New in France

Hello everyone. I arrived on the 25th January to live, permanently, in Sete, near to Montpellier and would be grateful for advice on settling in. The weather this week, with temperatures of 20C, has been a great boon, considering what I left in Scotland (wet, snow, flood, cold etc) but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, as I expected to, but still not very nice feeling. I know I shall be OK once I have bought my own apartment but that seems like a great chore at the moment and I discovered just before moving here, having been looking at properties online for 7 years, that Sete has one of the highest property taxes in France, which is making the job more difficult. Advice I would appreciate is regarding the S1 card, which the DWP assured me would be sent to my French address by the time I arrived - it hasn't; how long does this usually take? I assume that I can't register with a doctor until I am able to access the French social security system? (I am over 60, on a pension, so this shouldn't be a problem). Also, is there a better supermarket (or even small, organic shops) in Montpellier perhaps than Monoprix or Auchan in Sete? (I'm ashamed to say I shopped at Waitrose in Scotland, so am spoiled but was shocked at how smelly Auchan was). I would really like to find somewhere which sells Flora ProActiv anti-cholesterol drinks and small, organic skimmed milk cartons - I can only find Proactiv as a margarine and enormous, 1 litre milk bottles (not the end of the world, I know). Any other advice on things which I haven't thought of gratefully received.

Yes that’s the one. I have never eaten there but I like it for a coffee occasionally (we frequent Le Moderne a bit further down for a good lunch)
Yes I will let you know when I am arriving, you will be well settled by then. I envy you being there full time, I wouldn’t be brave enough to make the move permanently so really well done to you :slight_smile:

Hi again - yes, i have stayed in the hotel just off avenue Victor Hugo before, and noticed the market there on Fridays. I might have a look tomorrow. And will try Les Halles; I think that's where the outdoor market was held yesterday. I think I know the brasserie you mean - is it called Brasserie Victor Hugo? On the corner just beside the theatre? Which is apparently to re-open in May, just in time for your arrival. Do get in touch when you're here if you feel like meeting for a hot chocolate.

Hi Gillian, the Wednesday market is good but a better one in my opinion is Avenue Victor Hugo every Friday (right by the Théatre Molièr which is beautiful but is still under renovation I think)
On Ave Victor Hugo there is a lovely Brasserie for a nice coffee or hot chocolate after you have shopped.
We have our appartment just on the quay in that area, close enough to the town and station yet quieter than in the town. It is a lovely town, perhaps not to everyones taste but we love it.
Arriving in May until September, really looking forward to it.
I recommend Les Halles, open everyday from 6…I learn more French in there everyday than you can imagine. They love talking about the food. Best olive oil I ever had from a lovely lady in there.
Hope to chat again soon, regards

Thanks Ann - Where are you based in Sete, when you visit? It's a lovely place, isn't it. Actually, things are looking up greatly. I've managed to find Quaker Porridge Oats in Monoprix in Sete, but in Monoprix in Montpellier today I found smaller, 50ml bottles of organic, skimmed milk and humous and a greater variety of vegetables than Sete has. I suppose I'm just used to living in a big city and have to get used to the fact that I'm now in a small town, which won't have the lovely delis and variety I'm used to. However, following someone else's suggestion, I went to the food market at rue Gambetta yesterday morning, and they had a fabulous selection of cheeses, olives from Provence, proper extra virgin olive oil and great fruit and veg. So, I shall certainly be visiting there once a week. My big problem today is I've just received a final demand letter from Churchill Insurance, saying I owe them £18.86 after cancelling insurance on my flat in Edinburgh, (it's in the small print), and threatening me with sending a debt management company. I am more than happy to pay but they only give an 0800 number, which it seems you can't reach from France. So, I've gone online and found an email address and will await a reply. Honestly, just when you think you've got everything sorted.

Hi Gillian,
Welcome to Sète, we have spent several months per year there for the last 6 years.
May I suggest you try the little supermarket just a bit further along from Monoprix on the main Quay, they sell fresh milk and the oats you require. You can always freeze milk in small amounts if you really cannot find small cartons.
Also, near the entrance to Halles Central (where they sell the clothes outside) just to the left is a super crèmerie where you might be able to purchase smaller amounts of milk.
I suggest just going in to enquire, it seems to be a very popular little shop.
Also try Carrfour Market on Avenue Marachel Juin b
As I think you are starting to realise, life in France is very different to the UK. I shudder at the thought of a Marks and Spencer or Waitrose ever being in Sète but obviously that is just my personal opinion. I am sure you will love Sète, good luck :slight_smile:

I can't quite remember why I chose Sete. I started off looking at Paris, which I love - lucky you living there. However, I quickly realized I could only afford to buy a small cupboard to live in there, so then thought of Montpellier, which was still a bit expensive but while visiting Montpellier, on several ocassions I visited Sete, to benefit from the cool breezes along the canals, and I found property was a bit cheaper here (I hadn't found out about the horrific property taxes then). So, here I am. I still love Paris but I have friends from Edinburgh who are hoping to keep their flat there, but buy in Paris, so we are hoping to swap for holidays. Ideal situation; I can have a bit of city life and they can have a week or so by the seaside and under 3 hours by TGV.

Well I admire you again Gillian for being able to make a decision like buying the flat you saw,and going with your heart.I take forever to decide on things...and even when I've decided I doubt myself. I live in the suburbs of Paris,been here 27years,mostly on my own.I'd like to move somewhere day. Why did you choose Sete?

Aye, insist on being a Scot. It grants you forgiveness for many sins ;-)

in bocca al lupo ;-)

Hi Suzy - are you in France, having been courageous yourself? Yes, the French and Italian's are always pleased when they find out I'm not German, which for some reason I must look - reddish-blond hair, pale skin - but isn't that typically Scottish? A North Italian shoemaker once refused to mend my shoes until he found out I was Scottish, and then did them for free. I'm afraid I may be going to go against all advice and buy a little apartment which I only saw on Monday. I've seen quite a few which looked great on the internet, but just didn't move me on viewing, but this week I saw one which I felt would be a waste of time viewing and I can't get it out of my head. Not just the apartment and fabulous view but the area it's in - totally not a part of Sete I was considering, but just shows you never can prejudge. It needs complete renovation, which I promised I would never do again, having only dealt in wrecks all my life, but there you are. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. I'm arranging for the agent, with artisan, to meet next week with myself and a "facilitator"/ property manager, who I'm renting from at the moment, who also help expats with "settling in" issues. If he advises me it seems OK and the quotes seem reasonable, then I shall consider going ahead. I'm not someone who broods for months on things - it's go with the heart every time. Having said that, I have wanted to live in France forever, but have actually been planning this move for 7 years.

Gillian, I'd just like to say I think you're very courageous making such a big move. Has moving to France been something you've always wanted? I was born and raised in Scotland and spent my adult life in England,I never think of myself as being particularly Scottish or English but the French do make a distinction and are very pleased to insist that I'm Scottish.

I agree what others have said dont rush into buying.

Thanks for the tips. Yes, it will be nice to be a tourist in Edinburgh when I visit, instead of having to work and cursing all the people clogging up the streets during the Festival. I can become a clogger myself!

I love Edinburgh, it is one of my most favourite cities. I took my children there in the summer when I was over in Aberdeen and it was so nice to go back and be a tourist there :-)

Yes do come along, there will be something there of interest for I'm sure - and there will be lunch :-) Places are fairly limited so it's best to reserve (and you are in a prize draw then to win vouchers for British Corner Shop).

Hopefully see you there then

Just thought of something - have you tried Foudanglais (, it's an English Tea Room and shop run by an English lady - near Montpellier. Might be a nice place for you to visit as you are settling in.


intermarché, super u, and most supers sell fresh, uht and all other milks,, écrémé is skimmed, demi is half skimmed.. lait entier is full cream.. fresh milk will be in the chillers

and yes.. you have been spoiled for choice... forget m&s, waitrose, tesco and all the others.. this is france.. they're markets Gill, but know as we know them.. actually, they are not too dissimilar, just look hard and be prepared to accept there are many things different.

most of the supers have an "ethnic" section with a number of english products.. not necessarily what you want though..

bienvenue á france..

Hi Fiona - I'm originally from Dumfries and Galloway, but spent the last 40 years in Edinburgh. Have been enjoying the blue skies since arriving here but this week the high winds (I believe a Tramontane at the weekend) have been reminding me of Edinburgh - instead of being blown onto the road I get blown into the canals. I've made a note on my calendar about the Tour de Finance, though the nice thing about being relatively poor is I don't have to worry what to do with my money, as I haven't got much. Advice on healthcare and taxes would be useful though. Maybe I'll see you there.

Hi Gillian, First of all, welcome to France! What part of Scotland are you from? I am an Aberdeen girl - so the weather is definitely better here. Although in the Ariege we have had a very grey, wet and miserable winter so far....unusual for this area! Anyway I just wanted to let you know that there is event happening in Narbonne on 21st March which would be ideal for you to attend. The Tour De Finance (you may see the banner above?), is a free entry event aimed at expats in the area, particularly people who have just moved and are feeling a little bit overwhelmed by what needs to be done. There are some great partners at the event, who can offer advice on currency exchange, pension planning, healthcare, taxes etc etc... It starts at 9.30am for registration and coffee, then we have some speakers, followed by a buffet lunch when you get a chance to mingle and chat with the experts. It would be a great chance for you to meet some fellow local Brits as well! It's all free, for more information go to or send me a message and I shall be happy to help.

There is also an event in Pau for Elaine Anderson in Salies to attend, who seems to be in a similar position as well.

With very best wishes


Don't be fooled into that one Gillian, it's you who pays at the end of the day. I was in agency in the UK and have bought and solf here a number of times, also nearly worked for a local agent but we could never agree on terms...! You'll see a flat at 250.000€ FAI through the agent then see it for 235.000€ privately, the choice is yours! As for doing places up, why bother if you can buy something ion good condition? as for filling in all the right forms, we could discuss that forever, I've gone down that road a few times with no problems, usually a few "arrangements" to be done with the maire but no hassle. Basically, if it's inside and no-one knows, you don't tell anyone! taxe foncière can be very random. Do you specifically want to be in Sète? why not look further a field or inland like Pézenas etc.?

Hi Andrew - actually most of the agents in Sete seem to sell FAI (Frais Agence Inclus), and the seller pays. The other fees, Notaire and Taxes, still come to a lot though. I actually saw a small apartment yesterday, in a little cul-de-sac with fabulous views but it needs completely renovated (kitchen, bathroom, electric rewiring, new tiles on floor). I promised myself I wasn't going to do this again but I always seem to fall in love with wrecks - my first flat in 1975 had only one 5amp plug and a rusting zinc bath! However, I think I read that, in France, if you make improvements to a property, you have to inform the local Mairie and they can then put up the Tax Forcieres etc. What I don't understand is this apartment of 55m2 already has a Tax Fonciere of 1,007E per annum, whereas another apartment which needs nothing done, has new kitchen, bathroom etc. and is 68m2, and in arguably a nicer area, has tax fonciere of 1,100E per annum. Would it be a risk doing up the wreck if I then saddled myself with even higher property taxes? I've worked out at the moment that, in Sete, I'm not going to get away with less that 200-250E per month in property taxes and monthly charges, which has come as a shock, as I only have a small work pension on top of the State Pension. I thought of looking elsewhere, but then I'd have to run a car, so what I save on not driving will have to go on taxes. C'est la vie!

If you want to avoid the huge agency fees here (6 to 8%), Gillian, buy privately (over half of all transactions are private in France, 90% of mine have been too). The best place to look is le bon coin click on the link, it's for your region, and surf away ;-)