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France ranked the world’s best place to live

For the fifth year in a row, International Living Magazine has ranked France the “best place to live in the world” (out of 194 countries) in its annual “Quality of Life Index.”

Factors taken into account were graded on a 0-100 scale (with 100 of course being the best). The results are as follows for France (full country list available on the link):
-Cost of Living: 55
-Leisure & Culture: 81
-Economy: 69
-Environment: 72
-Freedom: 100
-Health: 100
-Infrastructure: 92
-Risk & Safety: 100
-Climate: 87

Well France’s health care system was ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best in the world in 2001, it is certainly not as efficient as it could be, and scores of 100 are a bit over the top despite the fact that France is generally a very safe country with freedom and health; no one country is perfect. But I know from my own experience here that life is certainly pretty comfortable.

Other countries figuring near the top of the list:
#2 Australia, Germany and Switzerland (81 points each)
#3 New Zealand (79)
#4 Luxembourg, United States, Belgium (78)

PR News also wrote about this. What do you think of your experience in France?

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  1. January 7th, 2010 at 01:41 | #1

    I lived in France from 1978 until 1986, and earlier from 1962 until 1966. I agree with the rankings of the World Health Organization and International Living Magazine. France is certainly the number one place I have ever lived. I may still return to live out my retirement.

    • Jean-Christophe Paquin
      June 12th, 2012 at 09:36 | #2

      It’s a moveable Feast!

  2. JY
    January 7th, 2010 at 02:23 | #3

    Methinks Mr. Monk will not be as keen to retire in France when the Euro is not trading at 10FF to 1 US as it was during the bulk of his time there. Unless he’s wealthy enough not to care.

    I have lived in France on two occasions as a student and professional for a total of four years.

    La belle vie est bien belle until….you try to take the RER (or any mass transit), visit a museum, or just about anything else during one of the many greves that litters the year. My French wife and I suffered through the weeks of the 1995 transit strike and so many others.

    Bottom line France is a great country to live in if a) you are wealthy and can take full advantage of all the country has to offer, b) an expat, or c) not well off and benefit fully from the excellent social program.

    Otherwise, vous ne faites que de la leche-vitrine…you are stuck window shopping!

    • Joel Chlodnik
      January 8th, 2010 at 19:42 | #4

      Yes, from time to time you have a strike, mainly in the Paris area.
      I have been living for 14 years in Southern California where you do not have mass transit strikes…but you have nearly no mass transit. My wife is taking the train everyday to go from Orange County to Los Angeles. If she misses her train, she needs to wait 45mn (during rush hours) to get the next one.
      Bottom line. Better have a strike 1 week a year but a very dense and cheap mass transit (it is cheap), that no strike but an expensive, very, very light mass transit.

    • Jean-Christophe Paquin
      June 12th, 2012 at 09:38 | #5

      Du lèche-vitrines, DU France is still a great place, hormis the grèves. JC

  3. Kees Vonk
    January 7th, 2010 at 11:27 | #6

    We live since 1986 on the South Coast of France and we never ever regretted our move from Holland to that part of the world. Everything we need in live is available in this country, mountains, sea, sun for those that like the outdoor, concerts, museums, etc. for those that like culture and above all, French is one of the most beautiful languages we know.

    • Maureen Heraty Wood
      January 7th, 2010 at 15:53 | #7

      Can we have some historically accuracy here? Actually, the exchange rate was not 10 FF per 1 USD during the period of 1978 to 1986. The truth is that in the 1970’s the exchange rate never exceeded 5.75 FF per USD and and after the 1974 oil crisis, it never was able to break 5 FF for seven years (until 1981)!! In fact between 1977 and the end of 1980, it was barely above 4 FF. After the Iran hostage crisis (November 1979) it even went (briefly) under 4 FF. I remember this keenly because I was a student in France during this time period and we were allocated 6 USD a week for all daily expenses. Even 30 years ago, 24 FF/week wasn’t much. A hotel receptionist in Paris actually asked my father during a brief visit to me once if he could please pay in Francs because “no one ever knows where the dollar will be these days”. (He was incensed, particularly having grown up during the War.) I will add that we had a great time being poor in France. Also, this survey was also talking about all of France not just Paris. You can still eat and drink well very cheaply even now, though you have to be more careful in Paris (but still possible!). Living in big cities everywhere is dramatically more expensive than it used to be because of their increased density, employment opportunities and the resulting soaring cost of property. Paris is no different in this regard than London, New York, Chicago, or LA. On the other hand, I find that costs outside Paris (and outside London and outside the big US cities) have not increased that much in a relative sense.

  4. Joseph D
    January 8th, 2010 at 16:12 | #8

    I haven’t lived outside of France and the US but I certainly agree that France should be near the top of the list.

    As for health, I admit I am guilty of taking advantage of the excellent care in France. Before coming here in 2006, I had been working in Chicago for 2 years, earning a comfortable living. However I had no health or dental despite often totalling more than full-time hours combined between several jobs.

    On leaving my home country, I was finally able to go to the doctor and dentist! It’s scandalous and shameful for the “richest country in the world.” I was not a health refugee, but it was a serious side benefit. I was finally able to be operated for the hernia i’d had for over a year.

    As luck would have it, I got a serious eye infection on my first trip home in over 2 years. I had to wait 2 months to come back to France and see a doctor. He said I should have had it checked earlier, and I explained the ridiculous cost of US healthcare.

    He then charged me 21 Euros. I can never make my Stateside friends understand that this is not an insurance co-pay. 21 Euros is all he gets! The secu reimburses 14 Euros and my 25 Euro-per-month out of pocket insurance (eat that, COBRA!) reimburses 6 more. For a total of 1 Euro out of pocket! And I don’t even need an appointment!

    Between the healthcare, the cultural opportunities, and the security (for citizens) of knowing you’ll probably never be called up in a draft or spend 1/3 of your tax dollars on foreign wars—count me in!

    Why am I planning to stay on? I want my Masters. Harvard’s tuition alone is $34k, while France charges less than 1k Euros. Call me an opportunist, but I prefer basking in the shade of the Pantheon and being able to afford that bottle of fine French wine as I toast my debt-free graduation.

    • Joel Chlodnik
      January 8th, 2010 at 19:51 | #9

      I went to France for a business trip last year. Of course, I have no health insurance and I do not pay any income taxes over there. I decided to do a PSA test. It cost me a total of 25 Euros.
      I did one here, in California 4 years earlier and I had to pay $150 whereas I have a health insurance that cost me $750 a month (for me and my family) plus $40 for the co-payment.

  5. January 11th, 2010 at 12:25 | #10

    This looks like an interesting debate and discussion. I think it’s important to note that all “lists” and “rankings” are controversial and biased in some respect or another. I perhaps should have made it more clear that “International Living Magazine” is written by expats for expats (but I posted the article assuming that most people knew that….), and their target is particularly expats who are upper middle-class and above…especially with regard to real estate.

    So despite the high youth unemployment, large national debt and worries about retirement, which are all genuine concerns that must be improved, I believe the ranking was conducted with the perspective for expats and which countries are best for quality of life. With the overall work/life balance, generous vacation time, culture, history, health insurance system, real estate market and enviable transportation system (despite SNCF delays and strikes), it is a pleasant place for many to live, especially for expats.

    Personally despite frustrations with some things (like French people in mass transportation, where waiting in line and letting others get off the train first is a largely foreign concept….not to mention strikes…), I enjoy life here. But I cannot judge life in the other countries listed except for my native United States. One key reason I would prefer staying in France for now is relatively low-cost health insurance and work/life balance (also…my girlfriend is French…that’s quite important!). Each country has its pros and cons (“les pours et les contres”), France included, so debate will continue. Thanks for writing.

  6. Chatoune
    January 13th, 2010 at 01:38 | #11

    I am not surprised by this evaluation of France. I have lived 30 years in France going back and forth to the U.S. I am American born, and in my time abroad, I have found France nothing like any place I have so far visited. Their technology is good, the food is good, and many are aware of their culture, economy, and politics (i.e. for the most part, they are involved). They don’t talk about patriotism; they live it. The quality of life is entirely different, and while the French may appear aloof, they appreciate everything they have. This is unlike what I am finding in my own country right now, which astounds me. People have too much here, and appear to be sedated like boas after a meal. Whereas the French have been criticized for being rude; well, rudeness I have found here. The U.S. is no longer the land of opportunity that I once knew with a value system, and a dream. They appear to have given this all up to slothfulness, indifference, and ignorance without yet thinking about the repercussions this will bring.

    • January 13th, 2010 at 01:50 | #12

      A very insightful comment from a fellow American with experience in France. I find many Americans ignorant about the world, but then again it depends on where you go and who you talk to. I do think in general it would be good for the U.S. to open its collective eyes up and look at the world around it and realize that there ARE other ways of living, of getting things done….and France is a prime example of another country from whom we can learn.

  7. Chatoune
    January 13th, 2010 at 01:59 | #13

    Right on!

  8. Eric How
    January 26th, 2010 at 17:04 | #14

    I see Ireland is in 44th place with 70 points 🙁 I have lived for a number of years in France and can only add my name to those who already know what a great place France is to live. It just has so much to offer on so many different levels. If only I could get my wife so learn the language we’d be there in a flash!

  9. Valerie B.
    April 14th, 2010 at 18:11 | #15

    I am French living in the U.S. and I think the French have a long way to learn from the Americans especially in the courtesy and services. Yes, in the tourism industry they are “nice” but dealing with them takes some use to. Lot of my fellow French would not go back for a million dollars. I feel spoiled in the U.S. and I love it here better. Vacationing in France is fantastic and I recommend it but living while working there, heck no!

  10. Bradley Lowry
    August 22nd, 2010 at 15:32 | #16

    My wife’s sister has been in France for more than 20 years. When that part of the family comes to visit, they are pretty grumpy with culture shock for a couple days. Do you have any ideas on how to make the transition easier?

    For example: What is likely to get on a returning expat’s nerves when the first come back?

    • August 22nd, 2010 at 22:38 | #17

      Hello Bradley, thanks for your message. Indeed, adjusting to life in one’s country of origin after significant time abroad can be more surprising that expected. From bigger macro-economic and cultural differences (ex: US being more risk-oriented, France being more risk-averse; France is more secular than the US…) to smaller everyday details that have an impact on life (the importance of having a baguette at meals etc.). These can all influence one’s return to “the homeland”. I know that when I go back to the US (about twice a year), I have a more ‘outsider’ opinion of US foreign policy, for example, and so people find me a bit more critical at times. Little things count too, like adjusting to pasteurized cheese (I find camembert, brie, tome de savoie at places like Whole Foods) and the necessity of baguette. I walk more often in France as well, so I try to emulate that in the US. Sometimes I feel like there is a French Michael and an American Michael, 2 different facets of myself depending on the culture. I’m able to manage that though and find I’m a more well-rounded person for it.

      The important thing is accepting that your wife’s sister is going to be different after living in France for more than 20 years. No doubt about it. With that comes difficulty in adjusting back to life in the US, just as she probably had when she first moved to France. I find that an essential element in making the most out of a situation, no matter where you are, is adapting to local practices and not being afraid to challenge old habits and mentalities. So while it’s natural that she could have a difficult time at first, she should be able to acknowledge differences between France and the US (for good and for bad), but her perspective should not prevent her from having a pleasant time.

  11. Ajamu AJANI
    December 21st, 2010 at 16:36 | #18

    Bonjour à tous! je m´appelle Ajamu, américain, trilingue et je cherche un poste en France. J´aimerais travailler das une entreprise où je peux utiliser mes compétences linguistiques et mon expérience internationale. Je suis ouvert à l’import-export, l’immobilier, la vente ou comme commeciant. Mais, je suis prêt à prendre n’importe quelle position qui va m’aider à obtenir l’autorisation nécessaire pour travailler en France.

  12. Mel
    February 1st, 2011 at 20:53 | #20

    I found your article on Linkedin, in fact, just joined the “French Connections” group :). It’s a pretty interesting article. I was born in France and moved to MN in 1999. J’etais une jeune fille qui ne s’interressait pas beaucoup a l’economie Francaise mais mes annees la-bas etaient les plus belles de ma vie. 🙂
    If I could live in France from birth til 16 years old again I would. I don’t know if I would live there now because of job hunting & economy.
    Going to visit in June 🙂 Very excited and I can’t wait!

    • February 1st, 2011 at 21:27 | #21

      Hi Mel,

      Thanks for writing and reading! I appreciate it. I have family in the Twin Cities area, love Minnesota. Of course I love France too, which is why I’m here. Nice to hear you’re coming back for a visit. If you have any questions, let me know!


  13. Mel
    February 2nd, 2011 at 17:33 | #22

    Awesome! Have you been back to MN since?
    Thanks for replying, I’ve bookmarked this blog! 🙂

  14. The New Yorker
    June 25th, 2012 at 16:18 | #23

    I’ve lived in France for about 10 to 11 years now, and quite franckly even if i agree the health system is very good, the thing is this is one of the worst country i’ve ever lived in. And I’m french so i mean it. I’ve never seen such a country full of themselves. The people are not social enough unless you go down south in Provence to live, otherwise the rest of the country is only packed with really annoying, ignorant and sadistic people.
    About leisure, culture and cost of living: It’s a pretty damn costly place to live, 940€ for a 30m² and most of the flats of that cost are almost rubbish with broken walls, floor and whatnots; you’d have to be relentless to find a decent one. Although there might be a lot to do and see, once you’ve seen them it’s over, and anyway i’ve seen more things to do in asian countries.
    Climate: Cold almost all year long except for June, July and August. In most part of Asia it’s 35°C all year long.
    Environment: Try living in one of the central cities or their surrounding subburbs, you’ll see that environment is shitty enough.
    Freedom: Ha! I’ve seen more freedom elsewhere, even Germany.
    Infrastructure: Are you kidding me? Ok so a lot of european countries have shitty infra, but come on even in New York the infra is better.
    Cost of living 2: Oh they are pretty damn greedy. Like the flat costs for a broken down flat. Costs for everything is to high. I eat a full platter of food and side dishes for just 1€ in Asia, In France (and Europe) you pay between 4€ to 7€ for a damn cheese and bacon sandwich. But i admit it’s one of the less worst of european countries.
    Risk and safety: If they mean driving on a very dark highway for 5-6 hours straight (Paris to Marseille) is safe then they should check their eyes. Most roads to any city is completely dark without lightings (reason: energy saving). How many times did i avoid a road accident? Unlimited times. Only when you get out of the country you find yourself on a lighted road (Belgium for example). Other risks are the full extent of riffraffs that are in every city in the country. You’ll never walk even for an hour without crossing the path of people who wants to rip someone’s head off just for the fun of it. You’ll have to go to countryside to avoid that, and again you might cross a grandpa who wants to cane you for no reason.
    Economy might look decent but come on we lost the triple A, doesn’t that tell you something?
    You might disagree with a lot of what i say, mentionning that it’s because i tried the big cities. But here’s the catch, whether you like it or not, you’ll have to be in one of the central cities to have a job with a decent salary; so conclusion everything i say sticks.
    Another thing: Aside from the die hard French, i’ve never met a french who would want to live all his life in France if given the chance to live elsewhere out of Europe; and that’s because it’s better elsewhere.

  1. January 7th, 2010 at 09:23 | #1
  2. May 6th, 2011 at 04:14 | #2

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