The other side of the story: Brits in France

I recently wrote about London’s newly gained status as “France’s sixth city”, a status it wins thanks to high numbers of French nationals calling London their home. I concluded that this influx of French migrants was thanks to a combination of “push” and “pull” factors giving young professionals an incentive to move away from France, towards London. “Push” factors such as unemployment and discrimination reflect badly on France, but is there in fact another side to the story?

It is no secret that Britain is a key player in the global movement of people. Emigration has run in cycles throughout the last 200 years and thanks to a huge increase in Globalization and the facilitation of travel abroad, this trend is currently on the rise. In the last 40 years, a colossal 67,500 more Brits have left the country than returned each year, with emigration figures standing at 2000 people per week. It is only thanks to similarly high immigrant numbers that such an astonishing statistic has not had a greater effect on British demographics.

So why do Brits move abroad? Where do they go?

The BBC has conducted a large study into expat behavior; who goes, where do they go and what are their incentives? Results show that more British citizens than ever before want to move abroad, with more than half of those surveyed stating that they have considered emigrating. Emigrants can be divided into two distinct groups. The first group is young professionals with the flexibility to move abroad to follow professional and educational challenges offered elsewhere. The appeal of emigration to the younger demographic is especially clear in the current economic climate, with the study showing that one in six UK graduates move abroad. The second group of emigrants is the retirees, who seek a better climate and improved quality of life. The top expat destinations can be explained easily by considering these groups, with younger emigrants choosing destinations such as France (where their employment opportunities and chances to use skills are increased) and older emigrants preferring the warmer climes of countries such as Spain and Australia.

Brits in France

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recently conducted a survey into British emigration in an attempt to put a number on Brits abroad. This survey concluded that only 12% of Brits abroad moved thanks to negative features of their home country. It follows therefore, that it is positive aspects of their destination that attract migrants. So what is it about France that appeals to British people?

For those seeking a relaxed lifestyle, escaping to the sunny countryside to retire, France has an obvious appeal. For youngsters looking for increased job possibilities, opportunities to use their skills or even simply seeking an adventure, France (and Paris in particular) has an obvious appeal. It is no surprise therefore that France makes the list of top ten destinations for British emigrants, with more than 200 000 British nationals currently calling France home. Just like the French are attracted to London, the British seem to be drawn towards Paris.

Budget airlines and the ever popular Eurostar make travel across the channel easier than ever, with Paris now only a train away from home for many Brits. There is no shortage of jobs for those wanting to live abroad, with their superior grasp on the English language making them attractive to employers. In Paris, the British presence is clear. As is usually the case with expats, the British congregate in certain areas. Western suburbs such as St Germain-en-Laye are popular with British expats looking to settle down in Paris. As the Parisian British population grew over the years, so did the demand for British services and products. Particularly in areas dense in British nationals, there is no shortage of British pubs, bookshops and supplies in Paris. British chains are so conscious of the Paris-based demand for their products that they have opened up their own Paris branches; take Marks and Spencers on the Champs Elysées or WH Smith on Rue de Rivoli, for example. The British School of Paris in St Germain prides itself on offering “British education of a high quality to an international student clientele”.

The availability of British services alone is a clear sign of the presence of Brits in France. Does this drain of citizens affect Britain? Probably not, given the current rate of arrivals from abroad, who boost the British workforce. What interests me is how Brits settle in to their new life in Paris (and of course in other areas of France!) Do they find that the French correspond to British stereotypes and is the working environment in France very different to that of England? Have you had any difficulties moving from the UK to France?

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