Quality of life and cost of living in France

I have written about this before but we currently have lots of demonstrations happening all over France in protest against the rise in fuel taxes and the cost of living which has made me consider whether life really has got more expensive in the last 15 years that we have been here. The French definitely work to live, not the other way around and they are worried that this balance is tipping in the wrong direction right now. One demonstrator interviewed on the French news complained that he fears he won’t be able to afford his usual skiing trip this winter; I’m not sure that would elicit much sympathy in many other countries in the world!

According to a survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the French spend more time eating, sleeping and shopping than any other country. Apparently, the French sleep an average of 8.5 hours. It makes France the longest sleepers out of all 34 of the OECD’s members. Does this mean that the French have less to fit into their days or are they just more relaxed about what does and doesn’t get done? Do they have less to worry about – or maybe they expect the state to do their worrying for them – and thus sleep easy at night!

The French also spend the most time eating and drinking at more than two hours per day on average which is nearly twice as long as the Americans and Canadians. Looking at obesity rates though, clearly time spent consuming doesn’t necessarily mean more consumed. Of course, it is this emphasis on long, lazy lunches that brought many of us here in the first place but it is very noticeable that the French do not eat or drink excessively – a meal is probably less dense than in the UK but each element makes up a separate course to be lingered over, enjoyed and never rushed. Nor do the French tend to snack in my experience. So, more food and wine isn’t crossing the lips of the French – it just feels as if it is.

It turns out that the French are big shoppers too – or perhaps just slow shoppers.  According to the report, the French spend 32 minutes each day shopping. However, I would guess that we are primarily talking about shopping for food here. Most of the French people I know shop for fresh ingredients every day and have no problem taking their time about it – this all part of that pleasure of appreciating their food.

Unsurprisingly therefore, the report also shows that French people have the second-highest life expectancy in the OECD, presumably thanks to the high amount of time spent enjoying themselves. Add that to the 28% of GDP that the French state spends on healthcare and social welfare, the highest spending of any OECD country and it all starts to make perfect sense.

It seems to me that, although the French might feel that they are hard done by, the rest of us can only look on enviously at their work/life balance – or make that move to France and hope that some of the magic dust rubs off; that’s if we can get through the demonstrations of course.

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