There are all sorts of reasons to live in France, but it’s typically been ignored as a business destination by many outsiders. Stereotypes of an unfriendly business climate, a low rate of English literacy and a laid-back working culture have stuck in the popular imagination, even as these issues have been relentlessly disproven.
In 2018 however, there can be no argument that France has turned a corner. From the business policies of President Macron to the incredible success of tech businesses, France is now as incredible a place to work and start a successful enterprise as it is to live a great life. Here are just a few reasons to convince you into starting a business in France.
The business friendliness
Business has been booming for a while in France, but under President Macron it’s a nation transformed. While not all of his policies have been welcomed by the French public, businesses are more than happy with a suite of reforms, including a reduction in the power of unions and employees. Businesses can now negotiate with employees directly, and can hire and fire more easily than in the past.
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Macron drove the French Tech revolution in his previous ministerial role, and has similar aims for the rest of the economy. The recent changes are just the beginning of a raft of reforms, designed to make France’s economy more competitive on the global stage. This will eventually include an increase in hours worked, a further reduction in corporation tax and further assistance for unemployed people to get back into work.
The European Union
France is a key member of the European Union, and this bond looks like it will get even stronger: President Macron sees himself as an EU figurehead, while Angela Merkel’s influence is waning. As a result, France is likely to benefit the most from policy decisions going forward, particularly in economic and business terms. France is also likely to benefit from the UK leaving, with many UK businesses choosing France as an EU base.
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The EU also confers many benefits to all of its members (or at least those within the Schengen zone). Free movement of people and goods will allow you to benefit from an EU-wide pool of talent, and to trade goods within Europe without tariffs and restrictions. EU businesses also benefit on the macro level from trade deals and the stability of the single currency, as well as systems such as the single point of contact for VAT. (For more info on how paying VAT abroad, see our article How to pay cross-border VAT in the EU.)
A prestigious city is great, but it doesn’t mean much if you can’t get there easily. Luckily this isn’t a problem for most of France, which boasts superb transport links. An expansive and reliable railway system is backed up by numerous international airports, a well-maintained road network and numerous deep and shallow water ports. Basing yourself in France - and particularly in Paris - means you’ll be perfectly situated to ship goods and receive clients.
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France is also well positioned to trade and liaise with other nations. Situated at the heart of Europe, you will have access to the rest of the continent after Brexit, while also being within easy reach of Africa. You’ll also be just across the water from the UK, which is set to remain one of the world’s largest economies and a key consumer market after Brexit. As an English-speaking business, you may even benefit from working with UK businesses as they diversify and expand to the EU.
France is a notoriously beautiful country, with idyllic rolling countryside, picturesque villages, sunbaked vineyards and bustling port towns. The French lifestyle is the envy of the world, and you’ll get to experience this if you live in France while running your business.
There’s every kind of setting to choose from, with the warmer climes in the south and more temperate city life in the north. This relaxing environment and abundance of choice is bound to improve your mental outlook, which in turn should feed back into your business - keeping you energised and engaged with all the important tasks at hand.
The prestige factor
France isn’t just a great place to live - it’s also a great place to be based. This applies to its most famous exports, such as food, fashion, perfume and other high-end products, whose biggest USP is often their quality. But it equally applies to less well-known areas of French strength and expertise, such as aerospace, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, farming and specialist manufacturing.
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Basing your business in France - and particularly in Paris - is a powerful marketing tool in and of itself. The ‘Made in France’ label could be the factor that sets your products apart from the rest, while local expertise is also likely to help your business in a more tangible fashion. There are also several official accreditation schemes, such as the ‘fait maison’ label for French food products, and the ‘Fabriqué à Paris’ label for all sorts of fine Parisian goods.
Food is a major quality of life benefit, and nowhere does it better than France. The food culture here is different to almost anywhere else you might have lived, and is treated with a degree of reverence. High quality, home-cooked food is integral to family life and school life, meaning that there are few places you can go where you won’t find a wonderful meal.
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This is great for anyone living and working in France, but offers a particular opportunity for new food businesses. While competition is likely to be fierce, there is no bigger market for food products, and no better place to learn and hone your craft. Plus, if the French enjoy your food product, you can almost guarantee it will meet the standards of anyone else in the world.
The tech ecosystem
Technology is not a traditional strength of the French business sector, but it’s on the lips of every investor in town. French tech startups have been booming over the past five to ten years, with a government programme encouraging more funding to come to France, and for talent to stay put. Success stories like Zenly - purchased by Snapchat in 2017 - speak to this incredible success.
The La French Tech scheme has granted ‘French Tech’ accreditation to 17 cities, with retailers committed to highlighting tech products created in France. Eighteen hubs have also been created in foreign cities to spread the word about French products, and build trade links and partnerships with foreign businesses. For foreign businesses coming to France, there’s also a new fast track tech visa for founders, employees and investors.
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The scheme has been a massive success: France has sent the largest foreign delegation to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for three years in a row, while state investment bank BpiFrance invested almost $600 million in 2017 alone, with the vast majority going to tech businesses. Parisian startup campus Station F meanwhile has been a massive success, attracting everyone from Microsoft and Apple to the former French President François Hollande.
If you’re interested in starting your business in France, or you need more information on how to expand your business in over 30 countries worldwide including bank accounts, virtual offices and tax specialists, you can call us on 00 33 (0) 1 53 57 49 10, email us through our contact page or download our free guide below.
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