Is it expensive to live in France as an American expat

For many Americans considering a move to France, one of the burning questions is whether the cost of living in this European country is manageable. Let’s delve into this topic and explore various aspects of living expenses in France for American expats. 

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Cost of living in France

When considering the cost of living in France, it’s crucial to take into account various factors that can impact expenses. One significant factor is the location where you choose to live. Major cities like Paris and Lyon tend to have higher living costs, especially regarding housing and dining out, compared to smaller towns or rural areas. Lifestyle choices, such as whether you prefer a modest or luxurious lifestyle, will also affect your overall expenses.

Certain aspects of life in France may indeed be more affordable than in the US. For example, healthcare costs are generally lower, thanks to the country’s universal healthcare system. Additionally, public transportation is efficient and relatively inexpensive, making it convenient for getting around without the need for a car.

However, other expenses could be higher than what American expats are accustomed to. Rent prices, particularly in urban centres, can be significant, and utility costs may vary depending on the region and type of accommodation. Dining out at restaurants, while a delightful experience in France, can be pricey, especially in touristy areas.

Differences: 

  • Consumer prices in France are 10% lower than in the US (without rent)
  • Consumer prices including rent in France are 24.2% lower than in the US
  • Rent prices in France are 50% lower than in the US
  • Restaurant prices in France are 16.1% than in the US
  • Groceries prices in France are 8.1% lower than in the US
  • Local purchasing power in France is 27.6% lower than in the US

> You might be interested in this article: Buying a property in France: What American buyers need to know

Housing cost

Housing costs in France offer a considerable advantage for Americans looking to relocate. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre of major US cities can often command prices upwards of $1700, sometimes even reaching $2000 or more. In France, particularly in cities like Paris, Lyon, or Marseille, rental prices for similar accommodations are notably lower, with the average cost hovering around $833. This significant disparity means that expats can enjoy the vibrant urban lifestyle of French cities without the exorbitant rental expenses in the US.

Even outside the city centre, where prices tend to be more affordable in both countries, France still maintains a clear advantage. Rental prices for 1-bedroom apartments are substantially cheaper in France compared to the US, providing expats with more affordable housing options regardless of their preferred location.

However, when it comes to buying a property in France, the price per square meter is more important than in this US. 

Differences: 

  • Rental for a 1 bedroom apartment in city centre is 52% cheaper in France
  • Rental for a 1 bedroom apartment outside city centre is 56% cheaper in France
  • Rental for a 3 bedroom apartment outside city centre is 46% cheaper in France
  • Rental for a 3 bedroom apartment outside city centre is 47% cheaper in France
  • Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre is 86% more expensive in France
  • Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment outside City Centre is 72% more expensive in France
  • Electricity bill 6.8% cheaper in France
  • Mobile phone bill 46% cheaper in France
  • Internet plan 55.3% cheaper in France

Food and dining

In France, dining out and grocery shopping often offer Americans a pleasant surprise in terms of affordability compared to the US. Dining at restaurants, whether it’s a cozy bistro or a charming café, tends to be more budget-friendly. 

When it comes to grocery shopping, the overall cost of food items in France is often lower than in the US. Staples like bread, fruits, vegetables, and rice are frequently priced more affordably, making it easier for expats to maintain a balanced diet without overspending.  Additionally, the quality and freshness of food in France are highly regarded. 

Differences: 

  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant is 20% cheaper in France
  • Meal for 2 people at mid-range restaurant is 14% cheaper in France
  • Domestic beer is 7% more expensive in France
  • Imported beer is 23% cheaper in France
  • Cappuccino is 36% cheaper in France
  • 1kg apple is 44% cheaper in France
  • 12 eggs is 8% more expensive in France
  • White bread is 47% cheaper in France
  • 1kg of beef is 25% more expensive in France
  • 1kg of white rice is 48% cheaper in France
  • 1kg potato is 27% cheaper in France

> You might be interested in this article: 10 essential considerations for Americans relocating to France

Transportation

In France, while the price of gasoline may be higher compared to the US, the overall cost of transportation is often more budget-friendly, primarily due to the efficient and affordable public transportation system.

Despite the higher cost of gasoline per litre in France, many American expats find that they can offset this expense by utilising public transportation options such as buses, trams, and trains, which are well-developed and accessible throughout the country. 

Moreover, the availability of comprehensive public transportation networks encourages Americans living in France to rely less on personal vehicles, reducing expenses associated with car ownership such as maintenance, insurance, and parking fees.

Differences: 

  • 1L Gasoline is 102% more expensive in France
  • Volkswagen Golf is 5% more expensive in France
  • Toyota Corolla Sedan is 11% more expensive in France
  • One-way bus ticket is 23% cheaper in France
  • Bus monthly pass is 2% cheaper in France

Leisure and entertainement

Leisure and entertainment activities are often more affordable compared to the US.
Fitness club memberships in France are typically priced lower than in the US, making it easier.

Cinema tickets in France are generally cheaper than in the US, offering expats access to a wide range of films and cultural experiences at a reasonable cost. 

Overall, the affordability of leisure and entertainment options in France adds to the quality of life for expats, allowing them to explore diverse recreational activities and cultural experiences without financial constraints.

Differences: 

  • Fitness club per month is 29.5% cheaper in France
  • Tennis court rent is 23.2% cheaper in France
  • Cinema ticket is 8.1% cheaper in France
  • 1 summer dress in chain store is 7% cheaper in France
  • 1 pair on 501 Levi’s jeans is 77% more expensive in France
  • 1 pair of Nike running shoes 7% more expensive in France

Healthcare

France’s healthcare system is highly regarded globally, offering expats access to comprehensive medical services at relatively affordable costs compared to the US. While healthcare expenses are generally lower in France, it’s crucial for American expats to consider various factors when budgeting for their healthcare needs.

Health insurance premiums in France are typically more reasonable than those in the US, especially when opting for the French public health insurance system. Expats may also choose to supplement their coverage with private health insurance plans, which offer additional benefits and flexibility in healthcare providers.

However, it’s advisable to set aside funds for these potential expenses to ensure comprehensive healthcare coverage without financial strain.

> You might be interested in this article: Relocating to France from America: Essential arrival checklist

Final notes

Living in France presents a mixed bag of expenses for American expats. While some costs like gasoline and certain clothing items may be higher, the significantly lower housing expenses, affordable utilities, and cheaper food and entertainment options can balance out the budget. However, it’s crucial to factor in the disparity in salary levels, as the average monthly income in France is lower than in the US by 45%. Ultimately, the affordability of life in France for an American hinges on individual lifestyle choices and priorities, making it essential for expatriates to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making the move.

We used Numbeo to do the price comparison. 

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