How has life in France changed since you've been here?


At the Local France ( we are doing an article on How life in France has changed over the years.

We are looking for anyone who has been here a long time to contribute. It’s not so much about how your personal life has changed but how the country has around you since you have been here.

Has transport improved? Bureaucracy got easier? Health services better? Anything you can think of.

It would give a great picture to our readers about how life for expats/immigrants has changed over the years.

You can reply here or email me at



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The first thing that comes to mind at this time of year is “dématérialisation”. Within the last 10 years it’s become possible to do virtually (excuse the pun!) all your dealings with the tax people, CAF, URSSAF, utilities companies etc online, and it works very well indeed, I’m particularly impressed with what the tax services have achieved so far, and they’re still rolling things out year on year - OK one or two minor teething problems here and there that some expats got all aereated and self-righteous about, but considering the enormity of the task,and how helpful they were if you rang them up with a problem, I have nothing but admiration.


Cost of living and taxation has increased enormously over the past 12 years. In addition, as we live really close to the Spanish / Andorran borders we notice an ever increasing gap in prices between them and France. Every day products and fuel are so much cheaper - for example this week Diesel 1,01€ in Spain and down the road here in France 1,18€. A weekly supermarket shop - like for like is approximately 15-20% cheaper in Spain. Not really fair to compare Andorra because of it’s low tax status. The other major issue is choice - so much more choice in Spain / Andorra. In France it’s all about French brands and French companies - spooky.

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Perhaps the price difference has something to do with the average wage in France now being significantly higher than the average wage in Spain.
Prices are probably lower still in Greece, or Bulgaria…

Yeah - perhaps that may have something to do with it although I suspect it’s more to do with French protectionism, massive taxation, and the need to fund a bloated and unsustainable State - i.e. welfare / benefits, fonctionnaires (salary and pensions), health services, and the general bias towards the public rather than private sector. Nothing is likely to change in the foreseeable future - it hasn’t in the past as the French appetite for any type of change is pretty much non-existent.

Never mind - the State (!) will pay…


Obviously taxation depends on people’s personal circumstances. My earnings were and still are relatively low, and my taxation likewise was and still is relatively low, I can’t say in all honesty that I’ve noticed any significant change in either taxation or the cost of living over the last 10 years or so, certaintly not to the point of impacting on my lifestyle. In fact all in all I have to say I feel the State looks after me quite well, obviously I pay in more than I would in the UK but I get more back too. Maybe higher earners are being hit harder, I don’t know. And I don’t get much chance to compare France with its neighbouring states because I don’t live near a border so I guess what I don’t see I don’t feel deprived of.

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I guess so. Most especially if you’re getting back more than you’re paying in Anna. I wonder who makes up the shortfall…


Well I don’t know if I’m getting back more than I’m paying in because I don’t know how to put a price n things like healthcare, and being able to go and sort out problems face to face at the relevant offices rather than have to phone helplines because all public-facing customer service has been axed in the name of cost cutting, as seems to be the case in the UK for instance. I don’t even use these services much, but my point was simply that I don’t mind paying my share towards them because knowing they are there for me if I need them, and for other people when they need them, gives one a sense of security, which I think is what a state should provide to all of its contributors.

However if you’re insinuating that I’m getting money back from the state, or benefits such as CMU-C, then I assure you that’s not the case and you are not subsidising me in that sense. Relatively low earnings I said, not poverty line.

If I hadn’t wanted to pay my share, I wouldn’t have moved to France.


I like it here. Things move very slowly in the Béarn, and that’s the way I like it. Due to circumstances which you don’t want to hear about here, the first five years were tough and ultimately traumatic. The past five years, on the other hand, have been plain sailing and I feel more at home here than I ever have, anywhere else. I cannot imagine any circumstance where I would return to the UK, especially now, following the ****-storm that seems to have erupted since the referendum. I think it’s a question of finding your feet and “getting into” the system. This is France, and things are different. Not better or worse - different. Having a very good French friend to help with the sometimes intricate ins-and-outs of French bureaucracy has been a huge bonus, but I am getting better at it myself. Transport around here is somewhat better, although I am still 4kms from the nearest bus stop, but even that wasn’t there a few years back. And life would have been a little easier if Ryanair had not pulled out of Pau airport, but all that means is that the nearest flights to London are an extra 30 minutes away. As far as the health system is concerned, I think, generally speaking, it is wonderful, although at present my only involvement (thankfully) is dental check-ups and the occasional blood test where the test and results happen almost instantaneously. Six years ago things were very different, and I had to watch, from the sidelines, while the full might of the system was brought to bear. Not a pleasant experience, but impressive to watch. Would I do anything differently? Yes. When we first arrived, not knowing any better, we spent more money than we needed to on goods and services. This was simply due to a lack of advice, and going for the first option. Talking to people who have “done it before” is a must. It would have saved us thousands.


The only thing I have noticed, particularly the last three years; has been the reduction in social activities around our region. A few years back we would be finding it hard to decide which event to go to, even during some weekday evenings. Nowadays it is difficult to find one thing to go to. Being night owls I have found it very frustrating to just go for a meal instead. Even our Committee des Fêtes has reduced from four events to two, mostly through lack of volunteers.

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Same here Jayne - we used to have around 8 village events each year but, due to lack of interest, it’s down to about 3 with more members / volunteers of the Com. dF than participants! We used to go along to absolutely everything but can’t be bothered any more - they tend to be pretty tortuous affairs.

The apero bit at the beginning of the event is pretty good where you can have a good mingle and catch up but, once installed at the trestle tables things go downhill rapidly. Same old banal conversations, same stupid questions about whether or not my wife and I speak French to each other at home (!!!???), and ‘why is it Brits eat strawberry jam with beef’?

Stuck next to the same people all bloody night wearing clothes they rarely wash. You can’t hear them anyway because of saint Johnny Hallyday blaring out on the ‘disco’. Then there is the competition to see who can stay up the longest - boring beyond belief. What ever novelty factor there once was has most definitely worn off! In any case, I think most people in our village are bored stiff with fetes (or too tight) and prefer to watch 12 hours of telly a day behind their shutters.

France - a nation living behind shutters (and small windows!)

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Its a bit different for us. We love French Bal Trad and also danse folklorique. There were some brilliant groups and events, always packed; never finishing before 4am but these have become thin on the ground. Our favourite group; Les Genoux, used to do a surprise event that was great fun but they have not done that for two years and their Bals are rare, yet totally packed when they play. I can only think it is because some of the youngsters have moved off to the larger cities for work. The Festivals; like Le Son Continu, are still as popular as ever, so it seems strange. Bal Trad tends to have an age range of 16 to 70ish, always full, so I find it hard to understand why they have become so infrequent.

Our fêtes are not Johnny Halliday, who I can’t stand but musette. They are not too bad as it gives us a chance to catch up with people in the village. At least we can dance to the musette.

Fest Noz’s in the north are hugely popular still; much more so than here in the Centre. If we weren’t tied through work here I think I would seriously consider moving up there for the night life alone. :slight_smile:

I keep all things crossed that this will improve in 2017 because I hate staying in at the weekends :wink:

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Hi Jayne, Thanks for your response. Can you just let me know what part of France you live in?



Hey @Ben_McPartland when is your article due? Do we get a mention for all this input? :slight_smile:

Moved over in 2005 and have seen several changes in the area of the Allier we live in.

The waiting times for appointments at the hospitals here have increased substantially.
The price of goods and food has risen but that would be expected.

The move to electronic payment of taxes etc. has been a big change and would be great if were not for the fact they have issued me with 2 different fiscal numbers which makes it almost impossible for me to use the system properly and the Tax authorities seems totally incapable of sorting it out.

In the towns, there seems to be a large increase in the number of young people who follow the fashion trends and wear hoodies, jeans around their ankles with designed label underwear on show and ride mountain bikes everywhere.

There are far more French people speaking English, it is as though it has become very fashionable to speak English here… not a bad thing.

The number of small shops closing has risen dramatically but on the other side of the coin the number of large businesses has risen with new buildings going up at a fast rate although most of these seem to be re-location from inside the town to the new large business parks that are opening.

There are other small changes but the one I was hoping to witness in all these years but has yet to appear, is the ability of the couriers to be able to find our address and deliver a parcel on time, because even when given the GPS co-ordinates this seems an impossible task for them. I can only pray that one day parcels will start appearing from the sky, carried by a drone that knows how to read the map coordinates it has been provided….

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Hi James.

Of course. As always. How’s things with you guys?

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