France is one of the most beautiful and refined countries in Europe. Perfect climate, amazing foods and culture to dive into. If the chance to see the Eiffel Tower every day and experience incredibly delicious wine for just 3 euro/bottle are not enough, here are 12 more reasons that makes living in France so awesome.
1. Work to live, not live to work
Whereas the 35 hour work week is more of a myth, than a reality, the French still know how to maintain a proper life/work balance. One of the reasons behind closing the shops and services at 7 pm sharply, is to let employees enjoy dinner with the family back at home (ah, and double wages for overtime). More perks: an hourly lunch, usually paid for by the company as meal coupons to the nearest brasserie. And yes, there’s nothing bad in having a glass of wine with your food and getting back to business afterwards. The French have 30 days of paid vacations, starting to accumulate once they get hired. Plus, they do take vacations seriously and spend all 30 days outside the desk per year, yet are still feeling vacation deprived by the end of the year. And by no means, do not plan to have things do during August! You would be re-directed from one autoresponder to another. Yes, everyone are on vacation, serously soaking the sun somewhere at Northern Corsica. A French law banning employees from checking work emails after 6 pm made a huge fuss over the web. Whereas, it was badly misinterpreted, you should not expect your French partners to be available outside their working schedule. The French are experts in getting disconnected and opt for spending their free time outdoors – hiking, kayaking or simply having a picnic in the countryside. Or, having some quality time with family and friends as it’s one of those simple things in life that make us instantly happier.
2. Higher education is dirt cheap
You can get your BA or BS for just €181 (225$) per year and enroll to post-graduate studies for €250 (310$) a year! Engineering schools are a bit more pricey with annual tuition fee of €596 and obtaining a PhD in France will cost you €380 for each year of studies. Private colleges (think law and medical schools) cost more, however are still rather affordable with prices ranging from €3.000 to €10.000 per year. Besides, there’s a ton of scholarships available for foreign students to help you cover up your living expenses.Without splurging, you can have awesome student years in France, spending around 700-800€ per month including everything. Unless aiming for a really competitive field (everything fashion-related), entering a French university is rather simple. You need to be fluent in French (B1-B2 level) and have your official documents transcribed to French and the application form carefully filled in.
3. Concentration of art is overwhelming
Along with the all famous Mona Lisa, the Louvre stores 34,999 more art works on display, including Egyptian antiques, Islamic Art, loads of sculptures from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, along with a huge jewelry collection of the French nobility. Let’s not forget about d’Orsay museum with over 2000 paintings from later periods! Incredible collection of Impressionist: Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir! Cubists, realists and even post-impressionists presented with Van Gogh. Just on the opposite side of the Sienna at west corner of goregeous Tuileries Gardens, stands Musee l’Orangerie – a spacious gallery hosting even more Renoir and Monet paintings. More into sculpture art? You can spend hours wondering around Musée Rodin gardeners and thinking with The Thinker sculpture just like the main hero of Midnight in Paris. In total there are 169 national art museums in France and a few hundred’s more privately owned galleries and studios. So yeah, it’s hard not become an art geek.
4. Food quality is regulated more strictly than visas
AOC (L’appellation d’origine contrôlée) – a special food certification system being around since 1411. It regulates the boundaries where certain goods can be produced and assuring the quality of regional foods. No sparkling wine can be called Champagne unless it comes from the same named province. The French take pride for guaranteeing that all AOC sealed products will hold to a harsh set of strictly outlined standards.All the goods will be produced in a traditional manner with only those ingredients that come from specific producers in designated geographical areas.
5. Over 350 types of cheese to try
Locals claim it’s around a thousand due to slight regional varieties within each cheese type. Soft cheese, firm cheese, mild or blue. Made of unpasteurized cow milk, goat milk or lamb milk. Aged for a few weeks or a few years. Did you know you can be fined for caring Epoisses de Bourgogn cheese unpacked at public transport? Hint: it has an extremely strong odor. Quoting Charles de Gaulle: “How can you govern a country that makes over 256 kinds of cheese?” Now I seriously, sympathize François Hollande – things got even tougher for him.
6. And even more divine wines from 17 wine regions
France’s wine history dates back to the 6th century BC. I guess they do know what they’re doing! The French gave the world Champagne – all wines with bubbles, coming from other provinces can only be called sparkling. Burgundy and Bordeaux are particularly famous for the reds. Alsace and the Loire valley produces mighty fine white fines along with Savoy province. Corisican rose and red have unusual bouquet of taste and Jura wines were recently called “The French Most Secret Wine” as they are rather unknown outside the country. And did I mention you can buy a bottle of fine wine at a supermarket starting from 3-4 euros?
7. L’heure du goûter makes life sweeter
There is that amazing time of the day when you are socially encouraged to grab something sweet. It’s a typical four o’clock snack all kids enjoy after school. But it’s not restricted to kids! Take a break, go at the nearest boulangery to enjoy a cup of cafe au lait with yummy tart au citron.
8. The more you travel around, the more amazing regional dishes you discover
The French cuisine is really diversified and comprised of traditional dishes originating from different regions. Of course, in Paris you can find restaurants and bistors serving rich Alsatian foods or fragrant Provencal dishes. However, is it existing to discover new attractions along with new meals to try? Try buckwheat crêpes with whatever filling you can imagine in Brittany, Piperade and Poulet Basquaise in the French Basque country; Soupe de Poisson à la Rouille in Marseille; Pan Bagat sandwich in Nice and Soupe au Pistou in Provence. When traveling North-East you can not miss making a bite of Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon in Burgundy; Flammekueche and Choucroute Garnie in Alsace; Coq au vin jaune and raclette in Franche-Comte and finish with a good slice of Quiche Lorraine in Metz. The good news is, you won’t get any extra pounds after your culinary adventures as the French meals are really well-balanced!
9. France has extremely diverse scenery to suit all tastes
The French Alps are one of the biggest and baddest hiking destinations in Europe with mind blowing views and petite remote villages on emerald plateaus. Ah, and it’s one of the greatest ski destinations too with a few thousand kilometers of scenic trails to master. Beach bums would love soaking the sun anywhere around Cote d’Azur (and secretly craving to meet someone famous). Yes, the warm waters here are of exactly the same turquoise color you see on pictures. Or better, hit on Corsica this summer – secluded beaches and sloppy mountains all in one place. The beaches here are even better then at the French Reverie and I seriously recommend making a detour around the island for the best outdoor experiences! The biggest sand dune in Europe – Dune of Pilat is just 60km away from Bordeaux. Glaciers – yep, there are 7 to be found in France. Love being active on vacations? How about kayaking in Gorges du Tarn or hiking around Gorges du Verdon – arguably, Europe’s most beautiful canyon. Love exploring underground mazes and icy caves – check out Gouffre de Poudrey or Grotte d’Osselle in Jura mounts. More into history? You’d love spending time in the Loire Valley, exploring over 40 gorgeous chateaux and fairy-tale like castles scattered all around the area. Note: there are even more castles in other regions of France. Bottom line: there are more incredible places to visit in France than you can imagine.
10. You can have all the benefits of a married couple without tying the knot.
In 1999 the French National Assembly passed Pacte civil de solidarité or simply PACS – a contractual form of civil union for same-sex or opposite-sex couples to organizing their joint life. What’s so cool about PACS? First of all, it allows the couples pay joint taxes (think less taxes), have inheritance rights, co-own property and have children registered under mother’s/father’s or both names. Secondly, your foreign partner can receive a residence permit after you get PASCed,. Thirdly, it’s an awesome way to test if are both prepared for spousal life and shared lifelong commitments. If not, well, it’s way easier to get un-PACSed, then to file a divorce.
11. The government helps you raise kids
A huge number of childcare and pre-schooling services are fully covered by the government. There are special subsidies for in-home childcare and special benefits towards having more than one kid – from extra cash to lower taxes and all sort of major discounts for transportation. Women are encouraged to take maternity leaves and receive their full salary for 16 weeks. Fathers can also take up to 11 days of paternity leave with no loss of pay. The government also pays you up to € 1 846.15 if you prefer to adopt a child. Basically, as a women you have a tough choice to make: go to work and bring 1.500-2.000 euro monthly income or stay at home, spoil your kids till they get 20 and receive around 1.200 euro for that. Now, ladies, what would you choose? :)
12. Healthcare is affordable and efficient
The French residence card comes along with carte vitale – your pass into the world of reimbursements medicine, cheap (or free) prescription drugs and free medical checks you can request each other month. Each month a flat rate is taken from your salary and transferred to your health insurance fund, so that you can visit your GP doctor for free. If you get hospitalized, the most significant charge you may be needed to pay is an 18€ per day.
Featured photo credit: Paris in winter via shutterstock.com