Living in other countries has allowed me to often reflect on my home country, France, and wonder about the possibility of returning. Although I miss some things from France, I always quickly dismiss the idea. In this article, I’ll share some of my top reasons not to live in France, especially if I had to return to a major city.
It may seem like this article portrays France negatively, as I mainly discuss the disadvantages of France in this article. However, like every other country, living in France has pros and cons. For example, France has a rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, excellent healthcare and a world-class education system.
Insecurity in major cities
As a woman, I felt unsafe while living in Paris due to the frequent street harassment that occurred during my daily commute. Although nothing too bad happened, the constant stress left me feeling not genuinely free. However, now that I reside in Brisbane, I am grateful for the freedom to dress as I please and go for a run, even at night, without worrying.
Plus, I find French people, in general, can initially appear pretty unfriendly and stressed, although I know these negative interactions are less common in the countryside. They can be wary of strangers and cold rather than helpful. Acts of kindness and benevolence are particularly noteworthy and not the usual first reaction.
It’s often said that French people are pessimistic, and I don’t think it’s a cliché. They tend to complain a lot about a lot of things. But, now that I live in Australia, I’ve noticed a significant difference in culture – it’s a very positive one Down Under, which is quite different from what I was used to in France.
While I think French people are frequently just being realistic when expressing concern about the future, it’s a welcome change to be around people who don’t focus on the negative so much. I don’t miss the passionate debates we used to have around the dinner table in France quite as much as I thought I would, as Australians’ “no worries” attitude is often a relief.
It is common for French citizens to take to the streets and protest regularly. I appreciate their dedication to defending their rights and standing up for what they believe in. However, I feel they pass the limit at times.
Since 1947, there has been a transportation strike every year, and it’s difficult for individuals to rely on minimum service guarantees during these periods. As you struggle to make it to work, it often feels like you are being held hostage in a situation you have no control over. The strikes can also be strategically planned to cause the most disruption, such as during the Christmas holiday when many people travel to see their families.
When you live in France, you get used to transportation strikes and develop skills for planning alternatives. However, it can still be stressful, and I am grateful I no longer have to deal with this inconvenience.
Navigating a new system in a foreign country can be pretty complicated. And when it comes to dealing with French bureaucracy, the challenges are even greater if you cannot speak French or have a unique situation, such as being a foreigner, or even a French citizen, with a non-French residential address.
Administrative procedures may put your resilience to the test. Unfortunately, even when pointing out illogical aspects, you don’t always get the help or response you may hope for.
As a French citizen, I have never had to navigate the process of visa applications or renewals. However, I have heard numerous complaints from friends who have faced significant administrative delays, which have caused undue stress and made it difficult for them to plan their lives.
High taxes and lower salaries
Honestly, it’s not really a reason why I wouldn’t live in France, but it’s definitely not an advantage. Employees in France have to pay high taxes, which help fund many social services for all. It often means salaries are lower, but it’s not that simple as France still has a minimum wage and workers do not rely on tips, plus the taxes paid by workers fund many benefits. For example, you pay less for healthcare, and you can get help if you end up unemployed, and it also supports the retirement system. So I actually quite like the system and the support those in need of a safety net can get.
Unfortunately, as I have worked almost all my life abroad, I most likely won’t be able to claim my retirement pension in France. If you’re living in France for a short-term period, you may feel the same way. Part of your taxes will fund a service you will never benefit from, and you’ll have to save part of your already reduced salary to build up your retirement fund. Hence, these high taxes and wages are not attractive for expats in my situation.
The unemployment rate is a significant concern for the French population, especially for the youth (under 25 years old) who face high unemployment rates in France. I never encountered difficulties finding a job in France, but the job market is less flexible compared to Australia. Resigning from my permanent job in Australia without securing another opportunity first was viewed as heresy by my family back home. It’s a relief when you don’t feel obligated to stay with your employer because you fear breaking your contract.
In terms of business attractiveness, France is sometimes not the first choice for companies due to the taxes they have to pay on employee salaries. Additionally, letting go of employees under contract can be tricky since France has some of the most stringent employment laws in the world. While these laws protect employees, they can also limit companies’ ability to hire more workers.