Moving to France – Things to Consider Before You Go

The Internet is full of tales of grief from the people who followed their dream and moved to France in search of a better life, only to discover that the “Place in the Sun” was not advertised here. But why did they fail? And what can we learn from their experience? Here are ten things that you should consider before taking decisive steps:

1. Find the children. If they are preschool, they will be settled more quickly, but older children will take longer to adapt to new friends, a new language, and a different culture. They may not share your dream of the French idyll, and they could bring you back to the boat faster than you can say: “I wish we did not sell our house.”

2. Choose the right place – Yes, the old house in the center is nowhere beautiful, but what do you want from life? Do you miss a local pub, cinema, soft drinks, gym, sports facilities and clubs? Think about whether you need to be near the city, or you are happy in the country. If you are from a town in the UK, then moving to a country in France will be a second shock for the system.

3. Rent first. The only way to find out if you like this area, without the risk to save your property in the UK, rent it and find a rented property in the right place. So you can try different places if you want and you will be ideally located to first hear about the sale of real estate in the area.

4. How will you make money? – With unemployment of about 10% and suffocating employment laws, you may find it difficult to find a job in France, especially if you do not speak a fluent French speaker. Starting a business can work, but you can be surprised by the red tape and high social costs, and you will need to conduct a thorough investigation. Many people return to work in the UK every week but think about the consequences for your health and morale in the long run.

5. Consider your health. Yes, medical care here is excellent, but the people of France pay for it due to heavy social charges and replenishment of insurance. Strict rules are governing the right to participate in the French system, and if you retire or are approaching retirement age, think about how you will cope without the support of your broader family in the event of a disability or illness in later years.

6. Choose the appropriate type of property – what will you do with the 30 hectares of land that you got with this property? Property can be cheap to buy, but many need a lot of work (and money) to make them habitable. It’s fine to dream, but building and DIY materials are not cheap, and you are more likely to stumble upon Elvis Presley than a plumber or electrician who can accommodate you in a hurry. Do your homework and be realistic about the depth of your budget and your patience.

7. Learn the language – you will be given a basic French language, but what about friends, communication with utility companies and integration into the community? You can feel isolated and lonely if you do not get a reasonable command over the language, and it’s not easy to pick it up. Try to watch French television, talk with the locals and make a course. Do not underestimate how much time you will need to talk freely.

8. Become part of the community. If you have children, meet with other parents and join the school committee. If not, study the local associations and clubs and talk to your neighbors. If you limit your social activity to a group of ex-pot that you need to know, then you will never become part of the community. Respecting and accepting local culture and traditions does not mean losing your British roots and your abilities.

9. Give this time! “The usual wisdom is that you need at least two years to let him live in another country.” During this period you will feel homesickness, skip food, beer, shops, your family and feel that you have done something wrong, and worry about the impact on your family. If you do not give him time, you will never know if it could work.

10. Have some savings. Moving is expensive wherever you go, but make sure that you have put aside enough money for these repairs at home or to build a business if that’s what you plan to do.