Useful Information on Living in France

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The Language Barrier in France

Whilst English is not widely spoken in France, it’s a language that it understood and often embraced around tourist areas throughout Paris and other cities. Instead, the majority of the population speaks fluent French as the country’s primary language. Yet, an increasing number of global professionals are now multilingual, meaning a mixture of French and English is often acceptable in the workplace.

French is a language that follows different grammar and rules to English, which makes it’s harder to learn fluently. Often locals will be very responsive to British expats who communicate using basic phrases in their everyday life and this is advisable for those living abroad in France.

French Culture

One of the major adjustments for British expats living in France will be the role of culture, both in the workplace and beyond it. French customs and values will vary greatly throughout the country, but its national spirit is associated with progress and equality.

Weather & Climate

Each region of France enjoys a different climate. The West, along the Atlantic seaboard, receives an oceanic climate, characterised by frequent rain and moderate and mild temperatures. In the East, however, France has a continental climate, known for seasonal weather, including hot summers and cold winters. The South is Mediterranean, which receives tropical weather patterns, yet thunderstorms are frequent.

British Embassy in France

Address:35, rue du Faubourg St Honoré
Paris Cedex 08
75383 Paris
Phone:(+33) 1 44 5 51 31 00
Office hours:24/7

Emergency Services Contact Information in France

Emergency ServiceContact Number
Police Service17
Fire Service18
Ambulance Service15

Healthcare for British Expats in France

For British expats leaving the UK to study, work or live in France, you must have health insurance. Whilst state healthcare in France is not free like the UK, you can receive cover through “co-payments”, which is funding for healthcare through joint contributions. In this model, the state and patient jointly contribute.

In many scenarios, expats may have to pay for medical treatment upfront initially, before being refunded for some of the cost. You will need a French National Insurance Card, or Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM).

If you’re a British expat living or working in France, you can access local healthcare in one of the following ways:

  1. Make the appropriate social insurance contributions through your employer.
  2. After meeting eligibility criteria as defined by the UK Government, certain British residents living in France can register a S1-Form with the CPAM office.
  3. If it’s a temporary visit, expats can use either of the following cards for healthcare access:
    o European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
    o UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

Expats can access healthcare through EHIC if they’re travelling abroad.

Residential status

If you’re a British expat with basic residential status or have lived in the country for at least three months, then you can apply for health coverage under the French health system, called Protection Universelle Maladie or “PUMa”.

On registry of PUMa is completed, you’ll receive temporary access to healthcare. This is followed up with a confirmation of access to French healthcare and an insurance number – this documentation is called, attestation de droits à l’assurance maladie. With this official documentation, you can apply for a healthcare card or carte vitale.

Driving in France

British expats driving in France will experience different rules and attitudes on the road. Whilst French road systems can seem similar to the UK, there are some differences in the legal side of it. In particular, Brexit has changed many of these dynamics. One key consideration for expats, for example, is whether or not their insurance and breakdown covers European travel to countries like France. It’s imperative that foreign expats expecting to use the roads both legally and safely in France carry valid insurance.

As well as insurance, anyone driving a GB car cannot show the European flag on their numberplate in European countries now. In France, you must put a GB sticker on your car. You can also get fined for not having the correct breakdown gear, including a breakdown triangle, high-vis jacket and similar.

France has one of the densest roadways and public transport systems in all of Europe. With high-speed, interconnect railways between major cities, and urban tram systems, expats can enjoy travel with the ease of a sophisticated public transport. Yet, many expats choose to travel by car. The autoroutes, or highways, are somewhat relaxed and connect most major destinations, including lesser run routes into southern locations like Nice or Cannes. Many of the major routes are also toll (peage) roads.

Getting your Driving Licence in France

EU Citizens can easily enjoy using major highways in France as many national driving licences are recognised and legally valid. Those who are not EU citizens, however, will need to carry special documents, including UK expats.

Since Brexit, expats and UK residents traveling into France will need to present a valid Green Card to lawfully use the roads. A Green Card is an official, legal document that acts as evidence that you have insurance. This is specified for most European countries.

If you currently carry a paper driving licence or one issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or Isle of Man, then you may require an International Driving Permit (or IDP). This is a multi-lingual representation of your diver’s licence, which can be used in countries both within the EU and beyond its borders. You may need an IDP even if you rent a car and especially if you cross any borders during your visit to Europe. An IDP can be obtained from any Post Office.

You should consider always driving with the proper documentation, including:

  • The logbook or V5C for your vehicle.
  • Legal motor insurance
  • A “GB” identifier on the number plate, such as a flag.

Legal Requirements

From scenic valleys to sundown beaches, France is a common destination for driving holidays. Visitors must be 18 years or older to hold a legal licence and travel to France in a car. Those who ride mopeds or motorcycles (up to 125cc) must be aged 16 or over.

Many key cities, such as Paris, have low emission zones, which prohibits diesel and petrol cars from accessing the roads during certain hours in the week (usually between 8am and 8pm). Likewise, drivers will need to display a Crit’Air sticker, or clean air window badge, which helps to identify low emission vehicles, where those without one can face costly penalties. This is because certain parts of France are restricted zones, designed to improve air quality by reducing vehicle emissions.