How do people change when they move to France?

From embracing a sportier lifestyle to keeping their brains sharp

People find themselves spending longer over mealtimes in France

Many people dream of making the move to France, but what are the main effects of swapping countries? We spoke to people who have embarked on a new life abroad to find out how France has changed them. 

Slow down

One common change people quickly notice is a different pace of life, especially in more rural areas of France. 

“I live a more relaxed life. Free time is there to be enjoyed, not running around doing a million things,” says a Connexion colleague, who moved to the south of France in 2020. 

“Moving to France introduced me to a slower, healthier and happier way of life that wasn’t all about working. I think the biggest thing France has changed for me is the ability to just enjoy life and savour every moment,” says Kylie Lang, 52, who moved to France from the UK in 2016 and runs a blog about her life in rural France. 

“People still have time for each other. They aren’t in a constant hurry,” she says. “France has changed me but for the better. My life is much fuller and more importantly slower so I have time to really savour each moment.” 

Do more sport 

Some 70% of French people take part in some kind of physical activity, according to data from 2022 compiled by the consultancy Compas. 

Those moving to France from the UK or US often notice their lifestyle becomes more active. 

“Many people find they do more sport when they move to France, as older people in France tend to stay active well into old age. It is not unusual to see people aged 70-plus out on bikes at the weekend,” says a Connexion colleague. 

Read more: Key cultural and sporting events in France in 2024

Prioritise family 

With an emphasis on a more relaxed pace of life, French people also tend to spend time with family, a habit many newcomers find themselves adopting. 

“Life in France is more focused on leisure and family time, and on communal meals as the heart of their socialisation and family life,” says Lynn McBride, who retired to France 21 years ago from the United States and writes a blog about her life in France. 

Spend quality time on mealtimes

The French are famed as a nation of foodies, and people moving to France soon notice they start to prioritise the quality of food and carving out time to properly enjoy mealtimes. 

“People spend more time interacting and discussing, place more of an importance on it, and now I’m definitely the same,” says another Connexion colleague. “I’m shocked when I go back to the UK and dinner is finished in 20 minutes.” 

Read more: Eating faux-pas: habits to avoid when dining in France

People in France spend an average of two hours and 13 minutes every day eating and drinking (at the table) according to a 2018 OECD study. France came top of the 29 countries surveyed when it came to how long people spend enjoying mealtimes. 

Read more: French really DO spend longer 'à table', says study

“I no longer worry about taking long lunches (and) finishing early,” says Ms Lang. 

Make diverse friendships 

Many people who move to France find their friendship groups widen to encompass a mix of French people and others from all around the world. 

“In America, our friends are generally people who are similar to us. In France, our friends are a wonderful international mix,” says Ms McBride. “At a typical dinner party, if there are 10 people there, there will be at least six or eight nationalities, which makes for some lively discussions.” 

Enjoy the simple things 

A slower pace of life comes with an appreciation for the little things for many people who move to France. 

“I’ve found I now enjoy the simpler things in life. I’ve discovered a passion for cooking and gardening that I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before,” says blogger Kylie Lang. 

“I grow my own herbs and veggies and get great pleasure in seeing things come to life.” 

Lynn McBridge also appreciates the focus on the simple things in life. 

“There is much less focus on money and material goods and more emphasis on the simple pleasures of life. We have enjoyed getting into the rhythm of French life,” she says. 

Open their mind to new cultures 

“I would have to say that at the top of my list would be the way it's opened up our minds to other cultures. The French and the Europeans do and see so many things differently than Americans do. And very often in ways that are better,” says Ms McBride. 

Read more: What Americans notice when they move to France

“We see new examples of this on a regular basis, even after so many years. We always say that we wish everyone could have the opportunity to spend a year in a different country, to broaden their outlook.”

Have an easier life 

While this may depend on where you come from, for American Lynn McBride, life in France has been easier than life back home in the States. 

“The healthcare is wonderful and affordable, and the fact that the presidential election campaign starts six weeks before the vote is great for everyone's sanity, as opposed to years of fatiguing campaigns in the states,” she says. 

“The cities are walkable and pedestrian friendly,” she adds. 

Complain effectively 

After a little while of living in France, some people may find themselves taking on a more French attitude when it comes to complaining – something that many view in a positive light. 

“I have found a voice for bringing up complaints – the docile English “oh no it’s okay really I don’t want to bother you” has been mostly replaced with the French attitude of “I know what I want / what you are meant to do, and this is not right,” says a Connexion colleague. 

Keep their brains sharp 

Most native English-speaking people who move to France will embark on a journey to learn French – and with language-learning a proven way to exercise your brain, many feel the benefit of continuous learning. 

“We think that learning French, which is a lifetime endeavour for us, helps us to keep our brains sharp,” says Ms McBride.