The France Page

French Village Diaries Top Tips moving to France and life in France

France has been a big part of our lives for over twenty years. We holidayed here as a couple, then as a family, and have lived here since 2004, and we love it. We often get asked why we moved here and the French are as interested in the answer as are our friends and family. Everyone has their own reasons for chasing the dream and for us it was about having more time to spend together as a family and not having the financial pressures we had in the UK. It was not a rash decision after a bottle of French wine whilst watching one of the many UK TV programmes about Brits moving to the sun; it was something we thought carefully about for at least three years before making the move.

I think planning is key for a move to be successful and I still have the old spreadsheets comparing living costs and income in UK and France (circa 2004), including our old weekly UK food shop that we had carefully converted into Euros - once an accountant always an accountant. I often get asked for advice from people thinking of moving here, so here is a list of things to consider. Please note this is by no means an exhaustive list, just my opinion based on our experience.

•        Learn the language; you will get so much more out of your new life if you can communicate in French. We have found Coffee Break French and One Thing in a French Day very helpful.

•        Research your living costs; don’t forget personal bank accounts are not free like in the UK, wine may be cheap, but food can be pricey. It gets very cold here in winter and heating costs are likely to be as high or higher than in the UK; old French houses can be draughty and take quite a bit of heating.

•        Think about your income; the capital from selling your UK home will not go nearly as far as you think and in rural France especially, finding work will not be easy.

•        If you want to run your own business, you will pay about 40% in tax/social charges no matter what level your earnings are, and the French system can be a complex one to understand.

•        When deciding where you want to live; in the countryside or a town, remember unless you are in a large town or very popular area like the Riviera, France closes over winter. Also, not all French villages are equal in terms of amenities and social life.

•        Think very carefully about your current social life/time spent with your family and friends, and how you would cope without seeing them regularly.

•        Lots of flights to the UK are summer only, so it is important to consider how long will it take you to drive back in an emergency.

•        The healthcare system is different to the UK as you must pay for each appointment before being reimbursed, and a ‘top up’ health insurance policy is advisable. If you are not ‘in’ the system, then you will get nothing reimbursed.

•        Children will pick up the language fairly quickly at school, but for some, Ed included, it can be difficult to begin with and can take quite some time before they are totally happy to speak French.

French Village Diaries Top Tips moving to France and life in France

We still love France, even if some of her ways can be very frustrating, but nothing in life is perfect and living here is not one long holiday. We have, just about, achieved our goal in that we do spend a lot more time together as a family. Without a mortgage and with an orchard, veggie garden and a frugal attitude to food, our expenses per month are very low, which is just as well as so is our monthly income! Following the UK Brexit referendum our future is less certain, but whatever happens we followed our dream and gave it our best shot.

Here are some of my information blog posts that you might find useful.
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  1. Nice to read your level-headed comments, me and my girlfriend are on year one of our three year plan to do just as you have done and feel that we are not being overly 'romantic' about the whole thing. Good luck to you and your family, we are in the south east of England and long to move to France for a simpler life.

    1. Thank you. Good luck with your planning and hopefully one day your move!

  2. Natalie Crawford-MooreJune 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    We too moved from the south east of England for a simpler life in France and 8 and a half years later I can tell you we have no regrets! I would like to echo the advice given on this page though. They are all important points to fully understand and to discuss at length before taking the plunge. If you haven't already, you might like to read my husband's book : A la Mod by Ian Moore which Jacqui has reviewed on here and which recounts amongst other things our move from West Sussex to rural of luck with your own exciting plans!

    1. I agree, Natalie, the more you can read, plan and discuss the easier the move should be. Most 'move to France' books do try show the difficulties as well as the good times and it is important to remember 'moving' is not the same as one long holiday.

  3. Good to find your blog and this page in particular.
    We have been living in New Zealand for the past 10 years but plan to retire to South West France in 2015.
    I've been reading, reading, reading and zooming in and out of little towns and villages on Google Maps.
    I've also found several very helpful contacts on Facebook. In fact someone there suggested this page.
    We have spent time in France, have always loved the culture and, after living in NZ, it will be so close to home.
    Last night I booked flights for next April and plan to spend a few days in Paris and then down to Poitue, Limousin, Deux Sevres to get a feel for the place we would like to settle.
    I am hoping that with no mortgage, state pension and two small occupational pensions we will be able to live plainly and comfortably.
    Once again than k you for your blog

    1. Best of luck with the planning and moving. Your biggest threat is likely to be currency fluctuations as that can make a big difference. We also find our energy costs to be quite high, but our house here is bigger than the one we had in the UK and older, so not as energy efficient! Hope you have a good trip over.


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