Save. Spend. Splurge.

There’s such a thing as a “free” lunch in France!

Just an interesting tidbit I thought I’d share about tickets repas in France and Belgium.


They are meal tickets (kind of like food stamps) that people in France get to use as vouchers towards fast food, restaurants, charcuterie delis, or prepared meals sold in grocery stores.

They can range in price, but I found someone online saying they got a ticket repas for 8.60 EUR which is about $11.18 USD.

They get them because you don’t really have cafeterias in the workplaces, you eat outside, so companies give you a voucher to compensate the cost of eating out each day.

Most places accept them, but not all, as some ex-pats have run into problems with redemption in Belgium.

Managers don’t get ticket repas (no law to require this), but if your job is to eat out all the time with clients, you just expense it under the company.

If you don’t want a ticket repas, apparently you can ask for it in wages instead. Employers can claim these tickets as a tax benefit to a maximum of 5.29 EUR per ticket, but it is up to their discretion how much they give you in each ticket (they can give you more but they have to pay).

Some people even use it to buy actual groceries, although there’s a limit on how many you can use at once.

Source and Source

Isn’t that interesting?

That works out to be about $2683.20 USD a year extra in tickets repas to go towards your daily lunches.

Made me think about it as part of your “benefits” of working in a certain countries and if it worked out to be about the same or better.



I wondered if it would make a difference in their salaries, but apparently not at first glance:

Minimum wage in France is $22,377.36 USD a year (1,425.67 EUR per month)

Minimum wage in the U.S. is $14,500 USD a year ($7.25 an hour)

Minimum wage in Canada is $21,240 CAD year (let’s assume 1 USD : 1 CAD)



Of course we have to take into consideration that people in France are taxed much more if you earn well above minimum wage, but also have universal health coverage that is the envy of Canadians.

To put it into perspective, people in France have to pay 5 types of taxes:

  1. income tax (I.R.P.P; C.S.G; C.R.D.S) ; 
  2. local taxes (real estate tax : taxes foncières, occupant tax and professional tax); 
  3. the value-added tax; 
  4. the registration tax (including inheritance and donations); 
  5. the wealth tax.


Income tax as in the I.R.P.P. for a minimum wage worker in France is about 5.5% to 14%, and the other two acronyms of C.S.G. and C.R.D.S. are social taxes of 15.5% per annum of health care and debt repayment that is “officially temporary” (yeah right!)


However assuming they just earn 17,108 EUR per year as indicated above for minimum wage, it isn’t so bad!!!


Minimum-wage earners in France (after conversion) get to keep the most money, followed by Canada then the U.S.

In France, they get to keep most if it if it’s minimum wage, around 16,000 EUR a year after taxes, or 1333.33 EUR a month which is $1746.66 USD a month.

In the U.S., you get to take home about $13,390.75 a year or $1115.89 a month if you live in a no-state-tax state like Alaska, Texas, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming or Florida.

In Canada, you get to take home about $18,938 a year or $1578.16 CAD a month if you live in Ontario.


That’s where it differs. It’s much cheaper to live in the U.S. than in Canada, and France is pretty expensive.

I don’t have solid numbers on any of this, but here’s a chart I found which pretty much confirms what I felt even living in Manhattan, NY.

It was just cheaper in general to live in the U.S.



In France versus the U.S., it looks like this:

Ouch! Local purchasing power is 41.93% HIGHER in the U.S. than France.

Cost-of-living-in-USA-versus-FranceAnd finally, France versus Canada:

Hmm, looks like for living and eating (rent and groceries), it is a slightly better deal in France.


Still, seems like a decent deal to live in France over Canada for retirement because of the healthcare and way of life (rent is cheaper and so are groceries).

However for working above minimum wage, Canada and to a lesser extent the U.S. probably works out to be a better deal because the French taxes take a much larger chunk of your income as you rise in the salaried ranks.


What say you? Does it seem to even out in the end?



  • Pauline

    I am really surprised to see only a 0.54% difference in rent between France and the U.S.. Rents are crazy high, even outside Paris, and property prices too. Rental yields rarely break 4% when 8-12% is not unheard of in the States.
    By the way most workers have to pay for their lunch vouchers, usually you pay half, so a 9 euros voucher costs you 4.50 euros. Companies limit how many you can buy, 20-30 per month generally, and you can pool them to pay for a big dinner on Friday night, while you bring your lunch to work. Grocery stores have become stricter and only accept them for foods from the deli aisle like sandwiches or ready made salads.

  • SarahN

    Oh to be French – and the uni cafeteria was 2.80 euro in Dec 2006 and they were good meals, as in balanced, filling, healthY! I miss France, would live there in a heartbeat!

  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    It was always expected that I would bring my lunch. If I had the option, I would take the money! $11 per meal definitely wouldn’t balance out for me when compared to leftovers!

  • Mirella

    We have ticket restaurant in Italy top…

  • NZ Muse

    Er – are workplace cafeterias common in North America, outside Silicon Valley??

    Man, we are missing out. T at a previous job had a subsidised onsite cafe but aside from that, I can only think of a couple other places that I know have a subsidised cafe(hospital and our big public broadcaster).

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