Cost of Living Comparison: UK and France
Easily one of Europe’s most swoonworthy countries, a visit to France promises enchanting scenery, heavenly cuisine and culture at every corner. If you are gravitating towards a temporary or permanent move, you’ll likely be wondering: what is the cost of living in France?
In this piece, we’ll cover the cost of living in France as an expat, how prices vary across different regions and cities, and comparing this against UK living costs. We’ll take you through the cost of living crisis in France, explaining the knock-on effect this has on the cost of living in France per month, and what to expect to pay for the cost of living in France in euros and pounds.
Why Might People Choose to Move to France?
France allures expats of all ages and backgrounds due to its fantastic quality of life. In HSBC’s 2021 Expat Explorer survey, France ranked ninth place for quality of life out of a possible 46 countries. The UK came in a lowly 44th place, followed by Turkey and Bermuda.
Overall, France was ranked as the 21st best place to live and work abroad, and it’s easy to see why. For families with children, you can take comfort in the knowledge that the country has less crime than the UK. France’s education system is considered one of the best in the world, with a variety of school types including public, private, bilingual and international schools. The cost of living in France for international students isn’t as high as you might expect either – but more on that later.
With the largest land area of any country in Western Europe, France consists of 22 separate administrative regions. This gives you endless options for your overseas move, whether you want to embrace Parisian life and live in the capital city, wake up to the stunning views of the French Riviera, embrace the rugged peaks of the Alps and the Pyrenees – the list goes on.
In terms of highly desirable and spacious countries to live and work abroad, France can be compared to Portugal. The latter is much less densely populated than the UK and has just 113 people per square kilometre, compared to 420 in England.
Factors Affecting Your Choice to Move to France
Well before you embark on your move to France, there are a number of financial considerations to make in relation to the cost of moving abroad.
Post-Brexit freedom of movement
Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016, UK citizens are now subject to the Schengen Area. This comprises 26 European countries that have officially abolished all types of border control at their mutual borders. The visa-waiver stay limitation is 90 days within any 180 days throughout the entire zone.
For expats, this means that you need to apply for a visa if you intend on living in France for over 90 days. The good news is that this is a simple process and costs roughly £86.54. You can apply for your visa online on the French government’s Accueil des Étrangers website, but you may still need to visit the French Consulate General in London, or your home country.
There are two types of visitor visa you can apply for as an expat:
- A temporary long stay visitor visa – ideal if you’re planning to live in France between three to six months of a year. The benefit of this is that you will not be classed as a resident in France, so won’t be obligated to submit a French tax return documenting your worldwide income.
- A long stay visitor visa – perfect if you want to live and, in some cases, work in France for an average period of one year.
You can think of these as a stamp or sticker on your passport issued by the French Consulate to allow you to enter France for a predetermined length of time.
If you later decide you want to make your French residency permanent, you can apply for a Residency Permit, known as a Carte de Sejour. This will be a physical card containing your photograph and signature, and will typically be issued for longer than the two visas mentioned above. There are different categories for your French residency and you should book an appointment at your local town hall or Préfecture (your local French government headquarters), meet the minimum requirements and provide the requested documents.
Income, tax and entry requirements
To obtain a long stay visitor visa in France, you’ll need to secure suitable accommodation ahead of time for the duration of your stay and prove you have sufficient income to support yourself. Since Brexit, income requirements have increased from around £566.30 per month (for a single person) to around £1,157.86 per month.
Unlike tax in the UK, income tax in France isn’t taken out of your salary. This means that everyone needs to complete a tax return. Residents can earn up to £8,785.48 tax-free but will be charged 11 per cent on earnings between £8,786.35 and £22,399.32, and 30 per cent for salaries of £22,400.19 to £64,049.34 (Expatica).
As you’ll need to prove you have sufficient income in order to obtain a French visa, it’s worth researching the country’s job market to find a desirable position ahead of your move. Popular jobs for expats include teaching English and working in childcare and trade services. Other key French industries include energy, manufacturing, agriculture and technology.
When applying for a job, ensure you write un curriculum vitae Français (a French CV) in the country’s preferred style. Include whether you have a French work permit and highlight your language skills if you’re multilingual or have varying proficiency levels.
For most jobs, you’ll also need to include une lettre de motivation (a covering letter) to express your interest. Don’t be surprised if you have to attend up to four job interviews for some positions; that’s fairly normal in France and the country’s employers are known for their more formalised interview approach.
Cost of Living in France vs UK
If your heart is set on a new life in France, you can make this a reality by taking a practical and realistic approach to your finances from the get-go. To give you a clear insight into the cost of living in France, we’ve explored the average cost of living in France, as well as breaking down price differences for the cost of living in popular French cities, regions and communities. It’s well worth spending some time on local immobilier (estate agent) websites to better understand the availability and pricing of properties in the area.
What is the cost of living in France vs UK 2022?
First of all, is there a cost of living crisis in France? And why is the cost of living so high in France?
Like many other countries in the G7, France is experiencing its own cost of living crisis. The last year has seen jaw-dropping increases in the cost of energy and fuel, both for vehicles and heating. Then, the Ukraine crisis, supply chain disruption and changing weather conditions have caused food prices to soar at an alarming rate. It’s no wonder that, when doing a comparison of the cost of living in France vs UK since 2021, costs for both countries have risen rapidly over just one year.
However, there's a lot that the French government is doing to help households cope with the cost of living crisis in France. This includes capping gas and electricity price increases until the end of 2022. In early 2023, these increases will be capped at a maximum of 15%.
If you’re planning to work in France, you’ll be glad to hear that French ministers are encouraging companies to offer their employees an annual tax-free bonus of up to £5,240.00, raised from a previous limit of £841.00. Employees covered by the 35-hour working week will be able to convert overtime days into extra cash.
Other ways the French government is helping its residents includes subsidising a rebate on petrol and diesel prices. However, France has an excellent reputation for its public transport systems, making transport fairly affordable without a car. For those who would prefer to travel by bike, French financial aid is increasing for the purchase of electric bikes by around £87.41.
The country has scrapped the TV licence too, previously £120.38 in mainland France, in comparison to the UK’s £159.00 annual cost.
What are average French salaries and how much is the cost of living in France?
According to Expatica, these are the average monthly French salaries across three main sectors:
- Private sector workers – £2,072.62
- Public sector workers – £2,011.41
- Self-employed / freelancers – £2,466.16
Now onto the cost of living in France, which is slightly higher than in the UK. However, you’ll want to bear in mind that the country’s rental costs are more affordable than their British counterparts. Here are some quick statistics from Numbeo:
- The cost of living in France for a single person is £755.07 without rent, compared to £691 in the UK.
- The cost of living in France for a family of four is £2,708.14 without rent, compared to £2,387.68 in the UK.
- The cost of rent in a one-bedroom city centre apartment in France is £652.78, whereas in the UK this is £893.74.
- The cost of rent for a three bedroom city centre apartment in France is £1,384.88, whereas in the UK it’s £1,600.63.
The cost of living in France per month is made more affordable by lower utilities costs. In France, monthly basic utilities for an 85 by 85-metre apartment cost roughly £136.00, compared to the UK’s average of almost almost £187 (Numbeo.)
Then there are lower childcare costs in France, which sit at £526.66 for monthly private pre-school childcare. In comparison, UK childcare of the same level costs families £1049.18. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), childcare fees cost almost two thirds of UK families as much as their monthly mortgage and rent payments.
While the monthly cost of living in France varies depends on where you choose to call home, here’s some general guidance on what you can expect to pay after your accommodation fees:
|Basic household bills (electricity, heating, water, garbage)||£183.76||£139.73|
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant||£55.00||£52.33|
|Gym/leisure centre membership||£31.05||£28.62|
|Monthly public transportation ticket||£65.22||£56.69|
Cost of Living in France: Cities
What is cost of living in Paris, France?
The cost of living in France depends on where you choose to live. The more central you go, you’ll generally find it’s more expensive. That, combined with the fact it has the largest expat and immigrant community, is why the cost of living in Paris, France, is more expensive than other cities and regions. But despite this, when you compare Parisian living costs to the UK, they’re still 14% cheaper.
The cost of living in Versailles, France, is relatively affordable. Average monthly salaries in the beautiful metropolitan city are £2,600.06, the average cost of living is £1,413.62 and the average monthly rental costs for a house are £975.02 per month.
Cost of living in the French Riviera
Sitting on the edge of the Mediterranean coastline between Cannes in France and La Sepia in Italy, the French Riviera draws in expats worldwide thanks to its year-round sunshine, locally-sourced, fresh food, and varied outdoor pursuits.
Cost of living in Marseille, France
Marseille offers exciting city life at a fraction of the cost of more expensive cities, such as Paris. Here are the average monthly costs to expect:
- A single person's estimated monthly costs are £722.69 without rent.
- Family of four estimated monthly costs are £2,599.35 without rent.
Cost of living in Cannes, France
Known for its glorious sea views, being located just 90 from the French Prealps, and having just 60 days of rainfall a year, it’s easy to see why Cannes is the fourth most populated city in France after Paris, Lyon, and Marseille.
This dreamy destination is recognised for its more expensive, luxury properties, but there are bargains for studios and one bedroom apartments if you look in the right places. Are you prepared to live slightly outside of central Cannes? In this case, try Le Cannet – it has some of the best views of the Mediterranean and is home to a charming old town called Vieux Cannet, as well as museums and plenty of reasonably-priced restaurants and bars.
According to Livingcost.org:
- A single person's estimated monthly costs are £527.74 without rent.
- Family of four estimated monthly costs are £1,674.33 without rent
Cost of living in Nice, France
- A single person's estimated monthly costs are £825.99 without rent.
- Family of four estimated monthly costs are £2,956.44 without rent.
Now you know the average cost of living in Nice, France, here's an insight into how overseas movers settle in. Expat City ran a Quality of Urban Living Index and Nice came out on top in the ‘feeling welcome’ category; 75% of expats said they felt at home in Nice, and 58% felt happy with their social life in the city.
Cost of Living in France vs the US
The cost of living in France compared to the US shows France as more affordable:
- Consumer prices, without rent, in the United States are 5.28% higher than in France.
- Rent prices in the United States are 86.64% higher than in France.
- Grocery prices in the United States are 9.78% higher.
Wondering how Paris and New York compare?
- Consumer prices, without rent, in New York are 33.13% higher than in Paris.
- Rent prices in New York are 134.32% higher than in Paris.
- Groceries prices in New York are 36.54% higher than in Paris.
Five Key Takeaways on the Cost of Living in France
- Before you relocate to France, ensure you arrange your visa (as the UK is no longer in the EU), as well as your health insurance, employment and accommodation.
- The cost of living in France per month is £755.07 for a single person without rent and £2,708.14 for a family of four without rent (Numbeo.com).
- It’s not all doom and gloom. The French government is helping households with cost-saving initiatives including rebates on vehicle fuel costs, gas and electricity price increase caps at 15% in January 2023, annual tax-free employment benefits, and scrapping the TV licence.
- Paris is more expensive than other cities and regions, but still more affordable than living in London. Other cities that are a fraction of the cost include metropolitan Marseille and Versailles, sun-drenched Cannes on the French Riviera and charming Carcassonne in the southern French hilltops.
- The cost of living in France is much more affordable than the US and Canada, where rental prices are sky high. In New York, you'd pay 36.54% more for groceries than you would in Paris.
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