Lyon, France Report of what it's like to live there
Personal Experiences from Lyon, France
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Third expat experience. Previously lived in Maseru, Lesotho, and Sosua, Dominican Republic.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Western Canada. Usually fly from Vancouver to Paris or London. Transfer to Lyon. A whole day of travel with connections. About 11 hours flying time.
3. How long have you lived here?
Lived there for three years: 2006-2009.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most families live in houses in the suburbs. I lived in a small studio flat in a suburb not far from downtown. I walked to work.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
I found it the same as Canada, but cheeses and wines are much, much, cheaper. Cereal is much more expensive (and it all has chocolate in it!). I couldn't find large 2 liters of milk anywhere and basically had to buy 1 litre bottles of milk every second day. A good cheap grocery store is Leader Price. There is also Carrefour, which is a large chain.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Large bottle of ibuprofen.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There's the usual McDonald's, there's a Subway, but that's the extent of it. Choose French places instead! Brioche Doree is a nice, inexpensive cafe that you can find everywhere. Lots of nice restaurants and pubs with great eats in Vieux Lyon.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Organic food is everywhere and is very poular. Look for the green label "AB - agriculture biologique." The French think vegetarians are freaks. But having vegetarian expat neighbors, they easily found soy products, etc. at the local health food store called "L'Eau Vive".
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Regular French post is reliable but expensive, in my opinion. The worst part is waiting in the long lines in the hot summer and in the middle of waiting, the workers put up a sign saying they're on strike. They strike a lot, but not for long periods. Just to get a day off work, in my opinion.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Easy -- they are everywhere. Never used credit card there- the French have a type of dual credit and debit card ('carte bancaire' or CB)- it's very convenient. Credit card use is quite rare in France amongst French people.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
The Lyon Anglican Church is English speaking.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
I had basic cable and never watched it. It was all French TV and it's essentially news and political debate programs! The only English station I received was BBC news network and it recycles the same news all day. I'm sure there's some sort of better satellite service but I'm unaware of it. You also have to pay a yearly TV tax in France which is a bit of a pain.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Alot. This was, by far, my biggest struggle. Lyon is not Paris. It is a really conservative French city and you need to know French. I found very few people spoke English and even if they do, they tended to be too shy to use it. I struggled alot, tried my best with the high school French I had, but had to rely on bi-lingual friends to help with with anything complex like taxes, etc. For everyday shopping, eating out, it wasn't a huge deal as there is little in terms of casual conversation exchanged.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Well, I never once saw someone in a wheelchair there! Lots of stairs and lots of cobblestone in the old city (Vieux Lyon). It's Europe and it's old.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Very safe, affordable and convenient.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Bring something small. Rennault is a popular brand in France. Lots of Smart cars. I didn't drive- public transport is so convenient that there is no need.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I had internet as a bundle with my tv cable and telephone land line. One price -- I don't recall exactly, but it was very inexpensive. At least compared to Canada. There are many providers, so it's very competitive; hence the decent prices.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Buy one there -- Orange is popular as well as SFR.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Not that I know of. Unemployment is quite high in France.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The French dress very well. Two words: stylish and black. Don't go wearing your sweatpants to the grocery store on the weekend, that's for sure.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Lyon is a very safe city and I felt comfortable walking alone as a single female basically anywhere day and night. The only problem can be gypsies and I had my wallet stolen (pick-pocketed) once in the metro in Lyon. Always be aware of your wallet/purse in Europe, especially at train stations and metros. The gypsies (Roma) are master pickpockets. They are also super cheesy 'gangs' of young male teens called 'racaille'- they are the French equivalent of the 'chavs' found in England. They are loud, obnoxious, and annoying, but that's about it.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Excellent. One of the best health care systems in the world (if you have the green carte vitale). There is a pharmacy on every street corner. The French love their drugs. An inconvenience is you have to buy all your medication there, including basic aspirin, etc.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, long summer, beautiful, mild, long fall, very mild, short winter (very little snow) and early spring (February-ish).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I have direct experience with the International School of Lyon. A small, friendly international school. I highly recommend it.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Mild learning difficulties are accommodated for by ISL. Unsure about the French public schools. They're not very progressive, I do know that.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
No experience with them, but I do know they are everywhere and heavily subsidized by the government.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I would say small. There are not really any embassies here, so it's more like random expats working for some random companies like Interpol or Rennault or the Pharmaceutical industry.
2. Morale among expats:
Excellent. No one ever wants to leave! I've also met many expats from throughout Europe and they all LOVE Lyon and France.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are some nice pubs to visit downtown. The only downside is the buses and metro stop running at around midnight so you have to take a taxi home or get a lift from someone.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes for families: singles, so-so. I found it hard to break into the French scene -- maybe if you were fluent in French it would help more. The French tend to have close childhood friends and stick with that group for life. The expat social scene is small but friendly.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No knowledge, but I think the French are very liberal and open minded.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is resentment and racism towards Algerians and North Africans in general. Gypsies (Roma) are not too popular either.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
All the weekend trips throughout France on the convenient, comfortable, and extensive trains. Trips to the Cote d'Azur (Cannes, Nice, Grasse), Monaco, trips to Provence, Paris, Normandy, etc. Eating at the bakeries.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Visit Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) for restaurants and shopping. Visit old Roman aquqducts just outside the city. Day trip to Perouges -- preserved medieval village just outside of town. Walk by INTERPOL and pretend you're a spy (it's world headquarters are in Lyon). Take the funicular up to the Basilica of Fourviere for an amazing view of the city. Visit the Saturday and Sunday food markets along the rivers. Visit the textile museum -- Lyon is famous for it's textiles, especially silk.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Wine, cheeses, macaroons, silk scarves.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Endless. Lyon is famous for it's food (so is France obviously), so eating out in the brasseries and patisseries. Travel opportunities throughout France, Europe, and North Africa. Endless array of museums. Great Roman ruins. Amazing architecture. Gorgeous weather. Fantastic shopping.
11. Can you save money?
Not really, especially if you travel. Rent is not cheap.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, in a heartbeat.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Sweatpants and loud voice.
3. But don't forget your:
Patience for little to no customer service, crowded shops with no air-conditioning and long waits in lines. Camera for all the spectacular photos you're going to take.
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Do you have any other comments?
Lyon is a beautiful, but relatively unknown gem, of a French city.