places that look like Switzerland, Thailand, Ireland, Italy, Austria, etc! Whatever it is you’re looking for, there’s a place in France that can fulfill it.

For example, I’m obsessed with colorful Italian architecture. Basically every city from Nice to the border of Italy is covered in buildings that look straight out of Cinque Terre.

If you want giant mountains and lakes like you’d find in Switzerland or Austria, head to the Mercantour National Park or Isola 300, or Chamonix. German cookie-cutter villages perfect for Instagram? Check out the Alsace region!

girl sitting in front of Menton, France view
Menton, France is a perfect example of Italian influence (it’s only a few minutes from the border of Italy!)

There’s so much more to France than just Paris and I’m pretty sure Jake and I are going to spend the rest of our lives (if the French government lets us stay) finding new incredible places right here in France.

There is an ad that is posted all over Nice that displays this perfectly. It has a person jumping in the air, half dressed in ski gear and half in a swimsuit. Just from here in Nice, you can be swimming on the Cote d’Azur and then skiing in the mountains (or hiking in the summer) in just an hour and a half!

Perfectly located in the middle of Europe

But just in case you wanted to travel the rest of Europe as well (which we definitely do) France is perfectly situated in the middle of all the action.

We can take a 30-minute train to Italy, a 30 minute $20 flight to Barcelona, a 6-hour drive to Switzerland. Everything is just SO CLOSE!

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Just a $60 flight from Nice to Munich to see the Neuschwanstein Castle!

If you’re still not completely convinced that you should move abroad, definitely head over and read this list of all the reasons you NEED to live abroad at least once in your life!

You get to learn a beautiful language

Although I still haven’t quite got the hang of French yet, I love the way that locals (here in Nice) handle the situation when I stumble through a sentence.

Of course, I know that locals in each city in France are different, but my overall experience in France while learning has been SO amazing.

When I order at the boulangerie and say something wrong, they CORRECT ME! Which to someone who doesn’t love learning languages might take as rude, but to me that is the MOST respectful thing that you could do.

It happens every time I’m talking to someone in French here. Instead of getting angry that you’re botching their language, they just lightly say what you should have said and then CONTINUE to talk to you in French!

It’s like this country was built for language learners. Or at least Nice, France was.

More Affordable Rent than America

Although a lot of people would think that rent in France would be out of their price range… let me tell you that that has NOT been the case for Jake and I. Here’s a bit of our story that helps illustrate what I mean by that:

Jake and I had a bit of a traumatic experience in our last apartment in America and have always used it as an example to show “value” between apartments in America versus abroad.

So here’s what happened: being budget-crazy has ALWAYS been one of the main aspects of our relationship. We have fun doing it together and it always leads to a good story to tell in the end lol.

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But anyway, we moved to Ogden, Utah so that I could do my student-teaching and get my degree in Spanish Education by teaching at a local high school.

We had a budget we really didn’t want to break: $800 per month. But even in Ogden (which has beautiful mountains, but the city is not a very nice place to live, to be honest), there was nothing remotely close to our budget.

We ended up staying at an apartment complex that was for subsidized housing for about $750 per month. It was just a room, no kitchen, just one of those camping stoves and a mini-fridge.

The water in the bathroom would come out brown for a few minutes before it turned clear and most of our neighbors (although very kind) looked like they had hit rock-bottom.

Now, compare that to Nice, France. Our apartment may a bit smaller, but it’s newly renovated and only a 5-minute walk to the beach for THE SAME PRICE as the one we got in Utah. Can you believe that?!

Moral of the story is, if you want to find a cheap place abroad, you definitely can.

People told us that we wouldn’t be able to do it and that our rent would end up being double what we were expecting to pay. They were wrong though!

When sticking to a budget is the end-goal, you will always find something! Now it just depends whether the quality will be good enough. Here in France it definitely is.

However, in Utah (and Mexico) the quality of the apartments was so bad for the price that I refuse to move back to either of those places. Even though Mexico has my heart forever, I just can’t live there on our budget!

Great Access to Affordable Public Transport

In France, you can get basically ANYWHERE with public transport! And it’s crazy cheap! Here in Nice, it costs $1.50 per trip if you buy a single ticket. If you buy 10 trips together, the ticket goes down to $1 per trip!

That means we can get to Eze, Ville-Franche-Sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and even more tiny towns near us for JUST A DOLLAR each way! We can hop on the metro and get to the airport for only one dollar.

Eze Village, France

Everything is so well connected here and you really don’t need a car unless you decide to live far outside of the city center.

Cheaper Medical Procedures

Okay, I can only speak for my own experience so far on this one. In the United States, I got an IUD for birth control and it cost me $1000 even WITH health insurance.

It was causing me problems (even after 3 years but that’s a different story!) so I decided I would finally go to a doctor outside of the USA for the first time!

AND BOY was it AWESOME. My doctor was incredibly kind and understanding to my pain. Instead of ordering the IUD for me like they had in the US, he wrote me a prescription and I walked across the street to the pharmacy to buy the IUD myself. It cost me $100.

The procedure itself cost me another $100 (it cost me $300 in the States). So overall, even though birth control wasn’t covered on my private health insurance I use here in France, the whole thing cost me $200 out-of-pocket and the experience was so pleasant I can’t stop thinking about it!

Did I mention that the doctor’s office had an incredible view of the ocean?! Sometimes living here doesn’t feel real at all.

Cheap Health Insurance

Speaking of health insurance, it was required in order to get our Long-Stay Visitor Visa. It cost Jake and me $750 for a whole year of coverage (for both of us!!). That is how much our parents in the USA pay for just one month.

I haven’t looked too much into it, but I’m pretty sure that we can apply for a “Carte Vitale” either this year or after we renew our visas to get free health insurance here in France.

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Bakeries!! (Boulangeries)

Of course, food needs to make it on this pro list or would we even be living in France?! Let’s just say that we have eaten a fair amount of pain au chocolat (they even make them mini which are the cutest things I’ve ever seen!) and suisses.

bakeries in France

cheap groceries

Thanks to Carrefour, LIDL, & Monoprix, groceries are incredibly cheap here! We spent about $35 each week on groceries!

Cheap Stores

I have to mention our love for Decathlon and Maxi Bazar. Decathlon is a CRAZY cheap store that sells sports equipment. Seriously, they had bikinis for $3, running shorts for $4, yoga mats for $2.50. It’s a cheap dream in there and I’m obsessed.

The second store I mentioned was Maxi Bazar. Basically this store is the Decathlon for furnishing your house. Everything is affordable!

Thanks to Maxi Bazar and Facebook Marketplace we were able to completely furnish (from LITERALLY zero… we didn’t even have an oven or a fridge) for around $1,500.

Cons of Living in France

I’m much less excited to talk about this part, but it must happen. There are cons to living in France, of course.

Some of these things made me cry out of frustration and at the time I really wondered what I was doing… but I can tell you with confidence that once you figure these things out, there are VERY few cons to living in this incredible country.

You Need to Learn the Language

I mentioned in the pros section that you get to learn a language and that was a HUGE pro for me. However, if you are someone who doesn’t enjoy learning languages… I don’t really recommend that you move to France.

Although you always have a choice in what you do, I would say that France is one of those places where you really SHOULD learn the language. My husband really struggles with learning languages because he just doesn’t like it.

But the language is extremely important here (and I LOVE that, but I gotta tell it how it is for people like Jake) so if you don’t want to learn it you probably shouldn’t move here.

If I didn’t have a basic understanding of French before we came here, I don’t know if we’d be where we are now.

I needed it to do basically everything from talking to about 1000 real estate agents, negotiating rent, talking on the phone to set up our electricity, setting up our internet, etc.

Just listing those things is stressing me out again, but honestly, my French is SO basic. Just know that you should definitely spend a good amount of time on Duolingo and take quite a few iTalki classes before you even step foot in France.

The Bureaucracy (Red Tape)

This needs to be mentioned before most of the rest of the things on this list since this is basically the reason why France can be so difficult. Basically, there are a lot of rules and laws in France that directly contradict each other or just simply don’t make any sense.

I’m reading the book Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong and it really has helped me understand where these laws have come from. France is a very old country and has incredible traditions that have lasted hundreds and hundreds of years.

Basically, prepare yourself because it doesn’t work like America at all. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. Some things are pull-your-hair-out terrible, but other things just take a bit of understanding!

Difficult to Find an Apartment as a Foreigner

Finding an apartment in France was something I hadn’t completely prepared myself for. I knew it would be difficult but I had no idea that it would be near impossible.

I went into the whole traumatic story in this post and you should definitely read it to get the full story of what this might be like for you.

The short of it is that we ended up hiring Adrian Leeds Group to help us finally get a place. It still wasn’t easy but without their connections, I’m not sure we would have gotten an apartment as quickly as we did.

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It still took us a month and a half (1 month on our own and 2 weeks with them).

Difficult to Get a Bank Account

What you need to understand about this is that because we are American and we will be taxed as Americans for the rest of our lives no matter where we live, it can be difficult for banks to legally open accounts for us.

If you are American, you need to keep this in mind.

It is a lot of paperwork for these banks and actually costs them a bit of money since they have to disclose everything to the IRS. We applied many times to HSBC and had no luck.

I wish I could tell you that we figured this one out on our own, but Adrian Leeds helped us get a bank account as well.

It still required a lot of paperwork and interviews. Definitely not a walk in and leave with a bank account in 15 minutes situation like in America. Prepare yourself for that and don’t get frustrated. It feels so much more satisfying when you finally open a bank account successfully! lol

a couple smiling in Nice, France
Literally jumping for joy after we finally opened a bank account in France!

Stress about Renewing Visas

Getting our visa in France was actually much easier than I imagined it would be. However, there are financial requirements that you need to meet in order to keep your visa and renew it.

For us, this is around $32,000 in order to prove that we aren’t going to be a burden to France.

We have to renew our visa each year about 3 months before it expires which is a process that I’ve heard is not very fun. I’ll keep you posted as soon as it happens for us!

You Need to Have a Good Job Before You Come

Jake and I work online for VIPKid and I make a little from this blog, but we are not allowed to get jobs here in France because of the type of visa that we have. If you want to move to France and work here, the process will be a lot more complicated for you since you’ll need a company to sponsor your visa.

I haven’t been through this process myself but just don’t expect to move here and then be able to stay and find a job.

Even if you came and found a job, you’d need to RETURN to the USA in order to apply for the visa. Only renewals can be done from inside France.

Hard to Find Some American Comforts (& Good Mexican Food)

This is a very small con, but I can’t find Mac’n’Cheese here. )’: Everywhere else we’ve lived I’ve been able to just pay a little extra and get it from an expat grocery store.

However, here in Nice, there isn’t an American expat store. At Monoprix, you can find real American pancake syrup and Dr. Pepper but no Mac’n’Cheese.

You can order it online from My American Market but it’s still quite expensive. In the end, this might be a pro since I’ve lost about 10 pounds since we moved here to France. But I still miss it!

As far as Mexican food goes, we’ve had to create it ourselves. The French do NOT like spicy so we have to buy hot peppers from the local Asian supermarket and Mission tortillas from Monoprix.

They have refried beans and tortilla chips too, but salsa has to be made from scratch of course.

Well, those are my Pros and Cons of Living in France so far! I imagine that I will be adding to this list as we stay here longer (we’re hoping they let us stay forever!) France is AMAZING and I love living here. I hope you try it!

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