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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is a serious question: in numerous threads, raised often by non-retirees, the "why France?" question has been raised by those of us already here. The answers vary between "I've visited and I love it" to "I don't like the weather where I am at the moment", "I want to experience living in France" to "This is an opportunity I don't want to pass up". There's the odd "my spouse has a job there ..." but they're increasingly rare.

I honestly have a hard time understanding why people want to come here, with nothing, no job, nowhere to live, not speaking French (OK that's not all of them, but it often is the case).

I know we're often negative about French bureaucracy and petty-mindedness, but WE're all still here for whatever reason. But for someone coming "on spec", what do we have to do/say to reinforce that, if you don't have the means to support yourself and have an escape route, you ARE going to find it tough? France is already too full and can barely look after its own, never mind those of us migrants who've been here a while.

OK, there are oodles of fantastic things about France, as well as the negatives, but if you come here knowing nothing and expecting to make a living .... ?

I mean, Thailand/Peru/Japan, etc. have a lot going for them - as a holiday destination - but I'm under no illusion that I could move over there and integrate, make a living, live to an equal or better standard of living. WHY do people think they can do that here?

hils
 

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I think for some it is a romantic vision, the language of love, the warm(er) weather (if locating south of France) and the food?

Personally it was a mix of things, property prices, being able to go wherever we chose in the EU, and proximity to our kids back in the UK, liking the language/food and the scenery.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sorry, I wasn't meaning to get on anyone's case; it's just that it seems absurd to me for people to come halfway across the world without anything in place. Yes, we Europeans do have an advantage because "home" isn't too far away, we do have exposure to European languages and culture, and we have "freedom of movement". But all the European economies are in financial straits, opportunities are scarce; if we all move around within the EU, we pretty much know what we're going to - and, as I said, "home" isn't too far away - some countries are more appealing depending upon where we are in our personal lives. Or maybe I'm just not very adventurous ...

With the way the world has changed, I, personally, would no more consider moving to anywhere outside Europe than I would to establishing my comfy base on Rockall (tempting tho' it is, sometimes :D).

h
 

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It's a good question, Hils, and it relates to what I sometimes tell folks - namely that you need to have a "reason" for wanting to come to France. And by that I mean something other than "I visited once and had an awesome time there."

Those who need visas to come settle here are (perhaps, mercifully) screened through the visa process itself. For example, if you apply for a visitor visa, you are supposed to provide a written statement promising not to look for employment, nor to work, and they ask you point blank for your "reason" for wanting to go to France for the period of time you have indicated. Normally, if you write in "I just LOVE France and everything French" for question 23 (I think it is), chances are excellent that your visa application will be denied and the Consulate will simply pocket your $130 or whatever the visa fees are these days.

Gotta run.... more later.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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OK, dinner is over and I have a bit more time before I nod off for the evening....

For a visitor visa, "acceptable" reasons for coming to France are things like: retiring to France (for which you must have an acceptable level of income - preferably pensions - or savings that will provide a suitable income level), a sabbatical complete with paid salary for the period of time you expect to be here, coming to France to marry a French citizen (the "fiancé" visa approach) or the stated objective to set up a business here (with some clue as to what you want to set up and the finances to do so).

Other than that, if you need a visa you need to be a student accepted into a program (and with financial resources adequate to see you through your studies), someone with a competences et talents visa (which involves a well planned out business plan and again, the financial plan to set things up and get them running) or to have a job offer with an employer willing and able to sponsor you.

The visa process isn't stupid - and the requirement of indicating a "reason" for coming to France is not a half bad idea, even for those who don't require a visa to get into the country in the first place. France has lots going for it (including the food, drink, lifestyle, etc.) but without a reason to be here, France can be a cold, forbidding place to have to try to make things work.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yeah, I understand all of those things, Bev, but most of them apply to a long-term sojourn rather than upping sticks.

I think I was thinking more of those who don't specifically have something to come TO other than a vague/romantic notion that France might be a nice place to be, compared to where they are currently.

h
 

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Dear Hils

You posed a very good question in your first post of this thread.

A factor to be considered is that of emotion rather that well thought out logic! There are people (some?, many?, - not sure) who do things on a "here and now" basis - think hippy? I imagine that you and I are not like that? If you get into that mind frame, then if France sounds a good idea, then let's go, and go now. Buying tickets, visas, surviving when we get there are things that will take care of themselves.

I've met people who are intelligent, likeable etc, who have really drifted in life. Drifted in and out of relationships, jobs, houses, etc. I remember 1 man who was intelligent enough to earn big money when he wanted to, but a long term job, relationship etc was not for him. He drifted, he drifted (and he was happy, so don't knock it!)

So, if in your own life it's ok to drift, why not drift countries, languages? You and I know that France is not very welcoming to drifters, with its insistence on language, diplomas etc. I remember that London in the 1970s was very much more "drifter friendly". Perhaps less so today because the cost of living in London is so high and difficult today.

So, with respect, I think your question was framed in the context of people who are logical, intelligent, willing to plan. Many people are not like that, so your question would pass them by.

bisous........DejW
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
OK I hear you Dej, but the mere fact they've come in here indicates at least some modicum of planning, no? There's nothing wrong with being a drifter - wish I were capable of being one - but, by a certain age, you have "baggage" often so you have to think about that as well, and that often precludes being able to "drift".

(Complete aside - whilst I was thinking about this, I likened it to "what would I save if my house were burning to destruction?", ie what could I really really not live without, that I really really would have to travel with? My answers, to myself, were interesting: a) contact lenses (if not wearing them - my sight is invaluable); b) animals (compassion); c) daughter - she's old enough to save herself!!!!; d) car keys. There are other things I'd like to save, but honestly, that little list I s'pose boils down the priorities in my life currently. So yes, I probably could move on relatively easily - just need to put in place the wherewithal to do so, were I to wish to :D - & before anyone suggests it, no, I don't want to be put in touch with an arsonist.)

Maybe I should've been more specific: why France over Germany or the Scandinavian Countries, if Europe and another language/culture is the choice? As an Anglophone (which most are), those other destinations are far more English-savvy - and, may I say, more economically stable, so why, specifically France - with all its hurdles?

I haven't checked the other Forums - maybe the same thing is happening in those countries. I just find it extraordinary that linguistically-incapable (wrong adjective but I can't think of a better one at this time of the morning) people want to come here; are they such masochists they want to make life difficult (a challenge) for themselves? Or is it the Med. & its perceived "sun, sea and sangria" lifestyle (I note alternatives seem to be Spain, Italy or Greece), or Paris, the perceived centre of European culture and style? What exactly is the attraction?

For me, having lived and worked in several European countries and been on short-term "secondment" in other countries, the French lifestyle suits me better. Language wasn't an issue at all, so we could've gone anywhere, but I made the selection based on knowledge and experience - it wasn't just a shot in the dark and hope for the best.

hils
 
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Yeah, I understand all of those things, Bev, but most of them apply to a long-term sojourn rather than upping sticks.

I think I was thinking more of those who don't specifically have something to come TO other than a vague/romantic notion that France might be a nice place to be, compared to where they are currently.

h
Not necessarily, Hils. As you well know, we have lots of "drifters" who pass through the forum. When you or I or anyone else asks them "why" France, I think we're actually asking for their reasons, in large part to determine whether they are "drifters" or not. And most folks who don't have a "reason" will get plenty of advice not to cut all their ties back home, have a "Plan B" and all that good stuff that some here find "discouraging."

I "upped sticks" when I first moved over here - and actually didn't have much of a plan, but I did have the initial hurdle of having to find a job so I could get the appropriate visa for Germany (and let my employer-to-be deal with the administrative stuff). My "reason" at the time was that I had spent all that time and effort studying languages and now I wanted to actually use them in day to day situations.

Those who up sticks and move to France primarily because "it's not <wherever back in the UK> " sometimes manage to survive and establish themselves, but sometimes they don't. Or, they turn into the type of isolated expat we all like to avoid, or the "typical Brit" so many French people complain about.

It's hard enough finding your way in France if you come over to live with or marry a boy- or girl-friend who is French or for a job you've been offered or even just to study the language. But at least the "reason" gives you a stake in the ground, and if the relationship goes sour, or the job turns out to be a nightmare, you have a decision point: stay or go. Is working out the relationship worth putting up with whatever other difficulties you're having? Can you put up with the job a little longer until you can find a better one? Are you making any progress at all in learning the language or is it time to just admit defeat and go home? Retirement is somewhat tougher, because if the exchange rate swings against you, you may simply not have enough money to even consider going back "home" but at the same time you can't really "integrate" by finding a job or drawing on the benefit system.

The really sad thing about folks who come here "because it isn't back there" is that even if they do eventually give up and go back, they generally find that "back there" isn't at all like they remember it and now they're stuck in a strange place all over again without much in the way of choices.

Loving the language and the culture (or even the "lifestyle") isn't actually a reason for choosing to come to France. If you have the language, maybe - at least it explains why France over Germany, for example.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Perhaps I should clarify my history and why I chose France

In 1990 my then wife and I bought a holiday home in the countryside of Normandie. I grew to love the life in the small village. The people, their politeness and the countryside reminded me of my boyhood in rural Hampshire.

1990 - 2001 - very stressful time managing my own consultancy business.

2000 Divorce. We agreed, very amicably, on the split of assets that meant my ex wife kept the house in the UK, I had the house in France.

2001 - I "retired", moved to France to build a new life in the ex holiday home. One of the first things that I did was to buy a bicycle - I did long bike rides in the countryside just like I did in the 1950s.

I did considerable work to make the ex holiday home suitable for full time living. Insulation, central heating etc.

Then my life took off in a way that it was not supposed to. Even at the age of 60 plans don't work out! I found near full time work as business school lecturer, met C, married, moved to the S of France.......and perhaps more to come, I don't know.

I still love France, and find the UK less and less lovable, certainly it stopped being "home" a long time ago. I have to say having a reasonable level of French helps a lot. It's really hard work and socially limiting if your French is not up to casual conversations.

DejW
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That's fine Dej, and makes eminent sense, but you've started the story halfway through. Why Normandie in the first place? Why not Ireland, Belgium, Holland or Denmark if you were looking for somewhere for a holiday commute?

I'm guessing it was maybe you spoke a bit of French, you fancied the lifestyle and "having a place in France" held kudos in the UK? That's not meant to be insulting or derogatory, btw. But certainly, when I was in the UK, "having a place in ..." France/Spain/Greece/Cyprus/Italy elicited a "wooo" from friends and colleagues (equally inexplicable) but "having a place in ..." Ireland et al would've elicited "WHY?"

And maybe the companion question is: "why leave your home country in the first place?". For you it was clear - that was where you'd have a roof over your head; for me, it was that I couldn't afford to maintain my place in the UK, Social Services and the outlaws were giving us grief, ex-hus had already made his new base in Denmark (trailing spouse, or leading pri*k - take your pick!). So the decision to leave the UK was made; question was "where to?". Selling up in the UK gave me the capital to buy outright something vaguely modest, my parents were aging and I didn't want to be too far away, so that pretty much limited choice to Europe/Scandinavia (Norway was a strong contender). Having lived, as I said above in several European countries, I had some basis on which to make a subjective choice; the objective choice was dictated by availability of property within budget, schooling and infrastructure.

hils
 

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Here I am with my deux centimos worth;

OK, I'm not in France, but I think your original question can easily be transposed to any country. Why does anybody decide to up sticks and move to another country voluntarily especially if the language and/or culture is different from one's native language and/or culture.

Everybody who actually makes the move and makes a go of it and maybe even stays (I appreciate there are some who fall on hard times or some other misfortune befalls them but otherwise would have ended up pushing up their daisies on foreign soil) must have had sound reasons for doing so. By the foregoing, I am excluding those who go with only half a functioning brain cell and find out after a short while that actually living full-time some place is far different from spending a two-week holiday sharing one's time between the beach and propping up a bar.

I apologise to those who have heard the following before but it explains why we went to live "abroad"

2001, I turned 60 and thoughts turned to retirement. First question - Where? We couldn't stay where we were (our flat was on a mortgage and was [officially] only one bedroom) the area was going downhill and the flat was on the top floor (attic) of an old Victorian house - lovely but no lift for when one gets old and frail. Slight jump to November and my in-laws who had been virtually bankrupted by a bank collapse in Colombia fled almost empty handed to Florida, so they would have to factor in our calculations.

We started with about 7 possible countries with which we had links (some tenuous) such as family, language, previous residence/holidays. Holidays might sound a slim reason but we take holidays to experience the culture not for sun, sand, sea and sangría. One by one they were ruled out for various reasons - climate, taxation, OAP not increase each year, healthcare costs, crime and safety levels, etc.

Initially, we bought a villa in Florida for the in-laws to live in by extending our mortgage in UK to give us a deposit then taking one of those sub-prime loans. 2005 f-i-l died so that decided we would be taking the m-i-l on board at some point in the future. Of the last few countries we were left with France, Portugal and Spain. SWMBO ruled out Portugal (she didn't want to learn a new language at "her age" which was then 47 - I pointed out that I didn't start learning Spanish until I was 48!) France we rather liked the Auvergne and had even lined up a few properties to go and take a look at but when we looked at the taxation question and other costs, we decided against France which left us with Spain.

December 2005, (m-i-l came to spend Christmas with us) and we took a short break to Andalucía. We liked what we saw, what we felt, the culture, the people, etc. I stepped up my researches into areas, climate, etc. and we settled on a fair sized patch to consider for an initial recce which we took in September 2006 we were back again in June 2007 and found our house. The villa which had been on the market for two years (useless cheating realtor) we put with another realtor who found us a buyer. I went out to FL to finish things off. We cleared everything including the mortgage and just about made our deposit back, shipped the m-i-l's effects (put into store until we wanted them in Spain), shipped m-i-l to UK.

Then by paying off the cost of the house in Spain by stages, we had completed our purchase by September 2008. Then our flat sold and we moved November 1st 2008.

Yes, we are extremely happy here because we researched our move thoroughly in advance. We picked a place where the culture and the nature of our neighbours suits us down to the ground and even the m-il who was a source of worry since she was born, and had only ever lived, in large cities and now has to live in a village, but she seems content and remarks that we couldn't have come to a nicer place. We agree!

Why did we move? To be somewhere we could afford to live without having to scrape, to be in a culture with which we felt comfortable and somewhere nice.
 

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My situation is a bit different from most of the regulars on this board, because I'm only here for a fixed amount of time (my 2E working holiday visa expires next September). Like this move, all of my overseas moves have been quite "low risk". I did a foreign exchange to Thailand in university for a year, and had a student loan to help me through. I did a co-op work term in Hawaii, also in university, which paid enough to fund itself. And now I'm in France for a year, taking a leave of absence from my job in Canada, with enough savings to get me through even if I don't find a job here.

For these three moves, I've had the luxury of not having to think as long and hard as you long-term movers, because all of my choices were finite, and would be reversed after a certain period of time. I picked France for this move for a variety of reasons, many of which may be considered superficial to some. Mainly, I want to perfect my French language skills, while skipping a Canadian winter and experiencing the cultural diversity of Europe (I will be travelling quite a lot while I'm here).

A permanent move is a totally different kettle of fish. I certainly couldn't make such a big, irreversible decision without far more research than I've done so far.
 

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That's fine Dej, and makes eminent sense, but you've started the story halfway through. Why Normandie in the first place? Why not Ireland, Belgium, Holland or Denmark if you were looking for somewhere for a holiday commute?

I'm guessing it was maybe you spoke a bit of French, you fancied the lifestyle and "having a place in France" held kudos in the UK? That's not meant to be insulting or derogatory, btw. But certainly, when I was in the UK, "having a place in ..." France/Spain/Greece/Cyprus/Italy elicited a "wooo" from friends and colleagues (equally inexplicable) but "having a place in ..." Ireland et al would've elicited "WHY?"

And maybe the companion question is: "why leave your home country in the first place?". For you it was clear - that was where you'd have a roof over your head; for me, it was that I couldn't afford to maintain my place in the UK, Social Services and the outlaws were giving us grief, ex-hus had already made his new base in Denmark (trailing spouse, or leading pri*k - take your pick!). So the decision to leave the UK was made; question was "where to?". Selling up in the UK gave me the capital to buy outright something vaguely modest, my parents were aging and I didn't want to be too far away, so that pretty much limited choice to Europe/Scandinavia (Norway was a strong contender). Having lived, as I said above in several European countries, I had some basis on which to make a subjective choice; the objective choice was dictated by availability of property within budget, schooling and infrastructure.

hils
Hey c'mon hils,

Give the dreamers a chance

You've done alright, home owner in France + rental properties in La Corse and claiming dole 9 months a year. With such a short working cereer you're doing OK
 

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Hi Dear Hils

Why France to start with? We had spent several very happy holidays in France in the 1980s. At that time second homes in France were becoming popular (= fashionable). We lived in the S of England, so France was reachable for a weekend. Frankly, the question was "where in France" rather than "which country. We had experience of driving to Geneva on business and that convinced me that we should reduce the travel distance in France. Remember this was before the Chunnel, and Fr rural properties were VERY cheap in £.

We looked in France for a house within easy reach of the channel ports and found a petite maison near Dieppe. That worked out fine, except that it was a bit difficult for a weekend (arrive after midnight Sat and leave Sunday evening, plus the time to open / close the house.) Long weekends worked out fine. During the next 10 years I grew to like the house, village, countryside very much indeed. We had some, but not many, local French friends...and it's difficult to integrate with poor French for a few weeks of the year.

There was no doubt in my mind that I would move to the petite maison when the divorce came. After that......that's my history in France!

DejW


That's fine Dej, and makes eminent sense, but you've started the story halfway through. Why Normandie in the first place? Why not Ireland, Belgium, Holland or Denmark if you were looking for somewhere for a holiday commute?

I'm guessing it was maybe you spoke a bit of French, you fancied the lifestyle and "having a place in France" held kudos in the UK? That's not meant to be insulting or derogatory, btw. But certainly, when I was in the UK, "having a place in ..." France/Spain/Greece/Cyprus/Italy elicited a "wooo" from friends and colleagues (equally inexplicable) but "having a place in ..." Ireland et al would've elicited "WHY?"

And maybe the companion question is: "why leave your home country in the first place?". For you it was clear - that was where you'd have a roof over your head; for me, it was that I couldn't afford to maintain my place in the UK, Social Services and the outlaws were giving us grief, ex-hus had already made his new base in Denmark (trailing spouse, or leading pri*k - take your pick!). So the decision to leave the UK was made; question was "where to?". Selling up in the UK gave me the capital to buy outright something vaguely modest, my parents were aging and I didn't want to be too far away, so that pretty much limited choice to Europe/Scandinavia (Norway was a strong contender). Having lived, as I said above in several European countries, I had some basis on which to make a subjective choice; the objective choice was dictated by availability of property within budget, schooling and infrastructure.

hils
 

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Actually, I've been thinking for some time now about the original question: What has France got going for it?

Based on the time I've spend here in the forum, I'd have to say that for many Brits, France is:
1. close
2. familiar (from holiday trips)
and
3. There is this idea that the weather in the south is sea, sex and sun most of the year. (Probably because most Brits only ever see the south of France in the summertime.)

For North Americans, France is "exotic" but usually also kind of familiar from holiday visits. Then again, there is the "free" health care, the wonderful food and drink and of course the "cull-cha"

The problem is that for those who have been here as tourists, they were in an environment where their lack of French was catered to. Never that difficult to find English speaking assistance in the hotel, or campground or in most of the standard tourist sites. And even most tourist guides insist that "most people" or "most doctors" speak some English - which simply isn't true when you actually live here, well away from the tourist traps.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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We might well have been living there as one of hils' neighbours except that we could live more cheaply here in Spain - average €650 per month for everything including running costs for the car (French - Peugeot Partner - diesel currently €1.35)
 

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Blimey guys, is it 'glass half empty' weekend? Is there a big strike planned (surely we're due one soon)?
Just as my anxieties about moving to France were receding they've just come back harder than ever. I guess it's probably because I'm French that I'm worried about moving to France after 20 years....
I still want to think that there could be a happy ending for us 40 somethings, non? The political situation and ensuing impact is concerning but I'm hoping that at my micro level life/work will continue, or am I warped by my uk life of the last 20 years?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Hey c'mon hils,

Give the dreamers a chance

You've done alright, home owner in France + rental properties in La Corse and claiming dole 9 months a year. With such a short working cereer you're doing OK
I do understand what you're saying, but ...

Yeah OK it does look like I'm living the life of Riley, but I'm afraid it's one of those asset-rich, cash-poor situations (<400E/month). The places in Corsica don't pay for themselves, and I've discovered that there are significant disadvantages to being an outright home-owner here.

Five years ago, when we bought into Corsica, things looked reasonably OK, but things have changed. And I hadn't counted on real losses of around 40K caused by a whole catalogue of sh*t in the last 18 months or so.

And actually I don't think 36+ years of working one way or another is a particularly short working career, and 15 of them as a single-income, single parent ....

Yes, fine for the dreamers. Am not knocking them. I was just trying to understand why people seem to make what appears one of the most difficult choices (ie France) when relocating from half-way across the world to Europe.

h
 

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We might well have been living there as one of hils' neighbours except that we could live more cheaply here in Spain - average €650 per month for everything including running costs for the car (French - Peugeot Partner - diesel currently €1.35)
Have to say that the cost of living was way way down my list of criteria, in fact the only point it came into the decision at all was 'Can I afford it or can't I afford it.' It would have been very convenient if France had been the cheapest country in Europe but I never even did the comparisons, there's no other country that I care enough about to want to live there. If I hadn't found a way to live in France, I'd have stayed in the UK.

But I would add to Bev's list of why Brits choose France: the fact that property is so much cheaper here than in the UK. I think that being able to own a large house and a lot of land is the sole reason a lot of Brits move here, and I also think it's a very bad reason. If you buy your chateau but you don't think much of the French ways and you don't want to get involved with what's outside your own gates, your chateau will turn into a prison.
 
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