Moving to France!

Hello there.

We are hoping to move to France in the next year or so and having seen some very informative posts on here, I thought I would join!

We think we have settled on a general area - Gers - due to the climate, since we have visited (and mostly stayed) everywhere from Nantes to Saumur, and Perpignan to Bordeaux at various times of the year.

So using the excuse (as a new member) of being completely 'green' in this type of thing, can I pose a few questions that some of you may like to throw into the pot some comments/advice/warnings?

Am I right in thinking that in general Gers has a predominance for light winds (as opposed to 40kph+) and a warm summer, a touch of frost occasionally with some snow in December and January?
We are learning French - slowly albeit - but I have read posts that have scared me witless...we want to become involved with the community, and know that it will be a long process - so can anyone give me some hints/tips on this hot topic?

And anything else anyone wants to throw in just for fun?

Thank you!

Hello John,
It seems like a bit of a minefield to be honest. We will have both retired but not reached UK pension age, so we simply want to be able to contribute to the system. A little income would be a benefit but we don't think we shall need a huge income from work - simply enough, if that makes sense?

Hello Helen.

That is a fantastic idea Helen! I could maybe even record it and play it back bit by comprehension of spoken French is really bad I feel, so that would help me for sure. Perhaps I can find one here online. A friend who lives near Grenoble has suggested trying the local grammar school (here in the UK) to see if the French exchange assistants would maybe help us, and also listening to French music, radio and TV.....I will barely have time to work! But we do want to roll our sleeves up and make the most of it, so next week sees the start of a weekly French-only night in our house!!! Goodness knows what will happen!

Check carefully before registering as an AE to access health cover. It all depends on your age and how much you want/need to work but if you are planning to stay long term in France it can have a big effect on the social charges you will pay once you reach retirement age. Basically, if you earn enough to be eligible for a pension in France then the French system will administer all your pension income and you will no longer qualify for S1 cover from the UK. There has been plenty about it recently on various forums.

Hello Danuta!

Thank you for your lovely response. Your centre looks amazing, but I imagine would be a little too expensive for us, unfortunately. If I had the money it would be the perfect place! You seem to have put your heart and soul into it, and I am sure you will find a buyer soon.

The health care seems to be a common thread here and so it is something we need to really research before our move. Good luck with your move too and again thank you.

Evening Jonathan,

The skiing is a big draw for us too, and so the Ger seemed to cover a lot of bases. Initially we had planned on living removed from a lot of activity -as that is what we have now. Having visited a few properties we have since reversed our decision and want to be in a little village or outskirts of a small town so we can get stuck in! The next few months will tell the tale and no doubt I will be plaguing everyone on here for more hints, tips and suggestions!

Happy skiing!

Thank you both - another thing to note.

Hurray! Our months of research have paid off. Thank you for that confirmation Simon! It has taken a while (and thousands of miles) to decide on that area but we are now quite happy with our intended location.

That is a great idea - like a mynah bird! I find it so difficult to understand spoken French but I do try to speak (I'm sure quite badly) at every opportunity. We are gearing up for our next trip in a few weeks and I am counting out loud in French at work...

Your tip is a very interesting one - we have(only recently) thought about signing on to the Autoentrepreneur System, as we would still be able - as regards our age and ability we hope - to work at something, exactly what will probably evolve over time, and be more a matter of luck than good planning!

Thank you for your good wishes!

Hi Caz. The replies here have been just lovely - heartwarming and very inspiring. I have started a little collection point for all the excellent tips and suggestions and it has rapidly expanded. My written French is not great, but both TBM and I have been trying to concentrate on the spoken aspect to begin with. Hopefully we will get by to begin, and improve with age - like a good wine!!! And we really intend to get stuck in with gusto to local life, so goodness knows what we will come out with in the first few weeks/months. Beware anyone in the area!
I think the weather is going to be just that - whether(!).....! We are hopeful of course for something better than UK grey and windy.
Thank you for taking time to reply. We feel welcomed already and we have yet to arrive!

Thank you for a lovely reply! We fell in love with France in the same way, having spent many years camping with friends and family. Your suggestion seems to be the best and most popular advice - getting involved. It is the main aspect of our new life that we are really looking forward to, having spent what feels like a long time with our heads down working, so there should really be no excuse on that front!

I wish you luck with your new adventures and hopefully it will all work out well for you. Family influence has a tendency to make the decisions a little easier! No doubt you will be able to follow our journey here!

Hi Daisy

The Gers is fine climate-wise. Much less wind than in the Languedoc, less rain than near the Ocean in Bayonne or Biarritz ... and much cheaper property prices too! Just one example: a house + 2 gites set-up in Languedoc costs over €500k. In the Gers you can get a nice little business for around €300k.

The language comes all on its own. the key is to speak to all and sundry without shame. Listen to what the local people say when they go into a bakery/chemist/café and then imitate them. If you come out with two or three words of French before revealing that you don't speak the language you will be accepted. But woe betide you if you announce in hearty tones that "I DON'T SPEAK FRENCH! CAN YOU SPEAK IN ENGLISH PLEASE!' because you won't be appreciated. Humility is the key.

I had (failed) A-level French when I arrived but within 6 months I got the hang of it. Of course, working is the quickest way to pick up the language, but the French don't specialize in employing over 45's. You have to create your own job/business. Sign on to the Autoentrepreneur system to get the health cover. Top-up mutuals are mostly a waste of time except for 'hospitalization' cover. This is the loophole in the French system which can cost you badly. Normally, if you have an accident or go to hospital to have your appendix/kidney-stone/gall-bladder out it is free. Nothing to pay. But if you have a bad turn, are taken to hospital and put under observation for 48 hours but they don't actually operate on you .... then you get a whopping big bill as you leave. You should take out insurance to cover this risk. Good luck!

we have been advised to at least have a letter of wishes or codical logged with french notaire if you only have a UK will. The law changed August 16 this year and some UK will firms/solicitors are touchy about requesting country of origin for how property is past on.
To be fair until its put into practice I suppose it is a grey area.

Hello Daisy,
I can’t comment much on your weather as you will be more south/west to us, Allier Dept is in Auvergne.
A tip perhaps is try basic conversation with your new (nearby?) neighbours, if you have one the tourist office gives you info to activities locally. Mairie may invite you to a newcomers social, depending on numbers and when you arrive to live. Maybe enquire about comite de fêtes to join as a benevoles (volunteer)
This is what we have done and because we want to join in and have not tried to introduce too much ‘english views’ we have been fortunate with integrating into life here. My written french gets me by but am much more confident with speach so much so I’m now a commitee member! So good luck and enjoy, Caz

We moved to Provence in 2001 following holidays in this area since 1990…so it was an easy move. One of the first things we did was to join Vaison Acceuil which is an excellent organization offering several interesting clubs to join, i.e. Art, French language, Patchwork, Randonnees Boules etc…and it is an excellent way to integrate with the local community and we have made good friends.
We are now in the middle of selling our house, with a view to renting here and hopefully buying a small property in the UK whilst we can still afford to!!
We intend to keep our residency here as love it and it feels home but need to take trips back home a bit more as now have 3 grandchildren within the last 3 years.
Moving back to the UK is not an attractive prospect at all but may become inevitable one day when older age makes traveling backwards and forwards too difficult…

I just wanted to add a (5) to that excellent list. Listen to France Info radio station. The news repeats every 20 minutes or so, so if you don't understand the first time, you get a second shot, and a third. It really helped my French comp when I arrived. As it's the news, you have a vague idea of the international topics anyway. It also gets you up to speed on French culture and politics.

Hello, Daisy

We are south of the A64 near Bagnères-de-Bigorre. I think what Tony said is correct that being in the foothills of the Pyrenees we do get different weather and a greater risk of snow in winter and thunderstorms in summer. Judging by the local produce in the market I don't think there is any problem in growing vegetables For us, being keen skiers and walkers the closeness of the mountains is a positive, but that would not suit everyone.

It is worth choosing a house with neighbours as that will help your French, rather than being tempted by an isolated ruin.

We have had our house for several years but only moved here full time about 18 months ago and are thoroughly enjoying it.

Good luck


Not sure of he rest of Gers but southern Gers is predominately a veg growing area albeit mainly Corn, Sunflowers and Mangleworsels, so your husbands veg patch will thrive. Our neighbours either Farm or have veg patches that seem to produce everything. Broadly speaking keep above the Motorway (A64) and you will not have much wind, frost, snow, rain, or too many hills, that is compared to below the motorway.

We've not fully moved over and are on the 6 months on/6 months off rota, and as everybody nowadays seems to live in a micro climate area, I'm not sure what standard weather conditions are. Certainly with all the tech, Satellites, Ocean sensors, climate predicitng software etc, etc, forecasters don't seem to have a clue what's going to happen next. Amazing how 200 years ago Farmers and Sailors had a better idea.

Just a thought, but if you find a place at the top of Gers that requires work, you need to bare in mind that Auch etc only has limited choice, and you would probable head for Toulouse for your needs, whereas in the south, both Tarbes and Pau are quite comprehensively stocked and easy to get to.

The law has just changed this year, and apparently if you are an EU citizen a will in your country of origin can take precedent over the French system.

That said as the cost is relatively low I'm covering both bases to be sure, but certainly having a UK will in place when you first move over would be useful.

Hi Daisy,

We are close to Lectoure where we' have a Yoga Centre, absolutely lovely setting, beautiful renovation done by my partner, but we're both homesick, and we are selling. Seems crazy, with the weather a sunny 21 on Novemeber 6th, but I miss my grandchildren and my partner is now really missing the sea. You can visit our website and get in touch if it looks interesting to you.

Language will certainly help, health care: my experience is you need to go for the higher level of top-up insurance otherwise its just a waste of money. Good luck! Danuta

Hi Tony!

We haven't travelled that far south, but have seen a few wonderful properties online that could be perfect for us. My husband (TBM) is a bit wary of having snow and frost, it being too hilly and above all too cold and windy for his veg patch! Have you been there long, and what variations do you see in weather (in general) compared to a little bit further north?

We do appreciate that it is not an exact science, but understand that there are little areas that have tendencies for anomalies - perhaps in terms of fog or sunshine hours!

Yes we are with you on that (finances etc.) all the way. We don't have an extravagant lifestyle here, and dont' expect that to change post-move. That said, we have spent a lot of time on prepping ourselves for what we expect in terms of cost of living, possibility of income from a job (that is a variable!!) and exchange rate movements, and hope we have it covered. It took a lot of head-scratching and we blunted a lots of pencils in the process, but we got there in the end!!!!