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Is France a better place to retire than England?
The Economist’s 2012 edition of its ‘Pocket World in Figures’ helps resolve lots of long-standing arguments and gives plenty of food for thought for French expatriates in London and the Brits who flock to the Dordogne to retire.
Every French person’s view that they would rather operate on themselves with a blunt knife rather than fall into the hands of the National Health Service is confirmed by the statistics. France is in the top 10 countries in the world for health spending as a percentage of GDP ( 11.7%) with the Brits not even in the top 30. It is also in the top 20 in terms of hospital beds per 1,000 population and the UK does not even make it into the top 40. If in doubt, get sick in France.
If you are sick, however, and want to read the newspapers, forget about ‘Le Monde’, which does not even have a decent sports section, and cover your bed with British tabloids, with the UK ranking in the top 15 for copies of newspapers sold and the French, not surprisingly, just about making it into the top 30.
Your money will also go further in the UK, with France coming in at number 3 in the cost of living index and the UK only in 10th place. In spite of this, Paris was nonetheless ranked 16th in the ‘City Liveability’ index, with London nowhere in sight. It should perhaps be pointed out, before the Parisians indulge in their usual superiority complex, that this category was won by Vancouver and who wants to live there?
Money invested in the French property market would, however, have done far better for you in 2010, with an average house price increase of 8.6% ( behind Hong Kong’s 20.6% increase, but still in third place in the rankings ) compared to a 1.1% decline in the UK.
House price declines must also explain differences in eating habits, with the Brits clearly consoling themselves for their loss of house equity with prodigious amounts of comfort food. An astonishing 23.6 % of all English men and 24.4 % of English women are classified as obese . The French do not figure in the top 25 in either category, thus confirming the old wives’ tale that French women do not get fat. The English ,though, should clearly stick to their meat pies and forget about the houmous , because the Lebanese top the male obesity charts at 36.3%. Qatari women, who top the female table, are also built for comfort rather than speed, with an impressive 45.3% obesity rate .
Perhaps surprisingly for the French who have fled to London in search of a more entrepreneurial environment, France outscores the UK on the Economist’s ‘Business Environment’ index, on the percentage of GDP invested in research & development and on the number of patents granted annually. So forget about 75% income tax, the statistics prove that France is more business-friendly.
Living in France is also a good idea if you want to defer the burial v cremation dilemma for as long as possible, because the French live, on average, nearly 2 years more than the Brits. The French are joint 13th with Spain and Italy in terms of male longevity, with an average life expectancy of 80.8 years, but are outperformed, again, by French females (obviously well looked after by their husbands) who come in at 3rd place with an average life expectancy of 85.1 years. The Brits, sorry to say, just about scrape into joint 29th position with the Greeks ( who perhaps will be happy to have less time to be miserable given their current plight ).
The secret, once again, clearly lies with the French commitment to large and regular intakes of wine, with France coming in at 4th position with 26.9 litres purchased annually per head of population. Given the French people I know in London this seems surprisingly low. In any event, this particular global table is headed by the Swiss with 32.3 litres per head. And everybody knows how much fun they are…..