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Ermitage International School:

Bilingual excellence, IB programs and a rich cultural experience in Paris for all ages

This week, I’m back in France, where I’ve been thinking a lot about money. I’ve spent the last few weeks researching this cost of living comparison between France and the U.S., and while it would be impossible to cover every single factor that could contribute to each individual’s monthly budget, I did learn a lot about how costs vary throughout France.

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around France, in major cities and small towns, some exceedingly popular, and others pretty far off the beaten path. In every place I visit, I do a little price comparison—How much does a prix fixe dinner menu at a bistro cost? How much does the same bottle of kombucha cost at fifteen different Monoprix stores around the country? Do the locals complain about the cost of rent… or are they generally wealthy enough to not be that bothered?

When I spent two months traveling around France in 2022, I purchased a bottle of lotion from a pharmacy in Paris at the top of my trip. It cost around 30€. At the next town I visited, Lille, I saw the same bottle going for 22€. In every town I stopped in, I would go into a pharmacy and check the price. There was always a range, and at one point I found that same product going for as low as 15€. As in the U.S., prices can vary from one town to the next, depending on how wealthy or touristy the area is.

But in reality, I’ve never done a truly comprehensive comparison before putting together this guide, since I’ve traveled more extensively in big cities and pretty beach towns. I’ve never visited some of the most affordable places in France, because many of them are in rural areas that can only be reached by car (and I usually travel by train). But less famous regions like the Dordogne, and the northern, landlocked part of Provence, have developed a surprising new popularity among Americans looking to move abroad, often during their retirement. If you get the opportunity to visit them, you’ll find beautiful countrysides where living well is easy and affordable. One of our contributors, Sue Aran, has written for us about the simple pleasures of slow living in the Gers department in the southwestern region of Gascony. (And we’ve just published a new piece of hers about an illustrator who has managed to perfectly capture the salt of the earth Gascon way of life.)

Some big cities in France can be relatively affordable as well, either to visit or to live in. Lyon and Marseille, two of France’s largest cities, offer excitement, culture, and great food. And while they are not the cheapest cities in France, both are far less expensive than Paris, as well as cities of comparable size and status in the U.S. It’s also worth considering mid-sized cities like Montpellier or Lille as great budget destinations. In the next week or so, we’ll have a new guide to Montpellier, a beautiful Occitan student town not far from the beach, and full of great restaurants and activities. It’s got a very young, hip vibe, but very few Americans choose to visit—to the extent that, when I went to Montpellier, people kept asking me why I was there. They couldn’t fathom that I would choose to stop there for vacation, and assumed there must be some other reason!

But I would go back anytime, and I hope to get to uncover other hidden gems throughout France that will provide you with a more local experience… and a more local price tag.

Catherine Rickman

Stay in touch! I'd love to hear from you: [email protected].


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