English / French Couple with kids - should we take the plunge?

Hi All,

A little context before I start with the questions, of which I’m sure that some of them have been answered here before.

So, I’m an English guy married to a French woman (for 10 years now) living in the UK (she has been here since 2000). We were married in France and have a French marriage certificate. Two kids (dual nationality) who are 6 and 9 born in the UK. We both work full time in UK companies and have “comfortable” salaries. We own our own home (still mortgaged).
My French is basic - I’d say it’s about tourist level and I can follow family conversations and chat with the mother-in-law. The kids attend a French group every Saturday and speak with their mother but their French is quite basic as we mostly speak English at home (Mum is fluent).

So, living in France has always been on our minds but with the recent Brexit farce, it has brought the issue into sharp focus and we have started to think about what it would mean to live and work in France (with me aiming for gaining dual nationality at some point)

Initially we’re thinking of a trial period (e.g. 6 months/year) as my job is fairly flexible about remote working and Mrs Mum isn’t too happy in her current job.

Are there any of you here that were / are in a similar situation and have made a go of it ?

If we go for a trial, what do you think about safety nets e.g. renting your home in the UK etc ?

What about schools, rental periods, tax/legal situation for a period that short (or long depending on your perspective) ???

This would be a pretty scary change for us and there’s lots of stuff to consider and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface but would be good to gauge responses.

Thanks !

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Another recent post on here has put healthcare on my mind, so I’ll flag that one up.

A six month trial is a good idea in theory, but in practice, either you live and work in France or you don’t. Six months should give you a clearer idea of whether you France is likely to suit you all on an emotional level but it won’t give you a full picture of the practical side of things - social security, taxes, finances. If you’re here for 6 months you will probably try to keep a foot in each camp and hang on to the safety net of the UK social security system and your “free” NHS healthcare while you still can. If/when you take the plunge for real you will have to let go of all that (there’s a limit to how flexible any UK employer can be about remote working, because they have to abide by national and international legislation). And once you come out of one social security and tax system and go into another, the picture can change significantly.

It can be done, lots of people do it, but with a family to support I think you need to make sure that the income stream is in place and you have a route to healthcare, or that you have plenty of savings to tide you over until you do. As EU citizens, once you’re established here France will look after you well if you need it, but that won’t all kick in until you’ve been here for long enough to fill in your first tax form and pay your dues and get yourselves into the system,

As for Brexit and the French elections - who knows.

Hi Ian,

In life nothing is ever definitive. So why don’t you move to France as an expatriated family for a certain period of time. At the end it won’t be a failure or a success but a good or a less good experience. Stakes (and stress) will be lower.
I have been an expat for the most of my life (still am) and there were countries where I would have settled for good and other not. The ability to move if I was not comfortable (and the next of kin as well) was reassuring.

On the practical side, I would advise to move in summer for the children to start the school year in september and get acquainted quickly with their new friends and environment. There are a British and English speaking international school in French big cities and in the South West where the UK population is concentrating.
According to the FR-UK treaty on fiscal matters; taxes are due in France if you stay more than 183 day / fiscal year (January to September). You should stay longer to have the pleasure to pay taxes in France.Main ones are revenue tax (returns in June and payment in September) and housing tax (October) Get advice about what HMRC demands.
As and expat,one is usually assigned to a specific place, as a voluntary one you’ll have freedom of choice. I would advise to rent in order to be able to move forward if you don’t like the place. Another question is how far from your wife’s family do you want to be ?
Usually expats gather in order to support each other (and make fun about the natives local customs). There is a large UK community in France. Would you like to join it or live like the French ?
Jobs are scarce in France and big cities are generating most of them. Paris is not child friendly and I would advise to consider cities like Lyons or Nantes.

There are more questions than answers in this post but I hope you’ll see them as hints.

Christian

Hi Ian.
We are a Danish/British couple and have been expats since 1988 in Belgium and France with two children. Our children went to a Belgium French speaking school with an international program. There I learned that most children up to the age of 12 will happily adapt into another language with a little help. Since your wife is French that should not be a problem as she would have been through the same type of school system and can help. Being only 6 and 9 they will very quickly adapt their new language and country. I would move just before the summer. Put them into one of these summer camps/schools to give them a head start, and by the first week in September they would be ready to start their new school. I would also enroll them into a local school, so they quickly can get to know the local children and for you all to become a part of the locale community. Bon chance

So, thanks @Anna , @Christian_Mauve and @gitte61 for the replies. After much deliberation, tears, wine and long nights we’ve decided to take the plunge. Currently planning on moving to Nantes (renting first, then buying if things work out) where my wife will take a small career break so she can support the kids for the first few months. I’ve arranged to work for my current company remotely for a period of time so we’ll have some form steady income for a while. We’re travelling over there in a couple of weeks to look at schools, flats/houses, driving in rush hour etc etc with the aim of either selling the house here (or renting it, not decided yet) by June so we’re ready for school year starting in September.

Trying not to sweat the small stuff but wondering what the priorities are now, particularly around health care and schools.

Great stuff!

Healthcare shouldn’t be a problem. The procedure to follow is here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/paying-employees-working-abroad#how-to-calculate-nics - basically your employer needs to fill in forms explaining that you will temporarily be based in another country, and HMRC needs to issue the paperwork confirming you can stay in the UK social security system and continue paying NICs, during that period with UK remaining responsible for you and your dependents’ healthcare in the country where you’re living. Apply in good time because HMRC is not noted for its fast response time.

Congrats Ian. All the best on this journey. Nantes is a good choice, there are a lot of French people who have been expats moving in there. You’ll find settling easy. Feel free to ask if there are issues.