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What’s the reality of expat life in Europe today?

Many of Europe’s 33 million international residents have hit something of a jackpot - at least if recent research is anything to go by.

What’s the reality of expat life in Europe today?
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

From longer parental leave and better educational opportunities to bigger paychecks and career boosters, expats in Europe seem to be enjoying the many perks of living abroad.

One of the greatest appeals of relocating to Europe in particular seems to be the promise of a higher quality of life. A recent survey conducted by Vitreous World on behalf of AXA – Global Healthcare* suggests that expats in Europe are more likely to have packed their bags for better pay and more benefits than for the chance to embark on a new adventure. In France, for example, 31 percent of foreigners say that the French lifestyle is by far the best thing about living there – and about 44 percent benefit from things such as improved pay and learning a new language.

Find out more about AXA’s health insurance packages for expats

Fresh statistics from the world’s longest-running survey of expats* found that, among other things, many European expat hotspots seem to be hitting the high notes on a wide variety of criteria. In Spain, for example, more expats than in any other expat community report that more sun and a slower pace of life has led to significant improvements in both their physical and mental health.** In Switzerland, too, international residents are enthusiastic about their lifestyle upgrade, which includes reaping the benefits of the strong economy (by way of higher-than-global-average salaries) and taking care of their families without having to worry about political instability.*

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Despite digital technologies alleviating some of the problems once experienced by expats, living and working abroad does, like most things, have a flipside – or, at any rate, its own set of hurdles. As AXA – Global Healthcare’s survey indicates, these can include language barriers, making new friends, seasonal depression, and adapting to a change in climate. But if you’re aware of these challenges before you move, downloading a language app or joining an online expat community can help you to prepare yourself.

Learn more about how you can benefit from AXA’s global healthcare plans

Moreover, expats often face bureaucratic obstacles as they navigate everything from banking services to local healthcare systems. According to AXA – Global Healthcare’s survey, almost four out of five expats had concerns when seeking healthcare in their current country, with 63 percent saying they would travel back to their home country if they needed medical treatment. Fortunately, you can make use of services such as the Virtual Doctor Service – which is offered with some of AXA’s global health plans with out-patient cover. This provides a handy solution for healthcare challenges if they do arise, allowing you to speak to a doctor at short notice, in a range of languages, at any time and from anywhere in the world.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

On the whole, it does appear that for international dwellers in Europe, expat life comes with many benefits. Although over half of the expats surveyed did report that being away from friends and family made it harder to integrate, and 43 percent said that making new friends was tough, AXA – Global Healthcare’s research indicates that, overall, the majority of both European and global expats believe that their experience of living abroad has been a positive one. For example, close to a majority of expats globally attest to having a better work-life balance than in their home country, citing better leisure opportunities, an easier commute, more disposable income, and more time to spend with family as main reasons.

With AXA’s global health cover, you and your family are covered at every stage of expat life. Find out more about how AXA’s international health insurance can help you to get the most out of life abroad.

*Research conducted in February 2019 by Vitreous World on behalf of AXA. A total of 1,352 expats were surveyed (250 in the UK, France, UAE, Canada and China, and 100 in Hong Kong).

**HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2019

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

 

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HEALTH

How long do you have to wait to see a doctor in France?

When it comes to making an appointment to see a doctor in France - even your GP - waiting times can be frustratingly long.

How long do you have to wait to see a doctor in France?

Back in 2000 a report by the World Health Organisation found France provided the “close to best overall healthcare” in the world.

But there is no doubt that it suffers from issues that mean patients don’t always have access to the healthcare they need.

How long patients have to wait is is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions, depending on a whole host of factors, notably where you live in France. As you’d expect, large urban centres attract more medics – but even these places are not immune from some serious healthcare issues.

According to data from international market research firm Ifop, more than 67% of French people have given up trying to make an appointment with their friendly neighbourhood doctor purely because of how long it takes to get an appointment.

The waiting time to consult a general practitioner varies between six to 11 days. It was only four days 10 years ago, according to the data.

The situation is not helped by the number of missed appointments. Le Parisien reported that an average of two appointments per doctor per day are missed. That may not sound much, but it amounts to 28million missed appointments annually – a workload the equivalent of 4,000 doctors.

At the same time, visits to hospitals’ emergency rooms are rising. Last year, 22million patients were treated by A&E doctors and nurses.

And, as more doctors retire, replacements are proving hard to come by. So-called “medical deserts” are a regular talking point in many rural areas of France – but residents in some areas of major cities are reportedly finding it increasingly difficult to register with a new médecin traitant when their long-standing family GP retires.

READ ALSO Medical deserts: Why one in three French towns do not have enough doctors

For an appointment with a specialist, expect to wait much longer. In France, you don’t need to see your GP before you make an appointment with a specialist medical professional, but most people do because it means the costs are more likely to be covered by state and “mutuelle” health insurance.

According to the Direction de la recherche, des études, de l’évaluation et des statistiques (DREES), getting an appointment to see an ophthalmologist involves an average wait of 190 days – more than six months. 

Dermatologist appointments can involve waits of between 60 and 126 days. As with other medical specialisms regional differences can be huge. In Paris, for example, the wait for an appointment with a dermatologist is at the lower end of the scale. But in rural areas where dermatologists are few and far between, it’s much longer.

Access to gynaecological care in France can also be difficult, taking between 44 and 93 days, or more than three months, to get a consultation, potentially critical time for anyone in need of cervical cancer screening, for example.

READ ALSO How France plans to transform its struggling health system

The wait for a cardiologist appointment in France, meanwhile, is in the average range of 50 to 104 days; a paediatrician’s consultation could involve waiting between 22 and 64 days; and a radiologists’ appointment ranges between 21 to 48 days.

Again these waiting times in big big urban centres like Paris or Lyon will likely be lower given the concentration of specialist doctors.

READ ALSO Have you fallen down the self-diagnosis rabbit hole?

The good news is that the ability to make doctors’ appointments online – especially specialist appointments – is starting to cut waiting times. But it’s clear France still has a long way to go. And those tens of millions of missed appointments are a major problem.

The Union Française pour une Médecine Libre group has called on politicians to allow doctors to penalise patients who do not turn up for their consultations, while online booking service Doctolib is working on a public awareness campaign to highlight the problem. 

Recently a meeting was organised with doctors’ unions and patients’ associations to discuss possible remedies, such as sending a warning email patients. But the portal is unwilling to deny those who repeatedly miss appointments access – “That would hinder universal access to care,” it warned.

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