Finally moving in the New Year

This has probably been asked a thousand times, so my apologies.

I know the basics (much like my French language skills) but how easy is it to really make the move to France?

My partner, the dog and myself are looking for a new home near Narbonne or somewhere south of Charente, I have no family or friends in France so it's a total leap (after years of wanting to move).

Can it really be the fairytale move that people have you believe? I have seen several properties on line and we are arranging to spend a week in the various areas looking at the properties and hoping to make a decision before leaving. We're across pet passports, house sales, packing and removal companies etc ... the only other things are tax on money made from the UK house sale and finally becoming a French citizen and all that entails.

Any hints / tips / general words of comfort gratefully received.

Thanks in advance


That doesn't represent my experience Teresa. A bit Peter Mayle if you don't mind me saying so :-)


(this is a thumbs up type-post...)

we've been here in provence nearly 5 years now - It is crazy busy and hot here in summer, and super quiet and COLD here in winter

my one piece of advice for new residents - see that spreadsheet you have? if you have a column indicating DATES... delete it. it's not going to work. nothing, nothing ever AT ALL gets done here on time in the same way as the UK.

for the first few weeks you'll keep going to shops and banks and the post or mairie or the doctors between 12 and 3 and they'll be closed. you'll know - you just forget

delivery people will say they'll be round tomorrow - you'll get a text saying what time! but they won't come... you'll get to a store hoping for a selection - and they'll have no choice. oh and you'll go for a lazy sunday lunch at 2 and... well

you get the picture. don't expect to achieve much more each day than buying some nice salami, going for a walk, and saying hello to everyone and you'll be grand

we love it

x teresa

By remote I really meant having no neighbours to talk to rather than just being in the countryside.

On tax it is also important to remember that (ignoring people who move as part of their employment), the UK works on full April to April tax years - i.e you either are or are not resident for a given whole tax year depending (essentially) on the number of days spent in the UK. The French work on calendar years and and you can become resident part way through a year. This can be important for the timing of various actions.

I will investigate the Assurance Vie further - thank you for those words John. My 'to-do' list is getting bigger.

I take the point about remote areas, but I guess it's different for many people. Personally it doesn't bother me. As for the language I'll chat 'bad French' to anyone that'll listen. I seem to speak better French when I'm actually in the country than when I'm in the UK practising.

Jonathan thank you - two points I'll add to our 'to-do' list. Tax is the biggest thing for us to sort before we leave the UK.

Simon, thank for for those points, I have added them to our 'to do' list.

Most things have been said on here already so there is little i can add other than our own experiences having toured France since the very early 80s and did/have many friends in the Narbonne area we eventually settled in the Montagne Noire in a small hamlet just above the town of Mazamet 5 years ago with our 4 dogs though 2 have since died we now have goats and chickens grow our own veg and fruit .Hearing all the horror stories of bureaucracy in France and the fight for the Carte Vital we sailed through it all no need for translations all done in a matter of weeks had more hassle from the DHSS in the UK who decided i was married to a woman in Bristol they got my wifes Ni number wrong we were even invited to the Marie along with all the other newly arrived from various nationality's and welcomed to the town . At the local elections a couple of years ago the prospective Mayor invited all the Brits to a meeting in a local bar and asked what we would like to see in the town what changes could he make to improve since then the music festival has been revived stopped by the previous marie. The neighbours are very friendly having given them eggs and veg from our chickens and veg patch in return we have had a pheasant complete with feathers apples cakes a huge dish of strawberries one elderly lady had the habit of walking straight in having baked a cake for us two kisses on my cheeks sits down rattles away in Occitan then leaves we havent a clue what she has said so living in a small community has its advantages .One piece of advice is to get good financial advice regards ant money invested or capital left from house sale there is someone who is a member here who does just that ours is all wrapped up in an Assurance Vie safe from the taxman and inheritance laws

I’ve got to disagree that being remote gives you fewer opportunities to speak French. Speaking French is vital to communicate with your neighbours.
Re ISAs etc. No British tax incentives are applicable once you become a French taxpayer, even Premium Bond winnings are subject to income tax.

We moved to Hautes-Pyrenees last year having had the house as a second home for some years. So far we have had no regrets at all. We didn't do a lot of research before buying our house but by luck rather than good judgement it has worked very well. Two points to consider which may well have been covered by others:

The first is that we know a number of British people who (in hindsight) have made the mistake (for them) of buying too large and remote a property, and as they have aged it has become more and more difficult to maintain and often hard to sell. Also being remote reduces the opportunities for speaking French. The sort of property, and location, that is wonderful for a 2/3 week summer holiday may not be the best place to live (and vice versa).

The second is that it is important to work through the tax differences before you move, and get advice from one of the specialist firms who write in magazines like Connexion. Everything depends on individual circumstances but it is easy to think that structures that work well in the UK will be efficient in France and they may well not be e.g. ISA's and PEPs are ineffective in France; assets with a capital gain are almost certainly better sold before becoming French tax resident etc etc.

Hi Diana,writing this from chilly Paris,I'd love to be sitting out in the sun with you.I don't know the area but when I spent a week near Carcassonne a couple of years ago it was quite sad to see so many beautiful villages with nooone around and places boarded up.Where you are seems much more alive. I often think of moving south but have no idea where. I also follow Twilight.

You're absolutely right, Diana. I'd take it even further, it also depends on the precise position of your home. In the very same town a south facing house and garden can feel very different from one where the rooms one uses during the day face north.

How right, we are in the process of moving into our home after 12 months, looking on and off and many trips across the channel. We have had a plan to move from the UK for the past 10 years and have settled on Vienne just outside of Civray.

It took over 49 property visits and then 2 to 3 times back to a few between Normandy, Poitou-Charentes Charente and Aude to find this place. One could start a discussion about incorrectly advertising houses and misleading photo's, but after buying/selling in the UK, USA and Spain, you do not expect anything else. Houses on a busy road, or at the end of the garden you will find the N10 with the 24 hour running truck attraction and not to forget the Nuclear power station just over the hill.

Research and exploring, plus having a few conversations with the locals at the cafe's will reveal lots of information. The Notaire is a very valuable source of knowledge. Make sure you get a good one.

Good luck on your move.

Here in the Var we have weather as you describe Diana. Only January and February are really chilly. Otherwise in winter one can eat outside at midday soaking up the sun.

The best healthcare system in Europe in my opinion.

You are wrong about the bars not being the centre of social life here Carol, they are. Just because they close early doesn’t mean that they’re not a hub of local interaction and gossip throughout the day. There are several bars in my local village and each has it’s own little social group. If one needs to talk to the notaire one can find him having an apero in one bar, the guy who runs the townhall is in another for an apero every Thursday, the local builders all hang out in another and so on. I make sure to drop in every now and then and thus they all know me and I know them. I’ve had loads of red tape type issues brushed aside because I’m part of the local landscape.

I’ve no idea why you got “thumbs down” but I wouldn’t pay any attention to that. In fact I only found out about the “thumbs” thingy because I looked at one of my posts on my iPod, they don’t appear on my iPad or laptop. I first lived here in 1981 and decided at that stage to retire here, which I did in 2010. No regrets at all, wouldn’t live anywhere else. I did a lot of research before buying my house in 2004. I’m between three villages and a large town which gives me a good hospital and clinic, a TGV station and a lovely village where all my (French) friends are. It’s ideal really.

Like most our story was complex, we had a holiday home here in the Beaujolais (purchased in 2003). In December 2013 I was officially medically retired as I have MS. At that time I was working for a Swiss company in Geneva. We decided to move to Beaujolais as we had 10 years experience, but, and this is a BIG BUT, 10 years with a holiday home gives you no experience in French residency, we’d only scratched the surface.

I strongly advise the following.

  • have all your UK documents (of very type) to hand
  • Prepare to have them translated by a certified translator
  • To start with deal with English speaking services for phone and utilities, if you can. They seem more adept and informed than the French domestic services.
  • Medical is a must and the challenge of the Carte Vitale must never be underestimated. I have a consultancy where I work for various companies which ticked the CV box
  • Tax, again seek English help if you can, at least in the beginning

I ended up using Please Help especially as we had a house move and other issues, I came to them late but believe I got value. And the other big point is try to keep a bit of a foot in both camps in the beginning as the UK still has some advantages. We’re north of where you’re looking but if you need pointers just ask.

Like everything the drudgery of everyday life creeps in but when it works it’s brilliant…

Best advice I can offer after just over a year here is get your carte vitale sorted asap…register for tax soon as, and don’t be embarrassed by your French! Most people are happy to listen if you make the effort.