Is France attractive to foreigners

Free movement agreements make France attractive

More than a quarter of the Swiss abroad live in France. Integration is made easy for them. Two emigrants report.

The number of Swiss people living in France has increased in recent years. With 190,000 compatriots enrolled at the consulates - that is more than a quarter of all Swiss abroad - France remains clearly the most attractive for those who are drawn into the distance. Around 44,000 people with Swiss passports live in the Paris region alone, some of whom are dual citizens. Some have only come to France for a limited period, others have definitely settled and only know their homeland beyond the Jura like tourists from visits. Regions such as Burgundy and Provence with comparatively low property prices also attract senior citizens who appreciate French savoir-vivre.

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Even if there are stubborn prejudices and clichés against these Swiss in French society (which can be reduced to: banks, mountains and chocolate), integration in the host country is usually particularly easy for them. This is confirmed by Tatiana Tissot, 28 years old from Neuchâtel, who has been living and working as a freelance journalist in Montpellier for over three years.

On her blog “Y'a pas le feu au lac” she deals almost professionally with the everyday life of the “expatriés suisses”. There she also tells of little taunts about her Helvetisms. However, she thinks that assimilation is easy, especially for the French-speaking countries, who have a largely common linguistic and cultural background with the French. Likewise, looking for a job, in which she never felt disadvantaged as a Swiss woman. When she arrived in Montpellier and did not yet have an income of her own, she was even insured free of charge with the public health insurance of her French partner.

Actually, she had expected more bureaucratic obstacles. When she tried to “register” with the city administration and was amusedly told that there was no such thing in France, she was amazed. In other matters - apart from the right to vote - she is treated almost the same as an EU citizen. She does not need a residence or work permit.

New plaice, new home

Organic farmer Ruedi Baumann had a special reason to emigrate to France, more precisely: to the Gers department in the southwest. The former National Councilor and President of the Greens is convinced that nowhere else could he have bought such a farm with 70 hectares of land so cheaply and without problems when he left his previous “home” in Suberg to his son. It is probably no coincidence that he uses this Bernese German expression for the farm. For a farmer who leaves his clod and works the ground elsewhere, emigration is something special. The courtesy of the authorities and the reception by the neighbors in the hilly area at Auch was so friendly that Baumann almost raved about it. In rural Gers, he does not feel any of the xenophobia that is very widespread in other areas. But he could imagine that as a (meanwhile naturalized) immigrant he would not be able to stand it if he saw such aggressive xenophobic posters as in votes on SVP initiatives in Switzerland.

Certainly not all Swiss living in France would sing in the same way a song of praise to the advantages of the free movement of persons thanks to the bilateral agreements. In the case of our western neighbor, however, it must at least be admitted that, according to the principle of equality in the republic, local and foreign residents are treated equally by the administration in many areas. This applies to taxes, social insurance and social benefits. Traditionally, this immigration country also tries to assimilate the immigrants and quickly transform them into French through naturalization.

Selective for non-Europeans

At the same time, under the growing pressure of xenophobic movements, France has made entry regulations and naturalization for non-European immigrants more restrictive in recent years. This also includes a policy of selective immigration of talent in sport and culture or candidates in certain professions for which there is a lack of local applicants, which is only just beginning to be practiced. However, Swiss emigrants are not affected by such tendencies. If you have to file lawsuits or requests in your second home, then these concern the attempts to fill the coffers at your expense with the inheritance tax treaty and an exchange of information with Swiss banks.

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