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Moving to and Living in France – a Complete How-To Guide

France has absolutely everything anyone could want from the perfect overseas destination: a fabulous climate,  dramatic landscapes with incredible contrasts, affordable property, accessible healthcare and arguably the best cuisine and wine in the world! No wonder so many Britons consider moving to and living in France.

In part France’s appeal comes from the nation’s ease of accessibility from the UK, and in part because at the same time as being geographically close, France is uniquely different to the UK in almost every way.

The Pros and Cons of Moving to and Living in France

So is France really the best place to live abroad at the moment?  It certainly has a great deal in its favour as we will now detail; however, there are certain downsides to this stunning nation that we would be amiss if we failed to highlight too!

If you’re looking to escape Blighty’s gloomy skies and dismal economic outlook, France could be worthy of your consideration – but heed the cons as well as the pros before you make a firm commitment to relocate across the Channel for a new life in France.

So on a plus side:

Accessibility. There are ferries and trains, you can take your car or fly to France – travel options are excellent, and the costs of getting across the Channel are not exorbitant at the current time.  Once in mainland France the exceptional road network locally means it’s easy to get to your destination of choice…and the further south you go, the more likely you are to experience excellent summer weather.

Diversity. France offers such a diversity in terms of landscape and climate that you can find a place to holiday no matter what you want to do and see, and no matter when you want to go.  You can mountaineer in the Alps and experience snow and ice even at this time of the year – or you can head to the Med and be soaking up the sun whilst the UK suffers under heavy grey skies.

Moving to and living in France - Biarritz
One of the great seaside locations – Biarritz, France

Lifestyle. In the winter France has some of the best snow-sports resorts in the whole of Europe, and no matter when you travel to France you can soak up the exceptionally rich cultural heritage and history and immerse yourself in all the best bits about this nation.  You can while away your entire day sipping coffee at cafes and sitting outside whilst watching the world go by.  You will be assured of fine cuisine, excellent shopping, and if you make the effort to speak French you will find you’re more welcome than if you arrogantly assume everyone speaks English!

Reasonably Populated. Whilst France is over twice the size of the UK, its population is only a little bigger than our own which means the country does not exactly suffer from over crowding issues!  This has been one reason why rural property has remained relatively attractively priced in some areas – despite the strength of the euro compared to the pound.

Affordable Property. This means Britons can fulfil their desire to own their own home if they move to France, and property ownership rules and laws are strong and relatively transparently documented and adhered to – compared to some countries such as Cyprus and Turkey for example!

On the minus side:

Rural France is very quiet! If your dream is to live in rural France don’t be surprised to find nothing to do, no services to speak of, no public transportation infrastructure and limited opportunities to get out and meet people.

The dream of starting a new life can turn into a nightmare for Britons who find themselves isolated and basically bored!  Those who relocate with children can suffer most when their children find it’s really hard to get out and about to take part in extra curricular activities in order to make friends for example.

Employment. Those who move to more urban areas and who intend to work in France can come unstuck when they realise how hard it is for foreign nationals to find employment.

Bureaucracy. And all Brits find the taxation system complicated and the bureaucracy overly complex. Also France is not the most attractive destination in terms of tax if you want to work, or to set up a business.

Language. To have a good life in France you do need to learn the language. As difficult as it might seem, learning French will make everything easier for you. Perhaps if you are moving to Paris and are of independent means (i.e. you are not seeking employment), you could do without learning French.  However if you are anywhere in France for more than a few weeks, it will really help if you can learn a bit more than your basic school French. There are various tips all over the web on how to learn French, so be brave and determined and you will succeed.

Once you have mastered some key phrases and learn to pronounce them properly, it will be enough to get you through day-to-day situations. Then you will see what an advantage it is to be able to speak a local language – and further learning will be more enjoyable.

Having considered the pros and the cons, are you still confident about moving to and living in France?

If yes, here are some practical tips to help you on the way:

Where to Live in France

Do you have an exact location in mind? Do you know it well enough to be confident it will make you a perfect home? Research is a key to your successful relocation.

If you’re contemplating exploring this great and beautiful land for a place to call home, here is a review of the four very popular regions…that way you may at least be able to narrow down your choice!

Burgundy –  for us Burgundy is all about the food and the wine!  If you’re living in France and you’re living in Burgundy you’re within reach of the finest vineyards in the world, you’re a stone’s throw away from the best Charolais beef cattle, you are in fruit growing country where cheese and honey, chicken and of course Dijon mustard are all produced in vast quantity and fantastic quality.  So, Burgundy is all about living the good life in France!  The quality of life in this region is exceptional, and it’s the best place to be if you’re a true foodie and you’re really into fine wining and dining!

Loire Valley – possibly the most beautiful region in France, the Loire Valley is of course famous for its fabulous chateaux and its fascinating history.  This is a great part of France to live in if you want to feel the majesty of the nation and enjoy the almost dramatic backdrop of fairy-tale castles and the mighty river Loire.  The Loire Valley is also blessed with handsome rolling countryside, pretty limestone villages and of course fabulous weather – making it a Brit’s favourite paradise in France.

Moving to and living in France - Alsace
Most beautiful villages of France – Riquewihr in Alsace.

Alsace – The Alsace is quite possibly one of the most interesting region in France because it boasts the best of Germany whilst still being French and what’s more, it is little explored by the Great British tourist!  In Alsace you have everything – you have castles and mountains, plains and forests, rivers and a fabulous city called Strasbourg, you have the best French and German cuisine, fabulously robust wines and a great continental climate all rolled into a package that also includes half timbered houses, summer festivals, open and friendly people and a seriously good quality of affordable living.

Provence – well, what good would a guide to living in France be without a mention of Provence – this region is quite possibly the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams of a perfect life in France!  It’s beautiful, it’s cultured, it’s romantic, it’s got the best food in France (yes, actually, in our book it even beats Burgundy because of the olive oil and the fresh fruit and veg!), it’s got the Mediterranean for goodness sake and it also has Saint Tropez.  Who could want for more?  The way of life in Provence is what you make of it – you can embrace the glamour of the Saint Tropez set and live a fast paced, glitzy life (if you have the money!) or you can take a more laid back approach and embrace the Mediterranean pace of life where you enjoy the finer pleasures in lazy moderation.

For those who want to narrow down the choice to exact locations our Best Places to Live in France guide will make an excellent starting point.

Visa and Residency

EU citizens moving to and living in France don’t need any special visa to do so. If you’re British moving to live in France you can do so as long as you have a valid passport.  However, you should register your presence with the local Préfecture in the department of your place of residence in France.

Taxation

If you become resident in France you will be taxed on your worldwide income from all sources.

It means your personal income tax declaration needs to include salary, pension, rental income, investment income, interest on savings, and income from business activities.

Income tax is payable on incomes above € 9,710.  Even if your income is below the income threshold at which the tax becomes payable, or if you are non-resident, but earn income in France you must submit a French income tax declaration.

Tax in France is favourable for those expats who retire there and take their pension as lump-sum. It is taxed then at a fixed rate of 7.5%.

The wealth tax threshold is 1.3 million which can really advantage some retirees.

Cost of Living

With the pound being weak, the cost of living in France is now on average 6.8% higher than in the UK (not considering rent). However rent in France is 26.3% lower than in the UK.

The cost of living is comparable to one in Britain, with some Brits finding that they can offset the weaker pound because they live in southern France where locally grown produce keeps food prices lower, and the better weather keeps their annual fuel costs down.

In conclusion…

Moving abroad is a big step. Moving to and living in France might seem easy though, as it is just a short journey across the channel. But France can be a tough country to crack. If you plan well, you will get it right you can live the dream.

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