Why France is a great place to bring up children

From its foodie culture to subsidised childcare options

Children running at sunset
What are the pros of raising children in France?
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Many parents have considered a move to France, thinking it could be a great place to bring up children. But what is the reality? 

We explore some of the benefits of raising children in France, according to parents who have done it. 

Children are included

It is perfectly normal for children to accompany their parents to evening drinks or meals out with friends in France, where most restaurants and bars are child-friendly. The “no-children” mentality sometimes found in other countries tends to be rare. 

“Whenever we meet our French friends, it is without question that the kids join us,” says Liesbeth Hoogaars, who blogs about her life in the Languedoc. Ms Hoogaars moved to France from Amsterdam with her husband in 2008. Her son was three at the time and she was pregnant with twins. They are now 18 and 15. 

“Even teenagers still come to our dinner parties or apéros. Overall, the French love children and even when our kids were smaller, we felt they were welcome when we brought them,” she says. 

Food 

Providing a separate children’s option is rare in France, where children usually eat the same meal at the same time as their parents, as opposed to an earlier, children’s option, as is common in some countries. 

Children are encouraged to “eat like an adult” and are taught to embrace all kinds of flavours, even enjoying a three-course meal for their school dinner. 

“The French set great value in their culinary heritage and kids participate from a young age. It’s completely normal to send your children to the cantine where they will enjoy a three-course meal with a starter, main, and dessert,” says Ms Hoogaars. 

“This means that they will learn new flavours and in our old village it was even organic.” 

Read more: Why meals are educational food and drink to pupils

Childcare 

The French government provides subsidised childcare from a very young age via the local crèche, which is available for children from two months old. How much you pay depends on your income and family situation. 

This can make it easier for mothers to go back to work in France, and for families to balance their working and home lives. 

Read more: Making sense of childcare options in France

Education 

There tends to be less elitism in the French education system than in the UK, according to gite owner Honor Marks, who runs holidays for solo travellers. She moved to France from the UK in 2007 when her daughter was four. 

“What I love about French education is that it’s much more equal, there’s less elitism because most schools are free and they don’t really have that public school/private school mentality,” she says. 

Read more: La rentrée: 12 points to understand French schools

Time outdoors 

Many families are drawn to France for a more outdoorsy lifestyle, helped in part by the weather. 

“Hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, it’s all at our doorstep,” says Ms Hoogaars. I feel that our three children can be a child longer than if we would have raised them in Amsterdam where we lived before”. 

She says the weather in France allows her family to live outside most of the time from spring to autumn. 

France’s rural areas are a big draw for many parents. 

“She’s had sunshine, she’s been outside loads, she’s had space which she wouldn’t have had in London,” Ms Marks says, of her daughter. 

Work-life balance 

The French have a healthy concept of work-life balance, and this means many people who move there find they get to spend more quality time with their children. 

“My family and I live in the south of France, where life is simple and we don’t have to participate in the rat race,” says Ms Hoogaars. 

Read more: The biggest culture shocks for Americans in France

Manners 

Children are encouraged to behave in a polite way from early on in France. 

“From a young age, children learn to show respect and know how to behave in restaurants for example,” says Ms Hoogaars. 

“Family values are important and it teaches children that they are part of a “tribe””. 

Read more: La politesse: what habits can make you seem rude to French people?

The French language

Aside from everything else, one major perk of bringing up your child in France is that they will learn French as a native speaker. 

“She’s bilingual - that’s a gift that’s priceless. And she’s truly bilingual – she speaks English with an English accent and French with a French accent,” says Ms Marks. 

Read more: How long should it take to learn French for everyday use?

Do you have experience of bringing up children in France? What are the pros and cons? Share your thoughts at feedback@connexionfrance.com