5 Things About Money in France

by Kelly · 16 comments

in Notes On Culture


Living in a different country is a fun (although not always) way to learn how attitudes towards money can change. Here are some things I’ve learned through eight years in France.

1. The French are savers- with almost the highest rate of savings in Europe. Over the past ten years, the average number of French households with savings accounts fluctuated around 16%, while in the United States it hovered closer to 3 to 5%.

2. Credit cards are almost unknown in France. This is because most people use their debit card to pay for things. Many people also have an overdraft account attached to their checking account, with the overdraft charging around 12% interest.

3. There is no credit bureau in France- which can lead to problems for French expatriates, as there is no official ‘credit history’ when they leave France. Instead, each company develops its own method of determining a loan candidate’s financial trustworthiness.

4. The average salary after deductions (but before taxes) for a new teacher in France is รขโ€šยฌ1200 per month (14,400 annually) while an experienced teacher will earn twice that. The average salary for traditional public school teachers in the United States increased 4.5 percent in 2006-07 to $51,009 ($4250 monthly before taxes), according to the AFT’s latest teacher salary survey.

5. Gas costs about the same as it does in the US, at least until you add in taxes. Approximately 70 of the price paid goes to the state.

Have you ever spent long periods of time abroad? What did you learn about money and spending?


1 Emma @ Baby-log.com February 16, 2009

That was an interesting post, Kelly! I don’t think I would have learned that even if I went to France for holidays or so. One question – you said that debit cards almost replace credit cards in your country, can people still use them to buy stuff on the Internet?

2 Rebecca February 16, 2009

I'm reading Outliers right now and this totally reminds me of the chapter about culture and how much your culture influences you. That's crazy about the savings rates in France… that must be how the women dress so nicely all the time ๐Ÿ™‚



3 Lucie @ Unconventional Origins February 16, 2009

This is very interesting! I haven’t spent much time overseas but plan on spending some time soon, and I am excited to learn more about how different countries handle their financial system.

I have a friend who spent a summer in Chile and, I quote, “Chileans hate us for bringing our system of credit to Chile.” Don’t know if it’s true, but it’s interesting!

4 Broke Bettie February 17, 2009

That is so interesting – I had no idea the savings rate was so high. Although I’ve travelled quite a bit, I’ve never quite paid attention to such things…really makes me want to investigate further.


Broke Bettie´s last blog post..Happy Monday

5 Cate February 17, 2009

When I lived in Germany in high school (back in ’91) I brought cash to my instructor to pay for a dance class I was taking. She gave me an odd look and asked, “What am I supposed to do with that??” So I asked her if I should write her a check. Again, she gave me an odd look . Credit card? Eh… No.

I was so confused and had no idea how I was supposed to pay for this class. But then my German host parents explained that I needed to pay with a bank transfer! Especially since I didn’t even have a bank account in Germany, I would never have thought of that form of payment.

After that year, each time I lived in Germany I immediately set up a bank account because that was the only way to pay my rent, health insurance, classes, etc.

6 Jennifer Clark February 17, 2009

I love reading your posts about the differences in the US and French economies! I’ve always been curious how citizens in other countries live! I had no idea France had no credit bureau-I thought credit history was global-Very interesting!

Jennifer Clark´s last blog post..Sunflower Cupcakes

7 Kelly February 18, 2009

oh that is so sad and scary that the US savings rate is only 3-5%. Thanks for the little peek into a different culture!

Kelly´s last blog post..did you know that February is national hot breakfast month?

8 Kristy @ Master Your Card February 18, 2009

I had no idea the savings rate was so high…and the teacher’s salary! My goodness, what is the cost of living over there? I’d cry if I made $14,000 a year.

I haven’t had the opportunity to spend a lot of time overseas. I was born in Germany and was there for a little while, but beyond that, most of my life was here in the U.S. However, being in banking I see how different cultures handle their money and it’s so interesting to me. It’s actually something I’ve been considering, too, because Jonathan – the owner of MYC – is from Australia, so I think it would be neat to have a side-by-side comparison on how we view different areas of finance.

Thanks for the interesting post!

Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..Do You Own a P.O. Box?

9 Andy @ Retire at 40 February 18, 2009

I have lived in the UK (where I originated), Germany for a year, Australia for 6 months and now in New Zealand – where I’ve been for 6 years!

The main differences I see are how the banks charge for various things. I’ve always been surprised that banks outside the UK charge for just keeping your account open (obviously waived in some cases). But I now know that some things in the UK just take longer to do … like buying a home.

What I like nowadays though is that I can get in a taxi here and pay with plastic (either debit or credit) and pretty much anywhere else too. Pretty much no need to carry cash. In the UK, I carried cash all the time. Germany and Australia are similar to New Zealand if I remember correctly.

Andy @ Retire at 40´s last blog post..Turning a Rental House into Completely Passive Income

10 Saver Queen February 19, 2009

I lived a year in England (Oxford.) There were plenty of financial surprises but the biggest problem was that the exchange was so poor that I lost about 2/3rds of my money to the bank. It was brutal! I stopped calculating things because I realized I was spending $30 to see a movie or $25 for a McDonald’s hamburger. Since I was a student, I was not working, so it’s not as though I was earning money that I could then convert to extravagant Canadian dollars. I just spent, spent, spent. However, looking back I can tell you that the experience of living in a different country was entirely worth it!

Saver Queen´s last blog post..How to get great scholarships

11 Olivia February 20, 2009

I am from Canada originally but I've lived in France, the USA, South Korea, Sweden, and now Switzerland. Here in Switzerland credit cards really aren't popular and people tend to pay off the ones they have monthly or fortnightly.

The weirdest thing I found was living in the USA. In Canada if I went and paid for something in a shop with an Interac card I could go home and immediately see that transaction when I logged into my bank account. Where as even today in the USA it can take a week or longer for transactions to be logged. Positively archaic.

Here in Switzerland, the land 'o banks, I am in love with banks here. So efficient, convenient, and easy. I can pay anyone in Europe with a bank account and an IBAN number through my online banking. I love it. When I make transfers tot he USA, it is always expensive and a hassle. Meh.

12 Lisa February 25, 2009

Hmmm, very interesting. It seems strange not to have a credit bureau and that each financial institution uses its own way of determining credit worthiness.

<abbr>Lisa´s last blog post..Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism</abbr>

13 Cindy B. in Montana...now in Oklahoma March 1, 2009

Interesting post! What about mortgages? I’ve heard that in many countries there is no such thing!

We’ve traveled quite a bit. The biggest difference for us (we live in the US) was when we went to Russia…and we traveled extensively outside the large cities. There were very few places that would take credit cards. We had been told to NEVER use the ATMs as they are controlled by organized crime and we would almost certainly find our bank account wiped clean. So the alternative was to carry cash and exchange it in small amounts at the hotels. Also, they wanted only brand new money because of a huge conterfeit problem. So we ended up carrying a very large amount of brand new $20 bills under our clothes all over Russia!

Cindy B. in Montana…now in Oklahoma´s last blog post..Sunday Smile…Yanni Voices ๐Ÿ™‚

14 ROS March 3, 2009

In Japan, they don’t have the phrase “Disposeable income” That type of money is for savings, not spending.
The cost of living is so varied in Asia. In Southeast asia, you could get a full meal for 1 buck. We went to a Holland beer hall in Bangkok, complete with steak meal and dessert and an entire night’s stage performance of singers/dancers/acrobats. Cost=$8 per person

15 Jerry April 9, 2009

In Eastern Europe most things are paid in cash. You don’t use your card for most everyday purchases. My wife goes to the market and uses cash to purchase fresh fruits and veggies. I like the fact that I know where we stand. It leads me to make better choices with our money. Now, in France you don’t have to worry about health insurance which is a huge expense for many Americans living in the US. It doesn’t excuse the overspending on credit but it’s a consideration as to why they might overspend in certain areas because so much discretionary income is eaten up by this expense.

16 Andrea February 27, 2010

Not sure about others using debit or their credit cards but when I make a purchase it shows immediately on my checking/savings account, not sure what Olivia is talking about. I do use a credit union as my financial institution and maybe that is the difference. I have been using my credit unions for well over 20 years.

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