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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The French Expat Community: Seasoned, Multilingual & Exclusive

The French move abroad in search of adventure, but tend to confine their top-notch language skills and social lives to the expat community.

The relatively high number of foreign countries the French expat has lived in is typical of a true globetrotter: 62% have lived in two or more countries previous to their current stay abroad, compared to less than half for the global average (49%). The French respondent is also more likely to already have lived in at least one other foreign country: 28% worldwide as opposed to only 16% of the French expats who have never lived abroad before.

Expat Statistics 2015

Expat statistics on the French abroad - infographic
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Climbing the Ladder Abroad

Across the survey, romantic notions of adventure (27%) and the desire to live in a foreign country (26%) are among the top reasons for moving abroad. This romantic attitude is overshadowed by job aspirations when looking at the most important motivations for moving abroad, though. For the French expat, the top three most important reasons are having found a job abroad (16%), being sent abroad by an employer (13%), and, tied for third place, moving for a partner's job or to live in their home country (both 11%).

Once abroad, the French occupy predominantly positions as employees or managers (62% vs. 47% worldwide). Employment in the academic field does not seem to appeal to the French expat as much with only 4% working as teachers, academic staff, or researchers, for example, compared to a total average of 9%.

According to six out of ten French respondents (61%), emigrating for work is worthwhile if you are looking for generally good career prospects. Similarly, the figures regarding one's current income abroad compared to back home are favorable for the French, with 57% indicating that it is higher than in France compared to one-quarter saying they earn less abroad. These figures are both only one percentage point lower than their respective global averages, but a larger discrepancy arises when looking at expats with an income abroad which is a lot higher than at home. Here, the French average is six percentage points lower. Fortunately, this is unlikely to act as a deterrent to the French as only 2% indicate financial reasons as their most important motivation for moving abroad anyway.

Communication Is Key

Regardless of money issues, the well-educated French respondents - just under three-quarters (73%) have at least a postgraduate degree compared to less than half worldwide (48%) - are well-versed in languages. Even though the French expatriate falls behind the global average when it comes to speaking five or more languages, an impressive 70% say they speak three or four languages, whereas around the globe only every other respondent can say the same.

Their linguistic skills arguably contribute to the ease with which French survey participants pick up the local language, with 52% saying they speak it fairly or even very well. In addition, the French are more likely than the average respondent to find themselves in a foreign country where their mother tongue is spoken (14% vs. a global 10%).

Expat Mix-and-Match

The French seem to make the most out of their expat community when building social circles: 40% of respondents describe their friends and acquaintances as being composed mostly of other expatriates compared to the survey average of 34%. Expat clubs and associations (20%), as well as expat events (46%), are common sources of friends for the French.

Nevertheless, these expat friends are described by 39% of French respondents as being fairly diverse in terms of their culture and country of origin, which is slightly above average for the survey (36%). Still, one in five (21%) say their expat friends are mostly fellow Frenchmen.

Finally, when it comes to relationships, the French abroad are flexible and resourceful. They are flexible in the sense that the percentage of partners coming either from France, the current country of residence, or from a different country altogether is about equal with 37%, 31%, and 32%, respectively. They are resourceful as they are more than twice as likely to find a partner of the same nationality abroad than the average respondent (29% vs. 14% of expats with a partner from the same home country).

Further Reading