What It’s Like Living In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France As An Expat

An insider guide to Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes offering firsthand knowledge of life in this region of France.

Varied, rugged, romantic and fun, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France is undoubtedly unique.

This region in southeast-central France has a lot to offer. It’s home to the major wine region of the Rhône Valley, the central hub Lyon, as well as the Alps and multiple large national parks. The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is the biggest economic region in France outside of Paris, making it a rather remarkable place to live. 

But what is it like to call the region home? We’ve taken an in-depth look at living in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes. 

Is living in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes a good idea?

Covering a massive 69,000 km², this large area has a lifestyle for everyone. It’s an economic hub and is generally considered a very wealthy area of France. The result is that this region encapsulates the phrase “work hard, play harder”. 

Living in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes
The river Rhône in Lyon

The area has some big powerhouse cities, including Lyon, Grenoble, Chambery and Valance, meaning all the benefits of living in a major city are easy to find. In particular, Lyon is the third-largest city in France.

With the meeting of two rivers and surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills, the lifestyle here is busy but with plenty of time to relax in the countryside. 

People here make the most of the stunning scenery.

France is much wilder here with lots of protected natural parks and open spaces with wild animals. If you don’t live in one of the major cities, you still probably find plenty of time off to explore the vineyards and taste wine or head to the Alps and go skiing.

Outdoor activities are common, and thanks to being sufficiently far south, the excellent weather makes it possible to spend lots of time outdoors in summer and winter. 

People here work to live, they don’t live to work. With several big cities and lots of space outdoors to explore, life here is all about working hard, making money, and enjoying your life.

Each of the 12 departments is fiercely proud of its cuisine and traditions, which are very varied.

In the Savoie and Haute-Savoie, you’ll find traditional cheeses and the famous culture of the French Alps. In the Ardèche, you’ll find lots of dishes using wild boar as well as surprisingly good wine and, in the Drome, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into the Provence. 

Living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Lavender fields in Saou, Drôme, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

Like the rest of France, the area has a combination of totally unspoilt, traditional villages where you’ll be the only non-French people for miles, and then some places are packed full of expats and second-home owners.

The Alps are the worst culprit, with more expats than locals. 

The pros and cons of living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Like most places, there are many pros and cons to living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. Some people love it, some don’t, and realistically, you need to work out what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice.

But if you’re looking to narrow down your options and want the lowdown on the pros and cons of living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, here’s everything you need to know.

The pros of living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

1. The outdoor lifestyle here is the best in France

There really is something for everyone. There are wild national parks and protected areas, the Alps, valleys, gorges, the Rhône River and more. If you like being outside and exploring, this area can’t be beaten. 

2. It’s a prosperous area

This area is an economic powerhouse producing as much GDP as the whole of Finland. There are a vast number of industries, and they are always hiring. If you want to work when you move, you’ll have no problem finding a job. 

3. Good amenities and infrastructure

Living in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes
The town of Puy-en-Velay, Haute-Loir, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes.

With so many people working hard and producing so much for the country, the area has fantastic public services and infrastructure. If you need something or want to travel, it’s not going to be complicated.

The exception is the Ardèche which has no trains, airport or motorways and is entirely rural (but they are rather proud of it). 

4. High quality of life

The quality of life in this region is one of the highest in France. Everything from food, culture, public services, outdoor hobbies, and friendly locals makes Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes very popular. 

The cons of living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

1. Lots of tourists

Some parts of the region can be very touristy. Specifically, the Alps in winter and parts of the Drome and Ardèche in Summer.

It’s best to visit the specific area you want to live in at different times of the year to see if it is too touristy for your liking. 

2. The weather varies through the year

If you want a Mediterranean climate all year round, you need to go further south. The area does see a lot of rain and snow in the winter. 

3. The cost of living could seem quite high

Living in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes
The old part of Val d’Isere, ski resort, and commune of the Tarentaise Valley, in the Savoie department.

Thanks to the economy in the region, life here can be pricey. There are always cheaper options available, but with so many businesses and a steady stream of tourists, life is more expensive here than elsewhere. You’ll need to save up a little bit of money before you go. 

4. Heavily industrialised

Some regions are very industrialised. It’s great if you’re looking for work, but less great if you want to live in rural France without looking at factories. 

5. Bureaucracy is something special

This applies to most of France but is especially true in the area; the amount of time it takes for any paperwork or official documentation to get sorted is astounding. Be prepared to wait for over a year to get your French healthcare card and French residency sorted. 

6. Seasonal variations in the job and rental market

Lots of work here is seasonal. Winter tourism in the Alps and summer tourism in the south means many people work in different places for half the year. This means the rental market is high, and lots of jobs will only employ you for six months of the year. 

How much does it cost to live in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes?

Arguably the biggest downside to living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is the cost of living.

Although most rural areas of France have local food producers and local markets making fruit, veg and wine reasonably inexpensive, that’s generally where the affordability stops.

Some areas of the Ardèche, Auvergne, and Drome are relatively cheaper, but land and housing are only going up. 

In the Alps, big ski resorts are very expensive. Even a small flat here will set you back €300,000 minimum.

Chalets will set you back € 1,000,000. And then you have to furnish it.

Living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Val Thorens, a ski town located in the Tarentaise Valley, in the Savoie department at an altitude of 2,300 m (7,500 ft).

Thanks to steep winding roads getting anything up to the resorts is tough, so everything from fridges to the internet connection won’t come cheap, and options will be limited. 

Big cities like Lyon, Grenoble or Chambery have more options and can pick a price that suits your budget. Still, the cost to consider is housing.

A flat in downtown Grenoble will set you back over €100,000, and to rent, you’re looking at a minimum of €500 for a studio apartment. If you want an actual bedroom, you’ll be looking at over €650. 

You can find more information on renting and how to do it in our guide Renting A Property In France.

With so many people remote working, land and buildings in the countryside are like gold dust. Land prices are soaring.

The market is fast and high, so a house with a garden will be around €400,000, if not more. If you sacrifice the garden and opt for a terrace in town instead, you might be able to find something at €250,000. 

Considering buying a home in France? Read our Complete Guide To Buying A Property In France to avoid potential pitfalls and disappointment.

In reality, while the day-to-day cost of living isn’t too bad unless you’re up in the Alpes or in a very remote village, the house price will be your biggest problem. 

Things to know before you go

If you’ve read all of the above and still dream about moving to the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, then here are some things you should know before you go. 

Living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Lac d’Annecy in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is often called the Venice of the Alps.

1. If you want to be treated like a local and not a tourist, you will need to speak French and get on board with local traditions. Otherwise, you’ll be treated like a tourist even if you move here permanently. 

2. Having said this, almost everyone speaks English. Tourism is big here, so it’s rare to find people that don’t speak English. If they are under the age of 70 and don’t speak English, they don’t like you, and they are pretending they don’t speak English. They do. 

3. While we might group all 12 departments into one large region, most people are very proud of the department itself, not the region. If you live in the southern tip of the Drome, life is very different to living in the Haute-Savoie, and you’ll be laughed at if you try to claim it’s similar. 

4. Outdoor life is important to basically everyone. There are thousands of miles of trails, and they are usually poorly marked. If you want to go on the trails, do your research. Don’t rely on the marks, which can sometimes be good but are usually terrible. 

5. This region is dominated by rural areas, and there are literally thousands of local recipes and cuisines. No matter where you go, everyone will claim they have the best food. You will be expected to try it all even if you don’t know what it is. 

Final thoughts on living in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has a lot to offer. From sleek, bustling cities to tiny remote villages, vineyards, olive groves, ski resorts, wildlife parks and more, the only thing missing is a coastline, but with so many rivers and lakes, you won’t miss it. 

To pick the perfect place for you, you’ll need to be a bit more specific and have a look at each department in more detail. But if you want to move to France as an expat, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is the perfect place to start looking for your dream home. 

Other popular expat destinations in France to consider:

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Emily Derrick
Emily Derrick

Now based in France, Emily is a freelance writer from the UK with a passion for travel. Her love for adventuring was sparked during her time living and travelling in Canada as well as multiple trips across Europe.

Emily always takes the scenic route to get to the heart of a country and when she isn't writing, she can be found outside with her two dogs Hugo and Suzette.

Website: Emily Derrick

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