For the first time expat Britons make up the highest number of foreigners living in South West France, according to new figures from INSEE, Frances national institute of statistics and economic studies.
It reveals that there are now 16,000 Britons in Aquitaine, a number that could be doubled if you add in the neighbouring departments of Gers, Charente and Charente Maritime.
The social survey also shows that expat Brits are not necessarily the wealthy retirees that one associates with the heart of the Dordogne. The report shows that many of the new wave are younger families who are looking to work in France and forge strong roots in the community.
Trevor Leggett, chief executive of Leggett Immobilier, said that it is a welcome and healthy trend.
‘I’m not surprised by the findings. Our agents in south west France have seen property sales rise by around a third over the last couple of years and many of these have been to young families who are moving to France to escape the rat race and to see their children grow up in a safe, sunny and peaceful environment,’ he explained.
‘We currently have around 1,800 houses for sale in Aquitaine and 2,000 in neighbouring Poitou Charentes and many of these will be particularly attractive to UK buyers as they have plenty of land and are close to pretty villages and excellent schooling,’ he added.
There are now 3,536 British expats in the Charente Maritime alone and Leggett see this as an up and coming region for international buyers with upmarket areas like La Rochelle and the Ile de Ré offering easy access, great shopping, sandy beaches and a temperate climate.
‘Indeed we are eager to recruit new agents for this department to satisfy the demand that we are seeing from buyers from the UK and beyond,’ Leggett pointed out.
He also said that for expats schooling and integration into the community are vital. There are numerous cases of expats being involved in bringing British and French people together such as an expat who runs a Franco British club, teaches English in the local schools and is also involved in local life with the Lions Club.
INSEE research also shows that people moving to France from abroad are more satisfied with their new live. It says that between 2010 and 2011 92% of foreigners declared then selves satisfied with their move. It also points out that to enjoy life in France finding a job is the most important concern, followed by housing and finances.
Its research on second generation immigrants in France found that 90% feel they are French, but only two thirds believe the rest of the population regard them as such.
Some 27% claimed they had been discriminated against because of their heritage and 14% believe they were treated poorly in school compared with an overall national figure of 4%.
The study also showed the descendants of immigrants are more highly educated than their parents with 38% having degrees and compared to 33% of their parents.