Is Monaco as stuffy as one would think?
November 27, 2007 12:18 AM   Subscribe

Monaco: can anyone currently living there or who has lived there shed some light?

Because of changes to the UK tax legislation, specifically applying to "non domiciled" ex-pats and covered in my previous AskMeFi, the lovely Mrs Mutant and myself may be leaving the London sometime in 2008.

As I work in banking these changes have impacted many of my friends and colleagues, with what seems to be a global diaspora of long term American ex-pats in the making.

While some have moved back to the US (New York real estate is indeed cheap at present if you're not funding in dollars) or as far afield as Shaghai or Hong Kong, I'm considering taking a position in Monaco.

I've done a fair amount of googling and now would like to find out firsthand
  • What there is to do
  • What folks get up to there in their spare time
  • Where do they go for holidays
  • How convenient is Monaco for travel (very important to us as we're used to hopping on a jet here in London and just going and we'd like to come back to The Netherlands once a month)
  • Food - markets & restaurants
  • University - I currently teach Finance part time and it would be nice to keep this alternative career option open
I've already got professionals engaged regarding issues of taxation and residence / working permits.

Our backgrounds are rather diverse - my wife is Dutch and comes from Amsterdam. I'm from New York but have spent over a third of my adult life living outside the United States. In London we enjoy the restaurants, street markets, Tate Modern, smaller galleries and generally walking about this old city. We spend about a week a month in Amsterdam as well (where we keep a second flat), and enjoy people watching and walking about there.

While I'm capable of appearing very corporate and typically operate at the CXO level in banking, I'm heavily tattooed, spend lots of time pursuing art all over Europe and really only work in Investment Banking for the money. To be honest, I've got some concerns about fitting in a place with Monaco's reputation.
posted by Mutant to Travel & Transportation around Monaco (8 answers total)
I'd have concerns with it too, Mutant. I visited it once to see a friend who lived there. I couldn't take it for more than a couple of days. "Stuffy" wouldn't even begin to describe it. My friend was miserable and has since moved. I'll Skype her later and ask for details.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:55 AM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: Argh! The first bullet point got swallowed due to some misformed HTML on my part
  • How expensive the place is for ordinary folks (London isn't really if you know how to live cheap)
Also, and to clarify a point raised via email, I own my flat in London and plan to rent it out on a long term basis - although this isn't really germane to the question I've put forward.

On preview: thanks Dee for any help or information you can provide.
posted by Mutant at 1:00 AM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: > How expensive the place is for ordinary folks (London isn't really if you know how to live cheap)

It'd be a bit more expensive than London, I think.

> What there is to do

If you're used to cosmopolitan London, of course you'll be a bit bored at the beginning. There is an aquarium in town, and gorgeous hills and paths along the coast to walk on. Borrow, download or steal Hitchcock's 1954 To Catch a Thief, or just watch any James Bond film with a car chase scene near Monaco. This is the sort of landscape you'll get.

Italy isn't far away, and there are many modern and contemporary art museums on the French side. Matisse, the Maeght Foundation, Chagall, etc.

Cannes and Antibes have a very active nightlife.

> How convenient is Monaco for travel (very important to us as we're used to hopping on a jet here in London and just going and we'd like to come back to The Netherlands once a month)

Transavia has Amsterdam-Nice flights. Easyjet, Ryanair, etc. also land in Nice. There is an helicopter service from Monaco to the airport for toffs, but you can just take the train to Nice then the bus to the airport.

> Food - markets & restaurants

There's a very normal Carrefour supermarket in Monaco. Restaurants are a bit expensive.

> University - I currently teach Finance part time and it would be nice to keep this alternative career option open

There's an university in Monaco, but I don't know anything about it. To teach in France, you'd have to be a guest lecturer from a foreign university, or pass the complex state exam in French.

Have you considered other places like Luxembourg, Switzerland?
posted by stereo at 2:02 AM on November 27, 2007

I can't answer some of your questions, but I've been to Monte Carlo and know someone who is domiciled there for tax reasons and thus is there often.

I found it very pleasant - beautiful scenery, lovely climate. Nobody seemed to mind me wandering round in jeans with multiple piercings in my face, but then I didn't go to any of the more exclusive places (a colleague got taken into the casino, where apparently people just looked at her like she was an alien). It's very safe - highest ratio of police to ordinary citizens in the world. It's also very quiet - it nominally has the highest population density of any country, but most don't actually live there, they're just registered there and visit every so often to keep their tax status going. I didn't stay for long - apparently there isn't that much to do once you've seen everything. If you're used to London it's going to be a big change in pace of life.

As for travel - Nice airport is quite close and is a major airport for the south of France. It's about half an hour by road - the taxi was EUR85, while there's a bus a few times a day to Nice airport which was EUR18. According to the Nice airport website there are three flights a day to Amsterdam. There's also a railway station in Monte Carlo.
posted by terrynutkins at 2:10 AM on November 27, 2007

Just live in Nice and commute? Its a 17 minute train ride. Nice is all kinds of fabulous and you don't seem like the sort of people who would be scared off by the "scary Arab area" - which, as far as I could determine, was scary only because it had Arabs. It also had truly fabulous flats that were dead cheap.

Alternatively, expand your perception of "where I live" to include Monte Carlo, Cannes and Nice and you'll end up living somewhere really quite wonderful!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:39 AM on November 27, 2007

Unfortunately the reason for living in Monaco is the tax system - living in Nice defeats the point of moving.

My take is that is as stuffy as you fear. Family members who have done (banking) work there and know residents report back that it really is exclusive and snobby. As terrynutkins said, it's a place to get your tax status sorted and then spend as much time as possible elsewhere.

Switzerland might be a better option, though Geneva and Zurich are hardly super-cosmopolitan.
posted by patricio at 3:25 AM on November 27, 2007

I'd love to tell you what Monaco is like but was refused entry at the border while on a "tour Europe by open top double decker bus" (a bit like this) holiday some years ago.

That the bus was full of Swiss, Belgian, Italian and Welsh twentysomethings in scruffy, unwashed clothing (we were camping) might have had something to do with it but closer inspection would have revealed a group of boring, drug-free young people (occupations ranging from caribinieri to translator to social worker) keen to spend a couple of hours in a country and move on.

I've never bothered trying to get back in :-)
posted by ceri richard at 4:08 AM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: The Riviera lifestyle is amazing. However, bear in mind it's not like London in the dirty, gritty, "down with the city", "lets nip over to Camden with all the freaks" sense. It's stuffy and snobby but, luckily, more welcoming (and relaxing) places are very close by. Whereas London isn't somewhere most residents like getting out of, you can experience some of Europe's most beautiful scenery within an hour of Monaco. Food, however, is absolutely a-maz-ing and like for like is a little cheaper than London.

As Terry says, Nice is a major transportation hub and while I can't speak for getting to the Netherlands, it's a major Easyjet destination, so getting back to the UK is easy at least. Driving is also pretty good with the autoroute up to Lyon taking a few hours (except August, when you totally avoid driving anywhere).

I gotta say, Monaco (or the whole Riviera) is definitely an interesting place to live for a while but leave before you get numb or suckered into the complete lifestyle.. Just don't expect any "vibrancy" in the principality itself.
posted by wackybrit at 8:05 AM on November 27, 2007

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