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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am interested in advice / critique from those on this forum that have been there done that. I've been lurking for some time, reading many posts from those along the lines of 'thinking of moving to france to live stress free' and many of the basic points that are raised. I am hopeful / trying to think about this in a more planned way, with a longer lead-time. I'd love to hear from some people big issues / considerations i've not thought of. I've tried not to make this an encyclopaedic post but sorry it's a bit long. But I recognize it's hard to give feedback if you don't know who and why.

Sorry again for a long post (is there record for length of first post:)), would love to hear some thoughts, and hopefully i can contribute to others as we move along! In particular, what else would you be doing now before you get to the point of actually moving. For those that have recently moved i'd love to hear what you wish you had spent more time on ahead of time!

Thanks!

Who we are:
My wife and I both live in London. I'm Australian, she is Swedish, in early 40's. Both of us have been global nomads, nowhere is really 'home'. I grew up in a small country town (on a farm). We've spent much of our adult life living in various major cities (e.g. Boston, New York, London). No Kids. We don't speak french fluently. Mine is basic. My wife speaks 4 languages but not french.

What's driving the move
Too long to list. The best way i can summarize is to date, my career has very much dictated where we live. I few factors (including my health) are driving me to step away from that career. I don't intend to retire. What i will do is TBD which is partly driving the timeline. My wife has a professional job which is pretty much globally mobile. She has been pushing us to move for several years now, if i offered next week she'd bite my hand off. Note - there is a risk that i step out of my career for 12 months, i'll miss it and want to go back, I guess you never know if you don't try.

The plan:
Timeline - We're broadly looking at moving with a 4-5 year horizon.
Where - Not explicitly defined. Focus is the regions around Toulouse (say within 90 mins) as my wife's company has a major location there. We have been in the region multiple times, but holidays are much different to living! She also has to travel globally so a decent sized airport is a must. We are inclined to somewhere higher elevation/cooler as we have a holiday apartment in spain that will stay with us. Ariege currently favourite, but we're not fixed on that.
Legal Stuff - I understand we can move, she as EU citizen, me as spouse, and i have to register etc, to be a resident. Broadly I haven't seen an obvious immigration barrier.
Work - the intent is my wife would continue in her career so we always have an income stream. I have the next 3-4 years to figure out what work will be for me.
First 3 years - Broadly we are living our current life, but:
○ Using holiday time to explore the region as much as we can. We may do some short remote work stints, keeping in mind tax restrictions these would be short (i.e. 1-2 weeks max).
○ Some language learning (but accept with our work lives it won't be intensive)
○ I need to work out a (future) vocation or at least an outline.
Year 4 - Partial move. I would move close to permanently, wife may be mixed. Retain London base.
○ Intent is to identify a rental property. We have noticed these can be few and far between in smaller villages.
○ Focus on learning french intensely. I would not work this year, my wife would.
Year 5 - house purchase, final move.

My worries - stuff that could go wrong - please add to the list!
  • Biggest one - is i just don't figure out a vocation of some form. Lacking a purpose probably isn't going to end well.
  • Small town syndrome - i've lived in a (very) small rural town. While my wife is very keen, I worry she doesn't know what comes with that. While i haven't lived in france i am a beliver there are some pro's and con's of small town living!
  • Language and Integration - While we've both moved around quite a bit it's always a risk. To be fair, because of all that moving, we don't actually have that rich a social network where we are now. I am in particular a bit of an introvert which I have always found holds me back with language.
 

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Wow, you really are a "planner" here! I doubt your post is the longest first post ever - but then again, we don't keep track of those things. I'll just note down some initial thoughts, in no particular order:

Overall, your plans look good. Though as I re-read it, it sounds like you're not going to make any actual move to France until Year 4. That could pose a problem. For you to enjoy the benefits of being the spouse of an EU national, you must be "joining" her in France. If she's still based out of London, you'll have to get a full visa and all the trimmings, unless you content yourself with the 90 days out of any 180 day rolling period routine. Better for her to get transferred to her company's Toulouse site and get enrolled in the French payroll system (including the health coverage) before you make the move. Will also help with the language learning and in developing something of a social network while you're learning the language. Not to mention the opportunity to learn the area and search out where you may (or may not) want to settle.

Don't go too small if you're looking for a "rural village" setting. The smaller the town, the less chance that she'll be able to get away with no French at all. (Though if one of her other languages is Basque, she might have a decent chance... <g>) France tends to be a country full of "small towns" in the universal sense of that term. There are also considerations of the availability of medical (and other) services if you get too far out into the boondocks.

The vocation issue depends on your "qualifications" and your income requirements. If you are planning on working here in France, you'll need some sort of qualification in order to get a job here, plus a decent knowledge of (at least) conversational French (if only to interact with colleagues). Otherwise there is the option of starting up your own business of some variety if you can afford it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wow, you really are a "planner" here! I doubt your post is the longest first post ever - but then again, we don't keep track of those things. I'll just note down some initial thoughts, in no particular order:

Overall, your plans look good. Though as I re-read it, it sounds like you're not going to make any actual move to France until Year 4. That could pose a problem. For you to enjoy the benefits of being the spouse of an EU national, you must be "joining" her in France. If she's still based out of London, you'll have to get a full visa and all the trimmings, unless you content yourself with the 90 days out of any 180 day rolling period routine. Better for her to get transferred to her company's Toulouse site and get enrolled in the French payroll system (including the health coverage) before you make the move. Will also help with the language learning and in developing something of a social network while you're learning the language. Not to mention the opportunity to learn the area and search out where you may (or may not) want to settle.

Don't go too small if you're looking for a "rural village" setting. The smaller the town, the less chance that she'll be able to get away with no French at all. (Though if one of her other languages is Basque, she might have a decent chance... <g>) France tends to be a country full of "small towns" in the universal sense of that term. There are also considerations of the availability of medical (and other) services if you get too far out into the boondocks.

The vocation issue depends on your "qualifications" and your income requirements. If you are planning on working here in France, you'll need some sort of qualification in order to get a job here, plus a decent knowledge of (at least) conversational French (if only to interact with colleagues). Otherwise there is the option of starting up your own business of some variety if you can afford it.
Thanks much, the point on me needing to 'join' my wife i hadn't thought of. I guess that's why you ask! I guess as you say I either will need her to move earlier, or i guess i have to go the long term visa route given in first year or so i wouldn't be working.

On the village thing i think this is where we need to spend more time there. My wife is inclined to more remote, i'm probably a bit more of 'i'd really like to be able to walk to buy the bread' mindset.

She speaks spanish, but not basque unfortunately:) She had the experience of moving to spain with no spanish, so we definitely know that challenge. Being able to order food in a restaurant very different to trying to agree with a builder how to solve a damp problem!!!

The work question is the hard one for me. While i grew up around small family businesses, i've been wired into a profressional grind for 20+ years i actually struggle to think 'what else'. I have been searching around for any threads where people are talking about new careers, but maybe i need a different forum for that:)l
 

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I say just as well, because Basque is a standalone language with no roots in either Spanish or French. The Basque country is situated on the western side of the Pyrenees. Even so, the official language is French, but for administrative matters and many other things they also cater for English, Portuguese and to a certain degree Castllian Spanish speakers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I say just as well, because Basque is a standalone language with no roots in either Spanish or French. The Basque country is situated on the western side of the Pyrenees. Even so, the official language is French, but for administrative matters and many other things they also cater for English, Portuguese and to a certain degree Castllian Spanish speakers.
Thanks, i'm not really close to the basque area and wasn't sure quite how far it extended east. I've not really spent any time right in the SW corner / atlantic coast.
 

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Thanks, i'm not really close to the basque area and wasn't sure quite how far it extended east. I've not really spent any time right in the SW corner / atlantic coast.
It was Bev who first mentioned Basqu6, but then she lives in the Île de France, which likely accounts for the mistake.
 

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Not really a mistake as such - just a comment made in jest. (That's why I added the "<g>")

I wouldn't, however, count on administrative offices anywhere in France having English speakers readily available when you need them. They'll try to help, but in a pinch you're expected to make do in French. Heck, even here in Ile de France (the Paris region) it's rare to find anyone in any official capacity who will deign to humiliate themselves by attempting to speak English (or any language other than French).

On the issue of career changes, there are a number of factors to consider. How much of an income do you need to make to keep body and soul together? Most career changers are looking at a rather large loss of income on making the big change. It just goes with the territory. And getting hired in your 40s or 50s is difficult anywhere these days.
 

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Hi, I live on the western extremity of "90 minutes to Toulouse" and spend a fair bit of time at the eastern end of that too.

Toulouse is in Occitanie so Occitane is the minority language ,which is once again taught in schools, and at least one article appears in the départementale magazines each month in that language ( with a French translation) It's certainly not needed anywhere.

Where I live there are numerous Spanish and Portuguese speakers but few competent English speakers, hence French is the only language used. In Toulouse and to the east it's a different matter: there are many world tourists there so the French learn the English terms within their area of expertise e.g. in groceries, garages, railways etc. Going into the 1:supermarket (Intermarché) in Marseillette a couple of weeks ago I thought I'd been transported out of France entirely there were so many Australian, New Zealand and British voices to be heard. Forming an acquaintance circle should be relatively easy as tourists don't buy general groceries.

As your wife knows how to learn a language I suggest she only uses a private tutor, it can be really frustrating to be in a classroom where there are slow learners. She will make progress so very much quicker than others. As a basic grammar guide I find the Idiot's Guides are good.

As a location to base yourselves, have you thought of Agen? It's only just off the A62 and is a good railway hub for travel within Europe. It has its own airport for linking to Paris but Toulouse and Bordeaux airports are easily reached too. The weather is somewhat kinder than in Toulouse which is subject to strong winds. It's also the admin centre of Lot-et-Garonne so has many facilities which are sited much closer together than those in the Toulouse conglomeration where everything seems to need a 20km drive round one of the périphériques.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks, my wife is in a funny situation she speaks 4 languages, but none of them perfectly due to a childhood (and then adult life) moving around a lot. But even without ever speaking french she seems to pick up more in a week than i do in a month! We both recognize (mainly through time in spain though), that while as a visitor you can typically get away with english, life becomes massively frustrating when you are dealing with the phone company trying to solve a fault or a builder etc. etc. I think I just have to accept it will be a long process for me, but to stay with it!

I already love the fact this forum has made me consider things i hadn't thought of. Agen looks really interesting. I've been around the region a bit, but all south and East / North East of Toulouse. Of course you suggest somewhere North West, where i really have not been at all, so you have piqued my interest. Will do some googling.

Cheers

Hi, I live on the western extremity of "90 minutes to Toulouse" and spend a fair bit of time at the eastern end of that too.

Toulouse is in Occitanie so Occitane is the minority language ,which is once again taught in schools, and at least one article appears in the départementale magazines each month in that language ( with a French translation) It's certainly not needed anywhere.

Where I live there are numerous Spanish and Portuguese speakers but few competent English speakers, hence French is the only language used. In Toulouse and to the east it's a different matter: there are many world tourists there so the French learn the English terms within their area of expertise e.g. in groceries, garages, railways etc. Going into the 1:supermarket (Intermarché) in Marseillette a couple of weeks ago I thought I'd been transported out of France entirely there were so many Australian, New Zealand and British voices to be heard. Forming an acquaintance circle should be relatively easy as tourists don't buy general groceries.

As your wife knows how to learn a language I suggest she only uses a private tutor, it can be really frustrating to be in a classroom where there are slow learners. She will make progress so very much quicker than others. As a basic grammar guide I find the Idiot's Guides are good.

As a location to base yourselves, have you thought of Agen? It's only just off the A62 and is a good railway hub for travel within Europe. It has its own airport for linking to Paris but Toulouse and Bordeaux airports are easily reached too. The weather is somewhat kinder than in Toulouse which is subject to strong winds. It's also the admin centre of Lot-et-Garonne so has many facilities which are sited much closer together than those in the Toulouse conglomeration where everything seems to need a 20km drive round one of the périphériques.
 

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The weakness in your plan that stands out to me is to delay intensive study of French until year 4. Sounds like a mistake to me. I think you would be better off starting intensive study of French immediately. Figure that fluency will take ten years, so you might as well get started as soon as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The weakness in your plan that stands out to me is to delay intensive study of French until year 4. Sounds like a mistake to me. I think you would be better off starting intensive study of French immediately. Figure that fluency will take ten years, so you might as well get started as soon as possible.
That's a fair challenge and probably one i should step back on re: my longer term priorities. My wife and I both work super long hours so I was probably trying to be realistic. But it's a good point that i could be three years further on if I got started now.
 

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Your financial success in France will certainly be dependant on your language skills so I would heed the advice given here. Most of the expats in my area Brittany did very little planning before arrival and through sheer numbers at the time ended up establishing enclaves of English speakers. The biggest hurdle for many was finding employment. Language "remembered" from school days is never enough and in my case non-existent. Lack of funds meant intensive courses were not an option. My immediate needs were to understand building terms, electrical, plumbing, etc. so that was my focus. The result is that after living here for 20+ years I know my way around these subjects but still can't hold a proper conversation in French. Living rural here without much French is not a huge problem because the local services are used to the influx of Brits but it is a major limit to any form of "integration". I'm not a fan of clubs or pubs or sports so I'm not missing a social life but for some it can be a big issue.
 

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I love the sound of your bohemian life style.
I'm Australian in my early 40's and am moving to Valreas in the Vaucluse/Drome region. My wife is French and my children are duel citizens. It's a lovely region so I think you should check it out.
Work: To be finalised, however, I have the 10 year goal of making a living from my art. We got married over there so it was easier for me to get all the documents etc.
We have already purchased our property and have family close by, so I guess it will be easier for me to transition.
However, if you are around would be great to catch up.
 
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