The top five regions in France where expats are moving to

by Jose Marc Castro on August 17, 2011

France has always been very popular with UK expats because of the local vicinity and the very fact there are excellent transport links between the two countries. However, France has for some time now been the top tourist destination within Europe and the country would appear to be going from strength to strength with regards to the economy, presence in Europe, presence on the worldwide stage and the country’s popularity within the expat community. But what five regions of France are most catching the attention of expats?

Paris

Paris and the surrounding regions appear to act like a magnet for tourists and expats from all corners of the globe and it is not difficult to see why when you look at the history, the economy, the social life and the potential for the future. Many people may be unaware that Paris was in fact the largest city in the Western world over 1000 years ago, prior to the onset of the 19th-century, and even though it is still one of the most densely populated areas of the world it has been overshadowed somewhat by London. However, Paris really does have so much to offer!

The city itself has a population of around 2.2 million although when you take into account the surrounding areas the local population increases to around 12 million. This is the capital city of France and as a consequence it continues to attract massive inward investment, massive tourist numbers and is home to some of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. When you also take into account the fact that beautiful countryside and a “quieter lifestyle” are available just a few miles from Paris it really does have everything.

The Paris climate is fairly similar to that in the UK with the hottest months between June and September and the coldest months between December and February. While Paris itself is not known as a “rainy city” it is often home to significant and sudden downpours. The record temperature in Paris was measured at 40.4°C back in July 1948 and the lowest was -23.9°C in December 1879. However, for those looking to move to Paris, or one of the surrounding areas, the economy and the potential for employment will be very important.

With regards to the local economy, Paris and the surrounding regions have one of the highest gross domestic products in Europe and the Paris economy itself is larger than the Dutch economy as a whole. Unlike other prominent cities such as London and New York, Paris has no one specific element which shines through the economy. However, there has been a distinct shift towards high value-added service industries such as finance, IT services, etc and high-tech manufacturing such as electronics and aerospace. The business services sector is the largest employer in Paris at around 16.5% with commerce second at 13%.

If I can land a job in Paris, I would move there in a heartbeat. I’d love any advice you have.

Marseille

Marseille is the second-largest city in Paris and has a population approaching 900,000 people although when you take into account the surrounding areas the population rises to around 1.6 million. This perfectly illustrates the massive difference between Paris and other major cities in France and the very fact that the Paris economy is very strong and still growing. So what does Marseille have to offer?

The city is located on the south-east coast of France and is home to the largest commercial port in France. The area enjoys something of a Mediterranean climate with the summer season lasting up to 6 months, from May to October, with mild winters also something of a blessing. It is therefore not difficult to see why Marseille and the surrounding area is mentioned in great detail and on numerous occasions in various expat forums. The population of Marseille has grown from around 108,000 people in 1783 to the current level of over 800,000 people. While this is not necessarily a massive jump in the number of people living in Marseille there have been significant changes to the local economy and the local breakdown of those living there.

The local economy in and around Marseille is centred upon the largest commercial port in France which has historically strong links with Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and other North African colonies. However, over the last few years we have seen a shift from commercial freight towards tourism and local businesses, with 90% of businesses in the region designated as “small businesses”, which has broadened the local economy somewhat. It will also come as no surprise to see there has been significant growth in the services sector, fuelled by the increase in tourism, and the area has a very high number of museums, cinemas, clubs, bars, shops, hotels and art galleries, all focused upon the tourism industry.

It seems that more and more expats are now looking to move to regions of France which offer a mixture of employment opportunities, a mixed social life and an evolving economy. On so many of these counts Marseille certainly scores very well and will continue to attract more than its fair share of expats in the years to come.

I’m wondering if there’s anyone living in Marseille, it would be nice to go out for coffee and do some activities together. I arrive here on January 2010, and I feel it’s very difficult to find french friends – especially when I only speak limited french. All my friends from the language school have gone back to their countries.

Lyon

Lyon itself is the third-largest city in France with a population of just under 500,000 people although when you take into account the surrounding regions it is actually the second largest urban area in France. The city itself is situated between Paris and Marseille, giving those living in the area the best of both worlds, and the economy of Lyon has developed, and continues to develop, over the years. So what are the major attractions for this area of France?

A quick glimpse at the local economy brings together all that is good about Lyon and the surrounding region which was historically very strong in the production and weaving of silk. However, as with so many prominent cities around the world, Lyon has moved with the times and is now seen by many as the food capital of France, a prominent element of the cinema industry, high-profile on the football stage and with an economy that takes in a number of different sectors. The area itself is very prominent in banking, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biotech industries although there is an interesting growth story in video games. The city was ranked as the ninth most innovative city in the world in 2010 and the second most innovative in France.

The summer in Lyon, and the surrounding regions, last between May and September and even the winter temperatures are nowhere near that experienced in the likes of the UK. As a consequence, when you take into account the history, social life, the ever developing economy, architecture, the arts and the area of France in which the city is located, it is not difficult to see why we have seen more interest from expats over the last couple of years.

It does seem a natural progression from being the number 1 tourist destination in Europe, and one of the most countries prominent in the world, to become one of the leading expat destinations. When you look at the country as a whole it is easy to see why so many different expats from many different areas of the world are attracted to the region. You have very different economies, very different culture and very different social lives between relatively close cities and areas of France.

I am 21 years old and i have landed a job in lyon, I have just been to lyon for a holiday and to visit friends and i loved it

Toulouse

Toulouse is situated in the south of France and while the city itself has a population of around 850,000 people, making it the fourth largest in France, the urban population when you take into account the surrounding areas rises to around 1.1 million. While many expats will overlook the likes of Toulouse in favour of Paris, Lyon Marseille, etc, it really does have a lot to offer and like so many prominent cities within France it has redeveloped its local economy over the years.

The city now takes in a mix of commercial enterprises such as the European aerospace industry, satellite companies as well as the largest space centre in Europe together with one of the oldest universities in the world with more than 97,000 students. The population in the city has increased from 250,000 around 50 years ago to in excess of 850,000 which is a much higher growth rate than many other prominent cities in France. It is the ability to bring in different people from different backgrounds with very different hopes which has not only helped to expand the Toulouse economy but has also helped to diversify the local culture and social life. The weather in the region consists of a 5 to 6 month summer period between April/May and October and even the average winter temperatures are not a major concern.

As we touched on above, Toulouse is one of the main focal points for the aeronautics, space, electronics, information technology and biotechnology industries. It is also the head office for the Airbus giant which has been very prominent within the European aerospace industry for many years now. Tourism is also a major element of the local economy and interestingly a recent survey ranked Toulouse in the top 10 most dynamic cities in the world. We are definitely seeing a pattern emerging with regards to France’s major cities in that many of them have shown a dynamic characteristic which ensures that the local economy moves with the times, tourists continue to flock to the region and expats are looking more and more at settling down in and around Toulouse.

The area may not necessarily be top of the list for expats looking to move to France but there is no doubt that when you discount Paris, and it’s very obvious attractions, there are certainly some very beautiful and very cultured areas of France waiting to be discovered.

How much would it cost for renting out a one bedroom apartment in Toulouse. What all utilities comes with the rent?

Nice

Nice is the fifth largest city in France with a population of just under 350,000 people although when you take into account the surrounding urban areas this rises to around 1 million people. Situated on the south-east coast of France, Nice is the second largest French city on the Mediterranean coast which has obvious attractions for the ever-growing tourist industry. The history of Nice is very colourful as the area has changed hands on numerous occasions over the years mainly because of its strategic location and position within the worldwide cargo transportation industry.

The culture and the everyday life of those living in Nice has been heavily impacted by an Italian influence which goes back to the 1800 when Nice was actually part of Italy. As a consequence, we now have a truly multicultural region of the world which continues to attract not only the attention worldwide tourists but also those looking at a new life overseas. The climate of the region is also very comfortable for those who have come from “colder climates” such as the UK with a six-month summer period between May and October and relatively mild winters. Perfect for retirement!

In addition to the prominent position in the worldwide cargo transportation sector, Nice is actually the second most popular city in France with regards to tourism. It also manages a number of prominent airports and indeed has the second busiest airport in France with in excess of 10 million passengers a year. When you also take into account the culture, nightlife, shopping centres, growth in the technology industry, electronics, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, perhaps this is an area of the world which has been overlooked for too long by too many expats?

I have just moved to Nice, and now the adventure starts! I know not one soul in this town, but wondered if anyone could offer any advice?

Conclusion

The beauty of France for expats around the world is the fact that so many different cultures, so many different economies and so many different social experiences are available in just one country. France is quickly becoming one of the powerhouses of the European Union, with close partner Germany, and indeed the French government has left many such as the UK authorities far behind.

As a consequence, once the worldwide economy has settled down and we move back into a period of economic growth, there is no doubt that France will continue to grow in stature and continue to attract not only more tourists but also more expats looking for a new life and a new homeland.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Roger October 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Montpellier is the fourth largest, not Nice, with a population around 450,000 in the Montpellier agglomeration. It is also the fastest growing.

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