‘Improving my quality of life’ was the main reason for moving to France for 49% of the 502 people quizzed from France. Other top reasons cited were ‘for a new challenge’ (35%) and ‘to retire’ (30%).
And while France comes only halfway down HSBC’s rankings for all criteria combined, it is fourth for a good work/home life balance, with three-quarters of expats saying it is better in France than in their country of origin.
France is third for ‘health’, with more than half saying their health is better in France than in their country of origin. It is sixth for culture, sixth for job security, eight for quality of life and ninth for the overall ‘experience’.
It is also well-placed for the (relatively low) cost of bringing up children, at 10.
A total of 72% of expats in France love being involved in the local culture and 67% say they felt well integrated.
However, France was placed only 39th for ‘economic’ factors overall and among the worst for savings, wage growth and disposable income (45th, 45th and 44th). There were some positive signs, however as, while it was placed low for career progression and entrepreneurship (both 43rd), the poll found a seven percent improvement since 2016 in the number of expats who think France is a good place to start a business and 8% in those saying it is a good place to better career prospects. Also 7% more now feel confident in the economy (39%).
There is a higher than average number of retired people compared to other countries surveyed (39% compared with 11% globally) with three-fifths of people taking part being aged over 55.
The survey also found that 69% of expats in France own the home they live in, compared to 37% elsewhere. One retired couple, Colin and Jacqui Edwards, who moved to Veuxhaulles-sur-Aube, Côte-d’Or three years ago, chose France because after 60 years in London, they found UK property too expensive. Their experience since moving tallies with the finding that lifestyle factors are what expats here value most.
Mr Edwards said: “We live in a small village in a house by the river with views of the mist on the water and the sunrise over the weir.
“We have wonderful neighbours who have given us a great welcome. We were given a pheasant by a hunter the other day and have been left windfall apples on the doorstep. We have no money worries as we have all we need here.
“The paperwork is tedious but once you have it sorted out it works well. You have to drive a long way to get certain specialist goods but we have the time now we are no longer working. For us it has been a very good place to retire to.”
Lifestyle considerations were also important for Sue and Andrew Davies when they moved near to Confolens, Charente, two and a half years ago to set up Astrofarm, a B&B offering stargazing holidays. They put in a lot of research to find the perfect location, with low light pollution and a high percentage of clear night skies, not too far from the UK for holidaymakers wishing to drive to them, proximity to an airport and a beautiful local town.
However, they also chose it because it is France: “We have always loved being in France, we like the pace of life, the community feel and the possibility of having plenty of land, because having animals and a vegetable garden are important to us.”
Mrs Davies said setting up the business was a challenge but it is developing well with more bookings for next year than they had envisaged. Their problem is not the economy in France, but Brexit – a shadow hanging over them, which they say could damage their business.
*The survey was by YouGov for HSBC bank. HSBC encouraged its customers to take part but also invited people via expat online forums and social media.