Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad banner

1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
193 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yes I know, difficult question, how long is a piece of string, plus why dont we just try it etc. :) We have been trying out Spain (north/mid Costa Blanca) for 10 months now, with assorted pros and cons. I'm trying to get an idea of living in France should the cons here prove too annoying.

Some of the main frustrations here are the lack of joined up thinking, a pervasive lack of forethought, fragmented governmental processes (differing by area) and surprisingly inefficient and unreliable utilities for a supposedly first world country. As far as regulations go its more like a bunch of small states than one country. Very easy to be caught out. For utilities - well I just blew the fuses by daring to put the kettle on at the same time as the toaster. And we live in a modern house, not right out in the sticks. This is common. Water supplies can go at any time. Postal services are patchy and they close down post boxes without warning, frequently with contents sealed in!

We would love to live somewhere where we can get post delivered to our house or at least a mail box, safe in the knowledge it wont just disappear. Where we can rely on having power, internet and water when we need it. Well at least most of the time!

So, what are the downsides for the south of France? :) Upsides are usually much easier to identify!
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
50,415 Posts
Folks who live in the south of France will be along with their comments, but everything I've heard says that the south of France has much the same "Mediterranean" mentality as you'll find in Spain, Italy, Greece, etc.

But most of all, I'd tend to say that you'll be at a huge disadvantage in southern France if you don't speak the language to a conversational degree at the very least. I would think that might be the case, too, for Spain, but perhaps not so much so.
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
193 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Speaking the language

Folks who live in the south of France will be along with their comments, but everything I've heard says that the south of France has much the same "Mediterranean" mentality as you'll find in Spain, Italy, Greece, etc.

But most of all, I'd tend to say that you'll be at a huge disadvantage in southern France if you don't speak the language to a conversational degree at the very least. I would think that might be the case, too, for Spain, but perhaps not so much so.
Cheers,
Bev

Thanks Bev. I did French to A level and am hoping that it would come back as a good base for further improvement. :) Admittedly it was a very long time ago! My Spanish is rudimentary at best though I'm learning.
 

·
Read Only
Joined
·
18,642 Posts
Whilst some administrative matters can vary from one Prefecture to another and one Mairie to another, the arrangements in France are, IMHO, far easier to deal with than in Spain and are far less fragmented. Plus, it's relatively easy to get into the French health system via PUMA after 3 months demonstrated continuous residency in France (although you would need private health insurance for a longer period than that to cover what can be fairly lengthy application processing times) - that's if you don't have an S1 - you would also need to take out top-up (mutuelle) cover once you are in the French system, which generally only covers you for 70% of health care costs. Perhaps one of the difficult things though is getting a carte de sejour because it's officially not necessary for EU citizens - however, I would strongly recommend that if you decide to move to France you make every endeavour to obtain one, especially as no one know what will happen with Brexit.

Perhaps the biggest downside is that the cost of living is higher.

Oh, and some people might well choose an area that doesn't have a strong Front National presence (be aware that quite a number of local council's in the south are held by the FN), which can cause frictions within in the local communities.

Also, it's not as easy to rent a property in France as it is in Spain (other than seasonal lets), far from it, in fact, given the standard requirements for guarantor and that the rent not exceed 1/3 of your income. Oh, and in order to get a long-term rental you will need a French bank account showing regular income deposits. Also, property purchase generally takes a minimum 3 months and in the vast majority of cases it is the purchaser who pays the agent's fees (normally 10% of purchase price). However, France has a system where vendors have to provide a detailed diagnostic report on such things as electrical supply and energy use, which is very useful for buyers.

Be aware that things like building works, plumbing, electricals and the like are expensive in France by UK standards and if you purchase a property that requires renovation it is likely to cost you an arm and a leg.

Utilities are generally reliable (although can work out expensive) if you live in an urban area, but once you get into more rural areas connections can be difficult. Internet access, speed and reliability depend entirely on where you choose to live.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,909 Posts
We lived in the south for 5 years - 1 hour from Perpignan in the mountains in a small village - 1 hour drive from the Spanish border. I have to say that we experienced none of the problems you describe! I'd lived in France for 10 years in Normandie before and the south was just about the same as Normandie from an administrative point of view. True there is the "tomorrow" syndrome.....but we found that things did get done - just accept the pace of life is slower.

...just reread the original post.... yes, we were at the end of an electrical supply across the mountains.....storms caused problems, but that's Nature for you!

We did a "big shop" every few months in Spain because most things were cheaper there. France can be expensive especially for booze and cigs.

DejW

Thanks Bev. I did French to A level and am hoping that it would come back as a good base for further improvement. :) Admittedly it was a very long time ago! My Spanish is rudimentary at best though I'm learning.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
721 Posts
We have property in both Spain and France (originally Frejus but now just outside a sous-prefecture in Lot-et-Garonne). We decided that Spain was not for us but that France would suit us. The reasons for rejecting Spain had nothing to do with utilities, officialdom etc.

To tackle some of your points:

1. Officialdom : France is the diva of paperwork. It is a well known fact. Who accepts what can vary from one member of staff to another in the same office, and then of course paperwork can have to go on a circuitous route to the ministry and thus provide opportunities for losses etc en route. However your property tax bills get delivered to you rather than having to go and collect them.

2. La Poste: throughput of mail is reducing by 5-7 per cent a year so it is looking to diversify e.g. checking on the elderly for a fee. Certain village bureaux de poste are now agencies so don't accept large parcels, these have to go elsewhere and for cheapness select another carrier whose label you have printed out for yourself. The main postal bureaux are highly mechanised except for the banking services they provide. You want a stamp? Go to the machine etc. Post deliveries are regular, but rarely to the door, just to a box they can get to by car.

3. Electricity: ours has much improved in the last 5 years regarding fewer cuts for other people's works. However, you have to select with your supplier, in advance, what level of power you require and pay a standing charge accordingly. If you go over your powerlevel at any time, the toaster could blow the system!

4. Deliveries to the house: we find it is very rare that we are notified of a delivery that is NOT coming on a Thursday. Other deliveries go to local garages, cafés, or shops and then we have to go to collect them; these occur daily and may not incur a delivery charge.

5. We were able to get broadband internet swiftly but as more users were added it became unusable for certain periods of the day. Eventually we discovered that we got a 4G signal that degraded less so now use a mobile phone. French mobile internet seems to be much cheaper than Spanish.

6. Lunch times rule: everybody closes or stops for lunch at 12 or 12.30 and rarely recommence before 14.00. Since almost everybody goes home for lunch sales callers make their calls then, as well as people phoning to rearrange appointments etc.

The top 5 good points we notice about Spain:

1. Tolls on the motorways are lower.
2. Our weekly shop, whilst different, is about half what we spend in France.
3. Shop staff genuinely want to serve you and not just go through the motions.
4. Restaurants are very good value and there is a variety of them in most towns.
5. Public facilities are generally very good.
 

·
Read Only
Joined
·
18,642 Posts
I have no trouble with mail to my door, nor with parcel deliveries to the door, plus I pretty much know what time parcels will be delivered. I don't have problems with power supply, however that would depend entirely on the contract you choose! I don't find the paperwork particularly onerous either, but then I have French nationality (multiple nationalities actually), plus most administrative things are for me easier than they were in Australia. We are lucky here as Pau has very high-speed fibre optic internet.

I agree that Autoroute tolls are very expensive.

Strikes can sometimes occur very suddenly and, even when you get advance notification they can be extended. IMO strikes and demonstration will start up again in September and could be very disruptive.

The administration becomes very slow in July/August as a result of the summer vacation period and the backlog can sometimes extend for a couple of months beyond that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,471 Posts
I feel I have a better quality of life and better potential for income in France
to spend advantageously for holiday or leasure in Spain.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
193 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Cost of living

Perhaps the biggest downside is that the cost of living is higher.
I'm interested in the cost of living being higher and wondering about 'like for like'. Eg we've discovered that the sort of property we want, modern, spacious, good quality build, full central heating and a/c, modern kitchen etc etc, within easy reach of town and coast, costs about the same rent as in the UK. Just a bit bigger and with more sunshine! The only things we are finding cheaper in Spain than in the UK for the quality we look for are wine and local produce, some clothing and shoes. Yes you can eat out really cheaply, but food and drink at the higher end restaurants are about the same as in the UK. (south at that) Apart from water the utilities are more expensive. Would all that be the same in southern France? Ie comparing middle income professionals living costs?
 

·
Read Only
Joined
·
18,642 Posts
I'm interested in the cost of living being higher and wondering about 'like for like'. Eg we've discovered that the sort of property we want, modern, spacious, good quality build, full central heating and a/c, modern kitchen etc etc, within easy reach of town and coast, costs about the same rent as in the UK. Just a bit bigger and with more sunshine! The only things we are finding cheaper in Spain than in the UK for the quality we look for are wine and local produce, some clothing and shoes. Yes you can eat out really cheaply, but food and drink at the higher end restaurants are about the same as in the UK. (south at that) Apart from water the utilities are more expensive. Would all that be the same in southern France? Ie comparing middle income professionals living costs?
Many UK citizens end up being surprised at the cost of living here (although as I understand it, cost of living is now going up in the UK). AFAIK you can eat out cheaper in France than in the UK. But you need input from someone from the UK here. Oh, and again, it really does depend where in 'southern France' you choose to live (I would relocate to the PACA but property is more expensive if you want to be near town, services, etc - I have family and friends there and I prefer it to Pau - I might yet consider something a bit smaller than what I have here :D ).
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
50,415 Posts
I think it may well depend on what your expectations are. For example, I note in your post:

Eg we've discovered that the sort of property we want, modern, spacious, good quality build, full central heating and a/c, modern kitchen etc etc, within easy reach of town and coast, costs about the same rent as in the UK.
"Modern" and "full central heating and a/c" are considerably harder to come by in France. Maybe, as EverHopeful has said, you'd have better luck in PACA (south-eastern France) in the more well-to-do (and thus more expensive) areas, say, Nice, Cannes, Antibes. But central heating and a/c are rarities in much of France - perhaps simply a function of the housing stock being of a certain age.
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Read Only
Joined
·
18,642 Posts
I think it may well depend on what your expectations are. For example, I note in your post:


"Modern" and "full central heating and a/c" are considerably harder to come by in France. Maybe, as EverHopeful has said, you'd have better luck in PACA (south-eastern France) in the more well-to-do (and thus more expensive) areas, say, Nice, Cannes, Antibes. But central heating and a/c are rarities in much of France - perhaps simply a function of the housing stock being of a certain age.
Cheers,
Bev
A/c is actually less of an issue in the PACA than you may think, especially close to the larger towns :) "Full central heating" though is another issue - many people still rely on open fireplaces (some have installed an 'insert' - can't remember the English :D ) and also have electric heaters, or use the reverse cycle a/c, or have central heating through those water-filled radiators that is heated via pot-belly stoves and the like, modern homes might well have central heating and are not only to be found in Nice, Cannes, Antibes. That said, the style of home the OP seems to be talking about would be more common in the expensive areas, especially if the OP is looking to rent rather than purchase. Best thing to do is perhaps look at sites such as seloger etc. Water charges do vary by area, however many communes share services with others with a view to reducing costs and this is certainly tha case in the PACA.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
50,415 Posts
I was reading it as central (heating and a/c). Comes, I suppose, from my American background. Central climate control is more or less a given these days over there. (Not something I grew up with - central heating, yes, but a/c was distinctly a luxury item, most often a window unit limited to the bedrooms. But I digress.) I would expect quite a bit more a/c in the south, but not necessarily "central a/c". But, perhaps I'm reading my own experience into it.

In any event, I'd expect more of a choice of these sorts of modern conveniences in PACA, due to the more affluent towns concentrated in that region. (Was also thinking of "spacious" dwellings - we do tend to "warn" many newcomers of the limited size of more typical French residential property.)
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
143 Posts
In any event, I'd expect more of a choice of these sorts of modern conveniences in PACA, due to the more affluent towns concentrated in that region. (Was also thinking of "spacious" dwellings - we do tend to "warn" many newcomers of the limited size of more typical French residential property.)
Cheers,
Bev
Also, the language barrier will be less in PACA. Lots and lots of English being spoken in those towns (for good or ill).
 

·
Read Only
Joined
·
18,642 Posts
Also, the language barrier will be less in PACA. Lots and lots of English being spoken in those towns (for good or ill).
Not necessarily - we have a non-French speaking member in Nice who has resorted to using a paid service (and IMHO they are not very good at what they do - they are not French).
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Top