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This has been a really helpful site in getting us started for out next adventure. Bev you have been awesome in your posts. We are thinking this process will take us about 2 years and we are trying to make sure it goes smoothly. We spend each July in France for a month for the past 7 years and we are ready to do this. There are so things we need to do that in are the recommendations on the first and fundamentals at this point. We are so excited and want to jump in but we want to do it right. We are looking at healthcare, taxes, places to live and meeting with financial planners. Any suggestions would be helpful. We plan on being retired and not working but we are also not sure how much we need to live on. We live in California now and are wondering what the cost of living would be in Provence. I've done tons of research and it is all over the map. Any help would be greatly appreciated. We are so ready to check out.
 

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Hello

Welcome to our forum, and I'm sure that all the regulars here wish you well on your physical and emotional voyage from the US to France.

I'll leave the technical stuff that you mention to Bev, she's the expert and I am not.

A word of caution, I am sure you will take my comments in good heart. Visiting France in July on vacation is very different from living here full time. Here are some ideas:

Winter in most parts of France is very different from summer. It's colder, wetter and the place loses its "tourist welcome". We live in the southern most part of France near the Spanish frontier. Some winter days here are warm and sunny, others are wet, cold and windy. Very few people leave their houses in our small village in winter!

In July it is the start of the "grandes vacances" - not much business is done during that period. When resident you will find that you have to grapple with the French administration - visas, health insurance, buying / renting a house. You will see a very different face of France from that of being on vacation.

You will lose the "back home" syndrome - that is it say when you are on vacation there is nice safe return date to go "back home" and you can plan money, health, etc. When resident you lose this emotional support line - and for some it's a shock.

I don't want to discourage you. Most of the regulars here have been in France for time, love it, and we see France as "our home" and not a long vacation.

Have you thought where in France you want to live? There are wide regional differences. I'm sure that we can help.

DejW
 

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Ditto to what DejW said. Enjoying a month's holiday in July is one thing, living in a place year round is going to throw up a whole range of experiences and reactions. TBH I've never visited Provence out of season but I believe the winters can be quite harsh. Rather than go straight from one holiday a year to a full scale move, I would suggest that as a checkpoint you rent a gite for a couple of months out of season, say Feb-March, and see if you feel the same when the place doesn't have the same 'buzz'. As with any love affair the novelty and excitement wears off after a while, familiarity breeds contempt and all that, and you need to be sure that you're going to still prefer France to California when you see it warts and all, without the haze of summer holiday bliss.

You're doing the right thing in researching healthcare and taxes, and other people will help with visas etc. Are you US citizens? Do you speak French?
 

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One of the things I've learned from "working" the forum here for a few years is that the situation for North American expats (or expat wannabees) is very different from that of the Brits or other Europeans looking to retire to France.

The big difference is that you need a visa and the Europeans don't. But other important factors include that you are a whole lot farther away from "home" and can't as easily change your mind once you get here (both logistically and financially).

There is also the whole tax angle. As US citizens, you will have to file US income taxes for the rest of your lives (unless, of course, you formally renounce your US citizenship, which most folks are very loathe to do). Officially speaking there is no double taxation, though figuring out how to juggle the French tax declarations vs. your US returns is an ongoing, um, "learning process."

The cost of living issue depends entirely on what sort of "standard" of living you expect to maintain. Two large cars and a swimming pool will cost WAY more here (relatively speaking) than in California - but with gas prices at around $8 a gallon, you don't want two big old SUVs anyhow, plus you just don't drive the distances here that you do back in the US.

One other thing to consider is that once you move over here, you really are somewhat cut off from the US for certain things. Can you handle going to a doctor (or any sort of medical emergency) in French? (Sure, most doctors studied English in school but darned few of them actually speak it - and in an emergency you don't want to be doing pantomimes to get your point across.) Are you willing to play the fool for the first several months as you start to learn how to discuss plumbing or roofing or other common "householder" issues with a local repair person?

One place to start to gather information would be to take out an AARO membership. They offer tax and other advice to Americans living overseas (but they are located in France and concentrate on the expats in France) and there are lots of other US retirees in the organization.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I agree it must be more difficult from the states than from the UK. For our part we had a couple of gite holidays in brittany with our kids (then around 12 and 13) and decided to take the plunge and buy somewhere as prices were so cheap compared to the UK (this would be 1999).

Being non drivers we needed good transport links and wanted some sun so somehow ended up buying a town house in a place called Quillan in the Aude. We had 9-10 years of great holidays at all times of the year before deciding that what we really needed was a home with a good sized garden, which took us to the centre of france 3 years back.

We now have lived here since february, but the labored point I am trying to make is that you really need to know deep down what you need as just visiting a place for breaks at any time of the year may not give you the insight you really need.

Good Luck! When you do decide I do not think you will regret it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for all the great advice. It gives us a couple different angles to look at. Our biggest reason for being in Europe when we retire is that we plan to travel extensively all over Europe and it would be much easier if we are already there. We like the pace in France and would rather be in a small town. Right now we speak enough French to get by but are starting more intense courses. We are pretty simple people and still in our early 50's but we have planned well and made good financial decisions. We really just need some where to get a good cup of coffee, run, ride our bikes hike and ski. We have no children and have lead a very adventurous life and we see this as the last adventure. Although we love California we have come to the conclusions we can always go visit once a year. I really appreciate the real life advice and maybe we are still fairy tale mode but this is really good for us to have reality checks. Thanks. I'll post as questions come up
Cheers
Cathy
 

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Well, whatever you chose I'm sure that all of us here wish you good luck.

I married my French wife 3 years ago in my 60s and we decided to move from the wet, cold rainy end of France to the warmer, sunnier end. That was a big decision for us both. We both said that as we only have one life we should make the most of what we have got. It looks as if you are the same opinion!

You are welcome to post either small or big questions here, we've got a wide range of posters from all sorts of backgrounds. Please don't expect us to agree!

DejW

Thanks for all the great advice. It gives us a couple different angles to look at. Our biggest reason for being in Europe when we retire is that we plan to travel extensively all over Europe and it would be much easier if we are already there. We like the pace in France and would rather be in a small town. Right now we speak enough French to get by but are starting more intense courses. We are pretty simple people and still in our early 50's but we have planned well and made good financial decisions. We really just need some where to get a good cup of coffee, run, ride our bikes hike and ski. We have no children and have lead a very adventurous life and we see this as the last adventure. Although we love California we have come to the conclusions we can always go visit once a year. I really appreciate the real life advice and maybe we are still fairy tale mode but this is really good for us to have reality checks. Thanks. I'll post as questions come up
Cheers
Cathy
 
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