"Freedom of movement" vs "intégration"

(Jeremy Fogg) #1

I have been gently steering my life towards “retirement” in France for about ten years now.
I’m very lucky to be in excellent health and with a projected pension from age 60 that I can happily live on (my outgoings are approx 50% of SMIC).
My pension will be 20 percent short of SMIC at £-EU equity, 7 percent short at 1.15:1, but I have plenty of savings to make up any minimum income required by the French government until my state pension cuts in after 5 years and puts me at 1.2 X SMIC.

At which point I would hope to apply for naturalisation - an interesting experience for a typical English person living and working in a cosmopolitan liberal bubble with no anxieties about “identity” - but I’m hopeful that I will find the Cinquième République with its “étandards sanglantes”, more palatable than the ironic “Britons never shall be slaves” I luckily never had to sign up to … (I’m considering watching the Cafe scene in “Casablanca” before going in for the ceremony :smiley: )

The insanity happening in the UK and the infiltration of the EU by far-right anti-EU elements has been very unsettling - but however this pans out, it has made me wonder about how much “Freedom of movement” actually has to do with my project.

I have always fully embraced the EU idea (political as much as economic), and it certainly made it a lot easier for a non-traveller like myself to even consider such a move, but ultimately I have to consider how I can make myself welcome in the country I fell in love with in my teens. (Though not in a “Year in Provence” way. At the end of the day, people are people, and I already see aspects of French society that are not to my taste).
A key attraction is the opportunity to master another language a little more subtle than my own (I’m no linguist, but thankfully managed to get the basics while my brain was still pliable)

It seems the French currently WANT people to move there - prove you are self-sufficient for 3 months and you get a renewable CDS and you are even allowed into the French health system - basically on the strength of VAT - since Very few of us have income from shares and property. (Since, out of the EU, I would be faced with buying a year’s worth of private insurance, I am starkly aware of how cheap this is.)
Does “Mutuel” insurance benefit the state ? Quite frankly I would be up for just paying £1,000 to the government instead of an insurance company.

I will be motivated to make myself useful in the local area I have deliberately chosen for having actual life going on.

How has integration been for others here ?
Any problems with being unwelcome ?
Any hints and tips ?


(stella wood) #2

Hi Jeremy…

As many folk have found to their cost… using the Health Service in France is not cheap… your £1,000 might well go nowhere towards covering the “patient’s” part of the expenses if you suddenly found yourself in hospital with “whatever” precedures ahead of you…

Chat with @fabien who will give you info/advice which might help…

In the end, it is your decision… whether or not a Mutuelle is worthwhile… :zipper_mouth_face:

Incidentally… one good tip towards integration/acceptance in France… always say “Bonjour”… before you say anything else to absolutely anyone…


(Jeremy Fogg) #3

I meant “paying taxes / social charges” as a form of state insurance.
I’m learning to be realistic about needing good healthcare in later life :slight_smile:


(Jane Williamson) #4

We are very well integrated here in the Clunysois of southern Burgundy.
We will have been here for ten years on the 1st August and are having a huge party.
We are fortunate in that here we live between three groups of people. Retired professionals from Lyon, the local farming community and the small UK contingent.
One piece of advice I could give you is not to cut yourself from the sort of people you would normally socialise with.
You see programmes on tv of people who want to live with the locals in run down Spanish agricultural villages without any idea of just how cut off they would really feel or what they would actually have in common.
We found the idea of a peasant culture difficult to come to terms with, but it was alive and well living next door.
Atrocious care of animals, not enough money for vets fees.
We rescued our dog from them as she was goi g to be shot, a cartridge is cheaper than paying for the SPA.
We are very lucky, but medical care at GP level is becoming like UK in many parts of France. I have to book three weeks ahead to see my GP and the care from others in the group practice has been far from good, a fact which was ackowledgd.
The UK only pays 70% of healthcare for retirees and we ate not sure how that is going to continue.
Although house prices are , on the whole and depending where ypu want to live, cheaper than in UK, life in France is more expensive.
We wouldn’t want to move back to UK, but tgere is a definite move to Frexit here.
The weekly rampaging of the GJ’s is very disconcerting, as is the lack of hard policing of these people who are holding large towns and cities to ransome every Saturday.
We love it here in our part of France, but we all appreciate that we are living in an ideal rural bubble.
I am not trying to dissuade you, but just gently pointing out that there are similar problems here too.
I think it feels worse when it is your own countrymen who are behaving so appallingly.
We do not feel so connected to the GJ’s , but our French friends, who supported them at the start, are now thoroughly appalled at the mayhem they are causing.
Whilst we moved here for the space, it also causes difficulties too.
Good luck and I hope I haven’t been too discouraging.
I have just tried to paint an honest picture of our life here.

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(stella wood) #5

:crazy_face: later life…??? who can say what will happen… when… :crazy_face:

I came to France as a person who rarely saw a Doc from one year to the next… things can happen… most unexpectedly… even to the fittest of us… :thinking::upside_down_face::relaxed::relaxed:

Also, I think that cost of a Mutuelle is age-related as well as depending on the cover required… so the younger the better- should be cheaper… might be worth checking out :wink::upside_down_face:


(Anna Watson) #6

Confused by this bit. Do you mean VAT as in, value added tax? I can’t think what else VAT is, but what has VAT got to do with a CdS or joining the health system?? Likewise paying taxes and social contributions has nothing to do with healthcare. If you join the health system you pay healthcare contributions based on your income (unless you’re a pensioner), and this covers around 70% of most healthcare costs. On top of that you can if you wish take out extra cover to cover some or all of the remaining 30% via taking out a policy either with a mutuelle (ie an insurance company bound by state rules) or a private insurer (not bound by state rules).

Well, I’m not sure you can extrapolate from this that France positively wants people to move here. I think it’s more a case of, France is pro EU and therefore it is in favour of FoM, which is one of the EU’s core principles. France’s rules on the CdS are strictly in line with EU legislation, same as most other EU countries, they are not particularly more generous than eg Spain or even, at present, the UK.

I would be careful with this bit too. A 20% shortfall might be a problem. Can’t you harness your savings to generate an income, eg buy a rental property? The income requirement is sometimes interpreted literally, and savings are not the same as income.

Clearly you have given this some thought, I hope your plans come together and I wish you well.


(Jeremy Fogg) #7

What I mean is I’ll barely even be paying tax on my income and very low social charges so my benefit to France is what I spend in Carrefour and Point.P …

I’m not ruling out getting a place with gites, but clearly I won’t be converting cash to property until I feel settled…


(Jane Williamson) #8

The cost of taxe d’habitation can be quite high if you are looking for a place big enough to do gites and they can be expensive to set up.
It seems strange to me that you are concerned about having a 20% shortfall and yet you have enough to consider buying rental property.


(Timothy Cole) #9

Just my opinion but I reckon a couple would need 2k a month to have a reasonable life here assuming no rent or mortgage to pay.

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(Jeremy Fogg) #10

The shortfall is this business of the prefecture taking the income thing literally I always knew that retiring at 60 would mean dipping into savings over the first 5 years.

That’s the way my life panned out - decent, but average salary as university support staff, and one of the best pension schemes in the country - but still not a massive amount after 38 years of paying-in.
But I have very simple tastes - live on broccoli, cycle everywhere - so my savings have built up.

I have a small town house I’m doing up, and if the bottom doesn’t fall out of the market, it should raise almost enough by itself to buy (for example) a house I saw recently that had two adjoining gites - impressively finished.

But my priority is to find a place with a barn to convert with a mezzanine because pokey houses have never suited me - in which case I would no doubt be able to rent rooms. I could happily live in a tent 6 months of the year :smiley:

Overall though I would sooner not replace the IT support I currently do with vast amounts of laundry and smiling at people who turn out to be a pain in the arse :wink:

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(Jeremy Fogg) #11

Last time I checked, I was living on about 650 a month in the UK - I bake my own bread and buy very good coffee beans, but only one bottle of (French) wine a week in Aldi :slight_smile:

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(Jane Williamson) #12

Doesn’t sound out as though you are cut out for a career in hospitality then.

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(Timothy Cole) #13

Obviously if there’s only one of you then the costs will be less but the cost of living in rural France is high (IMO), you’ll need a car for a start as public transport is scarce, our nearest Aldi is an hour away but we do have a Lidl quite close. Retiring at 60 will mean paying for healthcare which you don’t have to do in the UK.

Everyone’s different but a ‘reasonable life’ to me means affording to run a car, have a holiday, go out and not worry about every bill that lands on the doormat and also have some savings for emergencies.


(Mandy Davies) #14

I’m with you Tim.

I lived on a very restricted income for several years and it wasn’t easy. I was forever worrying about our ancient car breaking down or the fridge or the washing machine. Not being able to take any kind of holiday or even eat out may seem unnecessary when you’re living in a “holiday” destination but when it’s your home a break from it is welcome.

Constantly watching every cent becomes very wearing/dispiriting after a few years.


(Jane Jones) #15

Whether or not you can integrate and whether or not you are made welcome very much depends on your attitude. You are the immigrant, and it’s up to you to make the effort.

So speaking the language, not bitching about local customs (well not straightaway), and taking the time to get to know your patch before you launch into changing the world. Where we are there are no other immigrants, although in the small town nearby there is a turkish and a Portuguese contingent. So we had to integrate. As Jane says not cutting yourself off from people you would normally socialise with is important - but also difficult if you live in rural france. You have to join things… otherwise your social life could revolve round the local hunters lunches. And if you plan to live in a small village you will need an open mind.

As for finances, if your pension comes from Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd, then you have to pay tax and social charges on it here. It is teachers’ pensions that are considered to be government and taxed in UK. And taxes here seem to ebb and flow a bit.

Renovation costs here can be high. And materials also expensive even if you plan to do much yourself. We had given ourselves a sensible (UK standard) budget for renovation with a 25% contingency. We used every penny.

Living here is also expensive - and we grow most of our own food, don’t have a wild lifestyle and run 1 car. But we do travel once or twice a year, as well as poppimg to Paris and London fairly regularly. Little things add up, for example we find water here expensive. Bread flour too! So don’t underestimate what you might need once the regular pay check ceases.

And getting nationality is not a given, it is guarded quite carefully. I have a friend who was born in France, but whose parents gave up nationality when they emigrated. He has lived back here for about 20 years and has yet to get it back.

(Oh, and we have a gîte and a rental property. It’s good to have income in euros and we actually find it’s more like fun than work. In 5 years we’ve had one unpleasant family, and several who come back every year and have become friends. It’s obviously not for you, but it does have it’s positives. My flemish, dutch and german have improved too (we don’t have british clients).


(Jeremy Fogg) #16

Yes a car will be a necessary evil for a while at least, (I worry that 10 years from selling my Peugeot 405, I will need help starting the thing !), but I’ve chosen an area that is particularly well-favoured for supermarkets and an electrified bike trailer will be a viable option for a decade or so to get 5 miles up the road - plus of course the big stores do delivery these days :slight_smile: I am NOT a recreational shopper and though I currently live 100 yards from an Aldi and a Tesco, I always have sufficient stores for months - apart from fresh veg.

I plan to investigate over-60s rail discounts and the like - I certainly want to visit the Med at some stage, but “holiday” for me means a tent - and cycling there makes a short journey exciting - I only once stayed overnight in a hotel - never again ! There are hundreds of KM of coastline to explore for a start.


(Jeremy Fogg) #17

I have never “watched” every cent. I simply have no appetite for luxury. One big hobby I plan to develop when I’m there is repurposing electronic equipment - I get pleasure from other people’s scrap - that and this whole new “maker” world where recycling plastic is somewhat in vogue - I’m looking forward to raiding communal recycling bins :smiley:

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(Jeremy Fogg) #18

Yes I would struggle in the gun-toting south - I remember window-shopping for a house and there were actual warning signs in Google Street View ! But even in Brittany I read a surfer got mistaken for a rabbit recently !
I was taken to Paris in the 70s and I wasn’t keen. I won’t be going back to the UK ever !

I’m already reading up on my target area (Telgruc Sur Mer) - found a guy on Facebook I thought I might chat to until I spotted the FN stuff in his profile :frowning:

Socialising is going to be interesting as I’m vegan plus foraged seafood - though I’m going to let myself off when it’s an elderly neighbour making crepes and “far” - though I will always draw the line at anything land-based with with legs. “conseil du medicin” should hopefully stop them slipping bacon in my food.

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(Jane Jones) #19

Nothing stops a french person slipping lardons into your food! We have discovered them lurking in the most remarkable dishes… luckily france is now much more vegan friendly in larger cities. In rural areas you could struggle - our intelligent and educated friends still try to give us snails, and vegan means steamed carrots.


(Bob Sivell) #20

I have friends that recently moved to Ireland…he’s French, she’s Irish.
He’s persuaded her to become veggie…spouts a lot of crap about “the planet” but drives a big 4x4; flies to France to see his folks; & tells me I’m killing the planet because I eat wild boar that’s shot on the mountain behind my house…