I should point out that this post was written in October 2010 and things might well have changed a bit since then. For up-to-date info I suggest you go to the Provemploi website.
The answer is Rhône-Alpes, closely followed by the southwest. This is according to a study carried out by Provemploi, an annual exhibition that promotes employment and economic development in the regions.
Provemploi is holding its annual event today in Paris. It might have had trouble attracting many visitors in view of the anti-retirement policy transport strikes and demonstrations that were taking place. That aside, it carried out a poll of 1,296 visitors to its previous event. (Bear in mind, though, that this is not a huge sample). They were all Franciliens (i.e. living in the Ile de France, or greater Paris) who were planning to move to the provinces in the future.
Provemploi asked them to rate the attractiveness of the different regions in terms of (a) economic activity and (b) quality of life. For each of those categories, people were asked to rate 12 different criteria on a scale of 1-6 (see below – sorry, not a very good copy from Le Figaro).
For economic activity, Ile de France came out top, unsurprisingly, with an average overall score of 5.3. Rhône-Alpes, with Lyon at its centre, came second with 4.68 and the southwest was third with 3.98.
However, when it came to quality of life, Ile de France had the lowest score of all the regions (2.77). The southwest came top with 4.82.
Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse (the latter two in the southwest) were voted the top three provincial cities.
Although still popular, the southeast is slipping in the rankings for various reasons. They include perceived over-priced housing and increasing urbanisation, which for many Parisians is synonymous with the eye-wateringly long traffic jams and frenzied lifestyle they long to leave behind. According to Provemploi, around 200,000 Franciliens move to the provinces every year.
When it comes to reasons for leaving, another study shows that the main motivation is to improve the quality of life (59.4%), followed by the quest for a cheaper lifestyle (18.4%). Only 7.3% were motivated principally by the employment possibilities available.
What none of these studies shows is whether the people were Franciliens by birth or had moved there to study and then work. The French are usually very attached to their region or locality of birth and many move back after retirement (or even before). French literature is full of examples of ambitious provincials who make good in Paris but hanker after their origins.
Coming back to the quality of life, I am of course biased, but I don’t think you can beat the southwest on a variety of criteria:
- It’s stuffed full of picturesque and historic towns and villages, with a high concentration of Plus Beaux Villages de France
- It has some of the most beautiful countryside in France, including the Pyrenees and parts of the Massif Central
- The climate is temperate (although it can be a bit cold in the winter, but then so can Provence)
- It is rightly famed for gastronomy (truffles, foie gras, goose, duck, cheeses, etc) and wine (notably Bordeaux, but a lot of other good ones)
- House prices are considerably cheaper than in Paris and Provence
- The people are generally more welcoming (although the Toulousains can be rather brusque)
- Life expectancy is higher here than anywhere else in France
- Rural traditions are valued and thriving
But please don’t come to live here…I want to keep it all for myself.
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