Found your dream French Property? Ten ways to make your move to France a success
10 things / tips to think about before moving to France
Ten ways to make your move to France a success
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so" - Douglas Adams
The Internet is peppered with tales of woe from people who followed their dream and moved to France in search of a better life, only to discover that things over here weren't as advertised on ‘A Place in the Sun'. But why did they fail? And what can we learn from their experience? Here are ten things you have to consider before you take the plunge:
Consider the children - If they are pre-school age they will settle more easily, but older children will take longer to adapt to new friends, a new language and a different culture. They may not share your dream of a French idyll, and they could have you back on the boat quicker than you can say ‘wish we hadn't sold our house'.
Choose the right place - Yes that old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere is beautiful, but what do you really want out of life? Will you miss the local boozer, the cinema, take-away meals, the gym, sports facilities and clubs? Think carefully about whether you need to be close to a city, or whether you're happy in the country. If you're from the city in the UK, then moving to the country in France will be twice as much of a shock to the system.
Rent first - The only way to know if you like the area, without taking the ultimate risk would be to keep your UK property, rent it out, and find a rental property in a place you like. This way, you could try different places if you want, and you will be ideally placed to hear first about properties for sale in the area.
How will you earn money? - With unemployment at around 10% and stifling employment laws, you could be hard pressed to find work in France, especially if you are not a fluent French speaker. Starting a business could work, but you could be surprised at the red-tape and high social charges, and you'll need to do your research thoroughly. Many people commute back to a job in the UK each week, but think about the effects on your health and morale over the longer term.
Consider your health - Yes the health service here is superb, but the French residents pay for it through hefty social charges, and top-up insurance. There are strict rules governing eligibility for the French system, and if you are retired or nearing retirement age, think about how you will cope without the support of your wider family in the event of disability or illness in your later years.
Choose the right kind of property - What will you do with the 30ha of land that you got with the property? Property might be cheap to buy, but there are many that need extensive work (and money) to make them habitable. It's okay to dream, but construction and DIY materials are not cheap here, and you've more chance of bumping into Elvis Presley than a plumber or electrician who can accommodate you in a hurry. Do your homework and be realistic about the depth of your budget and your patience.
Learn the language - Basic French will get you by, but what about making friends, dealing with utility companies and integrating into the community? You could feel isolated and alone if you don't get a reasonable command of the language, and it isn't easy to pick-up. Try to watch French TV, talk to the locals and do a course. Don't underestimate how long it will take you to become fluent.
Become part of the community - If you have children, meet the other parents and join the school committee. If not, explore the local associations and clubs, and talk to your neighbours. If you limit your social activity to the group of ex-pats you have got to know, then you will never really become part of the community. Respecting and accepting the local culture and traditions doesn't mean losing your British roots and your own ways of doing things.
Give It time! - Common wisdom is that you need at least 2 years to really give it a go living in another country. In this time you will feel homesick, miss the foods, the beer, the shops, your family, and feel that you've done the wrong thing and worry about the effect on your family. If you don't give it time, you'll never know if it could have worked out.
Have some savings - Moving is expensive, wherever you are going, but make sure you set enough money aside for those house renovations, or for setting up a business if that is what you plan to do.
Good advice? Or patronising rubbish? Tell us what you think, and what you have learnt from your own experience.