How to Settle in France as an Immigrant

Last updated on September 21st, 2023 at 11:44 am

With its rich culture, diverse cities, and high standard of living, France has much to offer migrants. But acclimatising to life in a new country can present challenges for many people relocating to work or study. To help, we’ve created this short, informative guide on how to settle in France as smoothly as possible.

How to Settle in France as an Immigrant

Finding a place to live

You can’t begin this new chapter of your life without having the right accommodation. Fortunately, online property sites make it relatively simple to see exactly what’s available in your desired area. By using the likes of Particulier à Particulier and SeLoger, you can browse properties that meet your precise requirements. These sites allow you to narrow your search to houses and apartments that meet your budget and are located in particular neighbourhoods. You may also be able to filter for amenities like on-site parking and garden space.

If you’re sticking to a tight budget, you may prefer a room in a property shared with housemates. As well as being a cheaper option, this will allow you to meet locals, and potentially forge friendships, straight away. You can use a site such as Whoomies to check out shared houses/apartments that currently have bedrooms available.

It’s essential to see properties in person to check they match expectations, as photos and online viewings may be misleading. When a landlord has agreed, in principle, for you to rent a room/property, you’ll need to show some documents. These will usually include an official photo ID, employment contract, and recent bank statements. You’ll also have to pay a security deposit and some rent in advance. If you’d like more details, take a look at our in-depth guide to renting in France.

Setting up a bank account

You might be perfectly happy with the bank account you have in your home country. However, if you want to settle in France, it’s a good idea to set up a French account if you’re moving here for a protracted period. There are practical considerations, because transactions such as paying your rent or receiving your salary may require a local bank account. Being with a French bank can also go a long way towards making you feel like you’ve really settled into the country.

An array of banks is available in France, with well-known names including BNP Paribas, Banque Populaire, and Crédit Agricole. There are also online banks such as Boursorama Banque and Monabanq. Even with traditional high street banks, you may be able to open your account online as well as in person.

Certain identity documents will have to be shown when you’re creating your account. These can include your residence permit, proof of French address, and proof of your work or student status. You can find more details on joining French banks in our dedicated guide.

Finding a job

Having employment secured in France is often a prerequisite for getting a long-stay visa. However, it may be the case that you’d like to switch to a new job during your stay. Certain sectors have seen surging growth over the last few years, bringing potential opportunities for job-seekers. According to research by LinkedIn, a “tech boom” has seen a notable rise in vacancies within the IT sector. The research also found a marked rise in demand for real estate agents, thanks to a spike in that industry.

LinkedIn found the biggest job markets to be Paris, Toulouse, and Lyon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the French capital was confirmed to have the richest source of job opportunities to settle in France.

There are several resources for finding work in France. The government employment agency, Pôle emploi, provides a sprawling selection of jobs, including manual and casual work. Then there’s Apec, the national employment agency for managerial and executive-level roles. Plenty of vacancies can also be browsed at job search sites like Indeed, Stratégies Emploi, and JobinTree.

When embarking on a job search, it’s important to make sure your CV or résumé is up-to-date, and translated into French. If you’re not certain it reads well, it’s worth having a French friend or colleague take a look at it. It’s worth maintaining a LinkedIn profile, as this can help put you on the radar of prospective employers in France.

How to Live in France as an Immigrant

Exploring your new home

It almost goes without saying that France is one of the world’s great cultural hubs. Paris, in particular, is a haven for art lovers, with its most famous museum being the Louvre. Here, you can see some of the most famous artworks on the planet, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. The capital also boasts the Musée d’Orsay, home to landmark paintings like Manet’s Olympia and Van Gogh’s Church at Auvers. The Paris Passlib’ card offers cost-effective access to many cultural attractions. Prices for the card range from €35 upwards, depending on how many attractions you’d like to include.

France’s food heritage has influenced the world, and you don’t have to be in Paris to taste some of the best dishes on offer. Indeed, the country’s true foodie capital is arguably Lyon. Any visit here should include a tour of bouchons – restaurants serving traditional Lyonnaise dishes like pike quenelles in crayfish sauce.

France is a big country, but it has a great public transport network. You can check out train times and routes, and book tickets, at the SNCF website.

Getting used to cultural changes

Some immigrants who want to settle in France may feel intimidated by the stereotype that French people can be aloof or even dismissive towards newcomers. In reality, it’s just a matter of keeping polite etiquette in mind when you’re out and about. Politeness is incredibly important in everyday life, and it’s hard to overuse the word “Bonjour”. Try to greet shop workers, restaurant staff, and almost everyone else you meet with a “Bonjour”. Liberal use of “s’il vous plait” (please) and “merci” (thank you) will also go a long way to ensuring warm, friendly interactions.

Getting to know locals is, of course, the best way to ease into French society. Bon Appetour is a site that lists supper clubs and culinary tours run by home cooks and foodies in Paris. Going to these can be a good shortcut to meeting both French residents and fellow newcomers to the country. You can also soak up French culture, and polish your language skills, by way of TV dramas and comedy shows hosted on the app. Check out our guide to this and other apps for living in France.

Sending money home

You may be many miles from your home country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t support your family and friends. After you settle in France, you’ll certainly be able to make money transfers through banks and traditional remittance companies with land-based branches. However, you may find that the newer generation of money transfer services based purely online is more cost-effective.

For example, Remitly provides low transfer fees when you send money from France to the people who matter most. It also offers competitive exchange rates for each transfer, and your transactions will be protected by multiple layers of security. With the Remitly app on your phone, you’ll be able to reliably support loved ones during your time in France.

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