Is Starting A Business in France More Appealing Than The UK?
The historical relationship between France and the UK is long and complex. From the Norman Conquest in 1066 the two countries have alternated between entrenched allies and bitter rivals. The melancholic milestones of both Hastings and Waterloo sum up Anglo-French relations perfectly, often squabbling but neither really getting the upper hand.
In contemporary times, the rivalry has softened (unless of course you mention the Tour de France) and the UK’s adoration of all things Gallic has taken on the lines of a semi-religious cult, with French fashion, cuisine, style and culture all playing an important role in both business and popular culture. Long gone are the days of aristocratic acrimony and trying to shoot each other with pointy arrows.
What we have today are strong business ties, trade agreements and excellent transport links between the two countries. Even for those who still have strong family and business ties in the UK, opening a business in France has now become a realistic and popular option for Brits looking for a new life abroad.
In 2014, the number of UK expats living in France was estimated at around 400,000. Disillusioned Brits – worn out by the 42-hour working week, ever-increasing house prices and those not so balmy summers – are increasingly opting to move to the land of wine and cheese in search of a new work life balance.
The “traditional” ex-pat stereotype who retired to the south of France for a life of Mediterranean paddling is being replaced, in part, by ambitious and dynamic entrepreneurs looking to set-up or expand their businesses. In an age where a half–decent Internet connection can give you the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, the former obstacle of finding a local employer have all but been removed by comfy coffee shops and Wi-Fi.
In a 2014 report by Deloitte that examined the 500 fastest growing tech firms across Europe, France was the most represented nation for the fourth year in a row. Despite its reputation as a high tax, low growth, bureaucratic country, France had 86 companies in the top 500, with Paris claiming its status as the startup capital of Europe. The combination of lifestyle, scenery and business opportunities in the 6th largest economy in the world is proving to be an attractive consideration for a growing number of British business owners.
Time & cost of starting a business
Contrary to popular belief, relocating to France and registering a new business is deceptively simple, particularly if you’re going to be self-employed. The registration process takes on average 4.5 days in France compared to the 6 days in the UK.
You may need some assistance with opening a bank account where you’ll need translations and a business plan, but many of the bureaucratic hurdles to setting up a business have either been reduced or eliminated altogether.
For expats who are looking to start their own business there have been a number of changes made under French law that allows residents to set up as “auto entrepreneurs”.
Under the system, an individual who sets up an enterprise with a turnover capped at €32,000 for services and €80,000 for trade, is regarded as an auto entrepreneur. Under the changes you will only pay taxes and other social contributions according to your turnover. To put it simply, if you don’t sell anything, you don’t pay anything.
Quality of Life
Although everyone is different, France does seem to be more concerned with wellbeing than the UK. The standard 35-hour working week is much more aligned with work-life balance than the UK’s 42 hours. Admittedly both are a little way off from the 6 hour workday being tested in Sweden.
The sheer natural diversity of the country means it attracts individuals searching for different types of outdoor pursuits including skiing, surfing, Alpine climbing and walking. The sunny climate and excellent way of life also attracts those who may have little interest in sport, but just want to enjoy the good things in life!
- France: 66.03 million
- UK: 64.01 million
While the population of both countries is very similar, the total area of the UK (243,610 sq. km) is relatively small when compared to that of France (640,427 sq. km). According to a recent BBC documentary, 20,000 Brits a year are moving out of a very overcrowded UK in search of more elbow room just over the water. The additional space is an alluring prospect not just for swinging the proverbial cat, but has an understandable impact on the housing market.
Housing & cost of living
Nembeo is the world’s largest database of user-contributed data and statistical analysis relating to the cost of living in countries across the world. According to their latest research, the UK is a more expensive place to live than France, particularly when it comes to rent that is on average 36.4% higher.
- Consumer prices in the UK are 6.85% higher than France.
- Groceries are 3.37% lower in France
- The average bill in a restaurant is 15.96% higher in the UK
When comparing the cost of a mortgage as a percentage of income between the capitals, Paris is again markedly cheaper than London. With house prices in the UK continuing to soar, part of the draw has been the relatively affordable property throughout France (although French property is also on the rise).
Cost of a mortgage as a percentage of income
- London – 218.53%
- Paris – 118.17%
It’s important to note that while the figures look attractive, they’re based on the whole of France. If you’re considering a move to Paris, you may need to do some further research to compare the cost of living in the capital.
The comforting news is that in many ways France is a similar market to the UK. If your product or service is successful in the UK, there’s a good chance you’ll be successful in France. However, French businesses can be wary of buying outside France and you’ll need to be reassuring about quality, price and reliability of your products and services.
One sector that has proven to travel particularly well across borders is fashion. For UK brands expanding into France, the strong heritage and lifestyle credentials associated with Britain ensures that these types of products tend to do well in France, where profitability can often be higher than in neighbouring countries.
The alternative is to open a new company in France where the “Made in Paris” association allows brand owners in the low to mid-market, to sit comfortably in the premium, high-end sector of less developed and established international markets.
Whatever your motivations for starting a business in France, there continues to be strong global demand for French brands and while the French eco-system is not perfect, it has come a long way in the last few years. If only the same could be said about the cycling.
This post was written by Euro Start Entreprises. Helping businesses and entrepreneurs with company formation in France, UK, Europe, US & the Emirates.