Well, you may be pondering this because you are fed up with Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit or maybe it has been a thought for some time now. Certainly, France is a popular choice with many Brits because it is easily reached with a flight taking less than 90 minutes to most destinations and of there are ferries, the Channel Tunnel and a good rail network.
There are certainly some negatives to consider when you are weighing up the pros and cons. You really do have to speak at least passable French – especially if you are thinking about settling in the French countryside. Having said that, in some rural areas, the accent and dialect are so strong that you may well wonder if you actually understand any. Whilst it is a large and beautiful country with many different regions, the French are…. French! They love bureaucracy and love all things ‘French’ so don’t think that you will be able to find Marmite, Coleman’s mustard and the ingredients to make a good curry or Chinese easily! The other negative is that you clock up the mileage because it is such a large country and the cost of living – especially food prices – is noticeably higher.
The good news is that whilst France has long been a retirement destination for the British, it is also a country that warmly welcomes younger people and families as it is ‘business friendly’. President Macron and his government are trying to boost economic activity and the ‘auto-entrepreneur’ scheme is perfect for those wanting to start their own business.
France Has Wonderful Weather
Well it does have great weather – if you choose your region carefully! Northern France has a very similar climate to the UK and even the south-west does although summer temperatures are higher and winter ones are lower. If you are dreaming of lovely warm sunny weather, you need to be looking at Provence or the Cote d’Azur as both regions enjoy 300 days of sunshine each year. Of course if you love the cold and plenty of snow there are great ski resorts in France too.
Travelling to and Within France Is Easy
Absolutely true! Budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair travel to a number of regional airports in France. EasyJet has recently established ‘a hub’ at Bordeaux so as well as offering good flights from the UK, the airline also operates a selection of flights to other European destinations from Bordeaux. The high-speed TGV rail network within France is excellent and a number of services converge on Paris, from where the train to the channel port of Calais leaves. There are a number of really good internal bus services between the towns and cities, but rural services can be a little sketchy. The Flexibus network is great and reasonably priced and there are regular services between towns and cities and also further afield to such places as Barcelona.
Property Prices Are Good
Certainly your money will go further in France unless you are looking for a snazzy apartment in the centre of Paris. There are some real bargains to be had – especially in rural areas but having said that, check carefully what the property offers and what in reality you are buying as it might be a ‘white elephant’ after all! Central heating is common in modern houses but not in older properties and oil central heating is pricey and not all areas have a mains gas supply. Double glazing is often only fitted to half the windows and fitted carpets are rarely found in older properties with stone floors. The most important point to check is what insulation your chosen property has, as few older buildings have any at all.
The property market is very different because a large percentage of house owners try to sell their property themselves to avoid the high agents’ commission. Consequently, the only way to discover which properties are for sale is to drive around your chosen area looking for the ‘A Vendre’ or ‘AV’ sign hanging on the front gate! French vendors are open to negotiation which is great and this is usually because in rural areas it can take several years to sell a property. If you don’t mind DIY there are some really good bargains to be had with properties in need of either total or partial renovation.
So whether you are dreaming of your own château, a smart town house in a city, a restored house in a medieval bastide or a pine chalet in the Rhône-Alpes, there is certainly plenty of choice!
The French schools are really good and there are crèche facilities available for pre-schoolers. Primary and secondary schools see students through to their BAC exams and there are plenty of good universities across France. French is the language spoken in most schools, French students do learn English as a second language in secondary school. Having said that, there are a few English schools in the largest cities and also regions that are popular with the Brits such as the Dordogne in Aquitaine (often referred to as Dordogneshire!) A real plus is that there is good after-school care to help working parents and all students are given really good three course school dinners!
Really Good Healthcare Facilities
Everyone living and/or working in France has access to the healthcare system which is one of the best public services in the world. Patients pay for any treatment and medication but if they have a French health card, they will be reimbursed by up to 70%. For conditions such as diabetes there is free regular check ups and treatment. Waiting times to see your GP are short and out-patient hospital appointments are usually available with under a month’s waiting time (depending on the speciality).
There are currently about 148,800 Brits living in France, making it the third favourite country to relocate to within Europe – after Spain and Ireland. The average property price paid when making the move is €315,000. The most popular place with the British is the capital Paris because of its rich culture (and because many are working there too), whilst Poitou Charent in the west, Aquitaine in the south-west and the Rhon Alps are all popular locations too.
The choice of where to live in France is certainly yours, but wherever you the go, the wine is excellent and a three course set lunch – often with a glass of wine – costs on average €15.00. À votre santé – to your good health!