Big life changes - where do I start?

Hi everyone, we are based in the UK and for some years now, have been considering moving out to France - permanently. We all either Ski or Snowboard, love the great outdoors and have holidayed in France for a number of years now and have fell in love with he place we like the people the lifestyle and pretty much everything there is about the place.

My biggest obstacle is convincing my wife that our two children will be ok if we were to make the move and that despite the initial setbacks that are inevitable (making friends,getting to grips with the school, the language etc) I think we could really make a go of it. I am not one to let things slip and will work really hard to make something work whatever it is so I think we would be OK.

Me and my wife have kind of arrived at a trade off whereby at the moment we have agreed that we could buy a second property in France, a holiday home and rent it out to bring in some income and use for long breaks, esp in the kids 6 weeks holiday. We would do this as a first step towards making the final jump and moving to France but I still feel that if we’re going to do this then we should just go for it full on, sell up and go.

Is my wife being over cautious ?? Am I throwing caution to the wind too easily ?

I’m sure there will be people on here who have got to this stage so I just wondered if anyone would share there experiences with me. What actually “clicked” in your heads and made you go.

One other thing, can anybody tell me, has anyone tried a halfway house approach to this, whereby they have lived and worked for say 6 months in France and then came back to the UK for 6 months. How would the children get on in schools. Is this even feasible ?

many thanks in advance.

I can sympathise with your predicament - although our situation differs slightly. We bought a house in the Charente only last year, and we were plotting our escape from the UK immediately after stepping out of the notaire’s office! I can’t stress enough how much your psychology changes once you have bought a property; any intentions of holiday homes or long term lettings are quickly eroded. It makes life in the UK very hard, as you start to view the present as your ‘old life’ as thoughts turn to new beginnings. At least that’s been my experience.

All I can advise from our limited experience, and this seems to be mirrored by others on this forum who have already made the move, is that the lure of adventure and a new life rapidly overtakes any halfway-house compromises you might make before the deeds are signed. Admittedly, we have no kids to consider, and my parents have been in the area for a decade, consequently it’s not such a leap of faith for us since their social network have provided opportunities for work etc.

I would recommend that you both commit 100% to a decision either way. If you go for compromise, I fear you will quickly find yourself yearning to leave, and that view may not be shared by your family. Good luck to you all.

Thank you for all of your replies. There are some quite illuminating points made here, especially the ones about the French education system. My children are 8 and 13. The eldest is academically sound - top of his year in Science, Maths, English and IT and quite well on with his chosen language - French.

The youngest is more of a worry though. He sadly experienced some difficulties at the hands of a teacher who taught very much in the same vain of how you describe the French education system. His self esteem had taken a battering which in turn, affected his learning so we moved him to another school which has had a marked improvement on him. This was around 10 months ago now. This will need more contemplation.

It’s good that some of you mention the downsides and pitfalls, which seem to focus mainly on financial self sustainability and the health care system. It’s been a while since I read up on the health care system but as I understand it, it’s very similar to the American system whereby you pay an insurance premium ?? I have only read good things on the quaility of health care people get with this system, though.

As for earning a living, I have various options available to me in one way or another so I dont believe that would be a concern but I do take your point and it must be high up on peoples lists who want to make this life decision.

I just want to say that if your children don’t speak after the average 4-6 months don’t panic.
My little boy was silent in French company for nearly 2 years. He refused to speak both English and French at school.
He spoke English at home.
This was very worrying and then suddenly he started speaking (when he was ready it would appear).

We moved to France because we were sick of our lives in the UK and wanted a better quality of life.
My advice is rent somewhere first so you can be sure it is right for you.
So many people move back after a few years.

I agree with Fiona, the longer you leave it the harder it will be as the children grow older, I moved here with my 2 sons who were very young at the time, they spoke french before I did and they speak better french than me now, in fact people really believe that they are french !!!
The schools will help and you will find it quite easy to get them into the schools, I also agree on the 4-6 months for the children !!! Life here is beuatiful if you accept the french ways and adapt to their lifestyle, I also like the comment about the discos and the drinnking, you will find as mentioned that the french are very family orienatated, my kids very very rarely go out to night clubs (theya re now 25.23 and 21) they often go to friends houses or friends come here!!! The medical care is really great although I do have an advantage whereby my company pay the mutuelle (insurance top up) GO FOR IT !!! and Good luck :-)))

I think the most important question is how old are the children???

Definitely you will need to be able to support yourself financially, if you already run a business in the UK, then you will be aware of UK charges, but if you plan to run a business in France, be warned that the state discriminates financially against anyone starting a business ( it is a socialist country). Income tax is not high, but the social charges that take the place of N.I. are enormous.

If you are working in France, learning the lingo will be important. I met two Brit nurses returning to the UK, as they couldnt find work, without speaking a word of French!

IMHO kids will have less problems, as they will pick up the language easily, ( younger the better).

I always said that I would do any kind of work here, and joked that I would even do night shifts at the Shell Garage ( or Elf ) garage. That didnt work, as their garages arent open at night ( or at lunch time) and they dont sell sweets newspapers and cold drinks.

The French education system is good and well respected, but as already mentioned, self worth is beaten out of the children , togheter with any kind of lateral thinking, or questioning. This goes a long way to explain the bloody mindedness you experience from “jobsworths” as you progress though French Bureaurocracy.

Having said all that , I believe that being Bilingual French/ English with a French BAC behind them, plus lots of self confidence given in home life, together with the cosmopolitain lifestyle with family vsists to the UK, will well equip them for the future, and again IMHO, a better result than going through the UK education system.

Medical system is excellent ( better than UK), but we pay 135 Euros per month top up insurance for a family of 4, and you need to be working ( or have worked) to get the state part paid for

Usual rules apply, these are my views, and everything I say, may well turn out to be rubbish!

I agree, the reason we are commuting is because it’s difficult to make enough money in France in the early years of running your own business. We’re fortunate in that we can pass a few years on a low income but then we have to top it up by taking work back in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. It’s not easy for my husband commuting which is why we’re going to spend some time in London this year.

I think if your children are at school age it’s difficult to split the school year, we think we can only do this dual lifestyle together whilst the kids are small, after that if we can’t earn enough from our business in France then its the commuting again for him on his own. BUT we think 3 months commuting every once in a while will be worth it for the family life in France as if we were living in the UK my husband would be commuting at least 2 hours every day anyway into London so he still wouldn’t see the children during the week & 3 months is better than spending 12 months like that. For the other 9 months he spends so much time with them & we have a great family lifestyle.

Its not everyone’s choice but it works for us.

If you can make a living then France is very family focused…but do think carefully about the financials including healthcare which you have to pay for.


Hi Sean,
I think the main things to consider before moving permanently are your children and earning enough money to stay. I cannot comment on the children side of things as we do not have any.
Regards earning a living, I think it is essential that you have a means of supporting yourself before moving. There are many that come here without a clear idea of how they will earn a living, thinking that they will get by doing gardening or looking after Brits second homes. There are opportunities there, but it is a very busy market!
There are people commuting successfully, but I expect that most would prefer to be in France permanently, if they could find an equivalent job here.
Without speaking French, the French job market is pretty much closed to you, so whatever you do will involve the English speaking community.
I am not trying to put you off, far from it. We bought a house and planned to wait about 5 or 6 years before moving, while we renovated the house and converted the barn in to gites. Two months before the purchase was completed, we decided to move straight away! We started two businesses from scratch and although we are still struggling, we are earning a living and have no intention of ever moving back to the UK.
There are many reasons why people give up and move back, but near the top must be those that can’t make it financially. If you can earn enough to stay, then all the other difficulties can be over come in time - learn the language, integrate and enjoy your new life.
Work this out and go for it!!

Hi Sean,

We commuted back & forth for a few years (as our home was a second home) then we moved here permanently to have children but this year due to my husbands work we’ll be flitting back & forth between London & the South of France. Its nice to have the best of both worlds! From country bumpkin here in France to City Slicker in Canary Wharf. I’ll have to do something about my wardrobe though as I’m too used to wearing my ‘village’ clothes & I’ll feel a scruffbag in London if I go around like I do here where we generally feel it doesn’t matter (I’m still probably one of the smartest dressed people in our village).

Check out our Group Franglais Kids for others experiences of bringing up bi-lingual children, I think it will be you and your wife have the biggest problem, the kids will no doubt be fine, pick up the language in less than 6 months and have lots of new friends.

One problem you might have would be registering on the various healthcare/social systems - have you thought about this?

Hi Sean

we bought our house as a holiday home / let. The idea was that at some time in the future we would ‘retire’ to it - maybe a 10-year plan (we were both in our 40s at the time and I’ve now just turned 50). We lasted 18 months before we moved for good! We used to come over for a long weekend a month, plus all our holidays, and couldn’t bear to leave. The final straw was sitting on the terrace by the pool in the sunshine over a glass or two of rosé one Whitsun Bank Holiday with some English friends who posed the crucial question “why don’t you move here now?” We didn’t have an answer!

We’ve never looked back - it’s the best thing we’ve done and I have nightmares in which I find I’m back in the UK, in the old job and France was just a dream (really). It’s not always plain sailing, for sure, but then you usually find in life that the things that are really worth doing never are!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.