Moving to Narbonne in THREE (OMG!) weeks!

Hi everyone,

I don't know if I need advice or just a LOT of encouragement and a bit of handholding. Like most everyone on this network, I've had the dream of living in France for years and now it is happening. I made the final decision about 5 months ago, thinking that would give me plenty of time to prepare but of course panic is beginning to set in; what to do with all my stuff, am I forgetting anything important, am I out of my mind to even attempt this solo....

The movers are coming in just two weeks. I'm putting my earthly possessions in storage and flying out of the US on September 24 with two suitcases, a roll-on and two screaming cats. A friend is coming over with me to help me settle so I will have some support for the first few weeks.

I've found a short-term furnished flat in Narbonne and will use that as a base to look for something/somewhere permanent. I am an American citizen but also have an Italian passport (grandparents) so will be entering France on that; I'm retired so will not be looking to work. And, oh yes, my French is high school French (and that was a VERY long time ago) so that will be a challenge. My reading skills are ok but I'm always afraid I'm missing the nuances when dealing with more technical info. I plan on taking intensive lessons ASAP.

I've gathered my paperwork, BC, passports, financial info, etc. Is there something anyone might suggest, no matter how small, that would have made life easier?

I fret mostly about health insurance. I can keep my US health insurance, such as it is, for a month or two but will need to buy private insurance in France. I have looked at your page of useful links and it is great but most of the sites are in that scary technical French and have lots of buttons and drop downs! Confusing for me.

Anyway, that's it in a nutshell,

See you all in France. Soon.


Hi Cate,

We moved here just over a week ago with our two dogs.

Panic does set in thats normal, its a huge decision that you have made,but well worth it..

Good luck and stay in touch.

Hi Cate. Renting to start with is an excellent idea. Improving your French is next priority. Make friends with the French neighbours and join local activities to improve - do not worry about the standard of your French, as the locals appreciate your effort and will soon be helping you with the language as well as helping you with the bureaucracy involved in living in France. Don't let the latter get to you - you will get frustrated with the slow speed of getting things done - but hang in there - you slow down too and you'll be fine. Good luck and best wishes for a happy retirement in lovely France.

Hi Cate, I moved (back) to France 3 years ago with just the one screaming cat, and from just over the channel! It is a great idea and as you can see you already have the best possible support group here on SFN. :)

Check out this link for your Carte Vitale. It is the anglophone part of the governement Assurance Maladie so everything they tell you should be correct...this week at least ;)

Good luck with the move and don't hesitate to ask for any help you need.


"Fortune favours the bold."

You're already being bold, Cate, so - no problem; it will be fantastic.

Lots of luck.


I am not far from Narbonne if you need a chat, coffee or a glass anytime soon!

Good luck with the move - Natalie

You are normally offered 3 levels of mutualite cover - with different levels of payback. Good advice though, Jacqueline!

I moved here already retired. I don't know what your status is re a 'Carte Vitale' but when you sort out the top up insurance my advice is not to sign anything until you are sure it is what you want to go with. Any signature seems to be an acceptance here and somehow hard to take back. It is illegal to have 2 insurers so take your time if you are in good health. It took me 6 years to realise that when you live in France you have to think in the French way. Getting exasperated about their system because it is different to what your used to is normal but a bit tiring in the end. Don't be in a hurry and just keep asking for advice.

Regarding health insurance: you may be able to obtain a 'carte vitale' (which registers you for the national health service) based on your Italian (therefore European) nationality and the fact that you are retired. Proof of pension would suffice in that case. Of course, even so, you will also need extra (private) insurance to top up the national health cover. Good luck - I;m sure you will enjoy France!

Good luck,

For the insurance you may want to take a look as a short to medium terms solution the expat plus packages offered by Van Breda, an insurance company based in Belgium.

It's a lot cheaper than US plans, but it depends a lot on whether you want US coverage as well. The long term solution would be to get on the French national health scheme plus a mutuelle, but from what I understand you have to start paying taxes in France first. I defer on this issue to those who actually have had the experience.

A word of caution if you have never lived overseas before is that no two cases are ever identical with regard to the national authorities and you should seek advice that is specific to your situation.

You will not regret it Catherine - put on ear muffs and pack light!!

Don't worry, every problem has a solution. If you need a friendly face and if we can some advice drop by the organic market every Saturday (Place de Forum/Bastin just a short walk up from the Town hall) either my partner Caroline or myself will be there from 8-13- look out for the plant and herb stall. We've been here 12 or so years and have at some stage dealt with most challenges in one form or another, not necessarily correctly but we seem to get by just fine.

Don't panic! We moved here at the beginning of July (about 30 mins from Narbonne). Just take things one step at a time. and everwhere you go to register anything take along your birth certificate, proof of residency, bank account details, dress size etc etc (only joking about that). You will be fine, don't worry.

Today i am looking for an English speaking dentist to finish off a root canal treatment i was halfway through at the Glasgow Dental Hospital. Any advice out there?

Hi Cate and welcome to SFN. The very best of luck with your move. Don't forget (if you haven't already done so) to join the Languedoc-Roussillon group here on SFN. I live "up the road" from you - well, about 40 mins drive. Presume you intend to buy a car when you get here, so don't forget to bring evidence from your current insurers of no claims bonus, etc., the more years you can prove claim free, the better. It is often standard here for insurance agents to ask for proof of 8 or 9 years!!#

Also, scan in all your important documents, such as passport, bc, etc., and then email as attachments to a Google or Hotmail address, just as a back up. Make sure you bring a power adaptor for any electrical appliances. Not sure what to advise re health insurance. I'm registered as an autoentrepreneur so am hoping to get into the health system that way, and then all we will need will be top-up insurance ("mutuelle").

Best of luck.