Living in France without Speaking French?

French Riviera beach

France is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Many people would give anything to live there at least for a while, to enjoy the mild climate and exquisite local cuisine, to taste the great wines and to visit its wonderful beaches, to enjoy the beauty of its romantic rural landscapes, old palaces, rich culture and unique lifestyle.

What scares and stops many people to experience their French dream turns out to be the language barrier.

When it comes to living in France one of the most common questions is whether we can live in this wonderful country without speaking the language.

The reason is that today English has became an international language and the most popular means of communication, and many people hope that English is enough to be able to live anywhere in the world.

Like in many other countries, in France also live many people who do not speak the local language and rely on English as the primary means of communication in their everyday lives.

Even if it is possible to live there without speaking French, yet it all depends on what exactly are your expectations from the life in France.

Ask yourself why you want to go to France

Eiffel Tower at sunset
Eiffel Tower at sunset by Moyan Brenn

If you are wondering whether you can live in France if you speak only English, then the answer of this question largely depends on what you wish to accomplish while living there.

Yes, you can actually settle permanently in the country, but your abilities if you do not speak the language will be much more limited.

If you do not speak French

If you want to just travel around France, to buy a house or an apartment, to communicate with other expats living there like you, to enjoy the local beauties, to visit romantic restaurants and wineries in Provence, to go shopping in Paris, to lounge on the beaches of the French Riviera, probably the life won’t be very difficult for you, even if you do not speak French.

The locals, especially the younger of them, in most cases can speak or at least understand English and communicate with you.

Of course, even in these circumstances, it is better if you have at least a limited repertoire of words and phrases to operate with, at least to greet people, to be polite, and even to be able to explain that you do not speak French, if someone does not understand English, as is the case with many elderly people, for example.

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If you don’t speak French you actually can even start a job, but this is possible basically in some of the foreign companies based here, where the owners or managers come from other countries.

Moreover, nothing stops you to start your own business here.

Alternatively, you can find a job if you are highly qualified specialist and your professional field doesn’t require communication with people.

To be completely frank, however, without speaking the language the options to find a good job are not very big.

France is a very rich and developed country where the labour market unfortunately is not very flexible.

The reason is largely that the employees have many rights and that makes employers very cautious in hiring new people.

Sometimes even ideal candidates is very difficult to find a new job, so if you do not speak the language, the situation becomes even more difficult and your chances to be hired seriously decrease.

If you speak French

French Riviera beach
French Riviera beach by Paul Rysz

If you speak French, however, you will have a whole universe of opportunities in front of you. Speaking the local language, you will be able to touch and explore a whole new world.

You will be able to study, to work, to attend courses, to socialize with locals, to find friends, to understand what people say, and you won’t have a barrier to communicate with everyone.

Your chances of starting a new job will be much better, and your social life will flourish, communicating with the local people.

Even if you just want to get to know France and just want to live in the country receiving your incomes from another country, it will be much easier for you if you speak the language.

Start learning French and don’t worry of difficulties

The architecture in Corsica
The architecture in Corsica by Jeffrey Bary

Many people are a bit scared by the idea to start learning French, because the language has a reputation for being very difficult. Actually, this is not quite true.

French is one of the most beautiful languages.

It is not only very useful but also very melodic and pleasant.

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It sounds very sophisticated, and its grammar, as the grammar of any other language, in the beginning is very difficult but gradually it begins to look more and more meaningful and understandable.

If you already live in France, you will have a huge advantage because you have to face with the language at every turn – in the supermarket, in the post office, in the boutique, restaurant and everywhere.

This will help you to advance and to learn everything really fast.

You will have the chance to see how people pronounce words and what is their intonation when they speak.

The contact with the French language on a daily basis, in combination with little desire and effort, can make miracles.

Remember one thing – you don’t need to be perfect or to to speak without mistakes.

You will gradually become fluent and this is not something you should worry about.

French people love their language, and they will treat you with a great respect when they see you try to learn and speak the language.

Most people will even try to help you in your attempts to speak French.

Even if your French is not very good, you will have much more opportunities than if you speak perfect English.

There is no need to search for perfection but just to make minimal efforts.

Yet, where in France you could deal more easily with the everyday life if you do not speak French?

– French Riviera

The French Riviera is one of the most visited tourist destinations on the planet. The place welcomes every year tens of millions of visitors from around the world, so here the number of people who speak English is relatively high.

Here is relatively easy to deal with everyday life in English, but if you speak a little French you will notice a big difference.

Among the places where English is widely spoken are Nice, Marseilles, Menton, St. Tropez and and others.

– Corsica

The island of Corsica is one of the places in France, where English can be very useful. The island relies strongly on tourism development, so here you can easily deal with everyday life speaking English.

In addition, over the last years the number of British people here is growing very fast.

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– Paris

The French capital Paris is an international city. Here you can meet people from all over the world who speak many different languages. Of course, most of the locals can understand you very well in English.

And still don’t forget, it will be very nice of your side if you ask politely if people speak English than if you start to speak in English immediately.

– Lille

Lille is among the places in France with the highest percentage of people who can speak English fluently.

On the one hand, the reason is that the area, which is located in Northern France, is quite frequently visited by British tourists.

In addition, the number of British settlers over the last few years is constantly increasing here. On the other hand, the city is close to the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg).

This location of Lille attracts a large flow of people from different European countries, which is among the main reasons of the wide spreading of the English language.

And what about Monaco?

Avenue of Yachts in Monaco
Avenue of Yachts in Monaco by Trish Hartmann

The Principality of Monaco is an independent country located on the southern French coast, in the heart of the French Riviera.

Although the city-state is not part of France, we would like to include it in this list because of its strong cultural and geographic ties with France and in particular, with the region of Côte d’Azur.

If Monaco was a French city, it probably would have been the city in France where you can most easily communicate in English. The reason is the extremely high percentage of foreign population living here.

Other languages that could be useful in France

Although each language is useful in its own way and contributes to the cultural and intellectual enrichment of people, there are languages that for some reason can be more useful in a given location.

Logically, the most useful language in France is French, followed by English.

Third and fourth place belong respectively to German, which is very important language because of the deep cultural and economic ties between France to Germany, and Italian, which is particularly valuable in Southern France, especially on the Cote d’Azur, where live thousands of Italian immigrants and where tourists often come from neighboring Italy.