Newbie advice - where to start!

We are just about to embark on our move to France, well ok so we have a buyer for our UK house which is a good step on the journey. What would your advice be for essential language to get us through the house buying phase, is there a language guide with useful phrases that you could recommend? I am at the stage when I want to be able to speak great French, but am a million miles from achieving that, although I do have great fun trying:) and I’d love to know the experiences of those who would be willing to share them on your own house buying, and new arrival. What is the one thing that you wish someone had told you before you arrived? When we finally move, we will be coming over as retirees, we were young when we started, it’s just taken a long time:) friendly advice would be very welcome if you have time to share it.

Thanks Sarah

1 Like

Thanks Bob, we are looking in Midi Pyrenees at the monment, we keep coming back to this area year on year, and feel that we want to be within striking distance of the Pyrenees. Sarah

thank you Peter, I feel rather pathetic that I won’t be able to manage without relying on French people who can speak English, but then as I don’t understand lawyers speaking English about English law, maybe I shouldn’t worry too much! I can’t wait to be able to practice every day, I’m sure that must help! Thanks again Sarah

Thank you Karen, I am excited to say that we have now sold our house and moved into a rented property ready for some serious property hunting from January! Very exciting. I will take your advice re neighbouring land, I wouldn’t have thought about it, so very useful. I have found coffee break french which I absolutely love, but I find I want different ways of learning to supplement and sill try DuoLingo as well. Thank you for your advice, and taking the time to reply. Sarah

Hi find a house offer a third less of price. Most est agents SPK English and will advise of a notaire that speaks English. Great places inpoitou charante if you need a good agent contact me regards bob

Hi Sarah I agree with Karen, find English speaking Notaires and other advisers to assist you. My command of French is pretty good, I can make myself understood, read well but comprehension I find very difficult (cos I am partly deaf and old!), but at the level of detail and complexity that you need to know to understand contracts and etc, then I for one will always seek advice from a dual language expert.

We could all write a book on do's and don'ts but this group is fantastic at knowing between us more or less everything you will ever need to know, so my suggestion is that as you proceed just ask a question about topics as and when they arise and you will get lots of invaluable replies, contacts and etc.

Welcome to our community and France.

Hi Sarah, a good app for daily French practice, which increases in difficulty as you go along is DuoLingo. I think it is available on both iOS and android devices, but also for PC. It progresses nicely through little exercises which are subject and grammar based.

If you might be doing renovating or gardening, we bought a great little dictionary of building and gardening words, really useful in the DIY shops!

When we bought our first house, there was a piece of land alongside it which we wished we’d asked about as the owner, despite living 400km away, retained. I think we could have negotiated it if we had known. So I would look carefully at all small parcels of land adjoining what you are buying and see who owns them, especially if they might impact your house or garden and especially if overgrown!

We have also had English speaking notaries for both our purchases. Although my French is reasonably ok, it did help!

Good luck with everything! Where are you buying? Or have you now bought?as I see this was posted in August!


Hi Sarah, I have just read your post and wondered if we could have an update of how things have worked out for you? We are now in a similar position to what you were when you wrote this. Any advice on a one stop shop for all the things you have to do to live in France for example? I read bits about carte vitale and business taxes etc but don’t know where to find out everything we need to know. Hope all is going well for you.

1 Like

Hi Catherine, lovely to hear from you. So exciting for you to be on the journey. We found our house on the internet, fell in love with it, arranged a weeks viewing and looked at many more, but still loved it and put an offer in. It took us from Jan to May to actually take ownership, but that was because we were not in much of a hurry, and the owners had children and term times to work around. We had a good immobilier who was English which helped, and a lovely English speaking notaire, who was really very helpful. I don’t think we found any magic for getting everything sorted out, but have a wonderful group of new friends in the area who are always helping answer questions. In addition local Facebook groups with English speakers have been hugely supportive, advice on removals, fosse, healthcare etc. My husband is now there full time with 2 dogs and a pony, but I’m still UK based at the moment, have to wait until June to become full time. Obviously nervous about Brexit and it’s impact, but determined to keep the faith! So many things we still don’t know, we learn new stuff everyday, and are becoming quite proficient at translating complicated stuff using a mix of what we know and adding in google translate until we make sense of it!! We have found a brilliant local craftsmen, to do some work, although we didn’t take on a huge project. happy to share more specific stuff if you want to keep in touch. Can’t help with running a business I’m afraid as we are retiring, but I do know people who may be able to help?

Hi Sarah thanks for your reply. Great to hear everything is going well albeit you not being there! It would be lovely to keep on touch, presumably it isn’t against the spirit of the site, is there a way to privately send an email address?