While it may be cheaper to live in Latin America or even the US, France offers an exceptional quality of life that is culturally rich and diverse. With low cost healthcare, a diversity of free or low cost outdoor activities and events, rich agricultural and food sources and strong infrastructure, France offers an affordable and rewarding lifestyle. See the following article from International Living for more on this.
Since 1997, I have lived in the U.S. for three years, in Spain with my husband and growing family for seven years, and in France these past 12 months. We spent eight months of 2008 traveling in Panama, Costa Rica, North Carolina, and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico in search of a new place to live before returning to Europe and settling in France.
How does France compare in terms of “quality of life” with life in the Americas? Well, there’s no question that Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, or even the U.S. would have been less expensive places for us to live—and we probably would have settled in one of those countries if we didn’t have children. But, happily, we do. My husband and I both work independently and can choose, more or less, where to base our family.
Toward the end of our travels in 2008 we had an overwhelming feeling that Europe was a safer, more culturally diverse place to raise our children. There was also the added benefit that they would be able to see their grandparents, who live in France, far more often than if we based ourselves overseas. So I guess in our case, our hearts won over our wallets!
Now that we have lived in the Pyrénées-Atlantic region of France for a year, I am happy with our choice—even if it does mean economizing here and there. I can say, with my hand on my heart, that our quality of life is very high. We have unlimited choices for entertainment; based on our love of the outdoors we can ski, surf, hike, canoe, sail, run, cycle…inexpensively or for free. There’s so much space and nature all around yet we can be in the center of town in 20 minutes where there are museums, a castle, markets, movies, supermarkets, malls, and a hospital.
The choice and quality of foods is exceptional, health care (from the primary level to hospitalization) is efficient, caring, and not expensive (27 euro—$39—to see a general practitioner) and the infrastructure is very good.
And most importantly we feel we are raising our children in a safe and culturally diversified country.
I am also very happily surprised about the kind welcome we received from the local French people.
The people of this region are Béarnaise and Basque; perhaps because they have different customs, traditions, even languages from one another, they are more open to newcomers than some other parts of France. Being able to speak some French does help but even expat friends who don’t speak a word have been amazed at the helpfulness of their neighbors and the locals in general.
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My budget is probably far in excess of the needs of a retired or semi-retired couple. If you are healthy and active I believe you can have a very rewarding life in France on a lower budget. If you love to experience history, good food, culture and beautiful polished manners, there’s no place like La Belle France. Older generations are venerated here, not passed over.
Here’s my monthly budget for a family of four living in South-west France:
Rent: 750 euro $1,087
Water: 20 euro $29
Electricity: 35 euro $50
Propane gas (stove top): 13 euro $19
High-speed Internet: 35 euro $51
Cable TV: Included
Cell phone: 40 euro $58
Food: 700 euro $1,015
Health insurance: 335 euro $485
Entertainment: 240 euro $348
Monthly total: 2,168 euro $3,144
This is a monthly total for a family of four.
For a couple, it would be reasonable to half this figure (the food budget, along with health insurance and rent in particular would be much lower for a couple)…a total of $1,572 per month. That’s just $786 per person per month to live very well in France.
This article has been republished from International Living.