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Discussion Starter #1
We very often get newcomers to the forum here who post a brief message asking about how to start preparing for a move to France. Sometimes these folks are pounced upon by some of our more "enthusiastic" forum regulars, challenging them with the same old questions - the first of which is often "Why France?"

Thought we should start a generic thread on things to consider up front when even just thinking about a voluntary move to France. (Assuming that, in a work-related move, you have your employer to fall back on for guidance, or in a student move, the demands of the program will affect your choice of venue.)

So - let's have some ideas about what you should be considering before you decide that you're moving to France. Let the games begin.

(If you have questions related to your situation, please start a new thread for your question. We need to keep this thread strictly generic.)
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter #2
And I'll get things started here, since I'm very often the one asking the question of newcomers.

Let's assume for this thread that we're talking exclusively post-Brexit (i.e. that British citizens will need a long-stay visa and all the related registrations that go with that).

The first thing you need to ask yourself is Why France? Wouldn't it be easier to move somewhere within your home or current country and avoid the immigration hassles, plus surround yourself with familiar things? (Especially for those in retirement.)

And also why France? And not Spain, Italy, Germany or the Netherlands?

Are you looking for someplace "close" to home so you can visit (and be visited by) friends and family? Consider the annoyances of having to change sides of the road (if you're planning on driving) or the vagaries of "seasonal" airport or train schedules. (Post-Brexit there is no guarantee that driving licenses will be exchangeable on the same basis that they are currently. Though that's a one-time issue.)

OK, I'll yield to some of the other expat "experts" here.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Not an expert but here's my contribution.

Don't underestimate the language difficulties. Most people have school/holiday phrasebook French but to live in France and be able to cope with day to day living you really need to prepare.

Obviously you can get by with little, but the frustrations will be endless and you may end up avoiding contact rather than seeking it out which is counterproductive.

So if possible learn as much as you can before you make the move.
 

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For me, the biggest challenge was recovering from the financial blip caused by changing countries and having to adjust, so I'll chip in on this aspect.

What will your revenue sources be?

Have you looked at how income tax is calculated in France? Also the so-called 'social charges'? And social security contributions if you will be working? Social charges in France are probably the highest in the EU, whereas in the UK they're lower than average, so the difference is noticeable.

If you're relying on unearned income and it's on the low side, have you checked out France's minimum income requirement and are you confident you have enough of a cushion in case the exchange rate heads south? (this applies if you move under FoM, if you go through immigration it will be checked for you by the authorities)

If you're planning to carry over your current activity from the UK, either as an employee or self employed or business owner, have you looked into that side of things? Moving to France means you are fiscally resident here and you have to comply with French law, which is not necessarily the same as UK law, and international treaties if applicable. You can't just carry on as if you still lived in the UK. (again, only an issue really if you move under FoM and nobody checks to see you are doing things correctly and meeting your obligations)
 

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Not an expert but here's my contribution.

Don't underestimate the language difficulties. Most people have school/holiday phrasebook French but to live in France and be able to cope with day to day living you really need to prepare.

Obviously you can get by with little, but the frustrations will be endless and you may end up avoiding contact rather than seeking it out which is counterproductive.

So if possible learn as much as you can before you make the move.
I think that Verité nails the most important thing. To have a full life here and enjoy everything that France offers (and as noted above, to avoid a lot of frustrations) , you must be proficient in the language. If you are not prepared to make the effort necessary to do that, then you really need to think twice about coming here.
 

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I can't turn this into a question exactly, but my main piece of advice would be, Never assume anything.
So many people say "We're coming to France and we're going to do this that and the other", they sound so sure about it all like it's all decided, and as soon as you read it you think: "But you can't do that here" or "Well there's nothing to stop you but I just don't think it will work, because X Y and Z".
I think that Brits have a tendency to vastly understimate the implications of coming out of one system and going into a different system. It turns you back into a child, you have to start finding out the basic things that every French adult knows instinctively.
 

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If you revenue is from outside the Eurozone, have you considered the potential impacts of adverse exchange rates in the longer term? It's no joke, in recent years the AUD/EUR exchange rate has dropped from around 0.80 to 0.61 or 0.62; that kind of fall coupled with inflation has the potential to turn the dream into a nightmare for those without a reasonable financial buffer.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
All excellent points, gang. Thanks and keep them coming.

I add one thought to the "language" issue. While you won't ever develop "fluency" until you are here and forced into using the language, you do need a firm basis to a certain extent.

"English speaking doctors" can be difficult to almost impossible to find outside of very large cities (mainly Paris). This goes double if you're talking about specialists.

France is known for its bureaucracy, and once you're past the visa phase, there are virtually NO forms from the Administration that are in any other language than French. The same goes for the instruction forms for such things as the tax forms.

And one measure of your language ability is whether or not you could report an "emergency" situation in French. You should assume you would not be able to find someone in an urgent situation who can speak English. You might want to practice (before you get here) how you would contact the police, or get an ambulance or report an traffic accident or emergency medical situation (heart attack, stroke, fall, etc.) in French. Doesn't have to be fluent, but you need to at least be able to describe what service you need and where you are located so they can reach you.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
One other response we get here on the forum pretty frequently is that people want to move to France "for the relaxed lifestyle."

OK, for those folks retiring from a hectic job situation, you may get considerable relief from all that stress simply by retiring. Don't underestimate the stress relief inherent in simply NOT having to get up and go to work everyday in crazy traffic wherever you are already located.

Moving to France on retirement will provide you with plenty of stress of a different kind (language, bureaucracy, new customs, new habits, etc.) so plan accordingly.

If you plan on working in France, there are plenty of stressful elements here - learning a new tax system, new labor laws and practices - even if your commute is reduced or eliminated. (And if you're doing work in or around Paris, you may find work life in France little different from the old slog "back home.")
 

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Something that you can't plan for but have to face and adjust to when you do move to France is the difference in attitudes.

Both in the workplace and on a social level, the French tend to function differently and it is not always easy interpreting the messages that they send out.

People working together rarely socialise although this is changing. Coffee, tea breaks are rare although again this is slowly changing too as people become more mobile geographically and discover other practises.

People who change jobs frequently are frowned upon and regarded as unstable: having a job for life is considered highly desirable. Etc etc.

Socially, the French mix much more with their families than with neighbours. Popping round to a neighbour's for coffee is (almost) unheard of.

And if you call round with some cupakes you have baked their embarrassment may be seen as rudeness which is rarely the case.

And as has been said above, the better you speak French the easier it will be to understand situations that are strange to you.
 

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Not such pleasant topics, but if you are retiring to France, you should think about

  • Whether your chosen property will be suitable as you age
  • What you will do if you or are your partner should need to go into an aged care facility, what is available in your chosen area and the cost - you probably know how that works in your home country, but likely not how it works in France.
  • What the remaining partner would do should one of you pass away.
 

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Health cover

For those not relocating to take up a job, consider how the French system will apply to you and note that it is effectively compulsory to join the system once you have been resident for more than 3 months and certainly once you have submitted a French tax declaration. (You can, of course, post a question on this forum about how it applies in your particular circumstances.)

Note that the French health system is a contributory one, generally only covers 70% of costs and most often on a reimbursement basis.

If you are not working, you will receive a bill from URSSAF after your income tax notice has been issued. Those working may also receive a bill if they have other income that is not taxed at source in France.

Top up insurance cover is available and you will not be penalised on the basis of age or previous health issues.
 

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Taxes

Think about what taxes will apply to you, eg.

Income tax
Taxe d'habitation (being phased out but still applicable to many based on income)
Taxe foncière

Remember also that it is up to you to take the initiative when the time comes to submit your first income tax declaration.
 

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DON'T base your expectations of France on British TV programmes!

You might be able to let that "gite" for 500€ per month, but only during the short holiday season - 2 to 3 months MAXIMUM - and you'll have to pay taxes and social charges on the income generated, as well as paying to advertise it.

It can be VERY COLD in winter in most of France.

It can be VERY HOT in summer in some parts of France.
 

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Thank you for starting this thread. You bring up interesting and valid points...Why voluntarily move to France when other options are available?

I was thinking about retiring in France in a couple of years (I grew up there but moved to the US when young) but am starting to reconsider. A couple of things I find hard to accept in France:

A: France is a universe where nothing is possible due to excessive and overwhelming regulations and bureaucracy.

B: (closely related to A above) The French, who claim to be great defenders of freedom, love to live under a parental and encroaching government that totally runs and administers their lives, and would not have it any other way. A serious contradiction, IMO
 

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A: France is a universe where nothing is possible due to excessive and overwhelming regulations and bureaucracy.

B: (closely related to A above) The French, who claim to be great defenders of freedom, love to live under a parental and encroaching government that totally runs and administers their lives, and would not have it any other way. A serious contradiction, IMO
I'm unsure about how you arrived at such sweeping generalisations, but.

A. Everything (almost) is possible in France, but every country is different, and some people coming here have difficulty in getting their heads round that.

To the French, everything in their country is normal.


B. The French are used to living in France, under French laws and rules. They do not understand, nor appreciate, foreigners telling them anything is wrong.

To the French, everything in their country is normal.


Now substitute "France" and "French" with the names of any country and its people.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I'll add a bit to Nomoss's comments here:

A: France is a universe where nothing is possible due to excessive and overwhelming regulations and bureaucracy.
It can seem that way at first. However the French notion of government is that the government's first obligation is to "protect" its people. And it does that through regulation. Ultimately, the bureaucracy is treated as something of a game and once you figure out the rules, you learn how to slide through with a minimum of hassle.

Just a note, too: It is mostly the Americans who feel this way in the initial stages. It may have something to do with the legacy of the monarchy in most of Europe.

B: (closely related to A above) The French, who claim to be great defenders of freedom, love to live under a parental and encroaching government that totally runs and administers their lives, and would not have it any other way. A serious contradiction, IMO
Again, a mainly American point of view. I know I certainly appreciate having a national health care system I can fall back on without having to worry about major medical "incidents" draining our life savings. But like all systems, it takes living here a while to get used to how things work and to appreciate some of the benefits.

Though, if that's how you feel about France, you're very welcome to remain back in the US and enjoy your "freedoms."
Cheers,
Bev
 

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The French, who claim to be great defenders of freedom, love to live under a parental and encroaching government that totally runs and administers their lives, and would not have it any other way. A serious contradiction, IMO
The thing about freedom is, if individuals have unlimited freedom they're soon going to start getting in each other's way. One person wants to be free to party all night or build a monstrosity, or exploit his workers, results in neighbours being kept awake or having to live with an eyesore on their doorstep, and an increasing gap between rich and poor. So, you need legisltation to set the boundaries within which everyone can enjoy their freedom without impinging on other people's freedoms. I think the French understand that pretty well.

And as you've probably noticed, if the French don't like the laws that are being brought in they make some noise about it! and sometimes, get them changed.

I'm actually trying to think of a single thing I've wanted to do here and found impossible. Not thought of one yet.
 
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