The reason why people choose expatriation in France is primarily for the quality of living; and obviously, the cost of living is an important factor when it comes to a high quality lifestyle. While it is easy to understand why life in France is very attractive for someone living in London, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the world, it may not be exactly the same for all British citizens living in different parts of the UK.
What exactly are we talking about when referring to the “cost of living”?
Here are the comparisons between some of the most common cost items in France and in the UK and a sample price for each category. The sample price is an average price calculated for both countries and not specific cities so as to get a broad idea and avoid distortion of truth.
Most people moving to France are buying the property they will be living in. Consequently, the rent and the council tax are two important aspects of the cost of living in France and in the UK. If you own your property the rent is out of the equation but you still have to pay the council tax.
The French Council Tax is composed of the “taxe d’habitation” (for tenants) and the “taxe foncière” (for tenants and home owners). The amount you will have to pay depends on the property itself, the number of rooms and the location (city, town, rural). Additionally, buying a ready-to-move-in property versus a renovation project will obviously cost less because of the price of materials and/or artisans. In France, a 3 bedroom apartment located outside of the city centre of Toulouse is rented out for €825 in average, while the same apartment outside of the city of Birmingham is rented out for €950.
For an 85sqm apartment in France, the basic utilities i.e electricity, heating, and gas cost €123.75, while in the UK they cost €163.82.
Electricity rates in France are lower than in the UK, where prices have increased by £300 over the past three years (far outstripping the rate of wage inflation). Although electricity is cheaper in France, remember that electric devices such as air-conditioning or heating if living in a region with cold winters, are to be considered in your general costs.
Like electricity, top-up meters are used for gas in the UK as you pay for only what you use. In some regions of France, similar offers exist. Outside of major French towns, it is evident that your yearly diesel fuel bill would be a little more important, especially if you live in the mountains, the north or the centre of France.
Good news: today in France, telephone providers offer very good deals (around €25 per month, sometimes less), most of the time with unlimited calls on landlines abroad. Not to mention free software enabling you to talk and see relatives back home, and Smartphone apps offering calls and texts for free. In France, your telephone bill will not be higher than that in the UK.
- Satellite TV: English TV in France
To enjoy all your favourite British TV channels in France, you will only have to buy a €199 special decoder to receive all the free English channels(sold here: http://www.ddelec.com). It gives access to all the public channels like BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5, and 7 channels for kids etc. Connecting it to an Astra 2D à 28.2° satellite dish, the decoder automatically gets up to date and all the new channels will appear in the list.
To expats, living in France equals living in a rural area because it is full of charm and character. Generally, in the French rural villages, you have all the basic food shops like butchers, bakers, fishmongers and pharmacies at a little distance. Depending on the region where you want to move in, you may have to take the car to go to the supermarkets or hypermarkets. 1 litre of gasoline costs only €1.61 in the UK, and the same amount costs €1.61 in France.
Considering the price for value parameter, it is definitely cheaper to go grocery shopping in France thanks to local markets, a key location in every town, city or French village. Try also your local butcher and fishmonger because prices aren’t always as high as you would believe and the quality is great. You will also have the opportunity to find on Sunday mornings some fantastic local food markets where fresh vegetables, meat and fish are directly displayed on stands by the local producers.
Aside from these local products, you will obviously find out all the basic products in supermarkets. Here is an example of a shopping cart composed of all the daily products:
|Water (1.5 litre bottle)||
|Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)||€1.25||€1.15|
|Lettuce (1 head)||€1.00||€1.15|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||€5.00||€6.91|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 litre bottle)||€1.50||€1.90|
France is well known for its food and culture. You will discover all the famous and delicious dishes that restaurants and brasseries offer to all the gourmets like for example the boeuf bourgignon, roast chicken with potatoes, raclette, bouillabaisse, and pot-au-feu. Even if the prices may be a little bit more expensive than in the UK, the French cuisine is certainly worth the price.
You can find here an idea of the prices applied by the restaurants in France and in the UK for each type of restaurants:
|Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course||€45.00||€46.08|
|Combo Meal at McDonald’s or Similar||€7.00||€5.76|
In France, supermarkets offer good-value clothes for all members of the family, and clothes stores offer frequent promotions. But you can also find all the famous ready-to-wear brands which offer a large panel of original clothes at reasonable prices, like Zara or H&M for men and women. Very interesting bargains are applied during the 5-week winter (from the 1st week of January) and summer (from the 1st week of July) sales periods.
- Leisure: Cinemas, Museums, Festivals
A Cinema ticket in France costs approximately €7.50 versus €7.30 in the UK. Of course, you will easily find cinemas that offer the possibility to watch films in English or in French with English subtitles. Concerning the museum tickets, prices in France are not very high. The average price for a full-price ticket is around €3.60, whereas the entrance fees for British museums are generally very important, depending on the museum that you visit.
Finally, you will have the chance to discover a large variety of festivals, concerts, operas and theatres if you move in France. This country is rich in culture and it is very easy to spend a good time listening to classical concerts or watching a famous Moliere’s play for only €15 versus €35 in the UK.
Remember that when you think of the cost of living, you have to think of your income as well for the latter determines your living style. To get a broad idea, market research generally shows that the cost of living in France is between 25 and 35 per cent lower than in the UK but whether you agree or disagree, do not hesitate to share with us your own experience in the comment section below.