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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

We are ex-pat Brits living in Southern California (18 years) and are very close to retirement. We're thinking of moving to France - hopefully close to the Golfe du Morbihan. I speak limited French and we are both studying via The Rosetta Stone.

I'm just wondering if anyone else has similar background and has made the move and what pitfalls they found

Thanks

David
 

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I'm not exactly in the same situation, but after living here for several years I can tell you what I hear from the locals. In many areas, there is a certain resentment about British retirees based on the notion that they tend to cluster amongst their own kind, drive up the price of housing to the disadvantage of local young couples and "refuse" to learn the language.

Each of these assertions can be easily overturned based on pure logic, but it certainly pays to realize what stereotype you're being compared to so you can make the effort to be the "different" one. The trick seems to be to always start out in French, no matter how uncertain you are of yourself - and never ask to speak English with someone. If they speak English, they'll offer to switch if they really can't understand what you're trying to say. Oh, and err on the side of being overly polite. The French are pretty formal with people until they get to know them.

It also helps to find some sort of local group - association, club, etc. - to join and become active in. It will do wonders for your French, and it's probably one of the best ways of getting to know "real" French people. On arrival, see if you can find an AVF (Accueil des Villes Françaises) so they can "welcome" you to the area, and then offer to do an English conversation group or language exchange (half in French, then you switch to English). Usually the quickest way to make friends.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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Going off on a slight tangent, I think that Bev's comments above could well be worth more serious consideration in years to come, if the economic crisis continues to have an effect. Politicians tell us France is well on the way to recovery, but it certainly doesn't feel like it to me. Anyway, my point is that when times are hard 'outsiders' are resented even more. There is already a groundswell of anti-British feeling in certain parts of France where the French have complained about the 'little Englander' colonisations, so Bev's advice is even more appropriate. The greater the effort to fit in with the French, the more easily we can offset the stereotype the French have of the Brits in particular (I would say that we are the worst offenders, with the Americans, fewer in number, running us a close second ;)).

Otherwise the classic pitfalls lie in purchasing the right property in the right place for your needs, and at the right price. I've seen British, Dutch, Americans etc lose thousands unnecessarily in various legal and semi-legal 'scams', where the locals take advantage of both the naivety and sometimes the arrogance of new arrivals.
 
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. Politicians tell us France is well on the way to recovery, but it certainly doesn't feel like it to me. ..........
Otherwise the classic pitfalls lie in purchasing the right property in the right place for your needs, and at the right price.
The recession is not over here by any means - almost every supplier I talk to has a tale of woe.

I'd echo the sentiments about price - ask how much it is, and take 20% off. That's how you arrive at the asking price if you're a frog.
 

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Here's my tuppenceworth about helping you be accepted and to integrate:

A complaint I get from my French friends about the British - we talk too loudly in markets and restaurants. So far (nearly 2 years) I have only heard English and Americans speak loudly in restaurants - it is impolite and unnecessary.

Use local shops a lot.

Brits who boast about never speaking French here make life harder for the majority.

Don't complain about the way things are done here - this is France - you will choose to come here - if there are things that are very important to you then rent here for 6 months and see how you get on before settling.

A little humility/psychology/diplomacy works well - if French people ask me why I came here I say it was because France is the best country in the world.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you all for the replies, much appreciated. We have spent several weeks in France and I always use French if possible - I actually got annoyed in one restaurant because the waiter would not speak French, only English ;)

We've been studying this for some years now - the big regret is we did not invest in property in Fance back in 2002, but there's plenty of those stories around.

I'm familiar with the attitudes to 'clumps' of ex-pats - after all this (CA) is the biggest melting pot in the world of different nationalities - we plan to be part of the local community, it's one of the main reasons for the move.

Anyway, I'll keep planning and reading the helpful tips around here

David
 

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You are right - it is a bit of a contradiction - many French people want to try out their English on Anglophones, and learn English too. There was a recent article in Le Figaro about a severe shortage of British nannies to work with French families in Paris - not that I am suggesting you get into this line of work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You are right - it is a bit of a contradiction - many French people want to try out their English on Anglophones, and learn English too. There was a recent article in Le Figaro about a severe shortage of British nannies to work with French families in Paris - not that I am suggesting you get into this line of work.
I don't intend to get into any line of work - this really is retirement time ;)

Funny thing was - we spent a week in the Vienne and then a second week around Vannes - in the Vienne almost no English spoken anywhere and not many noticeable ex-pats. In Brittany - almost everyone spoke some English and seemed to want to and of course ex-pats everywhere.

But the Vienne is too cold in Winter!

David
 

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My wife and I were retired 18 months ago - now between us we would teach English 40 hours a week if everyone came - good fun, a great way of making friends and coping with a weak £. It's a strange feeling when your adult students arrive with bottles of wine, home-made jam, boxes of chocolates - no flowers yet.
 

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Moving to France?

I'm just wondering if anyone else has similar background and has made the move and what pitfalls they found
Thanks
David
Hi David,
I think many of the answers to your questions depend on what you want from your move to France - do you want to make friends with the local community or live in an area with many expats.. or both!
My wife & I moved here in Sept 2007 from the UK and found the arrival process to be nowhere like as daunting as people would have you believe. We were met with friendliness on all sides in shops, institutions, govt depts, artisans - everywhere.. But this is the south west (Bayonne to be specific) and people here are noted for their warmth.
We were looking to buy a property down here after holidaying in the region for 20 years but we'd not been here much in the off season. Our plan was to rent a gite initially to give us a base while we looked and also to take the pressure off the property search. You can find one via Gites de France (ask Google).
Which area? My wife (French) is fond of saying that good weather starts south of the Loire. We chose the SW and the Pays Basque in particular because it has everything we like.. coast, mountains, strong identity, 3 interesting towns (St Jean de Luz, Biarritz & Bayonne), close to the Spanish border (& San Sebastian, Bilbao), skiing, great food & wine, fishing, friendly people, sea food, access to Paris (4.5hrs on TGV or a quick flight from Biarritz airport), not as commercialised as the SE of France. Plus here it's still the Old France - where the traditional values still apply. We weren't looking to live in an expat community either.
Type of property? Town houses in desirable coastal areas (eg Biarritz, St Jean de Luz) can be v pricy - factor in a garage and hold your breath.. Or you might want to consider an apartment..
Then location? Town, village or country? My ever-practical wife convinced me that living in town was the best option.. as opposed to a house with a pool in the country. Walk to the shops (as opposed to car for everything), more possibility of making friends, more activities and finally, proximity to a hospital(!). Like you, we're both retired (60s) and it does make sense (even though it has the ring of doom to it!).
Once you've narrowed down your criteria, you can start looking. I spent hours on the internet in the UK looking at property just to try and get an idea of value & location. But in the end, you have to be here..
One thing that took me by surprise was the fee for the Notaire (lawyer). Not that we had to pay them but I'd understood that the house price included the estate agency fees (here it's the buyer who pays - not the seller) and the Notaire's fees. I got the mother of all shocks when I sat down to sign the Compromis de Vente and I saw this extra hefty fee for the Notaire (it includes a tax) in there that I hadn't bargained for at all..
We've since joined a number of local activities - my wife goes to a gym and a painting class and I row at a local club 3 times a week. All of it great fun.
Regrets? Not one.. best thing we ever did. good luck with your plans.
P
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hi,

Thanks for the very considered reply - it bears out everything we eithe knew or had heard. As for choices - well we've pretty much decided where (Morbihan) now it's what and as you say - you have to be there

Cheers

David
 

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Access to healthcare in France

Hi Piperade,

Thanks for your lengthy and informative posting. My wife and I are planning to retire to France and have not settled on a location yet. Like you we prefer to live among the French versus in an English speaking community. One concern that I have is ready access to health care for serious illnesses. While we are both currently in good health, I don't want to live in an area where we have to travel long distances to get to a suitable hospital. As Beyonne is a town rather than a large city, can you comment on the level of medical facilities in Beyonne and provide any general comments regarding town size versus medical care.

Thanks,
Bob
 

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While we are both currently in good health, I don't want to live in an area where we have to travel long distances to get to a suitable hospital. As Beyonne is a town rather than a large city, can you comment on the level of medical facilities in Beyonne and provide any general comments regarding town size versus medical care.
Thanks,
Bob
Hi Bob,
Like us, you're looking long term with all that that includes..
French health care is rated very highly by world standards but I'm no expert by any means. I've had occasion to use the hospital here in Bayonne twice since we've been here and the service was excellent - speedy, caring, efficient, clean, & modern.
I started writing a blog a few months ago about our experiences here - and the hospital episodes are covered more fully there. Google "the compleat anglo" and you'll find it.
You're right about Bayonne - while it's a focus down here, in reality it's only a small town of some 40-odd thousand.. but it's part of what they call the BAB agglomeration, (BAB = Biarritz, Anglet, Bayonne) which probably gives it a little more clout when it comes to squeezing more regional healthcare funds from the State. Bordeaux is that much larger - just wiki'd it and there's a surprise, it has a population of over 1m in its metropolitan area. Question is - would you want to live there..? It's only just over 1.5hrs away by road.
You need to research "Carte Vitale" and "Mutuelle" - you'll find information on these at "FrenchEntree.com".
Hope this helps, but if you need to ask any more questions, feel free.
Regards
Piperade
 

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Hi Piperade,

Thanks for your lengthy and informative posting. My wife and I are planning to retire to France and have not settled on a location yet. Like you we prefer to live among the French versus in an English speaking community. One concern that I have is ready access to health care for serious illnesses. While we are both currently in good health, I don't want to live in an area where we have to travel long distances to get to a suitable hospital. As Beyonne is a town rather than a large city, can you comment on the level of medical facilities in Beyonne and provide any general comments regarding town size versus medical care.

Thanks,
Bob
If you're coming from the States, there are a couple factors to consider - first of all that of your private insurance. In the Paris area, at least, there is always the matter of whether or not treatment at the American Hospital is covered, or if you need pre-approval or not for "non-agréé" facilities.

There is also an ongoing attempt here in France to consolidate health care services and there are hospitals and services that are being closed or moved. Some hospitals are better for certain treatments or ailments than others, and for some kinds of treatments, people do seem to prefer to make the trek to Paris or another large population center.

What you probably want to look into in the area you're considering is the availability of primary care doctors and any specialists you think you're likely to want to use. One big issue in the French health care system is the distribution of doctors - everyone wants to practice in Paris, so it's harder to draw doctors and particularly specialists out into the countryside. But the good news (IMO anyhow) is that the local hospital isn't the focus for treatment in the same way it is in the US.

The French health care system takes a while to figure out, especially when coming from the US system (or lack thereof) but it's much less "crisis-driven" so a high-tech near-by hospital may not be your biggest concern.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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If you're coming from the States, there are a couple factors to consider - first of all that of your private insurance. In the Paris area, at least, there is always the matter of whether or not treatment at the American Hospital is covered, or if you need pre-approval or not for "non-agréé" facilities.

There is also an ongoing attempt here in France to consolidate health care services and there are hospitals and services that are being closed or moved. Some hospitals are better for certain treatments or ailments than others, and for some kinds of treatments, people do seem to prefer to make the trek to Paris or another large population center.

What you probably want to look into in the area you're considering is the availability of primary care doctors and any specialists you think you're likely to want to use. One big issue in the French health care system is the distribution of doctors - everyone wants to practice in Paris, so it's harder to draw doctors and particularly specialists out into the countryside. But the good news (IMO anyhow) is that the local hospital isn't the focus for treatment in the same way it is in the US.

The French health care system takes a while to figure out, especially when coming from the US system (or lack thereof) but it's much less "crisis-driven" so a high-tech near-by hospital may not be your biggest concern.
Cheers,
Bev
Thanks Bev. Fantastic site by the way - I just discovered it. I specifically opted for Blue Cross/Blue Shield among the available carriers my employer provides (US Federal government) since they provide coverage outside the US. I'll have the same plan in retirement. All doctors in approved countries are treated as "in Plan" (it's a PPO) and BC/BS pays all costs except the small co-pay (although from what I'm reading the co-pay may be as much as the full fee for a French physician).

I'm assuming that France has not earned it's ranking as one of the best health care providers in the world based solely on the doctors and facilities in Paris, so that for most problems we should be able to get good care outside of Paris. What you have described supports that assumption. As you have recommended we will delve into the local care once we get closer to a location selection.

We are spending 2 months this year (Aug-Sep) in France for a combination vacation and exploratory trip. We've been to the Eastern parts of France, the Med coast, Provence and, of course, Paris - all are great places to vacation, but we don't think we want to live in these areas. This trip we will be in the Southwest, including Loire Valley, Bretagne and Dordogne. For a retirement spot we want to avoid enclaves of Americans and Brits, i.e., go native (Bretagne and Dordogne are places we want to visit but would probably not want to live in). We don't need employment, night life or beaches; just access (by car) to beautiful countryside and friendly people (and no Mistral!). My wife speaks French very well (I'm still building on my high school French). Can you suggest any towns in the Southwest, e.g., Bergerac, that would be a good fit - or suggest a resource for information of this type for this region? I spent several hours searching your forum last night for this type information, but was not successful.

I hope you are having better weather than we are - the US East Coast is now in the midst of a real blizzard after getting a couple feet of snow last weekend.

Thanks again,
Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
A question on health care and coverage. Does the French system cover dental and vision or do you need separate insurances for those?

Thanks

David
 

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A question on health care and coverage. Does the French system cover dental and vision or do you need separate insurances for those?

Thanks

David
Technically the French national system does provide coverage for dental and vision, but the coverage isn't very good past the standard reimbursement for the doctor visit (i.e. 27€ standard fee for a "specialist" visit). Reimbursement for eyeglasses is nominal - usually only about 10 or 20€ from the sécu - and can be close to non-existent for dental work like crowns or bridges.

This is where having a good mutuelle comes in. If you're working in France, your employer usually offers you a mutuelle, where you split the cost with the employer. It's the mutuelle that pays the bulk of the reimbursement for most dental work and eye glasses, sometimes requiring pre-approval.

If you don't have a mutuelle through your employer, there are tons of them out there to choose amongst, all with different terms and coverages, but they all pay the difference between the sécu reimbursement amount and the standard fees according to the sécu schedule.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
This is where having a good mutuelle comes in.Cheers,
Bev
Now that was a very good piece of data and led me to the link 'piperade' provided Frenchentree.com. Seems we will fall into the trap of not being retired (officially - no such thing in the US) and not being able to qualify for EHIC as we are not UK resident. Medicare (US Social Security) does not provide coverage abroad but luckily I don't have long to go before hitting the official retirement age. Might be able to get an E106 - but I haven't been able to determine the rules yet.

Thanks again

David
 

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Hi,

We are ex-pat Brits living in Southern California (18 years) and are very close to retirement. We're thinking of moving to France - hopefully close to the Golfe du Morbihan. I speak limited French and we are both studying via The Rosetta Stone.

I'm just wondering if anyone else has similar background and has made the move and what pitfalls they found

Thanks

David

Hello David,

What a broad response to a question that is almost unanswerable - I like 'contentedscot's' attitude - you are considering France because you obviously like it a lot - I have found that making comparisons between where you intend to leave and where you want to be is a recipe for disaster, and I've lived in a few countries now. You must adopt an attitude that you will embrace all aspects of the new life you wish enter, the good and the bad. I despair when I hear expats continually spreading rumours about 'anti British factions' within the French community, or the food isn't like in the UK, or the paperwork is unweildy, the gendarmes are blunt, the French are this that and the other!!! It's France - their way, their culture, their habits. Try Australia, bluntness is a national pastime, if you wont try to be an Aussie you're screwed, same here in France.
I spoke no French when I came here, I now speak a lot more after 2 years and have managed to buy property, register our car, do my tax return etc, etc, etc - But most importantly what I have found is a friendly, caring, disciplined, courteous populance who have accepted our pressence and gone out of their way to be helpful, no anti Brit/Aussie/American attitude at all - never seen or heard it. Maybe location has something to do with that - I only have experience of the bottom half of France.
My wife and I are in our fifties and oddly have found this move to have been easier due to our ages, maybe you mellow as time passes and little phases you as it would have done when younger.
It is what you make it - and it's a lot of fun trying to fit in. Sure they laugh at us sometimes, bloody hell we laugh at ourselves just as much.
Go for it, wonderful country, wonderful people, wonderful weather, wonderful food and what a way to finish our lives.
Bruce.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Hello David,

Try Australia, bluntness is a national pastime, if you wont try to be an Aussie you're screwed, same here in France.
Go for it, wonderful country, wonderful people, wonderful weather, wonderful food and what a way to finish our lives.
Bruce.
Hi Bruce,
Can't say I agree with you about Oz - been there many times and have relatives living there - always friendly people and very welcoming.
Your final statement is exactly how we feel and we are bit older. Anyway, we've booked our next trip to do some serious house-hunting and location choosing. So we'll see in a couple of months

David
 
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