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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Wealth and Health: The Highs and Lows for French Expats

Highly educated and slightly younger than average, the French move abroad for the economic advantages, but miss the healthcare back home.
  • French expats cautious of foreign healthcare
  • More than half see economic advantages in moving abroad
  • 63% can speak the local language at least fairly well
  • Almost two-thirds in a relationship with someone who is not French

Homesick for the Healthcare

Coming from a country with a universal healthcare system financed by employers and taxation, French citizens venturing abroad are apprehensive about the coverage in their new home. Over a fifth of French respondents see the standards of healthcare abroad (28%) and how their personal health could be affected (21%) as potential disadvantages to leaving France.

Once abroad, 42% of French expats rate the affordability of healthcare negatively, compared to 27% of all survey respondents. At least for some, this might be explained by their choice of destination: one in ten respondents from France opted to relocate to the USA, which has a notoriously expensive healthcare system; one French expat living in the US describes the health service as “too money driven”.

Economic Advantages and Better Pay

One of the benefits the French saw to moving abroad was the economy: 52% were looking forward to a different economy and/or labor market, compared to 45% of expats around the globe. One French respondent was full of praise for the thriving Canadian economy, loving “the dynamism: economy, innovation, entrepreneurship”. Not quite two-fifths of all French expats (37%) cite work as their primary reason for relocating, with an above-average 15% having found a job abroad on their own and 14% being sent abroad by their employer.

Financially, the French prosper abroad: almost six in ten of those working (57%) enjoy a higher income than they would back home in a similar job. Close to a fifth of French expats (19%) are working in management, where they are more likely to hold either a top (43%) or a lower (21%) management position than the global average (38% and 13% respectively). The latter may be connected to their young average age: at 40.6 years old, French respondents are almost three years younger than the survey average (43.5). Correspondingly, the percentage of retirees among the French expat population is less than half the global average (4% of French expats vs. 9% globally).

From Engineering to Education: Finding Employment Abroad

Manufacturing and engineering are the sectors where you’re most likely to find French expats, and 11% work in this field. Commerce and trade as well as the IT sector and education are also popular fields — 8% work in each of these industries. However, relatively speaking, expats from France are almost half as likely to be employed in education than expats across the globe (15%).

Even if they’re not working in education, French respondents have still spent a lot of time in the classroom: six in ten hold a postgraduate degree, making them 20 percentage points more likely to hold this kind of qualification than the global average; a further 8% even have a PhD or equivalent.

Citizens of the World

French expats are more multinational than most: they are almost twice as likely to have lived in five or more countries than the global average (14% vs. 8% globally). Close to half (46%) say it’s unlikely they’ll return to France, even if just 21% plan on staying in their current country of residence forever.

The French make an effort when moving abroad, with more than six in ten (63%) being able to speak the local language(s) at least fairly well. Languages are a persuasive reason for French to move abroad: 19% list improving their language skills as one of their reasons to relocate, compared to only 10% of expats globally.

Despite their linguistic ambitions, French expats don’t always mix with the local population. When asked about their social circle, 41% describe their friendship group as mainly expats, making them more likely to stick with other foreigners than survey participants worldwide (33%). Cultural barriers seem to be the biggest hurdle to breaking out of the expat bubble, and over half of French respondents who say they mainly socialize with other expats (51%) cite this as a reason for not having more local friends.

Fewer Relationships but More International Couples

Their reputation as romantics doesn’t mean French expats are more likely to be in a relationship: an above-average four in ten are single. While globally, half of all expats in a relationship say they met their partner in their home country, French couples are somewhat more international: just a third say they met in France, and over three-fifths (63%) are in a relationship with a foreign national. In fact, nearly a third of French respondents in a relationship (32%) are with someone who is neither French nor from their current country of residence.

Further Reading