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Expat Destinations in France

For many expats, moving to France conjures up images of excellent cuisine and wine. But of course, that’s only half the truth! The InterNations expat guide on moving to France provides you with useful info beyond this stereotype: on the French language, popular expat destinations, and more.
Strasbourg is one of France's most popular expat destinations.

Do you like the idea of moving to France, but aren’t sure where to go? The most popular expat destinations all have their own unique character, so keep reading to find out where would suit you best before you make your decision!

Paris: The City of Lights

Most people moving to France live somewhere in the Paris region. In fact, about a fifth of the city’s population is not French. Paris is the nation's capital with a metropolitan area inhabited by over 12 million people. It is the seat of the central administration, dominating the country in the spheres of politics, culture, and economy.

In addition to accommodating the head offices of almost all major French companies, Paris is also the destination of choice for most multinational companies and foreign businesses. Situated on the banks of the River Seine, Paris is the center of France's financial and service-oriented business sectors.

Traditionally, the Right Bank is famous for its commercial character and shopping facilities. The Left Bank, often referred to as the intellectual or artistic quarter, is home to most government institutions and famous places of learning, such as the Sorbonne. If you are especially interested in Paris, check out our guide to moving to Paris for more information.

Lyon: France’s Culinary Capital

Lyon, a beautiful city close to the Swiss border in the east, is France's culinary capital, and its second most important city in many other respects. It has overtaken Marseille, the leading national port, both in terms of economic significance and as far as the size of its metropolitan area is concerned. Lyon is home to numerous international companies, research ventures, and export-orientated manufacturing plants, especially from the chemical, pharmaceutical, and oil-refining industries.

The city of Lyon has a population of over half a million people, who enjoy a great quality of life in a vibrant environment. The Monts du Lyonnais to the southwest and Ecully and Dardilly to the northwest are popular and peaceful residential areas in the region. In Lyon proper, Brotteaux, north of the business district La Part-Dieu and close to France's largest urban park, La Tête d’Or, is also a popular choice.

Strasbourg and Its Eurodistrict

In the post-WWII years, Strasbourg became one of the centers of European unification as the seat of the European Parliament, the European Council, and the Court of Human Rights. Strasbourg's choice as the location of so many EU institutions is at least partly due to its turbulent history as the Alsatian capital.

The region used to be the focus of German and French nationalist and geographic interests for centuries. Its major city was therefore chosen as a symbol for the new spirit of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Today, Strasbourg profits from a rich mix of French and German cultures and from the international atmosphere brought by the employees of the European Union.

In terms of banking and finance, Strasbourg is second in importance only to Paris. Other main industries include wine-growing, brewing, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, shipping, and tourism. The population of the city itself approximates 300,000 inhabitants, while the nearby Strasbourg-Ortneau Eurodistrict is home to nearly 900,000 people.

Getting around by Rail or Car

France has very good roads and an extensive rail network. The railroads of the state-owned SNCF cover a large area, and there are high-speed train connections between Paris and major cities in France and other European countries, e.g. to Brussels, London, and Amsterdam.

Depending on where you come from, driving in France can seem a little chaotic or even aggressive, but in general driving conditions are good. There is, however, a relatively high toll for highway usage, and resident parking in big cities is limited and often expensive.

If the owner has residence status in France, they must obtain a carte grise (also known as a certificat d'immatriculation, or registration document) for their vehicle. Car insurance is compulsory and must be at least third-party insurance, but additional policies should be taken out separately, e.g. to cover damages caused by faulty driving. For more information, see our article on driving in France.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Ruben Barbosa

"After work I enjoy meeting other Brazlian expats offline. We go for a beer together and it feels like home. Thanks InterNations."

Verona Torres

"The idea to connext expatriates in Strasbourg fits perfectly to the city. Both are truly international."

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