Marseille, with its nearly 900,000 inhabitants, is the second largest city in France after Paris. It is surrounded by a mountain range in the north and east. This guarantees you a typical Mediterranean climate. However, living in Marseille is not easy for foreigners. Like the other French cities, Marseille has an extensive historical and architectural heritage.
Marseille is very large, covering an area of about 250 square kilometers, many districts of the city are inhabited mainly by the lower middle class or poor.
The people in the Marseillaise are, for the most part, very nice. People can help you when you least expect it or most need it, which is not common in a big city.
The locals are funnier, more talkative and generally friendlier than anywhere else. The Marseillais will confirm it: they are not French, they are Marseillaises and that is something very different.
Marseille is extremely multicultural, and most of the inhabitants have no idea what it means to be French, even though the French government offers them unemployment benefits (RSI) and low-cost housing (APL). They have little desire to learn the French language or obey French laws. They are resident aliens, although they most likely also have French citizenship.
One of the main “features” of Marseille is that most of the people who live there are from North Africa and have a completely different culture. Marseille is in Europe, but it is definitely not like other European cities.
Although it is a tourist destination, it does not have as much entertainment to offer as Paris or Lyon. The nightlife and social activities are not very numerous.
Living in Marseille is not cheap. It is an expensive city in which to live, workers’ wages in Marseille are relatively low, the cost of living is high. The cost of transportation, rent and food is 5% higher than the national average for the rest of France.
As for transportation, we can say that it is adequate on average, although certainly still lower than in most Western European cities. Marseille has its own airport, metro, buses and a good road network. There are also several bicycle paths, the bicycle is a common means of transport.
The weather is the best you can find in France (along with the Côte d’Azur) if you do not mind the strong mistral wind and the scorching summer heat.
The main problem in Marseille is that with a large population, there are few jobs, which means that the crime rate is very high. There are often areas in Marseille that are particularly known for their many robberies and thefts.
There are three reasons for the lack of security in Marseille:
- For more than 2000 years it has been a trading port. Trading ports around the world have always been home to illegal businesses and disreputable people.
- It is a city of immigrants. When immigrants arrive, they are often poor and uneducated, and some have to steal to survive.
- It is a city without money. Apart from the port, there are no major industries or activities in Marseille. So without work there is no money
Result:There are more dangerous areas and neighborhoods to avoid. It is no coincidence that Marseille is called the “suburb of Paris”, but nothing so dramatic that it prevents us from living there and taking the usual precautions.As for the famous mafia of Marseille, it is not dangerous for the ordinary citizen, because, as in Palermo or Naples, the targets are other criminal gangs.
Marseille is quite poor compared to other French cities. The French poverty rate averages 14% of the population. Marseille is far from that, with 28% of the population living in poverty.
The economy is certainly not the city’s strong point, but its landscapes and, of course, its mild climate are. Marseille’s local economy is based on trade and exports.
Its wealth is mainly due to its port, Every year, 110 million tons of goods are handled. About 65% is oil, and the rest is food, chemicals and construction materials. The port is the largest in France and the fifth largest in Europe. Marseille is also home to the largest oil refinery in France.
Another key element of the economy is the trade sector, which has seen the arrival of many small businesses and multinationals over the past decade.
Tourism is very important to the economy, and each year more than two million people come to the city through the port.
Expats working in Marseille are usually employed in managerial positions at the port, as English teachers in local schools, or in one of the technology companies based in the city.
The unemployment rate is high. If you arrive in Marseille without a job it can be quite difficult to find one, especially if you don’t have local support. And remember, it’s probably harder to be poor in Marseille than in other cities.
Until the early 20th century, Marseille was a city of international stature: the largest port in the Mediterranean, the gateway for the import of colonial goods into France, and the center of international trade in important commodities. Then slowly began its decline.
In any case, to live in Marseille is to live in a city that has preserved its originality and uniqueness, unlike most Western European cities that have become more and more standardized.
Those interested in working in other French cities can also read the guide to work in France
Those who want to learn more about how to move to France can find all the information in the related article