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Head Over Heart—Get Smart When Deciding Where to Live in France

Volume XXII, Issue 25

A heart with lights hung with the sky in the background

We hear it over and over again…that Paris is too expensive, and that’s why many of our clients are seeking other cities in France in which to live.

Maybe Paris is France’s most expensive housing market, but Paris IS NOT expensive when compared to other places in the world.

CNN Travel just published an article about the world’s most expensive cities and Paris doesn’t even come close. According to the Mercer 2024 cost-of-living data, Hong Kong, Singapore and Zurich are currently the costliest cities for international workers.

2024 cost of living city ranking:

1. Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. Zurich, Switzerland
4. Geneva, Switzerland
5. Basel, Switzerland
6. Bern, Switzerland
7. New York
8. London, United Kingdom
9. Nassau, The Bahamas
10. Los Angeles

When considering cities in France, remember that just about the only aspect that is different from living anywhere else is pretty much the cost of housing. Paris is about double any other city, not in rents, but in property prices.

According to HousingAnywhere.com, rents in Paris are a bit higher, but not double, as they are with a purchase.


Property taxes can differ, too, but taxes in Paris are comparatively LOWER than most other cities, providing a balance! According to an article in The Local from August 2023, “…the average tax bill in Paris was €64 per month in 2023, according to Meilleurtaux’s figures, while those in Nîmes in the Gard département are paying an average of €140 per month – effectively adding as much as two additional months of mortgage repayments to their annual bill.”

Average monthly taxe foncière bills in French cities in 2022 and 2021:

When deciding where in France to live, once you realize that the sticker price isn’t a shock (!), and that you’ll likely spend half of what it costs you to live in most U.S. cities, then it’s better to use your head rather than your heart. If you travel around France, you’ll fall in love with every town, department and region you encounter. But, that doesn’t make them great places to live.

What makes a city, town or village a great place to live are these aspects:

• Easy access. If you want to take advantage of France’s proximity to Europe and the world, then fast and easy access to transportation should be number one! Look for cities with, or close to, an international airport (Paris, Marseille, Nice), and/or great TGV hub, and good local transport.

• A thriving American community. Who will you have to commiserate with if you don’t have North Americans nearby? And it may shock you to discover how fast you can make friends because “birds of a feather”…stick together. You’ll meet people with whom you can immediately relate and within a very short time you may know more people than you’ve known your entire life, if you’re in a town with a thriving community, with lots of organizations and things to do. The two top spots in France for this are Paris and Nice. Provence also has a big American population, but they are spread over a vast territory, so it’s tougher to manage, and impossible without a car.

• Not needing a car. Necessity, or not, of having a car at your disposal (French Driving License)—this is a biggie, because most Americans don’t know the difference between living in a “bubble” (your house, your car, your destination and back) and living as a pedestrian communing with the people who live there on a daily basis. It’s a real change in lifestyle you will find enlightening…and healthier. Keep in mind, too, that getting a French driving license can almost take an “act of God” unless you have a license from a state with reciprocity. And as you age, will you really want to be dependent on a car?

• Access to good healthcare and hospitals. For seniors, this is particularly important. You don’t want to be in a medical dessert! A medical desert is an area in which patients have trouble seeing a GP regularly, whether because they cannot get an appointment, or there are not enough doctors, or because they live too far away from their nearest GP surgery. The government defines the term specifically as an area in which patients have access to fewer than 2.5 consultations with a local GP per year on average.

• Climate. Let’s not forget about the weather! The best and most moderate climate in France is along the Côte d’Azur with temperate summers (believe it or not) and plenty of sunshine. But, not everyone likes the sun as much as I do! And you know the joke about Paris? “You don’t come here for the weather.” Consider what climate works best for you.

• Business opportunities or cultural activities. Which is more important or is both? Business opportunity is best in Paris, without a doubt, as are cultural activities—I joke that it’s the cultural Mecca of the planet, but other cities in France can offer a plethora of things to do, particularly the French Riviera. Seek out what works best for you.

• Language. Do you need or want to speak English? If your French isn’t very fluent, then consider what it’s like not to have English-speakers around you? Sure, you’ll learn French faster, but you may be very lonely while making the effort! And what about having good schools nearby so you can study up? You could live a lifetime in France without speaking much French, if you’re in an international and urban environment.

• Urban vs rural environment. Consider apartment living vs village house or house in the countryside? If you want to be completely reclusive, then sure, head for the hills, get a car and spend all your time driving to do just about anything, even getting a baguette for breakfast. For some people, that could be a heavenly life, but you can also find yourself very lonely and bored! (That’s how I would feel.) At least in a village, certain basic amenities will be available, but if you go through the previous points, that will help you decide what really makes the most practical sense for a truly wonderful life in France.

The bottom line is that while you do want your heart to have a large part in your decision-making, don’t let it lead! Get smart and go down the list to ensure you’re checking off all the boxes and trust me…you’ll be happiest in the end.

A bientôt,

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Don’t hesitate to contact us any time you like, but please keep in mind that our Office Hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. France Time. We normally close for nights and weekends, French holidays, and the week between Christmas and New Years. We promise to return your emails or calls as soon as we can and one last note—emails will get you a faster response than a phone message! Email us for any questions you might have. Thanks!



  1. DiAnn on June 30, 2024 at 12:32 am

    Great article, Adrian. Hoping to meet up next year in Nice to chat about possibilities.

  2. Lisa on July 8, 2024 at 2:57 am

    In complete agreement with your analysis and recommendations. I purchased in Dordogne…now looking elsewhere. …

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