Although the UK and France are separated by only 21 miles of water, these two countries are a world apart. For centuries, the UK and France relationship has always been a bit of a rivalry, and it won’t stop here as we investigate which of the two, living in the UK vs France, is better for Expats to live in.
Both countries have pros and cons. The UK has a stronger job market, while France is more relaxed. We’ll discuss the cost of living, housing, healthcare, and some unexpected benefits to help you decide.
Is life in France better than in the UK?
Pros of living in the UK
- English speaking
- Fascinating history and tradition
- Large expat community
- Ease to access air travel options
- Vibrant economy
- Great pub culture
- Picturesque countryside
- Free healthcare
Cons of living in the UK
- Crowded roads and other transportation hubs
- Mostly cloudy and wet weather
Pros of living in France
- Great work-life balance
- Incredible history and tradition
- A relaxed approach to life
- Traveling is very easy
- Wide variety of climate
- Top-quality healthcare system
- Vibrant economy
- Member of the European Union
Cons of living in France
- Only around 39% of the country speaks English
- Government bureaucracy
Also read: How does living in France compares to Germany?
The UK vs France: Quality of life
While the UK and France both have relatively good work-life balances, the UK focuses more on working first and living second.
The UK has exited the EU and the “work time directive,” which limits work hours and demands breaks, so the life side of the balance isn’t looking good.
In major cities like London, the housing market is outrageous, but the further from the city center you go, the more affordable it becomes. Row housing (terraced dwellings) in most towns has a ground-floor living and kitchen/dining area and two bedrooms on the first level.
Most homes in the UK don’t have air conditioning but do have heat delivered through radiators.
Education is taken seriously in the UK, and it shows in the quality of the schools. Schools for children aged 5-16 are free and are usually very open to enrolling international students.
Additionally, the UK is home to some of the world’s greatest colleges and universities, such as Oxford, the London School of Economics, and the University of Cambridge.
Healthcare in the UK is mostly taxpayer-funded, meaning that receiving most medical services won’t cost you anything. Even as a foreigner, most medical bills will be covered as long as you have a valid visa and have lived in the country for a few months.
The medical services that aren’t covered are often things like prescriptions and dental care, but it will depend on which UK country you live in.
Alternatively, you can sign up for private insurance and add dental care as a service.
In the UK, the pension is £179.60 a week, but it could be less if you have worked in the UK for a long time. Income support, disability, and housing benefits are some of the other benefits. People of all ages can get help from the UK’s strong benefits services.
Traveling within the UK is a breeze because of its impressive train system, well-taken care of roads, and a large number of airports relative to its size.
Plus, mainland Europe is easily accessible by very cheap airline flights, the Chunnel, and an easy-to-use ferry system.
The average weather across the UK is generally cloudy and damp, with average temperatures between 14 degrees Celsius (56 degrees Fahrenheit) and 6 °C (43 °F).
While other places around the world may experience extreme temperature variations, the UK generally stays mild, allowing near year-round weather that is great for walking and hiking.
See our top cities to live in the UK with the best weather and climate.
Pub life is very popular and mostly family-friendly. Every neighborhood has a “local,” which is usually a family-friendly pub with outdoor seating and often a space for children to play.
In the evening, these pubs stay open later and provide an energetic nightlife.
The UK is rather densely populated, with 727 people per square mile (compared to 309 people per square mile in France).
The major cities are often heavily congested, but the villages a few miles away can often be quiet and provide lots of green space. But around the UK, you will rarely come across an empty train, road, or restaurant.
Moving to a foreign country can be challenging, but speaking the same language as the locals is a major advantage that can’t be overlooked.
Plus, the UK has a lot of expats, so you will be in good company. And the people of the UK pride themselves on having good manners and being polite, so you will feel welcome.
If you own a car, you must pay a road tax and have a rather strict yearly inspection. Also, if you own any kind of TV set, you must pay TV tax.
And speaking of TVs, if you plan on bringing your appliances, you may be in for a “shock” when you realize that the UK has special outlets that use 220 volts, so you may need adapters or even transformers.
Like the UK, most housing is in row style and can be somewhat cramped, especially in larger cities.
Also, similar to UK housing, very few French homes have air conditioning, but unlike the UK, very few homes in France have heat. The houses are generally very old but are often well-maintained and have great character.
Education for children is completely free in France. However, if you plan on having them attend an English-speaking international school, you will have to pay out of pocket, and it can be pretty expensive.
Universities in France are often much cheaper than those in the UK and often provide top-notch language programs.
France is famous for having a good work-life balance. In fact, the French government has passed several laws to help ensure a good life balance, including the 35-hour work week, 5 weeks minimum paid vacation, and the right to not check your emails outside of work works.
Many people consider this balance as the main reason they move to France.
The French healthcare system is a point of pride for the French. Medical services are free to residents and are considered one of the best in the world.
France also has the most hospitals in Europe and gives patients the ability to choose which hospital or specialist they’d like.
Retirement is at age 62, and the monthly allowance is dependent on the 25 highest pay rates you have previously received. Expats can receive retirement benefits, but the amount will depend on how much has been paid in.
Similar to the UK, the French system can provide benefits to people of all ages.
France is perfectly positioned for the travel enthusiast. Traveling to neighboring countries like Spain or Germany is very easy with the open borders and fast, reliable train systems.
Even within its own borders, France has many attractions, including ancient castles, beautiful mountains, and Mediterranean beaches.
Unlike the UK, France has a wide range of climates. The south of France has a Mediterranean climate, the southeast is mountainous, and the north is very much like the UK.
Overall, the summer and winter are mild, which explains why most homes don’t have air conditioning or heating.
The lifestyle in France is much more laid back and simple. Instead of rushing through the day, the French culture focuses on slowing down and enjoying things like meals or friends.
Similar to the UK, Sundays are days to spend with family and friends and at a local cafe or park. This lifestyle is a major selling point for France.
France has a much less dense population than the UK, but you also need to remember that France is much larger than the UK.
But even in the major cities, France doesn’t feel as crowded as the UK can feel, mainly because the roads have been expanded to allow a better flow of vehicles and people.
With that said, there are plenty of open, unpopulated areas of France that are great to visit.
French culture looks down on materialist desires and defines yourself by the job you have. With much less social pressure, France is a great place just to be yourself.
Despite popular belief, the French are often very welcoming and open to new people and experiences.
Acquiring a French bank account can be very difficult, and they will charge a monthly fee. Shipping and receiving packages can also be rather expensive. Similar to the UK, the French government requires odd taxes like TV tax and even soda tax.
The UK vs France: Cost of living
Rent can be costly in the UK, especially if you live in London. If you’re in a city, a one-bedroom flat averages £758 per month, and outside a city, it can cost you around £614.
Compare that to France, where a one-bedroom apartment in a city will cost around €659 and €514 outside of the city.
Groceries are around the same price in both France and the UK. For healthcare, the UK and France are also very similar, both requiring you to have a visa and have lived in the country for a few months.
Both locations are generally very walkable, which will cut down on transportation costs.
The UK vs France: Job opportunities
Ever since the UK left the EU, the job market has gone through a major change. Suddenly, careers like Customs Agent and Import Specialist have jumped to the top of the fastest-growing jobs listing.
However, there are still many fast-growing career fields outside of working for the British Government. Below is the full top 5 list of the fastest-growing jobs in the UK:
- Customs Officer
- Machine Learning Engineer
- Import Specialist
- Business Development Representative
- Chief Human Resources Officer
Being a foreigner can also make the job search more difficult because there is no “work visa” that you can apply for.
Instead, it would be best if you had a valid job offer in hand to be allowed to work, but this can sometimes be found at employment agencies.
The French job market has survived the financial crisis of 2008 and the COVID shutdowns fairly well. Although higher-than-average unemployment has always been a problem in France, that trend has been declining in the last few years.
Below are the top growing job fields in France:
- Data protection officer
- Artificial intelligence specialist
- Commercial real estate agent
- Customer success specialist
- Community relations manager
As a foreigner, finding a job in France may be slightly more challenging than in other countries because of the following reasons:
- You will need to get a French work visa if you are not an EU citizen
- The language barrier will be a challenge (if you don’t speak French, of course)
- Once you find a job, you must prove that you are a better candidate than other French and EU applicants.
The UK vs France: Salaries
The average salary in the UK is only £38,600, placing it in 23rd place for average incomes worldwide.
However, France holds the position of 24th place. And much like France, the UK is home to lots of major corporations and, with it, opportunities for very well-paying jobs.
There are many very well-paying jobs in the UK. Like most other places, jobs like Chief Executive Officer, Managing Partner, and Executive Director will always top the list.
But you may be surprised to see that many other jobs have made the top 20 highest-paying jobs in the UK. Below is a small list of jobs paying well now:
- Medical Manager
- Risk Analysis
- Quantitative Analyst
- Software Architect
- Portfolio Manager
- Equity Research Analyst
At €39,099 a year, France holds 24th place in average income worldwide, just behind the UK. France has a minimum wage of €10.57 an hour, which is adjusted with inflation.
Many large corporations are based in France, but be aware that not speaking French could be a major disadvantage.
Read more about salaries in France.
Unlike most other countries, France has a wide range of jobs that are considered the top-paying careers in the country. You may be surprised to see that teacher and electrician both made the list of the highest-paying jobs:
- Allied healthcare professional
- Financial analyst
- Research scientist