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What Do You Think About Life in France?

Tell them about your life as an Expat in France. The French want to know.

If you are an Expat living in France, in just a few minutes, you can take their survey online — it’s the second year it’s been offered.

They say they want to know:

* As expatriates, how do you find daily life in France?
* What do you think of your host country and its people?
* How big are the challenges you face?
* What are your expectations?

I just took the survey in just a few moments, so be sure to do it for yourself, out of curiosity if nothing else, or for just wanting to be a part of the research.

Here are a few highlights (with my personal comments in parentheses):


A) Among the following factors, which did you fear or were concerned about in France?

(Several answers possible)

•    Terrorism (terrorist attacks, hostage taking, etc.)
•    Risks of epidemics
•    Economic crisis
•    Civil tension or political risks (civil war, uprisings by the population, etc.)
•    Natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.)
•    A prevailing atmosphere of insecurity
•    Rising taxation
•    Other
•    No particular fears

(There was only one answer for me. Would you like to guess which one!?)

B) Your most complicated dealings were those you had with the:

(Several answers possible)

•    Post office
•    Tax office
•    Social security
•    The schools, the crèche, etc.
•    The town hall
•    The telephone company
•    The gas company
•    The electricity company
•    The Préfecture
•    The bank
•    Other, Please specify

(How about ALL of them!?)


What would you criticize about the French:

•    They are indifferent
•    They are not particularly friendly
•    They are critical
•    They don’t like foreigners
•    They are individualistic
•    They are arrogant
•    They are rebellious
•    They are aggressive

(LOL! I love that this list is either what they think of themselves or think this is what we think of them! Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a space for “Other, Please specify,” as I’m sure we could easily add or subtract to this list other criticisms. What would you add? Or subtract?)


Among these three words which form France’s national slogan, which seems to you the most appropriate:

•    Liberty
•    Equality
•    Fraternity

(Okay, this is a tough one. The survey failed to offer “None of the above” nor is it possible to choose all three.)

In the results of last year’s survey (LINK TO PDF), 19% of Expats are North Americans. That’s a pretty big number — the largest Expat community by far next to other Europeans, who have the right to live and work in France thanks to their E.U. passports.

In addition, based on last year’s survey:

More than one in two Expats are working in France is an employee — in fact the vast majority of which are employed by a French company. (This is not surprising considering the non-entrepreneurial environment, but look again — more than one in two will spend ten or more years in France. So, France is doing something right by keeping us Expats hooked, regardless!)

Fulfilling a mission and the attraction of living in France were the leading motivations for Expats, but many worry about increased taxation, while terrorism is way down on the list.

Successfully completing French administrative procedures was a major practical difficulty for 8 out of 10 Expats. (Duh! This is the country that created the word “bureaucracy!” We would expect no less!) And of the top contenders, dealing with Social Security, the Tax Authorities and even the Telephone Company ranked at the top. (Do you remember the last time you had the ‘pleasure’ of dealing with France Telecom or Orange?)

(Note: Opening a bank account has always been a challenge, and now with FATCA, it’s even more difficult for American Expats. Hint: the best way to do this is to be sponsored by a current client of the bank. Find a friend living in France who can make an appointment on your behalf at their bank. You’ll find this is the best ‘foot in the door!’)

Almost 9 out of 10 Expats complain that their company’s procedures are poorly conceived and therefore poorly monitored. Here we can see Anglo-Saxon pragmatism in action, which enables them to create good procedures and above all follow them…this is a French problem which often hinders French companies from developing on an international level…the administration is also cited as a problem, being too cumbersome or lacking in communication. (I’ve never worked for a French company, therefore I cannot comment.)

Almost one third of Expats consider French people to be unwelcoming and 8 out of 10 think that French people are arrogant and unfriendly. Open-mindedness and generosity are not hallmarks of the French, but they do like their enjoyment of “good times.”

The vast majority (72%) succeeded in making a lot of French friends ‘in spite of all their faults,’ but they tend to meet French people mostly though their work or through people living nearby. (One reason of suspect is that communication in French is a primary difficulty for Expats and 8 out of 10 Expats criticize the quality of human contact in France.)

While a vast majority are satisfied with life in France, one-quarter are not. On the other side of the coin, they mostly enjoy a good quality of life, like the food and the culture, but are concerned for an overall sense of safety.

“Liberty” is what 62% chose as the most appropriate word for life in France, while only 15% thought “Equality” was. (Considering all the efforts the government makes to equalize the quality of life for all, it doesn’t seem to be paying off.)

If I sound critical, then perhaps it’s because I’ve been in France long enough!…About 50% who took the survey thought the French were critical. Uh oh. Am I becoming French?

Take the survey and find out where you stand.

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

Respond to Adrian  

P.S. Yesterday’s Parler Paris Après Midi drew one of the largest crowds ever for author and poet Cecilia Woloch. Her reading from recent poems and her latest book was enthralling and engaging. She sends a special thank you to all who attended. (Read all about it at Parler Paris Après Midi) For those who wanted a copy of her newest novel, “Sur La Route,” but were unable as they were sold out, you may either find them at Shakespeare and Co.or order one directly from the author by emailing [email protected].

P.P.S. Plan your getaway for a few days in the sunny south of France! Rent Le Matisse in the heart of Nice at a 10% discount when you book NOW for your stay through the high season — now through September 15th! For more information visit Parler Nice Apartments Le Matisse or email [email protected]


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