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Welcome to France!

INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 - 6 An overview of France and its people.

If you have just moved to France, it’s likely you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Apart from a new culture and language to cope with, you will have to sort out a host of practical things within the first few weeks: somewhere to live, your finances, permits and papers, and maybe a school for your children and a job for your partner. The Expat Survival Guide will give you a starting point with the basic information you need, and direct you to companies and organisations that can help you. This guide is published by Expatica Communications, a leading media organisation serving the international community in Europe. Visit to access daily news, features, and resources such as housing and job searches, free classifieds, A-Z listings, and an online community. We wish you a wonderful stay in France!

RELOCATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 - 12 Your first few days; Residence permits; Relocation service providers; Social security system. HOUSING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 - 23 The regions of France; Buy or rent?; Renting a home; Buying a home; Where to live in Paris; Accommodation agencies. FINANCE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 - 28 Banking, Taxation, Insurance. EDUCATION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 - 38 Education system; School listings; Language schools. EMPLOYMENT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 - 44 Daycare; How to find a job; Recruitment agencies; Customs and etiquette. HEALTHCARE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 - 48 Healthcare system; Hospitals; Getting married. FAMILIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 HOME BASICS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 - 51 Utilities and telephones. TRANSPORT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 - 55 Transport; Driving and parking.


CONTACTS AND INDEX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 - 61 Groups and clubs; Embassies; Phone book decoder; Emergency numbers;


ADVERTISERS’ INDEX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

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* Mo Editor: Paul Morris, Audrey Sykes Advertising sales: Monica Kao Ventura,; Maciej Wojnicki, Sales coordination: Albina de Wolf

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronically or mechanically, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests for permission should be addressed to Expatica Communications BV, Gedempte Oude Gracht 31, 2011 GL Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Publisher: Antoine van Veldhuizen Layout & design: Benjamin Langman Marketing & communications: Antoine van Veldhuizen


Expatica makes great effort to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this guide. However, we will not be responsible for errors, omissions or any damages, however caused, which results from its use, and make no warranty of claims as to the quality or competence of businesses or professionals mentioned. Users are advised to take care when selecting professional services and to use common sense when adjusting to new life in a new country.



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Cais A Co Insu

Discover the advantages of the leading European banking group(1) with Paris Direct International! Paris Direct International is the distance banking branch of Crédit Agricole Ile-de-France. It is especially dedicated to English-speaking clients, both resident and non-resident.

A choice of distance banking services Free secure access to your account by internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week(2). Access to your dedicated English-speaking Advisor via e-mail, telephone or fax 6 days a week*. Prepaid envelopes for use within France for your banking correspondence. Card and chequebook delivered free of charge (even abroad).

To benefit from all of our services, simply contact us:

An all-inclusive banking relationship Current Account Mortgages and Personal Loans

From France:

01 44 73 30 00

(the cost of the call varies depending on the tariff applied by your telephone provider. Calls may be recorded)

From abroad:

+33 (0)1 44 73 30 00

Debit & Credit Cards Insurance Saving Plans Children’s Savings Accounts.

(Call to the current price rate. Calls may be recorded)

You can also contact us by e-mail at: * Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Distance Banking Wherever, Whenever… Branch dedicated to non-professionals individuals. Under acceptance of the file by Crédit Agricole d’Ile-de-France. Each of the information mentioned on this document is only valid according to the limits and conditions of the contract towhich is refers. (1) By Retail Banking revenues. Figures taken fromthe Crédit Agricole Annual Report S.A. 2008. (2) Free unlimited access to the site for individuals (except online subscription to Crédit Agricole online ‘OptionBourse’), except variable communication costs advised by operator. The access to certain options requires a subscription. Caisse Régionale de Crédit Agricole Mutuel de Paris et d’Ile-de-France. A Cooperative Credit Union of variable capitalisation. A lending institution and insurance broker. Registered with the Registrar of InsuranceBrokersunderNumber07008015. Head Office: 26 quai de laRapée, 75 012 PARIS. RCS No. 775 665 615 RCS PARIS.


Introduction France is the largest western European country and it possesses the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, just behind that of the United States. Here is a brief introduction to the country. France offers a rare quality of life, with diverse and largely uncrowded regions, traditions of culinary excellence, fine wines and agricultural abundance, varied climates and an excellent transport infrastructure. But not all the clichés are glowing ones; the French are often perceived, and not least by themselves, as paying scant regard to civic responsibilities. Yet the French are one of the most verbally polite peoples in the world—and the country is swamped by regulations and bureaucracy. Among the European states, France has a high level of material wealth, excellent public and private health service, a comprehensive welfare and education system, and boasts many examples of technological excellence. Despite a comparatively high standard of living, in the recent past France has been in the throes of a national social and economic crisis. Much of the country’s impressive post-war modernisation involved a high amount of state control, as well as investment and intervention in its economy. France spent much of the last decade engaged in a major transition towards a more market-based economy, driven by the centre-right government elected in 2002.


Economic reforms were accompanied by major reductions in the number of public employees, which represented about a quarter of the country’s workforce, as part of efforts to cut its public deficit. They were widely opposed by trades unions and left-wing political parties. These scars remain and the current government still faces growing social strife, fuelled by a high unemployment rate and an economic downturn which has seen spectacular bankruptcies. There is growing public concern on issues of law and order, economic insecurity and immigration. The country’s mainstream political parties openly recognise a deepening public mistrust of governing institutions. The administration of the country is highly centralised, with the power firmly anchored in Paris. Undoubtedly, this contributes to the alienation of the electorate from political representatives. At the forefront of social tensions is the difficult integration of second and third generation offspring of immigrants from France’s former North African colonies. Many inhabit large suburban housing estates purpose-built in the 1970s and 1980s, effectively forming ghettos (commonly termed les banlieues) in the country’s main cities. France counts some five million Muslims. The cohabitation of religious practices and France’s secular institutions is increasingly strained, notably regarding the right to wear the Islamic veil in schools or while working in administrative posts. In 2010, France passed a law that bans the wearing of burqas, niqa¯bs and other fullface covering veils in public. The issues of an alienated immigrant population and an increasingly militant Muslim community are perhaps France’s biggest political challenges in the years ahead.


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ESSENTIAL STATISTICS France is the country with the largest surface area in Western Europe, and is one of the continent’s leading economic and diplomatic powers, alongside the United Kingdom and Germany. It has a population of 62.8 million with an average annual gross income of EUR 33,574. The unemployment rate is 9.8 percent (2.85 million people), and between six and seven percent of the population live below the poverty line. Life expectancy is currently 75.6 years for men and 83.1 years for women. The average age of the population is 38 years, and rising. While France is a secular society, about 85 percent of the population declare themselves Roman Catholics. Muslims account for between five and 10 percent of the population, followed by Protestants (two percent) and Jews (about one percent). The 545,630 square kilometres which make up France are less densely populated than any of its neighbours, except for Spain. Across its 22 regions, one third of the land is arable. As the world’s fifth largest economy, France is a major manufacturing country, notably producing cars, chemicals, civil and military aircraft, shipbuilding, light and heavy machinery, metallurgy and electronics. Other important areas of its economy include food processing, banking, other services industries, and tourism.


POLITICS France is a republic, with a powerful president. Under the president, the country is also served by a prime minister and government. Presidential and legislative elections are held every five years. It is the president who chooses a prime minister, who in turn forms a government. The French parliament, called the National Assembly, consists of 577 elected members, 22 of them representing overseas territories. The constitution of the Fifth Republic, established in 1958, was severely strained by power sharing between a president and prime minister of opposing political affiliations, known as cohabitation. In 2002, the presidential mandate was reduced to five years. With presidential and legislative elections timed within weeks of each other, cohabitation ended with the re-election of Jacques Chirac to a second term of office, and the landslide parliamentary majority of his centre-right UMP party in legislative elections one month later. The office of French president has farreaching powers. Leaders in the past century have included Francois Mitterand, Jacques Chirac, and Nicolas Sarkozy -- raising issues in domestic and foreign affairs, including illegal immigration and reform as the European Union stumbles from one crisis to another.


• • R E L O C AT I O N • •

Survival checklist If you’ve just landed in France it’s tempting to start exploring, but there are some essential tasks to get through first. REPORT TO IMMIGRATION If you are not from one of the exempted countries, you are entitled to stay in France just three months before applying for a residence permit. Get ready for lots of paperwork, and make sure your documents have all the right stamps. SOCIAL SECURITY In almost all cases you will need to start paying into the French social security system, which manages the country’s comprehensive welfare insurance, from healthcare to unemployment. FINANCES FIRST Opening a French bank account will make your life easier. You’ll need your passport and/or residence permit, proof of address, evidence of income such as an employment contract or payslip. RENT OR BUY A HOME France is a large country with a wide variety of locations, but which region is best for you? Should you rent or buy? INSURANCE French law requires you to be insured for your home before you move in, as well as for your car and civil liability.

SETTING UP HOME Get plugged in: How to get a telephone, broadband connection, and sort out utilities. We list the major suppliers and several useful websites. FINDING A SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILDREN Should you send your child to a local or international school? What educational possibilities are available to expats? JOB HUNTING If you’ve got a work permit (or don’t need one) you’re ready to go. Sign up with agencies that specialise in finding work for expats, or start your search online. We offer job-hunting tips, as well as information on French labour laws. CHILDCARE If you’re a busy parent with very young children, you may be able to benefit from France’s impressive daycare facilities. TAX No one likes thinking about tax, but as a resident you must pay tax on earnings from the moment you arrive. Find out what you will have to declare, how and when. HEALTH Before long, you may need to visit a dentist or a doctor. It is important to know how the French healthcare system works, and to make sure you’re properly covered. GETTING AROUND Find out about French driving rules and regulations, and how the French public transport system works. MEETING THE COMMUNITY If you’re finding everything a little stressful, take heart: there are many expats who have been in the same position and made it through! Find out about groups and clubs in France and the best places to meet other members of the expat community, as well as the locals.



• • R E L O C AT I O N • •

Residence permits France has different rules regarding residence permits depending on your nationality. For some European nationals, there is no requirement to apply for a residence permit. A residence permit in France is called a carte de séjour. To obtain one, you must apply to your local préfecture, the French administrative region responsible for local administration of policing laws and regulations. The service that delivers residence permits is called le service des étrangers. In the provinces, the préfecture will be situated in the administrative capital of your département. If you live in a rural area, you can often process your application to the préfecture through the local town hall (mairie). In Paris, you must apply to the préfecture de police de Paris. EU NATIONALS AND CITIZENS OF THE EEA AND SWITZERLAND Residence permits are no longer a legal requirement for nationals from the 14 states which, with France, made up the European Union prior to 1 May 2004, nor for member states Cyprus and Malta. Also exempt are nationals from Switzerland and the European Economic Area (EEA) member states. While citizens from these countries are free to live and work in France without holding a carte de séjour, it is still a requirement for nationals of eight other new EU member states. These are: Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Nationals of the eight countries must still obtain work permits for these activities, but permits can no longer be refused on the grounds of the national employment situation. The sectors concerned are: construction, hospitality, agriculture, retail, machine-operating, and hygiene. Anyone working in one of these industries who wishes to apply for a permit must get a prospective employer to file the request on their behalf, if they are not in France. If they are already in France, they may apply in person at the appropriate préfecture. For up-to-date information on particular employment sectors, the government advises applicants to contact their local préfecture or souspréfecture, or call the Europe Direct information line at 00 800 67 89 10 11. Even after it was no longer required, British residents were originally still allowed to apply for cartes de séjour for use as a form of photo identification. This is no longer the case. If you currently have a carte de séjour, you will not be allowed to renew it when it expires. This means you must have your passport with you at all times, as you are still required to carry photo identification. You will need photo identification if you are stopped by the police, and for writing checks, as many stores no longer accept driver’s licenses for this purpose. NATIONALS FROM OUTSIDE THE EU The process here is more complicated and may depend upon particular agreements between France and the country concerned. Generally speaking, however, a non-EU national who wishes to stay in France for more than three months to work, study or reside without employment, must already have acquired a longstay visa (visa de long séjour) before arriving in France. If you don’t obtain such a visa before you get here, it won’t be possible to apply for a residence permit later.

France has introduced what it calls a ‘progressive relaxation’ of working restrictions, and has published a list of 62 activities in which it deems workers to be in short supply.



Experts in mobility worldwide and within France since 1989. Our team offers a wide range of services tailored to meet the specific needs of families and companies facing international mobility: administrative procedures, immigration, choice of schools, home hunting, dual career, intercultural seminars. We also provide expertise in the fields of social law and social security France Global Relocation 5, rue Mayran - 75009 Paris - France 00 33 1 53 20 01 01 Email : Web site :

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Right move takes care of executives and their families, before, during and well after their arrival.

successful relocation Corinne GODIN Tél : +33 (0)1 34 84 50 36

Home finding • Schooling • Settling-in assistance • Administration procedures • General helpline-Integration assistance • Language and cross cultural training Taxes • Departure assistance.

PA R I S – L O N D O N – B E I J I N G – S H A N G H A I - S I N G A P O R E

• • R E L O C AT I O N • •

You must submit your application in person. Start by asking at your préfecture or country’s embassy for precise details of the documents you must produce, but in most cases you will need the following: • A valid identity card or passport. • Three passport-size photos, photos d’identité. • A recent document providing proof of where you live (this can be a utilities or rent receipt), justificatif de domicile. • Proof of adequate resources, or in the case of a student, proof of enrolment in an educational establishment recognised by the French Ministry of Education. • A medical certificate issued by a French doctor; check with your préfecture for a reference to a doctor or a clinic authorised to provide such certificates or, likewise, contact the French consulate in your country to find an approved doctor. • A full translation (from a registered translator, traducteur assermenté) of medical insurance. The new immigration law passed in 2006 requires all residence-permit seekers from nonEU countries to sign a contract with the Republic, contrat d’accueil et l’intégration (CAI). Signees will receive free civic lessons and language training if necessary; they will be required to demonstrate a basic level of competence in French, although the bar has not been set very high.

If you are retired or unemployed, you must provide proof that you have adequate financial resources to live with, and that you have comprehensive health insurance for treatment in France. It is worth noting that, under the new immigration law intended to attract immigrants with special skills or education, the procedure has recently been simplified for certain categories including: •E  xecutives working for multinationals with gross monthly earnings of at least EUR 5,000 • Scientists • Entertainment industry workers • Seasonal workers •T  hose deemed to belong to regulated professions (healthcare professionals, architects, lawyers, teachers, etcetera) THE RECIPISSE After the application is approved, you will receive a récipissé de carte de séjour, or a kind of receipt that will prove your legal residency while you’re waiting for the permanent card. You will be notified to appear in person at the préfecture when the real card is printed, and asked to exchange the récipissé for your permanent card. Once you have the récipissé and then the permanent card, note that you’re always supposed to carry it in public just as a French person always carries the carte d’identité; the police have the right to stop you at any time and ask for your identity papers.

PROVIDING ADEQUATE RESOURCES In all applications for a residence permit, to justify personal financial resources employees must have a certificate of employment from their employer, contrat de travail, and your three most recent salary slips, fiches de paie or bulletins de paie. A self-employed person must provide evidence of their status, such as membership of a recognised professional body or inclusion on a trade register, a VAT number and/or work payment receipts.



• • R E L O C AT I O N • •

Relocation service providers

Relocation Consultant | 06 88 55 62 04 1, rue General Gouraud - F-92190 Meudon, France

For many people, moving abroad can be a very stressful time.

Management Mobility Consulting 01 42 15 00 69

Companies often hire professional relocation firms to help their employees move and settle down in their new home. If your company is not taking care of the move, it might be a good idea to bring in someone with years of experience with the do’s and don’ts of changing country, rather than take the burden on yourself. In the Expatica relocation pages you can find the basic things to consider—such as visas and permits, vaccines for family members, restrictions or taxes on shipped household items, taxes due when you ship your car, insurance, and vaccines and quarantines for your pets. A popular article on the Expatica website, “How to work with a relocation firm”, tells you more specifically what to expect from relocation companies. Below, we have listed just some of the companies in France who may be able to help you. You can also check Expatica’s Listings online for all manner of useful expat resources. RELOCATION SERVICES A Good Start in France |

IN-Lease France |

03 28 82 06 88

Cosmopolitan Services Unlimited 01 44 90 10 00 Crown Relocations | 01 3006 8000 Interdean | 01 39 20 14 00 ISIPARIS Relocation Services |

01 40 07 96 67

MOVING COMPANIES Crown Worldwide Movers S.A. 01 45 73 66 00 15, avenue du Président Salvador Allende F-94400 Vitry sur Seine, France Clark and Rose | 01 45 45 00 93 15 rue Erlanger - 75016 Paris, France CONCIERGE COMPANIES Concierge Services & Lifestyle Management 02 96 34 52 44 3, rue Briens - 22640 Plestan, France At Your Service | 01 47 95 12 90 41, avenue Le Nôtre - 92420 Vaucresson, France

01 45 50 25 30

Lafayette Settling in, Relocation & After Sales Service | 06 30 92 80 25 24200 Sarlat, France Interpra-Link Expat Assistance 06 88 94 50 63 8, rue du Dr Baudet - F-31170 Tournefeuille, France



• • R E L O C AT I O N • •

Social security Like most things administrative in France, the social security system is a minefield of bureaucracy. Here is a short guide to stepping through it. The French social security system, which the French call la Sécu, is divided into four different categories, which are called régimes. The régime général is for salaried employees working in trade and industry. The régime social des indépendants (RSI) covers the self-employed. The régime agricole is for agricultural workers, and the régimes spéciaux are for special categories of workers like civil servants or railway workers. The régime général, which covers some 80 percent of French citizens, divides up into four sectors: health insurance and accidents at work; retirement; family income support; and the collection of contributions. Contributions are collected by the URSSAF (Union de recouvrement des cotisations de sécurité sociale et d’allocations familiales), which has 105 offices around the country. You’ll need to contact the office nearest you. The URSSAF then passes the money on to the ACOSS (Agence centrale des organismes de sécurité sociale) for distribution to the various funds, called caisses, which are responsible for paying out benefits and making reimbursements. There are different caisses for the different sectors mentioned above. Once you begin working for a French company, your employer is required to provide you with a French social security number. Then you become eligible for reimbursements of medical expenses under the mandatory contributions refund system, called the régime obligatoire. 12

You will be issued a carte vitale, which you must present at all doctor’s visits and which allows them to access a central file, not on your medical history, but your administrative standing. EMPLOYEES If you are an employee, social security contributions are automatically deducted from your salary each month. It’s likely that payments to a mutuelle will also be deducted. The national healthcare caisse for salaried employees is the CNAMTS (Caisse nationale d’assurance maladie des travailleurs salariés) and reimbursements for medical treatment are paid out by the CPAM (Caisses primaires d’assurance maladie). Family income support is paid out by the CAF (Caisses d’allocations familiales). SELF-EMPLOYED If you are self-employed, you’ll be expected to register directly with the URSSAF to pay your charges or the contributions you pay into the system. The URSSAF website ( helps you calculate how much you need to pay. Contributions from the self-employed go to one of the 31 CMR (Caisses d’assurance maladie régionales). Those working in the arts need to contact the Maison des artistes to organise their Social security cover. If you are paid in royalties, called droits d’auteur, you can register with the AGESSA (Association pour la gestion de la sécurité sociale des auteurs). Find out more online in our article “A guide to the French social security”. USEFUL RESOURCES Assurance maladie en ligne: CAF: AGESSA: CANAM: URSSAF:



Welcome to France Orientation Home Finding Schooling Assistance Settling-in & On-going Support Immigration & Administrative Formalities Departure Assistance

Susan Zeitouni & Michelle O’Brien and their team of relocation professionals 8, rue de l’Exposition 75007 Paris (France) - tel : 33 (0)1 45 50 25 30 - fax : 33 (0)1 45 50 25 32


France by region

NORTHEAST The top pocket of the northeast of France, where it meets Belgium and Germany, was once the country’s manufacturing heartland and the site of the major coal mines and metallurgy plants.

Here’s a brief description of different regions in France to help you decide which destination fits your lifestyle. For where to live in Paris see page 19.

From the Pas de Calais, north of the gentle rolling fields of Picardie, once a WWI battlefront, down the Ardennes and to the Lorraine, many of the industrial sites have closed, leaving high unemployment.

NORTHWEST To the northwest of Paris lies Normandy, stretching up to the Channel coast, and west to Brittany. With undulating green fields, cattle and stud farms, thatched houses and fruit orchards, it is one of the most popular northern regions for holiday homes and tourism. Normandy’s pretty coastline, site of the D-Day landings, boasts many beaches, each several kilometres in length. It is swamped with visitors in the summer but deserted in winter. West of Normandy, making up France’s northwest ‘corner’, is Brittany, a proudly Celtic region with a long seafaring history. Numerous fishing ports line its coast, running from the mouth of the Channel down to Nantes on the Atlantic seaboard and inland. Moving east from southern Brittany, inland from Nantes, you will find the Loire Valley and the region of Touraine, with the town of Tours at its centre. The Loire is best known for its grand royal chateaux, most of which are open to the public. To the north is Sarthe, a region of dairy, pig and cereal farms, rich in lakes, rivers and streams. To the east of the Touraine, running back along the Loire, is the Orléanais region, named after the ancient town of Orléans. Moving south from Orléans is Sologne, a thickly-forested region which is favoured by hunters.


The beautiful region of Alsace is south and east of the Lorraine, bordering Germany. The Alsatians have a German sounding patois and one of the strongest cultural identities of any region in France. Its capital, Strasbourg, is home to the European parliament. To the south lies the Vosges region of denselyforested mountains, the traditional source of wood for quality French furniture. Further south is the Franche Comté, bordering Switzerland, famous for the production of watches and clocks. CENTRE At the centre of France lies the Massif Central, a once-active volcanic region with the town of Clermont Ferrand at its heart. This is where much of France’s mineral water sources are found, and many spa towns are dotted beneath the retired craters of the Puy-de-Dôme. The centre of France includes the sparsest populated departments in the country. Most notable are the Creuse, the Allier and the beautiful, green and hilly Cantal, famous for one of the oldest cheeses in the country. Stretching north from the eastern centre, from close to Lyon all the way up to within 160 kilometres (100 miles) of Paris, is the vast and varied Bourgogne, or Burgundy, a major wine-producing region with some of France’s prettiest villages. SOUTHWEST The southwest region includes the Dordogne, the Gironde, the Landes, the Basque country, the Gers, the Pyrenees and the Haute Garonne with Toulouse at its centre.



Bordeaux, like the affluent wine-producing region which surrounds it, lies along the Gironde estuary. South from here is the region of Landes. In this region, great rolling waves slap the coast of long, sandy beaches lined by dunes and pine forests. Inland from this coastline, from the picturesque Dordogne to the stunning picture-postcard countryside of the Gers in the south, is the land of gastronomy. This is the home of the truffle and foie gras, and some of the richest dishes in France. Further south, and separating France from Spain, lie the Pyrenees mountains. Beyond the flat, vineyard covered plains surrounding Toulouse, is the home of Airbus. SOUTHEAST South from Lyon, France’s second largest city, the river Rhône runs to the Mediterranean. After it reaches the town of Avignon it meets the beginning of Provence, a region running east all the way to the Italian border, from Marseille to Nice.

Provence is one of the most attractive regions in France, blessed with a hot summer climate and generally mild winters. However, the Mistral wind, which blows down the Rhône valley, can be vicious. The countryside is largely turned over to vineyards, fruit farms and the production of aromatic plants. North of Provence lie the Alps, and Europe’s highest mountain, the 4,807 metres tall Mont Blanc. In between are the craggy but pretty preAlps of Haute Provence. Occupying the western Mediterranean region, lined by the towns of Montpellier, Béziers and Perpignan, is the Languedoc-Roussillon, a major wine and fruit-producing region. It is slightly less crowded in summer than Provence, particularly inland where it rises to meet the scrub-covered hills of the Cévennes. The countryside includes many beauty spots and offers a similar climate to Provence, if slightly less certain of year-round sun.




Buy or rent? Finding accommodation is one of the newly-arrived expat’s first tasks. But should you rent a home or jump into the French property market? France has a relatively stable property market, and there is no compelling financial argument to choose between renting or buying property when arriving in the country. As a general rule it is wisest to first rent your home, even if you intend staying for several years, while getting to know what’s on offer and what you can really afford. Renting property in urban areas is widespread in France and, unlike a number of other European countries, home ownership is not considered to be a ladder one must begin climbing early in order to keep up with fast-rising prices. You will not miss out by biding your time while gaining in knowledge of the local market. Short-term home ownership is unlikely to produce a significant profit, compared to other available investment offers, and in some cases gains are taxed at resale. While some regions and city neighbourhoods occasionally witness a sudden interest from buyers, thus rapidly pushing prices up, the cost of property in France has broadly remained on a gently rising slope. Until recently, the market has escaped the ‘boom and bust’ phenomenon seen elsewhere. The stability of the housing market depends on the health of the economy and financial markets. Yet, despite the ongoing economic crisis, prices rose in the first quarter of 2011, fuelled by high prices in the Paris region. They later dropped slightly and ended the year with an increase of around four percent.


It is not at all unusual for high income earners to rent property, especially in Paris. Renting or owning a home is not a divide of social status in France. Opportunities to buy property are both more frequent and more affordable outside the capital and main cities — but many ‘choice’ properties within cities are often only available for rent. The choice is more complicated for those who wish to settle in rural areas. Here the availability of houses to rent is in short supply, and many who move to live within the French countryside have done so with the intention of setting up a longterm home. There are currently, in many regions, enticing properties for sale at attractive prices — all the more so when a rundown property has the potential to be renovated. At the start of this century the number of foreign home-owners in France was on the rise, and when some regions became particularly popular, such as parts of the southwest and the north of France, prices climbed and they continue to do so. In the last few years, the recent economic crisis has seen many British expats leaving France to return home. High unemployment and the value of the pound have combined to persuade many to give up their home abroad. The risks in short-term rural ownership are great. There is no solid rule of supply and demand, as there is in urban areas, and one person’s dream home is not necessarily that of another. If a property requires lengthy renovation, selling before this is completed will often end in tears. Finally, never attempt to buy your home in France if you are unable to speak French. You will need to be able to closely follow any transaction, and you will have no legal recourse if a problem you discover later was hidden by the language barrier.



Renting a home Property rental is a widespread practice in France, and is nearly always proposed unfurnished. Here’s a guide to house ads, rents and contracts. Rentals (called locations) are primarily handled by estate agents, called agents immobiliers. The common commission demanded by the agencies, once a deal is completed, will be roughly half the sum of one month’s rent (the same sum is also demanded of a property owner, who is called un propriétaire). Most local and some national newspapers carry property rental small ads, called annonces immobilières.

Rental agreements are renewable and most will include an owner’s pledge to rent the property for three years. The tenant is free to leave whenever, subject to terms of generally two or three months’ notice. The rental contract for a set period is called a bail. Renting an apartment will involve paying charges for the regular upkeep of the building, which are called the charges communes. These are sometimes included in the rent, in which case the rental sum will be described as being charges comprises. Finally, your residence will be subject to a yearly local tax, called la taxe d’habitation. WHAT YOU COULD BE ASKED FOR Pay slips: generally for the previous three months. Your monthly income must be at least equal to three times the monthly rent. Proof that you are not currently employed for a trial period only, nor close to retirement.

A weekly national magazine of owners’ ads, called De Particulier à Particulier, (literally meaning “from individual to individual”) offers transactions which bypass the estate agents’ fees (also online at

If you are self-employed and cannot provide pay slips, you will be asked to provide your previous year’s tax returns and a letter from one — or even two — guarantors of the rent.

However, it is important to note that if you are renting directly from the owner, you won’t have the legal guarantees that any federated estate agent would offer, which give some protection against cavalier behaviour by landlords.

Proof of identity will be asked in the form of a residence permit or occasionally a passport. Normally you would be expected to provide a telephone or electricity bill as further proof of your current address.

The common French description of an apartment or house is by the number of rooms, called pièces. This description does not include the kitchen and bathroom.

You will also have to give the owner a cheque for the sum of two or three times the rent which is returned to you only at the end of the rental period — subject to it being partially or totally used to rectify any damage you are held responsible for. It is called un chèque de caution.

Along with the number of rooms, the property will be qualified by its total surface area, described in square metres (which are called mètres carrés). French law offers quite generous protection to the tenant, who is called a locataire. This includes the prohibition of evictions during the wide band of ‘winter months’, and a complicated evictions procedure in general, including rights of appeal.




Buying a home The first consideration is where to look for your new property. Most estate agents, called agents immobiliers, provide accurate market prices as well as offering reliable legal advice. They are trained professionals who are regulated by law and carry a professional card delivered by the local préfecture de police. Estate agents are free to determine the amount of their commission, but this is generally between four and seven percent of the sale price of the property. Always check whether the property price you are quoted includes the commission or not. You are only exempt from paying the agency commission if the estate agent’s mandate to visit the property has expired, if the sale is not conclusive, or if he is exercising the job illegally. There are thousands of property ads every day in newspapers, local free sheets and weekly magazines. For magazines carrying trade ads for the whole of France, try weekly specialist magazines such as L’immobilier ( One of the most popular magazines is De Particulier à Particulier, which carries only private ads. They are also online at For the experienced and the adventurous only, there are also the public auctions, called vente aux enchères. The starting prices can be very attractive and with luck you can make an exceptional deal. But generally, the final sale price accurately reflects the property market. You can find details of auctions in most local newspapers, and in the specialist press listed above. 18

BUYING THROUGH THE VIAGER SYSTEM A viager is a residence that is sold on condition that its seller, usually an elderly person, may continue to occupy his residence until his or her death. They usually sell well below the market price. When you purchase a viager, you pay a bouquet, which is an initial amount of the total price. The rest of the purchase price is paid as an annual rente, in monthly instalments. The amount is based upon the age (and hence longevity) of the resident and calculated in respect to the total amount due. The buyer becomes the outright owner upon the death of the seller, whether this occurs after a matter of months or many years. The viager system currently accounts for 10 percent of house sales by private owners in France. OLD OR NEW PROPERTY? Like anywhere, newly-built flats or houses in France are generally more functional, with the floor space distributed for modern living, and are usually better equipped. Importantly, there are certain guaranties which cover any construction faults (up to 10 years after purchase). Old flats or houses in towns or cities are often those that are more centrally located. New apartment buildings are legally required to include parking space. In Paris, many apartment buildings date back to the 19th Century Haussmann period. They are generally very solid constructions, with higher ceilings and entrances, as well as features like moulded or beamed ceilings. Very old property in the countryside was often built after long and careful thought about the history of the land and climate. Older property is usually less expensive to buy but more likely to need costly updating to electricity, plumbing or woodwork.



If you invest in a lodging that needs important renovation work, keep in mind that there are strict regulations you will have to follow concerning the structural foundation, electrical systems, and the evacuation of sewage. THE LEGAL PROCESS OF BUYING A HOUSE Once you have found your new home and reached a verbal agreement with the seller, you must both sign a preliminary contract called a promesse de vente (sometimes known as a compromis de vente). You may sign this contract privately, but it is usual, and strongly advisable, that the sale is handled by a French solicitor, called a notaire. The buyer pays the legal fees and registration taxes. In most cases, the choice of notaire is easily reached. His fee is payable on completion of the sale, and may be up to 10 percent of the sale price on a property older than five years, and four percent on those that are newer. Later, both parties are usually accompanied by their personal solicitors for the signing of the final act of sale. After signing the promesse de vente, the buyer has a seven-day period of réflexion before being legally and financially committed to the purchase. During this period, it is unlawful to deposit any money. After the seven-day period, the buyer customarily pays a 10 percent deposit. If the buyer later retracts from the sale, the seller keeps the deposit as compensation. There are important details which must be recorded in the preliminary contract. One which applies to apartments only is the exact living surface according to a law, called the loi Carrez.

Other details that must be indicated for all types of property include the known presence of termites, or lead (present in certain paints) and asbestos (often present in false ceilings). Then there is a period of eight, and even sometimes 12 weeks, in which the notaire carries out searches to ensure that the sale of the property is free of any legal restrictions (in the case of rural property this can involve checking its agricultural status). Once this period is over, the buyer must sign the final acte de vente. On the day of the signature, the buyer is required to make out a cheque for the remaining amount outstanding on the full purchase price of the property. The sale is then complete. BUYING PROPERTY TO BUILD UPON If you buy property on which to build your residence, you will be confronted with these additional measures, conditions, regulations — and taxes. - Certificate d’urbanisme: this is a document which informs you of the strict rules for your construction, including the exterior appearance, the density of construction, and exactly where, within your land, you may build your property. - Permis de construire: this is a building permit. You will have to provide detailed information on your building plans before obtaining the permit from your local town hall. - The taxe locale d’equipement, taxe départementale pour le financement du CAUE and the taxe départementale des espaces naturels sensibles are all taxes you will be liable for.

The calculation of the floor space excludes separating walls, stairs, terraces and balconies, as well as any floor space that has a ceiling lower than 1.80 metres. Thus, an old apartment which has slanted ceilings and a mezzanine might actually come to only half of the advertised description.




KEY FRENCH PROPERTY PHRASES • belle HSP (hauteur sous plafond): high ceiling

• SH (surface habitable): surface space classified as residential living space

• dble exp (double exposition): light exposure from both sides of residence

• SdB (salle de bains): bathroom

• immeuble PdT (pierre de taille): dressed stone building, often of the Haussmann era

• SdD (salle de douche): a sink and/or shower only, inferring that the WC is separate • coquette: cute, can also mean exceedingly small

• immeuble ISMH (l’Inventaire Supplémentaire des Monuments Historiques): a historically classified building • CC: this can mean, according to the context... charges comprises: service charges included, or coin cuisine: a small kitchen corner, or commission comprise: agents’ commission fees included

• studette: little studio, can be a service room, under 15m2 • kitchenette: little kitchen, is often a kitchen unit installed in the living room • décoration à revoir and rafraîchissement à prévoir: redecoration and repairs necessary, which may be quite costly

• FAI: includes the agencies expenses • sur courette privative: on a private courtyard, which is often a dark, little inner courtyard




Where to live in Paris To understand Paris estateagent speak, it is important to understand the Paris arrondissements, or districts. There are 20 arrondissements, and each arrondissement is attributed with its own number, according to the pattern of a spiral, beginning with the 1st arrondissement in the heart of the capital and ending with the 20th on the outer northwest. Parisians describe their neighbourhood by the arrondissement number instead of place names. So, more often than not, you’ll find yourself being offered a home in le 1er or le 10ème. A broader division is applied by Rive Gauche (meaning the Left Bank, the south side of the river Seine) or Rive Droite (meaning the Right Bank, north side of the Seine). There are very few townhouses in Paris, and therefore they sell or rent at a premium. Most inhabitable property is made up of apartments in the six or seven storey 19th century apartment buildings. When hunting for a home, you are likely to be asked if you’re looking for ancien — meaning any building more than 60 years old, and usually more expensive — or neuf, meaning modern constructions, mostly sky rise buildings. Most Parisian apartments are made up of between one and four rooms. A studio is a bachelor-sized sitting-room-cum-bedroom, an adjoining kitchen, tiny bathroom and toilet. More than four rooms (pièces) can be found without difficulty, if you can pay the steep prices! THE ARRONDISSEMENTS Some of the arrondissements are big enough to contain neighbourhoods which vary in social character — like the 13th, 17th, 10th and 20th — but, on the whole, the mere mention of the

arrondissement number on a postcode is a social statement. The 16th is synonymous with the old and very wealthy, the 18th with working class and ethnic populations, and the 6th with the fashionable and chic. The 1st and 2nd arrondissements are essentially daytime quarters for business offices and institutions (including the stock exchange and the Louvre). There are bargain flats close to the Bourse, but on the whole, there is little feeling of local community in the area, witnessed by the lack of shops and empty streets at night. The oldest and quaintest quarters, centrally placed and which offer a rich street life, are the 3rd and 4th on the Right Bank, covering the Marais, and the 5th and 6th on the opposite Left Bank, which make up the Latin Quarter. The Marais is a young, trendy area, with an eclectic mix of everything from gay bars to art galleries, but it lacks any real green spaces. Generally highpriced, the area has superb public transport links and is within walking of the centre. The picturesque Latin Quarter, traditionally a student neighbourhood, has the widest choice of restaurants and cinemas of any Paris neighbourhood. Its universities (including the Sorbonne) make it a centre for culture, especially bookstores. Generally expensive but not unaffordable, its population ranges from the bourgeois to the bohemian. It is more family friendly, with a few parks, notably the Luxembourg gardens and the Jardin des Plantes. A diluted taste of both these areas is found with cheaper rents in the 10th, 11th and 12th arrondissements, close to the Marais, and the 13th and 14th arrondissements around the Latin Quarter. The 10th, 11th and 12th are more working-class, with the exception of trendy pockets around the lively Bastille and République squares. The joining limits of the 3rd and 10th are home to the teeming rag-trade. The meeting points of the 3rd, 10th and 11th can be worth a look for those looking for a large centrally located apartment, above all at comparatively low cost.




In the outer arrondissements, with their mix of modern and old residential buildings, there is a stronger community feel but they include shabby pockets. The 12th is a comparatively large arrondissement, which offers cheaper rents and a wide offer of middle to large apartments. It leads to the Vincennes park, one of the two largest around Paris (along with the Bois de Boulogne to the west). The 13th covers the city’s outer southeast, and contains a large Vietnamese community. It is a relatively old and quiet “suburb” of the Latin Quarter at its closest to the 5th. But it rapidly changes to a huge area of modern sky-rise buildings further east which, while they have none of the charm of old Paris, do offer sensational views and — not to be sniffed at — parking spaces. The 14th is attached to the Latin Quarter at Montparnasse and stretches down to the southern city limits. It has fewer modern buildings and has a lively community feel in most areas, bustling with shops, traders, cafés and quite a few small restaurants. Rents are, in the main, reasonable. It has the large and pleasant Montsouris park and quick access onto the southbound motorway and Orly airport. Staying south and moving west is the 15th, a highly residential arrondissement, with a rent range from the fairly cheap (especially for large apartments) to a minority of very expensive. It lacks big green spaces, although there are the André Citroën and Georges Brassens parks on its southern limits. The bourgeois 7th is one of Paris’ wealthiest postcodes and there is no cheap housing here. It stretches from the 6th, to its east, across to the Eiffel Tower, and is home to Unesco and most government ministry buildings.

The neighbouring 17th is a chic, high-rent area, but more accessible than the 16th. Its outlying areas are more populaire. It shares the pleasant Monceau park with the 8th. Overall, this is a quiet area at the end of the day when the offices close up. The 9th is a central arrondissement, dedicated to banks, insurance companies and lawyers, as well as department stores and small businesses. There some office-renovation apartments at comparatively reasonable prices, but this is one of Paris’ least-residential areas. The 8th is the élite part of the city centre, with the presidential Elysée Palace, the Champs-Elysées, the haute couture boutiques of the rue St Honoré and hotel palaces like the George V, the Plaza Athénée and the Crillon. Most of the 18th is a lively, residential workingclass area with a colourful ethnic mix. The buildings are mostly old, barring splashes of the new. The less salubrious parts notably include Clichy and the vulgar sin ‘city’ Pigalle. But there are pleasant enough areas, as well as shabby ones, and apartment space is generally pretty low-priced. The 19th is close to the gare du Nord with its Eurostar and Thalys train links. It is a less lively continuation of the 18th with many modern buildings and cheap rents. It has its own hill and park, the Buttes Chaumont. The outer west of Paris is gobbled up by the sprawling 20th. Rents are generally cheaper, particularly for large apartments, and there is a mix of old and new. At its heart is the legendary Père Lachaise cemetry (a sort of graveyard for stars). The wider, leafier areas are just off Nation square (in the neighbouring 12th arrondissement) and out towards the peripheral Porte de Vincennes.

The 16th, lying north of the river and on the west of the capital is something of a ghetto for the seriously rich. It runs from the Arc de Triomphe, spreading west out to the Bois de Boulogne at the city edge.




Accommodation agencies PARIS Denicort - International Housing & Services 01 45 55 21 37 2, rue de l’exposition - 75007 Paris At Home in Paris | 01 42 12 40 40 15, avenue de Friedland - 75008 Paris

AIX/MARSEILLE 04 42 96 96 93 ABC Immo | 66, rue Boulegon - Aix en Provence Actuel Immo 46, cours Mirabeau - 13100 Aix en Provence TOULOUSE Mercure France | 05 61 21 52 01 9, place Pres Wilson - 31000 Toulouse

France Apartments | 01 56 89 31 00 97, avenue des Champs Elysées - 75008 Paris

CALVADOS Agence Mer et Campagne Lisieux 02 31 31 11 77 22, rue Henry Chéron - 14100 Lisieux

Cattalan-Johnson Immobilier (CJR) 01 45 74 87 78 67, rue Saint Honoré - 75001 Paris

RIVIERA Riviera Home 13, rue de la Brague - 06560 Valbonne

Paris Appartments Services | 01 40 28 01 28 20, rue Bachaumont - 75002 Paris

LANGUEDOC French Property | 06 12 40 25 62

Cosy Home | 01 47 83 91 00 141, rue Vaugirard - 75015 Paris

Real Estate Languedoc | 04 67 36 34 28 3, rue du Vic - 34480 Saint-Geniès-de-Fontédit

01 69 11 12 21 Century 21 | 3, rue des Cévennes - 91090 Evry Cedex Lisses Paris – Be Part of It | 01 42 33 00 65 21, rue D’Aboukir - 75002 Paris LYON Century 21 Agence Actuelle Immobilière 04 78 89 14 56 91, rue Duguesclin - 69006 Lyon




Economic uncertainty means that planning ahead is more important than ever The on-going economic problems across the Eurozone have ensured that it’s been a volatile year on the markets, to say the least. For anyone involved in moving money overseas this has meant that they have needed to keep their eyes closely peeled on the exchange rates. As if there isn’t enough to worry about when you are either living abroad, moving abroad, or buying property overseas, fluctuations in currency values can make a huge difference to the amount of money you end up dealing with. For example, buying and selling property overseas almost always involves transferring large amounts of money from one currency to another and moves in the currency market can make up as much as 10% difference to the amounts, over the course of just a few days. It’s worth bearing in mind that this kind of movement will not only mean that the costs of your move or purchase could be affected drastically by this kind of market activity, but in the worse possible scenario it could also put the house of your dreams financially out of reach. Fortunately, there are ways of protecting against this kind of outcome and ensuring that you know exactly what you’re dealing with by minimising your risk in advance. Corporate lending strategies and currency risk management are usually reserved for major industry players by the big banks. Private individuals are not currently afforded the same care and attention. Some foreign exchange brokers offer forward contracts on currency, claiming they provide protection, but clients often find themselves locked into an exchange rate which does not allow them to benefit if that rate subsequently improves. However a handful of specialist companies can offer the same kind of products to private clients that the big banks reserve only for the bigger corporate fish. “We can find our clients the very best spot rates (the rate to transfer immediately) or we can secure or fix their exchange rate by using a forward contract,” explains Elisabeth Dobson, head of private clients at foreign exchange brokers, World First.

“This means you can set a rate now for a transaction happening up to 3 years ahead - so there are no nasty surprises on the day. Whatever you’re making international money transfers for, World First will make sure the currency exchange happens in the most efficient way possible. “We can move your money from your bank account at home to your overseas account and we can convert from and to virtually any currency. And if you’re selling up, we can bring your money home quickly and safely – using our own overseas accounts if appropriate.” The savings can be highly significant and anyone using a recognised foreign exchange payment institution, rather than a bank, is likely to see a marked difference in the amount they end up dealing with. With Europe teetering on the brink more and more people are currently turning to foreign exchange experts for help. There are a lot of brokers out there, so it is advisable you make sure you’re dealing with the right kind of company, one with FSA authorisation and a track record of success. “Foreign exchange companies specialise in transferring funds internationally for clients,” explains Elisabeth Dobson from World First. “As this is our sole business we focus on getting clients as competitive rate as possible, whilst reducing or eliminating transfer fees and giving clients access to valuable products that can protect them from negative exchange rate movements in the future.” In turbulent times anyone who is involved in making international money transfers would be advised to seek any advantage they can to make sure their money is protected. Specialists like World First quote their exchange rates based on the live rates at the time you call them, whereas many banks set their rate first thing in the morning and hold this rate for a certain amount of time. The banks have to set this rate far enough away from the rate in order to cover any potential fluctuations throughout the day.

For further information about managing your international money transfers with World First visit or call +44 20 7801 9080

• • •


Foreign money the old way: Contact the bank. Agree to pay high fees for varying levels of slow service. Offered poor rate of exchange. Spend ages attempting to speak to someone within the bank who can discuss the rate being offered. Discover you have to settle for poor rate. Bank makes transfer. Assume the payment is made but need to check foreign account. Wait several days for the payment to clear.

• Money transfers in minutes • The World First team is ready to help • Find better exchange rates elsewhere? We’ll beat them

Currency transfers the new way: Log on/phone in. Accept best rate. Receive receipt for transfer. Job done.

Laura World First

Freephone from France

0805 109 925 International

+44 20 7801 9080 World First UK Limited is authorised by the Financial Services Authority, FRN: 502759, as a Payment Institution under the Payment Services Regulation 2009.

•• MONEY ••

Banking Payment in France is easy by credit card, but as a resident you’ll soon need a local bank account. Here’s a guide to how the French banking system works. THE EURO The official French currency is the euro, in common with sixteen other European Union (EU) member states that have joined the Eurozone (officially called the euro area).

To open an account, you will need to produce personal identification (a residence permit or passport), proof of your home address in France (this can be a phone or electricity bill) and in most cases some written proof of earnings (pay slip or other) to decide your credit limit. Most basic French bank accounts debit credit card payments at the end of each month. As in many other countries, all banking cards in France carry a chip, and whenever you use them you are required to type in a PIN.

But don’t be surprised if you hear French people complaining about the cost of living in French francs or even francs anciens (in 1960 the new French franc was revalued at 100 existing francs).

Cheques take an average of three working days to clear. When paying by cheque, you may be asked for proof of identity, which can be provided by a residence permit, a passport or a French driving licence.

On arrival in France, before you establish a French bank account, you should have few problems in paying with your ‘home’ credit card if it is one of the major names such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club.

Each cheque book contains a page referencing your bank account details, called a relevé d’identité bancaire, or RIB. You will be asked for an RIB for any long term commercial transaction, such as opening a mobile phone account or renting a home.

There are 24-hour cash dispensers (teller machines or ATMs) easily accessible all over France, and in cities and towns there is a choice of several on almost every shopping street. They are called distributeurs automatiques de billets, and are usually situated on the premises of a bank, or at most post offices.

If you are making such regular payments, it is common practice to receive a bill which is paid by returning a signed detachable slip already made out with your bank details.

While some small shops may refuse credit cards, there are so many places where you can pay with them that, wherever you are, you can survive with credit card payment alone. However, if you are an active resident in France, you will need a French bank account both to be paid your earnings and to gain access to many essential services which require your bank details as a guarantee of payment. Having a French cheque book will be a welcome practicality, especially in rural areas. Though French people still use cheques, banks are actively trying to persuade customers to use bankto-bank transfers and internet banking services. 26

OPENING AN ACCOUNT It is best to choose a major bank with a widespread national network of branches to take full advantage of whatever needs may arise during your travels.

The major French banks with branches across the country are: Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, LCL (formerly Crédit Lyonnais), Société Générale, Caisse d’Epargne, Banque Populaire, Crédit Mutuel, Crédit du Nord, Dexia, and Banque de la Poste (the Post Office Bank is the largest in terms of customer transactions and branches). The Banque de France is France’s central bank. Lloyds TSB Bank Paris Direct International |

Tel: 01 44 73 30 00

World First Foreign Exchange


•• MONEY ••

Taxation Taxes are inevitable if you are a resident in France, so it’s a good idea to become familiar with the system. Here’s a guide to what you can expect. You must pay French taxes, called impôts, if you become a resident of France. Apart from those holding a residence permit, you must pay tax if you spend more than 182 days in France during a calendar year, if France is the country you live in more than any other, if most of your wealth is based in France or if your main activity is in France. HOW IT WORKS Taxes are calculated yearly, according to your earnings from 1 January to 31 December inclusive. You will be required to declare all your earnings from the moment of your arrival in France if your stay thereafter is uninterrupted before officially becoming a resident (see Residence permits). Taxes are calculated from the information you supply in a form called la déclaration d’impôts, which must be completed and sent to your local tax office by 28 February of every year. It concerns all information about your earnings during the previous calendar year. It is not uncommon for the February deadline to be extended by several weeks, in which case it is announced beforehand by the tax authorities and widely reported in the media. You can also opt to file your yearly déclaration via the internet.

In the case of instalments, these are separately payable by 15 January, 15 May and 15 September. You will be notified by the tax office of what you should pay before each instalment is due. The sums of the first two instalments are estimated, based your last yearly tax payment. So, in 2012, your first two instalment payments are each one third of the total tax bill you incurred in 2010. Before the third and final payment is due 15 September, your February declaration — which concerned 2011 — will have been processed. This final payment will be adjusted to amount to the exact remaining sum of what you owe for 2011. If you are salaried, your employer will provide you with notification of your declarable income for the year concerned. If you are self-employed, you must be able to produce detailed accounts of your earnings. It is best to seek expert advice before filling in your tax form; you may be liable for tax on wealth, capital gains and inheritance. Conversely, tax concessions are accorded to different categories of tax payers, including parents, people who contribute to charity and a number of professions. Tax returns are processed by your local tax office, called le centre des impôts, and you must contact them to obtain your first tax return form in time for the yearly deadline. Once you are recorded in the system, the form will be sent automatically to your home address each year. If you move house during the year, it is your duty to send the next déclaration to your new local tax office.

If you fail to supply your yearly tax return by the given deadline, you will be subject to a surtax of 10 percent. You can pay tax in three instalments spread through the year, which is still the most common choice, or opt for a direct monthly debit system.



•• MONEY ••

Insurance Make sure that you are properly insured while living in France, where personal insurance is a legal requirement for a number of cases. The French insurance market offers a wide choice of companies and policies to choose from. All the major companies offering insurance, called assurance, have high street offices and are big enough to offer an umbrella policy for all your needs, as well as just a specific policy. If you are an employee of a major firm or institution, it is well worth asking the HR department whether there is an agreement with a particular company offering lower than usual tariffs. Insurance is a legal requirement for vehicles (assurance automobile), homes (assurance pour la maison or assurance d’habitation), civil liability (assurance responsabilité civile), and schoolchildren (assurance scolaire). HOME INSURANCE You are legally required to insure your home, whether you rent or own it, before moving in, against all damage risks and risks of damage it might cause. Most policies are comprehensive, also insuring you against theft, and are called assurance multirisques habitation. It is strongly advised to make sure you understand the small print of any policy, especially regarding what weather risks are covered, and for how much. VEHICLES All vehicles in France must be insured, even if they are not in use. When taking out a policy, you will be issued a certificate testifying to the validity of your insurance, called un certificat d’assurance. This certificate must be fixed clearly visible on your vehicle windscreen. Policies are either third party (au tiers) or comprehensive (tous risques).


Whenever you use your vehicle, you are legally required to carry a document proving you are insured, called une attestation d’assurance, which is issued by your insurer. Your insurer will also issue you a nationally standard form, called un constat amiable d’accident, to fill in the event of an accident. It is a carbon copy sheet, and both parties sign and send their copy back to their respective insurer to establish responsibility. SCHOOL AND CIVIL LIABILITY Under French law you must be covered by an insurance policy for civil liability, and your child must also be specifically insured for this while at school. In most cases, civil liability is covered with a comprehensive home policy — but always make absolutely certain of this. LIFE INSURANCE Life insurance (assurance vie) refers to a savings programme that sets aside and invests money for retirement or other long-term financial projects. It will also pay in case of death before the end of the policy term. Insurance that will only pay a premium to your family in case of your death is called, most practically, assurance décès and is often linked to loss of earnings (prévoyance). Read our online article A guide to insurance in France for more detailed information.

INSURANCE COMPANIES SOFICAS | AXA | MACIF | Direct Assurance | Agence Eaton |


• • E D U C AT I O N • •

Education The school system can seem a minefield to newcomers trying to make a choice for their children. Here is a beginner’s lesson in French education. France offers state-run and private schools at all levels, and the educational standards are generally high despite constant fretting that they are on the decline. The rigorous curriculum is dictated by the Ministry of Education and is virtually the same across the country and in French overseas territories. Teachers are considered civil servants and the teacher’s unions are quite powerful; teacher strikes are frequent and often cited as a primary reason why French families opt for private schools, which are overwhelmingly Catholic. The French educational philosophy emphasises: the authority of the teacher; individual competition including an absolute grading system (no grading ‘on the curve’); stress on analytical thought and learning through repetition as opposed to creativity; and generally high academic expectations. The French don’t necessarily expect their children to have ‘fun’ at school. Sports are encouraged but organised by community associations, not by the schools. Schooling is free and mandatory from ages 6 to 16, although nearly all French children begin school by age four. Another two years of study are required if a student is to sit the baccalauréat, ‘le bac’, exam, which they must pass to advance to university. Your child’s grade is determined by the calendar year of birth; that is, all children born in 1999 or another given year are assigned to the same grade. Private schools are either sous contrat, meaning under contract with the state whereby the government pays the teachers’ salaries and the school follows the national curriculum and schedule, or hors contrat whereby they are totally

privately funded. Private schools sous contrat demand a relatively modest tuition fee; tuition fees at schools hors contrat are significantly higher and vary widely, although most fall in the EUR 1,500 to EUR 4,000 range. There are public schools with bilingual programmes (See ‘International sections’), but in most cases, a bilingual education is only available in a private school. In Paris and some other large cities, there are private American and British schools where the curriculum is equivalent to the country of origin. SCHOOL SCHEDULES The system calls for 26 hours of class per week; students preparing the baccalauréat may have as many as 40 hours per week. There are roughly 158 school days per year, less than in many Anglophone countries, but the school days are longer. The school-day generally runs three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon with a two-hour lunch break; children can go home for lunch or stay at school for a feebased lunch service, la cantine. The traditional schedule calls for attendance Monday through Friday with no classes on Wednesdays and a half-day on Saturdays, but this schedule is one of the ongoing educational debates. Some of the 28 administrative district académies have eliminated Saturday classes and make up the time by extending the school year. In southern Burgundy there is no state school on Saturdays, and it is only the first year of Lycée that has Wednesdays off. All public schools have four two-week breaks in October/November, December, February/March and April/May. Virtually all schools will have a fee-based childcare system, service de puériculture, available before and after school and during vacations. These services, as well as la cantine, must be signed up for separately and fees are often means-tested. Report cards are distributed three times a year, once per trimestre.



• • E D U C AT I O N • •

ECOLE MATERNELLE (PETITE, MOYENNE, GRANDE SECTION) Nursery school is optional, and children can begin classes at age two. While these schools are still state-funded, attendance is optional and placement is not guaranteed, especially for younger children; children as young as two can attend but must be potty-trained. The three-year cycle is referred to as the cycle des apprentissages premiers. The main aim is to teach the child some degree of autonomy and how to live in a social situation. In grande section, activities are geared toward preparing the child for primary school including pre-reading, writing and elementary math skills. Virtually all French children are scolarisé before starting primary school. ECOLE PRIMAIRE (CP-CM2) This starts at age six and corresponds to American grades 1 through 5 and to British Infant 2 through to Junior 4 classes. The administrator, usually a member of the teaching staff, is known as the directeur or directrice; teachers are referred to as maître or maîtresse. The first two years are CP (cours préparatoire) and CE1 (first year of cours élémentaire) and constitute the second two-year cycle, cycle des apprentissages fondamentaux. Children are taught to read in CP. In the past, the Minister of Education mandated that CP teachers use a phonetic methodology. This decision has been resisted by some teachers who prefer the méthode globale, which teaches children to recognise whole words as opposed to sounding them out. Reading skills are tested in the first half of CE1. Many schools have retained some hybrid methodology, and the debate is likely to continue for some time. The next three years, constituting the cycle des approfondissements, are CE2 (second year of cours élémentaire), CM1 and CM2 (first and second year of cours moyen). It is has been proposed that foreign languages, usually English, be introduced as early as CM1; 30

many primary schools already have introduced English classes but this is not always available. Regional schools may also teach regional languages such as Breton or Corsican. If a child needs to repeat a year, redoubler, it is most often suggested at the end of a cycle. This decision is determined by a group of school directors and teachers, conseil de cycle, although parents may appeal their decisions. COLLÈGE (6ÈME-3ÈME) School assignment is normally determined simply by your address, but parents can request a dérogation, or transfer, to another school. The first year of secondary school, called the 6ème, is called the cycle d’adaptation; the 5ème and 4ème are the cycle central; the 3ème is the cycle d’orientation. The school administrator here is known as the principal; secondary schools also have groups of counsellors, teachers and parents, a conseil de classe, which monitors students’ progress and, ultimately, decides if they can progress to the next grade. At the end of the 3ème, students sit for nationally administered exams to obtain a diploma called the brevet des collèges. Likewise, the conseil de classe makes important decisions about which ‘track’ a student should follow at the lycée—whether to take regular studies leading to the baccalauréat or vocational studies at a lycée professionel. Again, parents may appeal this decision; it can be extremely difficult to change course once a student has started down a certain path of study. Foreign-language study, usually English, is mandatory as of the 6ème; study of a second foreign language is required as of the 4ème. LYCÉE (SECONDE-TERMINALE) The year of lycée, the seconde, is known as the cycle de détermination; students take the same core curriculum of some eight subjects but are offered three electives and an artistic workshop. At the end of this year, the key decision is made as to which baccalauréat the student will pursue.


• • E D U C AT I O N • •

There are three baccalauréat général: literature and language (L), science and math, (S) economics and social sciences (ES). The S bac is considered the toughest. There are also some eight baccalauréat technologique, or diplomas based on specific technical skills including laboratory work but also music and dance.

INTERNATIONAL AND EUROPEAN SECTIONS There are some 30 French schools that also offer an International Section leading to an international baccalauréat (OIB). These sections offer language and literature studies at higher levels than the normal curriculum. There are British and American sections as well as a number of others.

A baccalauréat guarantees entrance to a state university, although not necessarily the school or department of choice. Nor is success a given. Sitting for the test is a truly nail-biting experience and many students will add a series of practice tests to their regular studies during the final two years.

They are intended to integrate foreign students and make it easier for them to eventually return to schools in their home country, but many French students attend as well to take advantage of the advanced language training. Foreign students, however, must represent at least 25 percent of the enrolled students.

The tests begin at the end of the première, with two tests in French language and literature, the first written, the second oral. For the second set of tests, at the end of the terminale, students are tested on various subjects depending on the curriculum they followed, and all subjects are weighted to match. All students must take the dreaded philosophy test, the questions for which are often printed in the newspaper the next day. If the student scores poorly, they can sit for two additional oral exams in any subject to try and make up their missing points.

The curriculum is offered on top of the normal French-language course load and includes instruction in language, literature, geography and history; native-language teachers are usually recruited from abroad. Some of these sections include a boarding-school option. European sections also offer higher-level language instruction, at least two additional hours per week; but whereas the curriculum for international sections is agreed upon by administrators in France and the country of origin, the European section is intended to better integrate French students into a multi-lingual European environment. Students who pass the additional language tests for their baccalauréat earn a diploma with a mention section européenne. Both of these programmes add significant additional work onto an already demanding curriculum; your child’s overall scholastic aptitude rather than their bilingualism should determine whether or not they enrol.



• • E D U C AT I O N • •

REGISTER YOUR CHILD If you want to send your child to a public school, contact the service des écoles at the mairie of your city or arrondissement. If your child is arriving from outside France and is entering collège or lycée, you will need to contact the educational district’s administrative head, the rectorat. See the list of académies on the Ministry of Education’s website www. All foreign documents will need to be translated by an official translator, traducteur assermenté. You will be asked for the same documents for both public and private schools: • proof of birth: a birth certificate, extrait de l’acte de naissance, or a livret de famille (an official French booklet of family records issued by the mairie). • proof of parents’ identity: this can include copies of passports, cartes de séjour, or cartes d’identité. Divorced parents may also be asked for proof of legal guardianship. • proof of immunisations: a carnet de santé (an official booklet with health records from all visits to a French doctor) or other official health records to show that the child is immunised against tuberculosis (BCG); diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP); and polio. Note that children entering from the US often require the BCG vaccination. • proof of place of residence: usually a copy of a utility bill or rental agreement showing your home address. • proof of insurance: while not absolutely required to attend class, most schools also ask that you carry an insurance policy, assurance scolaire, for your child to participate in any activities outside the classroom.



Uncommon learning opportunities & superior performance are the product of remarkably genuine & caring teacher-student relationship

Our mission is to inspire and prepare every student to achieve personal & academic excellence as an engaged global citizen by providing a challenging, innovative program within a compassionate environment.

Visit us at

The International School of Paris • 6, rue Beethoven, 75016 Paris •

WHERE THE WORLD GOES TO SCHOOL. Providing a world-class, international education to 700 students from 60 different countries. The only English-speaking school within the city of Paris, ISP has offered small classes, supportive faculty and an active parents’ association in a family atmosphere since 1964. With International Baccalaureate programs at all levels from Nursery to Grade 12, our IB results are consistently above the world average. We develop well-rounded, global citizens within a context of academic excellence; our graduates are admitted to the world’s best colleges and universities. Contact us for more information, or to schedule a tour of the school: + 33 (0)1 42 24 06 90 or

• • E D U C AT I O N • •

School listings

AMERICAN AND BRITISH SCHOOLS (private schools, hors contrat, with high annual tuition fees)

Here are some of the schools in France where the teaching is in English.

The American School of Paris | 41, rue Pasteur - 92210 Saint-Cloud

BILINGUAL STATE-RUN SCHOOLS (State schools with international sections)

Marymount International | 72, boulevard de la Saussaye - Neuilly-Sur-Seine

Collège-Lycée Honoré de Balzac 01 53 11 12 13 118, boulevard Bessières - 75017 Paris

International School of Paris | 6, rue Beethoven - 755016 Paris

Collège and Lycée de Sèvres | 01 72 77 70 40 (has a fee-paying Anglophone section) Rue Lecocq - 92310 Sevres Collège Cheverus | 05 56 48 57 00 10, rue de Cheverus - 33000 Bordeaux Lycée International François Magendie 05 57 81 61 50 10, rue des Treuils - 33023 Bordeaux Cedex Collège et Lycée International Stendhal 04 76 54 83 83 1 bis, place Jean Achard - 38816 Grenoble Ecole Robert Schuman | 03 88 60 73 65 10, rue Vauban - 67000 Strasbourg

01 41 12 82 82

01 42 24 09 54

British School in Paris | 01 34 80 45 90 38, Quai de l’Ecluse - 78290 Croissy-Sur-Seine PRIVATE BILINGUAL SCHOOLS Ecole Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel Several locations in Paris 01 44 37 00 80 117, boulevard Malesherbes - 75008 Paris Lower School: 15, rue Edgar Faure - 75015 Paris 01 44 49 09 43 and 141, avenue de Suffren - 75007 Paris 01 47 34 27 72 Upper School: 70, rue du Théâtre - 75015 Paris 01 44 37 00 80 L’Ecole Aujourd’hui | 01 43 20 61 24 24, boulevard Edgar Quinet - 75014 Paris Eurécole | 01 40 70 12 81 5, rue de Lubeck - 5116 Paris



• • E D U C AT I O N • •

Higher education So now that your child has passed the baccalauréat, what comes next? Universities in France, colleges in France, school in Paris, vocational studies, Lycée Bachelor’s and Masters are all viable options. Anyone who has passed their bac or baccalauréat is legally entitled to an education at one of France’s publicly funded universities. But the public university system is not the most prestigious source of enseignement supérieur in France. The universities, however, do offer an extremely wide range of studies. Depending on the duration involved, there are two types of higher education: Shorter technical and vocational studies undertaken in Instituts Universitaires de Technologies (university technology establishments) lead to the DUT: Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie, and the universities leading to the DEUST: Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Scientifiques et Techniques. Students take a shorter time to complete their higher education, and the study is usually more vocational. Higher secondary establishments (Lycée leads to the BTS: Brevet de Technicien Supérieur). The very best students take two years of studies, preparatory classes or prépas, so they can sit for an entrance exam, concours, into the handful of top schools known collectively as les grandes écoles for engineering, business, and politics or administrative studies.

For entry into the latter, pupils are selected on the basis of their record of achievement at higher secondary level. Students in prépas classes routinely study 60 to 70 hours per week, many ultimately fail the tests or at least don’t perform well enough to get into the school of their choice, and any given concours can only be repeated once. Upon completion of these studies, student competitions in schools are a function of the selected specialism: business schools, schools for engineers, humanities and science (écoles normales supérieures). After admission into these schools, the studies themselves generally last three years. Graduation from a grande école is a ticket to success in France, and it is rare to find a top-level French politician or administrator or business leader who is not a product of one of these schools. This is not to say that some state-run schools don’t also have excellent reputations. France’s higher education system has recently been changed to conform with the European Higher Education Area. Using the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), one credit corresponding to the student workload is required to successfully complete a course module. These credits can be accumulated and transferred. The curriculum of a programme is organised into six-month periods and teaching units (modules). Licence degree (Bachelor’s degree) - Licence: A bachelor’s degree with academic orientation that allows one to continue with a master’s programmes. - Licence professionnelle: A bachelor’s degree with a professional orientation that allows one to give access to the labour market. Master degree (Master’s degree) - Master: The master’s programme has either a professional or an academic orientation. - Titre d’ingénieur: Qualified master’s degree in science and engineering.



• • E D U C AT I O N • •

Distance higher education Télé-enseignement universitaire is offered to students who are unable to attend regular courses. Thirty five universities participate in this scheme. The Centre national d’Enseignement à Distance (CNED) provides training leading to a large variety of diplomas, to adult education courses and to competitive examinations for civil service positions. Lifelong higher education Education permanente is a system of continuing education allowing people with full-time careers to attend evening classes in universities, and thus obtain a degree without interrupting their working schedules. The Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) offers such facilities leading to the award of an Engineering diploma. Catholic universities organise upgrading traineeships and courses leading to diplomas. Higher education training in industry Several higher education institutions (public and private) offer professional training “en alternance” (sandwich courses), consisting of theoretical training and practice periods in business or industry. Other forms of non-formal higher education Both private and public institutions have “Universités du Troisième âge”. In these universities, senior citizens are offered two options: either to follow university courses with other students, or attend seminars and lectures especially devised to improve their life and cultural background. Their advice is also sought when it comes to choosing study topics of common interest. Finally, cycles of physical education, handicraft, cultural visits and outings are also organised.



• • E D U C AT I O N • •

Language courses PARIS Institut de Langue Française 6, rue Daubigny - 75017 Paris Alliance Française 101, Bd. Raspail - 75006 Paris Berlitz France 35, avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt - 75008 Paris British European Centre 3, rue Saint Sébastien - 75011 Paris

LYON Alliance Française 11, rue Pierre Bourdan - 69003 Lyon Centre International d’Etudes Françaises 16, quai Claude Bernard - 69365 Lyon L’Institut Lyonnais 9, avenue Leclerc - 69007 Lyon PROVENCE-ALPES-COTE D’AZUR American Centre 27, rue Aldebert - 13006 Marseille Alliance Française 310, rue Paradis - Marseille (8eme)

La Sorbonne Cours de Civilisation Française 47, rue des Ecoles (5ème) - 75005 Paris

Inlingua Formation Langues 115, rue Claude Nicolas Ledoux - Aix en Provence (also in Marseille)

Eurocentres 13, passage Dauphine - Paris (6ème)

Universite d’Aix Marseille III 52, av Escadr Normandie - Niemen, 13013 Marseille

Executive Language Services 50, rue Saint-Lazare - 75009 Paris

Ceran Provence 825, avenue Léon Blum - 84310 Morières-lès-Avignon

Institut Parisien de Langues et de Civilisation Française: 2, rue de Sfax - 75116 Paris

TOULOUSE Berlitz Toulouse 4, rue Jean Suau - 31000 Toulouse

Quai d’Orsay Language Centre 67, Quai d’Orsay - 75007 Paris



• • E D U C AT I O N • •

Daycare France, with both publicly and privately funded crèches, has one of the most generous childcare systems in Europe. Children can begin school in France as of age three. Most schools, including primary level, start classes at 08.30 and finish at 16.30. It is common for schools to offer a childcare service whereby children are looked after on the premises, from when the school closes until 18.30 or 19.00. This is a fee-paying service, generally staffed by school employees, and flexible — it can be used on an ad-hoc basis. For children not yet at school, and as of three months of age (which corresponds with the average length of postnatal maternity leave), there exists public and private-run nurseries called crèches. French public nurseries and daycare centres are funded by local and regional authorities, and by means-tested parental fees. Most are open 11 hours a day and closed for one month over the summer, as well as on public holidays. For information on the crèches in your area, you should ask at your local town hall, or mairie, (which in large cities is your neighbourhood, or arrondissement). While all French cities and towns offer this service, it is harder to find in small, rural localities, and in Paris. There is huge demand for places in crèches or haltes garderies, and you are strongly — and officially — advised to put your name down in advance as soon as you know you may need one.

An assistante maternelle holds a state childcare diploma, and they are regularly inspected. You can find a list of qualified nannies at your local mairie. Note that the common French word for nanny is nourrice, and you have no guarantee that a person advertising services as a nourrice is state qualified unless she has the statute of assistante maternelle. In all cases, assistantes maternelles are allowed only to take a maximum of five children at one time. Most of those working from home look after children throughout the working day. The French government offers financial incentives for parents to employ a nanny to come to their own home. Parents pay only the take-home salary of the nanny, while the state covers the numerous social security charges. Parents who take advantage of this must draw up a written contract detailing working hours and the takehome pay, which is at their cost, and then apply to the local social security office. (URSAFF shortened link: There is also a system of crèches parentales, which are nurseries run by associations set up for the purpose by parents. These nurseries, which employ qualified assistantes maternelles work on a neighbourhood basis and are licensed by the services of the local mairie, from where you can find details of the one nearest you. The crèches parentales are non-profit making, operating under an associative committee, and parents pay an equal share of the costs and take an active role in the nursery management.

There is also a system of qualified nannies, called assistantes maternelles, who are paid to either look after children on their own premises or can be employed to take care of your children at home.



•• JOB ••

Working in France

typed. This is less common than it once was, and it is not unusual to approach a company via email these days, but some of the more traditional firms still expect to show a job candidates’ letter to a handwriting analyst.

Here is an overview of the employment market before you begin job-hunting, and what to know before you sign that first employment contract.

Job ads appear in the national dailies and weekly news magazines. There are several print publications and websites, including Expatica (, that also target native English-speaking job-seekers.

The jobless rate varies from region to region and differs widely among professional categories and age groups. Your ability to land a job depends on your administrative status, your ability to speak French, and your professional and academic qualifications, plus the always significant ‘who you know’ factor. English-language teaching in private schools, tourism and the legal industry are sectors particularly open to English-speaking candidates. The first thing to establish is whether you are entitled to legally work in France. And secondly, it is absolutely essential to have at least a basic grasp of French. HITTING THE PAVEMENT There are three main routes for pursuing employment: contacting the HR departments of firms directly; registering with a head-hunting agency (cabinet de recrutement or informally chasseur de têtes); and by searching job ads. If you are writing to a French firm, whether it be a small business or a multi-national company, always make your first approach in French and reformat your CV to the French model. This often includes listing your age, marital status and adding a picture of yourself. Check your local bookstore for guides on how to prepare a French-style CV, or consult with a feebased agency that prepares CVs. Many large French firms will also expect your cover letter to be written long-hand rather than

The ads will usually list minimum academic qualifications, niveau d’études minimum; Bac +2 corresponds to a high-school diploma, plus two years of university study. The ads may specify any one of several other specialised French diplomas. You’ll need to research the rough French equivalent of your diplomas and training. Be aware that French employers may or may not recognise your degrees, even those from accredited, widelyrecognised schools. For those looking for manual, secretarial, or relatively unskilled jobs, the best approach is through temporary employment agencies, agences d’intérim. The highest turnover of offers for non-skilled, English-speaking labour comes from the services sector, especially tourism. As in any country, there are usually regular vacancies for these jobs with irregular working hours and little job security. EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS For more information on contracts in France, read our article French Labour Laws: Contracts. In short, there is a long list of various work contracts in France, many designed to encourage private employers to hire young people, the longterm unemployed, or other categories of people who are disadvantaged in the job market. The two primary types of employment contracts are: a CDD (contrat de travail à durée déterminée) which is for a designated period, usually no more than 18 months; and a CDI (contrat de travail à durée indéterminée) which is for a permanent post with no end date.



•• JOB ••

A part-time contract, contrat de travail en temps partiel, exists as both a CDI and a CDD, and applies to all employees who work less then the minimum weekly requirement of 35 hours. The temporary job contract, contrat de travail temporaire or intérimaire, is used by temp-work agencies; it is used for a specific and temporary assignment, called mission; the employee is paid job-by-job by the agency. In most cases, the agency operates with no obligation to provide a minimum number of missions for its employees.

Night work Night work is performed between 21.00 and 06.00, and may not in principle exceed 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week (44 hours if governed by decree or collective agreement). Night work is compensated for with weekly rest days or extra pay.

Salary will be presented either as brut, which is before deductions, or as net, which is after. These mostly concern mandatory contributions to the French welfare system, but do not include income tax, which is paid annually by the individual.

Pregnant women normally working nights must be given daytime work throughout their pregnancy and during the legal postnatal leave period if they so request.

WORKING TIME In France, the legal length of the working week is 35 hours in all types of companies. The working day may not exceed 10 hours. Furthermore, the maximum working day may be extended to 12 hours under a collective agreement.

Young people The maximum working day for under 18-yearolds and apprentices is 8 hours (7 hours a day for those under 16 working during school holidays). For apprentices and those under 18, the absolute maximum length of the working week is 35 hours.

In principle, no more than 48 hours a week may be worked, or 44 hours per week over 12 consecutive weeks (up to a maximum of 46 hours, under conditions).

Annual paid leave All workers have a right to paid leave once they have worked at least one month during the reference period (which runs from 1 June of the previous year to 31 May of the current year).

Breaks, lasting a minimum of 20 minutes, must be granted to the employees every 4.5 hours. All workers must be allowed a daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours (9 hours in certain cases depending on collective agreements). The minimum weekly rest period is 35 consecutive hours (11 hours plus a 24 consecutive hour rest period per week). There are waivers for some activities (machine operators, seasonal workers). Sundays are, in general, considered rest days. Overtime Overtime must be paid for as follows: - 25 percent an hour for each of the first eight hours of overtime (from the 36th to the 43rd hour inclusive); - 50 percent for each hour after that. 40

It should be noted that many exceptions are allowed, especially under collective agreements. Some managerial staff classified as “autonome” work more than 35 hours a week, but are given additional holiday days.

Workers are then entitled to two-and-a-half working days’ leave for each month worked, i.e. five weeks of paid leave per year worked. In principle, only periods actually worked are taken into account when determining the entitlement to paid leave. Periods of absence from work are not counted. However, certain periods are considered as valid periods of employment, such as annual leave the previous year, maternity leave, training leave, or time off sick if the collective agreement covers this. Paid leave dates are decided by mutual agreement between the employer and the employee, or, failing that, by the employer.


•• JOB ••

Sick leave To be able to benefit from daily allowances, contributions have to have been paid for 200 hours during the 3 months prior to stopping work. On presentation of form E104, the periods for which contributions have been paid in another European country are taken into account. Maternity leave Maternity leave is 16 weeks per child (6 weeks before and 10 weeks after the birth). Paternity leave Paternity leave is 11 consecutive calendar days in the case of a single birth and 18 days in the case of multiple births, as from the birth of the child. This leave cannot be split up. It can be taken together with the 3 day leave granted on the birth of a child.

Parental child-rearing leave Following maternity leave, in order to look after the child, either parent who is an employee may ask to benefit from this. Maximum of three years. Parental presence leave To look after a child who is disabled, has suffered an accident or is seriously ill. Individual training leave (CIF) This cannot exceed one year. Partial maintenance of the salary is guaranteed. Sabbatical leave Between 6 and 11 months. Eligibility for some of these types of leave may be conditional upon seniority in the company, or minimum contributions paid to the public social security scheme. A useful mobility site:

Public holidays 1 January New Year’s Day (Jour de l’an) Date moveable Easter Sunday and Monday (Pâques) 1 May May Day (fête du Travail) 8 May Victory in Europe Day (Jour de la Victoire) Date moveable Ascension Thursday, 39 days after Easter (Ascension)

Date moveable White Monday, Monday after Pentecost (Lundi de Pentecôte) 14 July Bastille Day (Fête nationale) 15 August Assumption (l’Assomption) 1 November All Saints’ Day (Toussaint) 11 November Armistice Day (Jour de l’Armistice, 1918) 25 December Christmas Day (Jour de Noël) (In Alsace and Moselle, Easter Friday and the day after Christmas are local holidays)



•• JOB ••

Job hunting The first impression you make on an employer is your CV. It’s important this shows you have the necessary professional and cultural knowledge. LENGTH OF YOUR CV An average length for a resumé or CV in France is two pages, regardless of the position. Don’t try to get around this rule by shrinking your font size to an unreadable level or printing your resumé on both sides of a piece of paper. If you have limited work experience, one page is adequate. FORMAT Unless specific guidelines are given, generally a reverse-chronological format is preferred. In many European countries, resumés come with photos attached. EDUCATION Educational terms differ from country to country. In almost every case of cross-border job hunting, merely stating the title of your degree isn’t an adequate description. The reader still might not have a clear understanding of what topics you studied or for how many years. If you’re counting on your educational background to get a job, it’s important to provide the reader with details about your studies and any related projects and experience. However, for experienced professionals, educational background should rarely be more than a line item on your resumé. Computer and language skills are always important, no matter the job.


LANGUAGE Most multinational companies will expect you to speak both the language of their country and English, which is widely accepted as the universal language of business. Have your resumé or CV drafted in both languages and be prepared for your interview to be conducted in both languages. Most companies want to see and hear proof of your language skills early in the hiring process. If you’re submitting your resumé in English, find out if the recipient uses British English or American English. If you use the wrong one, a reader who’s unfamiliar with the variations may just presume that your resumé contains typos. Most European companies use British English, and most US companies, regardless of where a particular hiring manager is based, use American English. ACCURACY Human-resource professionals frown on misspelled words or typos. Their presumption is that if you submit a sloppy, careless resumé, you’ll be a sloppy, careless employee. A human spell-checker is especially valuable for catching words that are spelled properly but used incorrectly. Also take time to double-check the title, gender and spelling of the name of your resumé’s recipient. If possible, have someone review your document who’s a native speaker of the language in which your resumé or CV is written. One goal of your resumé or CV is to show your familiarity with the culture by using culturally appropriate language. DELIVERY Even if a company or individual lists an email address, there’s no guarantee that they’ll receive your message. Email your resumé as an attachment in a widely accepted format, such as Microsoft Word.


•• JOB ••

Recruitment agencies PARIS Euro London Appointments Consultancy 01 56 03 67 70 21, boulevard Haussmann Dorothy Danahy Recruitment Specialists 01 47 20 13 13 11, rue de Havre - 75008 Paris GR interim | 01 42 61 16 16 12, rue de la Paix - F - 75002 Paris Sheila Burgess International Recruitment Consultants | 01 44 63 02 57 62, rue Saint-Lazare - 75009 Paris Humblot-Grant Alexander | 01 53 43 24 24 12, rue Boissy d’Anglas - 75008 Paris, France Direct performance 29, rue du Général Foy - Paris 01 41 92 70 70 Michael Page International | 59, avenue Achille Peretti - Neuilly-sur-Seine

AIX/MARSEILLE 04 91 14 07 14 Humblot-Grant Alexander | Les Jardins du Prado - 67, avenue du Prado 13006 Marseille TOULOUSE Mission Horizon | 16, rue Félix Lavit

05 61 48 77 11

LYON Humblot-Grant Alexander | 04 72 07 47 57 17, rue de la République - 69002 Lyon VAL D’OISE Executives Online 17, rue du Maréchal Lyautey - 95620 Parmain ONLINE Monster JobsinParis Stepstone Also check Expatica’s daily updated jobs pages. Search Expatica jobs for a selection of English speaking and multi language jobs in sales, IT and other industries. Jobs are regularly available in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and across France:

English Language Jobs | 02 37 51 46 68 12, rue de la volaille - Nogent Le Roi, 28210 Paris



•• JOB ••

Customs and etiquette

Wine accompanies dinner and never replaces it, and a glass is never filled to the brim.

While a newly-arrivee has the excuse that he or she is a foreigner, you could find yourself upsetting French people if you don’t know these simple habits. The French shake hands almost whenever they meet, and always when meeting someone for the first time or for business. Arriving at work in the morning, it is quite common to greet colleagues with a handshake, and to shake hands again when leaving. Greeting anyone familiar — like a restaurant waiter or a next-door neighbour — is also usually begun with a crisp handshake. When colleagues know each other well, and in situations between friends, women will often greet each other, male colleagues or friends, with a kiss on the cheek. Beware — don’t take the first step if you are uncertain, but be ready to embrace! In a formal situation, the French say Bonjour monsieur or Bonjour madame, otherwise it is the straight Bonjour. The less formal Salut!, used for “hello” and “goodbye”, is strictly for people who know each other well. The choice of vous and tu to say “you” in French is confusing, and sometimes very subtle. But a simple rule is that the more intimate tu is only employed amongst family and friends. It is common for work colleagues to say tu, but wait until someone else does it first.

Dinner guests are expected to bring a gift, however modest, and this is usually a bottle of wine, flowers, or a pre-suggested dessert or cheese dish. The French keep their arms above the table, not in their lap. ESSENTIAL FORMALITIES While people in France can sometimes appear to behave impolitely, the use of polite form in language is sacrosanct. When addressing a stranger, always add Monsieur or Madame, as in Excusez-moi, madame if asking directions. A typical gesture of politeness, which becomes the opposite if you don’t apply it, is to let another person pass through a door first, and a man always gives way to a woman. If someone gives way to you, it is common to thank them or say pardon. Asking pardon is a devalued term, and can be used in restrained anger, as when you move someone out of your way. The French may be proud of being republicans, but they still love titles. All sorts of people, especially politicians, expect their position to be recognised. When addressing the local mayor, it is usual to say Monsieur/Madame le maire. A policeman is Monsieur/Madame l’agent. When writing any formal letter, even to the phone company, it is usual to end it before signing with a declaration of respect. A common phrase is: Veuillez accepter, madame/monsieur, mes salutations distinguées.

SOCIALISING A common way of getting to know someone is to have a drink together. But the French are not into bar binges, and an aperitif is usually sipped and stops at two.



• • H E A LT H • •

Healthcare France offers a vast choice of general practitioners and healthcare specialists that are part of its mammoth social security system. Although expensive and a constant source of funding worry, is one of the finest on a global basis. French employees see about 20 percent of their gross salary, deducted at source, to fund the social security system, referred to as Sécurité sociale. A large part of this goes into public healthcare, to which every legal resident of France has access under the law of universal coverage (la Couverture maladie universelle). Indeed, this right to healthcare is a highly-prized value of the French social model. Anyone in France can consult any doctor or specialist, regardless of whether the patient is affiliated to the French social security system or has private medical insurance. There are more than 3,000 hospitals in France, generally of the highest quality. Everyone has the right to emergency hospital treatment, regardless of their health insurance coverage, and for those who subscribe to Sécurité sociale it is partly reimbursed. In the case of minor injuries, you can also choose your own hospital and or emergency service. STATE MEDICAL COVERAGE If you subscribe to the French social security system, whether as an employee or selfemployed, most of your healthcare needs will be partially reimbursed, albeit at different rates. Generally speaking, Sécurité sociale refunds 70 percent of medical fees. Recent legislation, however, aimed at cutting health service costs. All patients are required to register with a médecin traitant, a general practitioner or family doctor, in order to receive the full reimbursement.

You are free to choose any general practitioner you want and change them for any reason; the same is true with any specialists. Although, if you want to be reimbursed for visits to any kind of specialist, your médecin traitant must first make the referral. Fees are set by the government for all doctors who have signed a contract with the Social security system, médecins conventionnés. (A médecin conventionné à honoraires libres is part of the system, but is approved to charge a different (higher) fee. These are usually specialists. A médecin non-conventionné is not part of the system, and his or her fees will not be reimbursed.) Gynecologists, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, psychiatrists and dentists are all also covered by the state without referral by the médecin traitant. Minor children can also visit any doctor without a médecin traitant. If you have a medical problem that may need specialist treatment, it is generally necessary to be referred by the médecin traitant in order to be eligible for reimbursement. Examples include physiotherapy, laboratory examinations or X-rays. It’s always best to check first about coverage for any non-emergency treatment. Medicines and drugs are refunded by the Sécurité sociale on varying scales, from 35 to 65 percent. Many pharmacies will now offer you generic versions of brand-name drugs that may not be covered by the Sécurité sociale. PRIVATE MEDICAL COVERAGE To make up the difference of what the State does not cover, it is common in France to also subscribe to a private medical insurance policy, mutuelle. There are dozens of mutuelles, some of which are specific to types of profession, and some of which cater to English speakers. If you’re an employee of a company, most likely you will be able to join the company’s policy as part of your benefits package. Most of these companies will reimburse the remaining 30 percent of your general healthcare costs, including emergency hospital treatment. Consult your policy, however, to verify the details of what is covered and at what rate.



• • H E A LT H • •

If your income falls below a certain ceiling and you do not have a mutuelle, you are also eligible for complementary state-funded healthcare, CMU complémentaire (, which will pick up what regular reimbursements do not.

COMMON MEDICAL URGENCY VOCABULARY It’s an emergency - C’est un cas d’urgence. My name is - Je m’appelle...

There is no state coverage for consultations with psychologists and psychoanalysts, osteopaths or chiropractors. Again, consult your policy for coverage for any of these kinds of treatments.

My telephone number is - Mon numéro de téléphone est...

For prescriptions, your mutuelle may also offer partial or total refunds depending upon your specific policy.

To call for help under any circumstances is - Au secours!

EMERGENCIES AND HOTLINES If an emergency occurs, it’s important to stay aware and in control of what your options are. See our French emergency services page 59. France also offers an English-speaking hotline, SOS Help, to assist with crisis and emotional situations. The crisis line is 01 46 21 46 46. Lines are open 15.00 to 23.00 every day. If the line is busy, CALL BACK. The trained ‘listeners’ at SOS Help don’t want you to wait until you’re on the brink to call them. On the other hand, if you get to the brink, they are there to catch you. HAVING A BABY ABROAD For women, having a baby abroad can bring up deep feelings of insecurity. How different is the approach to childbirth in your new country to that in your homeland? Read about giving birth in France at Expatica’s online community to find out what other expat women feel about giving birth away from home.

I live at - J’habite à...

Ambulance - une ambulance J’ai besoin d’une ambulance. Heart attack - une crise cardiaque Mon mari fait une crise cardiaque. Stroke - une attaque cérébrale Je pense que ma femme a souffert une attaque cérébrale. Choke (as in something stuck) - s’étouffer Mon bébé s’étouffe. Difficulty breathing/gasping - haleter J’halète. To bleed - saigner Je saigne beaucoup. A hemorrhage - une hémorragie Mon mari fait une hémorragie. Concussion - une commotion cérébrale Mon enfant est tombé. A-t-il une commotion cérébrale? Diabetic - diabétique Je suis diabétique. J’ai besoin d’insuline. Labour - accouchement/accoucher Ma femme accouche; la poche des eaux a percé. Her water has broken - Le bébé arrive. To be poisoned - s’empoisonner Mon enfant s’est empoisonné.



• • H E A LT H • •


MARSEILLE Hopital Sainte Marguerite | 04 91 38 00 00 270, boulevard Ste Marguerite - 13009 Marseille

PARIS Bichart Claude-Bernard | 01 40 25 80 80 46, rue Henri-Huchard - 75877 Paris

Hopital de la Timone | 04 91 38 60 00 264, rue St Pierre - 13005 Marseille

Hotel Dieu | 01 42 34 82 34 1, Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame - 75181 Paris

Hopital Ambroise Paré | 04 91 83 38 38 1, rue Eylau - 13006 Marseille

Groupe Hospitalier BROUSSAIS - H.E.G.P. 01 43 95 95 95 96, rue Didot - 75014 Paris

TOULOUSE Hopital la Grave (CHU) | 05 61 77 78 33 place Lange - 31059 Toulouse

Cochin -Saint Vincent de Paul | 01 58 41 41 41 27, rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques - 75014 Paris Necker -Enfants Malades | 01 44 49 49 92 (specialised in treating children) 149, rue de Sèvres - 75015 Paris Pitié-Salpetrière | 01 42 16 00 00 47-83, boulevard de l’Hôpital - 75013 Paris

Group Hospitalier Rangueil Larrey (CHU ) 05 61 32 25 33 Avenue Prof Jean Poulhes - 31403 Toulouse

BORDEAUX Centre Jean Abadie | 05 56 79 56 79 89, rue St André - 33077 Bordeaux Hopital Charles Perrens | 05 56 56 34 34 146, Bis rue Léo Saignat - 33000 Bordeaux

Centre Hospitalier National des Quinze-Vingts 01 40 02 15 20 28, rue Charenton - 75012 Paris

LYON Hopital Edouard Herriot | 08 20 08 20 69 5, place Arsonval - 69003 Lyon

LILLE Centre Hospitalier Regional Universitaire de Lille 03 20 44 59 62 avenue Oscar Lambret - 59037 Lille

STRASBOURG Hopital Civil | 03 88 11 67 68 1, place Hôpital - 67000 Strasbourg

Centre Hospitalier De Saint Jean De Dieu 04 37 90 10 10 290, rue Vienne - 69008 Lyon


Hopital de la Croix Rousse | 08 20 08 20 69 93, Grande Rue de la Croix-Rousse - 69004 Lyon

Hotel Dieu | 02 99 28 43 21 2, rue Hôtel Dieu - 35064 Rennes

MONTPELLIER Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) 04 67 33 67 33 191, av Doyen Gaston Giraud - 34090 Montpellier



• • FA M I L I E S • •

Getting married Getting married in France is not only one of the most romantic places to choose, but also has an easy process if you know what to do. Despite all the documentation, many people still tie the knot with a civil ceremony. Some people still wish to have a religious ceremony after their civil ceremony, however, some choose the alternative ceremony (also a legitimate one).

CIVIL CEREMONY In France, only a civil ceremony is legally binding. Civil ceremonies take place at the mairie (town hall) and are performed by the mayor or his legally authorised representative. The ceremony is conducted in French, and you are not required to have a translator present. However, if you wish to have your ceremony translated into English, it is recommended to speak with the mayor or his representative to make the necessary arrangements.

RELIGIOUS CEREMONY If you would like to have a religious ceremony, you must first have a civil ceremony. The religious official performing your ceremony must be given your marriage certificate, as proof that your civil ceremony has taken place, before they can conduct your ceremony.

LEGAL ALTERNATIVE There is an alternative legal union in France for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, which is called Le Pacte civil de solidarité, commonly known as Le Pacs. While it falls well short of conferring the legal rights which marriage spouses enjoy, it has a legal status which offers both official recognition of the union and a number of rights for both individuals.

concerning financial matters, such as the equal share of household finances. The Pacs can be signed between two unmarried people, regardless of nationality or sex, who are aged 18 or over.

THE BLESSING Many couples choose to get legally married in their home country and have a blessing in France. The advantage is that you can have it at any location of your choice, and take advantage of the many beautiful settings that France has to offer.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION All documentation must be original and endorsed with an apostille stamp. Any documentation that is not in French must be accompanied by official translations, translated by an agency verified by the French Consulate. Here are the documents you will need: - A valid passport or a French residence permit - Proof of a French home address (such as a phone bill) - A birth certificate (less than three months old) - A certificate of celibacy (less than three months old) which can be established in France at your country’s consular office. - A statement by a lawyer or equivalent certifying that the non-French national concerned is free to marry in France. - A medical certificate (less than three months old) A certificate by a French solicitor, called a - certificat du notaire, if the marriage is to include a prenuptial legal contract. For citizens of most countries, your consulate in France will be able to help with issuing a certificat de celibat and a certificat de coutume.

MARRIAGE CERTICATE If you get married in France, you will receive a livret de famille which is an official document used for all events relating to your “new” family, such as births, deaths, divorce or name changes.

The Pacs is established before a local magistrates’ court for civil cases (tribunal d’instance). The parties can draw up a document specific to themselves which defines their engagement WWW.EXPATICA.COM | FRANCE EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE



Home basics The French utilities companies have historically been mostly publicly-run, but the country’s energy market has been forced by EU law to open up to private companies to offer competition in domestic services. To ask for any utility service, you will need to prove both your identity (passport, residence permit) and that you reside at the address concerned. The latter can be your rental agreement or rent receipt, or sale agreement.

The French domestic electrical current is 220 volts AC. All modern sockets and plugs are three-pin, and the ‘Europlug’ is ubiquitous. If you are arriving with appliances from the UK or outside the EU, you are likely to need an adaptor, and in the case of North America, a power converter (transformer).


Once part of the EDF state-run power organisation, GDF became GDF Suez in 2008 and offers natural gas and electricity supplies. You can find your local office through the phone book or via the internet at or phone the general enquiries line on 09 69 32 43 24. Supplies are generally re-established within 48 hours.

In most cases, where you are occupying a home vacated by someone else, that person will provide you with a document detailing the cut-off of services by the utility company.


This will speed up the process of restoring them and provide you with proof of when consumption began.

They are responsible for every aspect of the supply. You have no choice between companies, it will be the one designated by the local authority.

It is also quite common, and more practical, to enter into an agreement with the person vacating your new home not to cut off the supply but to agree on a date at which you take over the contract, which will be re-established in your name.

Your water bill is calculated by the number of cubic metres of water you consume, and this is recorded on a sealed counter situated on the property you occupy. You can expect to be given the water company details by the person vacating the property you are moving into, but in all cases you can find this out at the local mairie.

ELECTRICITY The main supplier of domestic electricity in France is the formerly state-run service company called Electricité de France, more commonly known as EDF. There are other smaller suppliers but they are dwarfed by EDF which, though private, is still largely controlled by the government. Personalised services are available whereby you can opt for a cheap rate ‘window’ at specific times. It is also EDF you need to contact if you wish to upgrade the existing electrical supply. 50

You can find your local EDF office through the phone book, or via the internet at, or phone the national general enquiries line on 08 10 12 61 26 (local rate). Supplies are generally reestablished within 48 hours.

French water supplies come via one of the dozens of private companies who hold the public supply contract for your local area.

Rates vary enormously across France, and can sometimes be expensive. Domestic supplies are for drinkable water, and this is regulated by the national authorities. However, there have been many cases of pollution of water supplies. Mostly for reasons of taste, it is common for French people to choose bottled mineral water for drinking.



WASTE DISPOSAL Rubbish collection is organised by the authorities of your commune at the local town hall, called la mairie. There is no need to request this service, which is paid for in your yearly local taxes. The frequency of the service varies from place to place; in Paris, rubbish collection is daily, but in small towns it is often only three times or less per week. The local authorities provide the regulation large plastic ‘wheely’ bins free of charge. In very rural areas you will often need to take your rubbish to the nearest ‘wheely’ bin as they may not be right outside your property. All apartment buildings have a bin area, where residents deposit their waste. In large buildings it is the caretaker, called gardien or concierge, who looks after the collection. Otherwise, you will need to ask your local mairie on what days the rubbish collectors pass. Bins are placed in the street the night before. Most French towns make containers available for waste disposal, with, separate collections of a) cardboard and paper waste, and b) all other domestic waste, and separate bins are provided. There are bottle banks in most French neighbourhoods and on large shopping carparks, but it is both legal and common to dispose of bottles in bins. It is illegal to dispose of dangerous substances, including batteries and motor oil, in domestic bins. Most supermarkets, and every town hall, have used-battery bins.

On the La Poste website, you can find a useful PDF with current tariffs, In most cases, a letter posted before 17.00 with a rapide stamp will be delivered to an address in France the next morning. La Poste also offers same-day express deliveries, as do the many private courier firms in France, which include all the major international operators.

TELEPHONES The installation and maintenance of all telephone lines in France is handled by France Telecom. To open a line you will need proof of residence and proof of personal identity (residence permit or passport). Getting connected takes about 24 hours. France Telecom has boutiques in most urban neighbourhoods, or you can call 10 14 but call from a fixed line, it can get expensive from your mobile phone. Once you open a line, you will automatically be billed for calls by France Telecom, although you can instead subscribe to a service from one of several private telephone operators offering very competitive rates. Dial 12 for French directory enquiries and 3212 for international enquiries. The phone books are the pages blanches for all numbers and the pages jaunes for trade lists (see French phone book decoder). Both are available online,

POSTAL SERVICE France used to have just one public postal service, La Poste. In 2010 it was converted into a public company. The postal service is generally efficient, although occasionally subject to strikes. There are post offices, called bureaux de postes and easily identified with their blue-on-yellow logo, in every urban neighbourhood and most rural villages.




Transport France has a generally modern and efficient transport system, which is almost entirely publicly managed. National inter-regional transport is covered by the state-run railway network, the SNCF, as well as inter-city flights by Air France and an everdecreasing number of small regional airline companies. The major French cities offer at least adequate public transport as a cheap alternative to the use of vehicles, which many urban authorities are increasingly discouraging.

PARIS The public transport system in and around Paris is probably the best in Europe in terms of geographical spread, speed, upkeep and tariffs. The capital is criss-crossed with publiclyrun services by bus, underground (or subway), overhead rail and trams, which are all grouped under one authority, called the RATP. You can buy one-journey tickets or the cheaper travel passes which allows you to use any of the services as often as you please. The pass commonly used by commuters in and around the capital is called the Navigo (formerly carte orange), which covers transport across an area of up to some 50 kilometres (30 miles) around the capital. The Paris underground métro train lines serve every small neighbourhood, and run from 05.30 until 00.30. The average frequency of metro trains is about every five minutes. The metro lines are designated by number, and the direction is indicated by the name of the terminus station. There also exists the express commuter train service, called the RER, which links outlying Paris regions with the centre of the capital, where it runs underground.


Tickets for travel within the city limits cost EUR 1.70 each (un ticket) or EUR 12.50 for a set of ten, called un carnet de tickets. One ticket gives you access to either the bus or metro and the duration of one uninterrupted journey. (In the case of the metro, you can ride as many lines as necessary to get to your destination.) Prices for charging up your Navigo pass vary according to the geographical zone you choose, and whether you need a weekly or a monthly pass. There are also weekly and inter-suburban rates. You can find tickets, passes and information from any metro station, and carnets of tickets are also available at any Tabac (tobacconist shop). The RATP information line in English is 08 92 68 41 14 and online at The RER and all overhead rail services to, from and around the capital are operated by the SNCF, in affiliation with the RATP. The SNCF offers information by phone on 08 91 67 68 69 or online at

OTHER FRENCH CITIES Every French town and city has a good public transport service, and regional coach companies operate bus lines in rural areas. Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Rennes and Toulouse all have metro services. Tickets or passes from the local transport service will cover all travel in either your town, city or rural region.

TAXIS French taxis are licensed by the local prefecture, which imposes strict rules on roadworthiness, passenger capacity (a minimum of three) and working hours. There is no two-tier system, and they all operate in the same manner and to the same tariffs in each region. However, for especially long journeys it is common to ask for a fixed price (forfait).

NATIONAL RAIL SERVICES The French railway network is run by a single authority, the state-run SNCF, and is managed as a public service. The network is comprehensive,



trains run with precision, and tariffs are cheaper than most other European countries. The network includes suburban, regional, national, and international lines. The SNCF operates a high-speed train (TGV) service linking most French regions between themselves and with the capital. The TGV is a speedy (it travels at around 250 kph) and cheaper inter-city transport alternative to the plane. International TGV services also link Paris with London (Eurostar) and Brussels (Thalys). You can buy all types of rail tickets by major credit card and at any SNCF station, or by calling 08 92 35 35 35. For train times call 08 91 67 68 69. Information concerning all services are available online at

Lille Aéroport Lille Lesquin 03 20 49 68 68

Lyon Aéroport Lyon-Saint Exupéry 04 72 22 72 21 Aéroport Lyon Bron: 04 78 26 81 09

Marseille Aéroport Marseille-Provence 04 42 14 14 14

Nice Aéroport de Nice Côte d’Azur 08 20 42 33 33



From Rennes in the north, to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), down to Nice on the Cote d’Azur and across the Mediterranean to Ajaccio, France is very well served by small and very large airports (CDG is second only in traffic to Heathrow in Europe).

Napoléon Bonaparte 04 95 23 56 56

And generally, you can link up easily with other means of transport for your onward journey.


Montpellier Méditerranée 04 67 20 85 00

Rennes Saint-Jacques 02 99 29 60 00

Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) 01 48 62 12 12 or 01 48 62 22 80 (same-day flights)


Orly 01 49 75 15 15 (same-day flights)

Metz-Nancy-Lorraine 03 87 56 70 00


Biarritz - Anglet – Bayonne 05 59 43 83 83

Aéroport de Bordeaux-Merignac 05 56 34 50 50

Atlantique 02 40 84 80 06




Driving and parking

this is restricted by a stop sign, red traffic light, or other indication.

France has strict road laws, even if French driving habits suggest otherwise. Here’s how to survive – and how to park once you have reached your destination. Though strenuous efforts have been made to reduce the country’s annual road deaths toll (which stood at 3,992 in 2010), an official offensive against bad driving with extra policing of traffic and the instalment of fixed speed cameras throughout the country is in effect. Though it is an impressive reduction in the last decade—down from 8,000 in 2002—it is still one of the highest in Europe. Drunk driving and speeding are blamed as the principle causes. Meanwhile, many French towns and cities — notably Paris — are increasingly discouraging the use of cars for reasons of both congestion and alarming air pollution levels. Despite this, the car still plays an essential role in French life, partly because of the country’s geographical size. Many social activities, especially outside towns, necessitate the use of a vehicle and, among European countries, France has one of the highest numbers of cars per capita. The country’s road infrastructure is generally excellent, with well-kept toll motorways accessing every region. The most important thing to understand about driving in France is that motorists in general have scant regard for rules, and one must constantly allow for the unexpected.

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT French road regulations are broadly similar to those in the rest of Europe, with a few notable exceptions. These include the infamous priorité à droite, which gives priority to motorists joining your forward direction from the right — except if


It is very important to be constantly aware of the priorité à droite, which is sometimes applicable in seemingly illogical situations. It is not uncommon for traffic on minor roads to have priority when joining large main streets from the right, at whatever angle and however hidden. It is also usual for this priority to the right to govern who gives way when two minor country roads meet. Beware that French motorists often apply their ‘right’ with no regard to the consequences, and at great speed. The standard speed limit in built-up areas is 50 kph (30 mph), and can sometimes be 30 kph. If you are on a B-road and enter an area designated by a sign with place name bordered in red, this requires you to reduce your speed to at most 50 kph even if the speed limit is not signalled. In wet weather, the maximum motorway speed is reduced from 130 kph (80 mph) to 110 kph. Passengers in a car equipped with rear seat safety belts must wear them. If your car does not have hazard warning lights you must carry a roadside triangle. It is an offence in France to carry a device detecting police speed radars, and doing so is punished with a fine and automatic confiscation of the equipment. If you are driving a foreign registered vehicle, it must have a sticker showing the country origin, even if this is indicated on the registration plate. You can, as a foreign resident in France, drive with a licence issued by another European Union state for an unlimited period. Driving licences issued by a non-EU state are valid only for the first 12 months of your stay, and must be surrendered after that in exchange for a French licence or, depending on the country (or US state) of issue, you may be required to re-sit a driving test. French driving licences includes a 12-point penalty system, whereby driving offences are punished, on top of any other sanctions, by a



reduction in points. An accumulation of can lead to the invalidity of the licence. Regulations concerning French-registered vehicles also include a mandatory inspection of roadworthiness on vehicles of four years old or more. The contrôle technique is carried out in licensed centres and is valid for two years. There is no longer any vehicle tax in France for privatelyowned cars. You are at all times required to carry the vehicle registration document and your personal ID. The French police and gendamerie are entitled to stop you for verification of your car and yourself at will, and such spot checks are frequent.


PARKING Many French cities offer ample underground car park space. City street parking is widespread and almost always regulated by pay-meters, which are increasingly (and in Paris, totally) operated by a specific credit card (Paris Carte, available at most tabacs, and indicated by a distinctive red shop sign). Some press kiosks also stock them. You can also top up with Moneo, which can be used in other French towns. French motorists, especially in Paris, frequently nudge — or worse — the bumpers of surrounding cars when parking; and squeezing into a space is a challenge few flinch at. Town and city residents are often able to park on meters within their neighbourhood at vastly reduced rates. Details are available at your local town hall, the mairie.

Despite the many road regulations, it is easy to see French drivers regularly flouting quite basic laws, including driving in the wrong direction up one-way streets.


It is best to understand this and react accordingly than to assume that your own respect of the law is all it will take to avoid an accident.

Built-up areas: 50 kph unless otherwise indicated B-roads (routes nationales): 90 kph unless otherwise indicated. When raining, the indicated speed limit is reduced by 10 kph.

Always beware of cars jumping red lights, especially at night and/or on deserted junctions. Although the law requires motorists to give way to pedestrians, few actually do. Always check the speed and behaviour of the car behind you while slowing, for often they may not be expecting you to do so. Similarly, pedestrians often aggressively ‘defend’ their rights by suddenly crossing a street without calculating your ability to stop.

Motorways (autoroutes): 130 kph unless otherwise indicated. When raining, the indicated speed limit is reduced to 110 kph. The drink-driving limit in France is 0.5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood.

Politeness is not commonplace, and driving can sometimes seem like a war of nerves. While not joining the dangerous fray, it is advisable not to hesitate unduly, which can lead to confusion; nor to expect your own politeness to be reciprocated. Many bikers behave as if they have a law unto themselves; so make sure, especially in large cities, that you allow for motorbikes and mopeds overtaking by ‘shaving’ either side of the vehicle at speed.




Groups & Clubs

The Royal Society of Saint George The Caledonian Society of France


The Paris Welsh Society

AmCham France

Association France-Grande Bretagne

Australian Business in Europe (ABIE) The Franco-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry PWN Paris European Professional Women’s Network

Association Irlandaise Irish dance lessons

Paris Choral Society The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music - Mr Steven Calvert, Tel: 06 15 65 36 73

Royal Academy of Dance

NATIONAL The American Club of Paris The Franco American Community Center Daughters of the American Revolution Association France Australie The British Community Committee


The Southern Cross Group France-New Zealand Association


The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society

Association Franco-Écossaise

Association Les Amitiés Acadiennes The Canadian Club of Paris Canadian Cultural Center France-Québec Association

SOCIAL The American Club of Paris The Cambridge Society of Paris The Oxford Society The Clan MacLeod Society of France Paris Jewish Connection FRANCE EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE | WWW.EXPATICA.COM


THEATRE Les Amis du Jardin de Shakespeare du Pré Catalan: Dear Conjunction Theatre Company

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church The Scots Kirk


International Players

Cricket France

French-American Association for Cinema and Theatre

Standard Athletic Club


British Rugby Club of Paris

AAWE (Association of American Wives of Europeans)

Paris Gaels

The MESSAGE Mother Support Group

The Irish Eyes

AWG (American Women’s Group in Paris)


Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) The British and Commonwealth Women’s Association Canadian Women’s Association


Knowing Nantes Toastmasters Open House Grenoble Family First Survive France Network

WOAC (Women of the American Church in Paris) American Cathedral in Paris (Episcopal) American Church in Paris (All Protestant Denominations) St. George’s Anglican Church WWW.EXPATICA.COM | FRANCE EXPAT SURVIVAL GUIDE




JAPAN | 01 48 88 62 00 7, avenue Hoche - 75008 Paris

AUSTRALIA | 01 40 59 33 00 4, rue Jean Rey - 75724 Paris

MEXICO | 01 53 70 27 70 9, rue de Longchamp - 75116 Paris

AUSTRIA | 01 40 63 30 63 6, rue Faber - 75007 Paris

NETHERLANDS | 01 40 62 33 00/33 92 7, rue Eblé - 75007 Paris

BELGIUM | 01 44 09 39 39 9, rue de Tilsitt - 75840 Paris

NEW ZEALAND | 01 45 01 43 43 7 ter, rue Léonard-de-Vinci - 75116 Paris

CANADA | 01 44 43 29 00 35, avenue Montaigne - 75008 Paris

NORWAY | 01 53 67 04 00 28, rue Bayard - 75008 Paris

CHINA | 01 47 23 34 45 11, avenue George V - 75008 Paris

POLAND | 01 43 17 34 05 1-3, rue de Talleyrand - 75343 Paris Cedex 07

DENMARK | 01 44 31 21 21 77, avenue Marceau - 75116 Paris


PORTUGAL | 01 47 27 35 29 3, rue de Noisiel - 75116 Paris

FINLAND | 01 70 91 72 45 103, rue de Grenelle - 75007 Paris

FEDERATION OF RUSSIA | 01 45 04 05 50 40-50, boulevard Lannes - 75116 Paris

GERMANY | 01 53 83 45 00 13-15, avenue Franklin-Roosevelt - 75008 Paris

SOUTH AFRICA | 01 53 59 23 23 59, Quai d’Orsay - 75343 Paris Cedex 07

GREECE | 01 47 23 72 28 17, rue Auguste-Vacquerie - 75116 Paris

SPAIN | 01 44 43 18 00 22, avenue Marceau - 75008 Paris

INDIA | 01 40 50 70 70 15, rue Alfred Dehodencq - 75016 Paris

SWEDEN | 01 44 18 88 00 17, rue Barbet-de-Jouy - 75007 Paris

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND | 4, rue Rude - 75116 Paris

TURKEY | 01 53 92 71 11 16, avenue de Lamballe - 75016 Paris

01 44 17 67 00

ISRAEL | 01 40 76 55 00 3, rue Rabelais - 75008 Paris

UNITED KINGDOM | 01 44 51 31 00 35, rue du Faubourg Saint- Honoré - 75008 Paris

ITALY | 01 49 54 03 00 51, rue de Varenne - 75007 Paris

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA | 2, avenue Gabriel - 75008 Paris

01 43 12 22 22



Phone book decoder The Yellow Pages phone directory in France is called Les pages jaunes. The following is a list of key phrases in French to help you find the number of whatever you’re searching, from a local doctor to a flower shop. You can also find a national directory of Les pages jaunes online at Accountant Comptables Airline Compagnies aériennes Auction Salles des ventes Baby goods Articles pour bébé Bakery Boulangeries Barber Salons de coiffure messieurs Beautician Instituts de beauté Bicycle Vélos Bookshop Librairies Builder Entrepreneurs-bâtiment Butcher Boucheries Car dealer Autos-concessionnaires Carpenter Menuisiers/charpentiers

Car repair Garages

Embassy Ambassades-consulats

Chemist (prescriptions) Pharmacies

Emergency telephone Numbers Numéros d’urgence

Children’s clothing Vêtements pour enfants Children’s hospital Hôpitaux pour enfants Chiropractor Chiropracticiens Church Eglises Cinema Cinémas Clothing alterations Vêtements-retouchesréparations-transformations

Temporary employment Agencies Agences d’intérim Eye doctor Ophtalmologues Flower shop Fleuristes Furniture Meubles Garden centre Jardineries Gifts Cadeaux

Confectioners Confiseurs

Golf courses Terrains de golf

Dentist Dentistes

Greengrocer Fruits et légumes

Department store Grands magasins Dermatologist Dermatologues Do-it-yourself Bricolage Doctor Médecins Dog kennel Pensions pour animaux Dressmaker / tailor Tailleurs Dress material Tissus et soieries Driving school Auto-école Dry cleaner Nettoyage à sec Domestic electrical Appliances Electroménager


Grocery store Epicerie Gynaecologist Gynécologues Hairdresser Salons de coiffure Hardware store Quincailleries Home furnishings Ameublement Hospital Hôpitaux House cleaner Femmes de ménage Insurance Assurances Jewellery store Bijouteries Key cutting Serruriers Kitchen Cuisines 59


Women’s clothing Vêtements pour dames

Pet shop Animaleries

Language school Centres de langues

Physiotherapist Kinésithérapeutes

Lawyer Avocat

Piano tuners Accordeurs

Leather goods Maroquinerie

Plumber Plombier

Legal advice Conseils juridiques

Post office Bureaux de poste

Library Bibliothèques

Railway station Gares sncf

Lighting Eclairage

Realtor/estate agent Agences immobilières

Maternity clothes Vêtements futures mamans

Roofing services Toitures

Men’s clothing Vêtements pour hommes

Second-hand cars Autos-occasions

Midwife Sages-femmes

Shoe repair Cordonniers

Motorcycle Motos

Stationery Papeteries

Cinema Salles de cinéma

Supermarket Supermarché

Removal/moving Companies Déménagements

Swimming pool Piscines

Museums Musées Newsagents Journaux Nursery (plants and flowers) Pépinières Office supplies Fournitures de bureau Optician Opticiens Painters Entreprises de peinture Pest control Désinfection


Tax consultant Conseils fiscaux Tools Outillage Town hall Mairie Travel agent Agences de voyage Veterinary doctor Vétérinaire Window cleaner Lavage de vitres Window repair Vitrier



Emergency numbers NATIONAL NUMBERS FOR EMERGENCIES When calling an emergency service, be ready to give your name, address, telephone number and the reason for your call. Never hang up until you are invited to do so. Emergency telephone lines are manned in French. It is a good idea to make sure you know in advance how to give clear indications in French of your name, address and telephone number — you may come across an operator who speaks English but there is no guarantee of this. Medical emergency/accidents/ambulance (SAMU): 15 The Samu is the coordinated service to call in any case of serious medical emergency. Fire brigade: 18 The French fire brigade, called les sapeurs pompiers, can also be called in cases of medical emergencies, such as traffic and domestic accidents. Police: 17 This number puts you in contact with the appropriate emergency police services nearest you, whether that be the police nationale or the gendarmerie. For non urgent situations, make a note of the direct eight-digit phone number for your nearest police station (commissariat de police or gendarmerie).

119 and 0800 05 41 41

SOS children in distress:

SOS homeless in distress: 115 and 0800 306 306 Drug addiction helpline:

0800 23 13 13

Hepatitis information line: Aids helpline: Red Cross:

0800 84 58 00

0800 84 08 00 0800 85 88 58

Rape crisis hotline:

0800 05 95 95

ANTIPOISON CENTRES Paris: 01 40 05 48 48 Lyon: 04 72 11 69 11 Marseille: 04 91 75 25 25 Toulouse: 05 61 49 33 33

UTILITY SERVICES URGENCY There is no national number for any of the utility services which have urgency hotlines according to the region where you live. Make a careful note of the number given to you for your area, which is marked on every gas/electricity/water services payment receipt.

PARIS MEDICAL URGENCY Emergency doctor (SOS Medecins): 01 43 37 77 77 Urgences Médicales de Paris (Paris Medical Emergencies): 01 53 94 94 94, in French Dental emergencies: Out-of-hours chemists:

01 43 37 51 00 01 45 62 02 41

All emergencies from a mobile phone: 112 This is the pan-European emergency number which can be called in any emergency from your mobile phone.

HELPLINES English language SOS Helpline: 01 47 23 80 80. For people in distress. This is not an emergency services number.



Advertisers index A A good start in France . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 American School of Paris. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

F FR Global Relocation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

I International Herald Tribune. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 International School of Paris. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

L Lloyds TSB Bank. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Back cover

P Paris Direct International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

R Right Move . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

S Saint Germain Relocation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 SOFICA’S. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

W World First Foreign Exchange. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 - 25

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Expat Survival Guide France 2012  

The Expat Survival Guide for Expats in France, version 2012. Find all information on Moving to, Jobs, Housing, Education, Taxation, Finance...

Expat Survival Guide France 2012  

The Expat Survival Guide for Expats in France, version 2012. Find all information on Moving to, Jobs, Housing, Education, Taxation, Finance...