Ok, so how do you survive in France?

Firstly, we love France!. Otherwise, Don't ask me why...we just do. As, I'm sure, many of you do too...which is why you're reading my post :-)

So, being totally disillusioned by the British way of life and wanting something totally different, I have the following question:-

How on earth do you survive in France? How does an 'office waller'', like myself, have a cat in hell's chance of making a living in France? Serious question! We can afford to buy a house in France, but we're not pensioners, so will have to earn money to pay our taxes, etc. Are we chasing a dream that can never be....or are we applying English sensibilities to a situation that we know not what?

Come on guys...what's the real situation? Can we survive in France?

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Hi Bob

Welcome to the "Madhouse" !!

I would say that you have as much chance as any of us, and with a lot of hard work, a little luck, and patience, you could make a go of it.

I would chose an area with good services, ie Buses, trains, shops, Doctors, Hospital, Dentist, and any other service that you may need !!!.

Start by renting out your house in the UK, and renting here for a year or so.

Good luck !!

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WE moved here 14 years ago, because, like you, we loved France; I'd just been made redundant and we had a hovel that we'd just bought and couldn't bare to leave, so with a tiny private income of 4K a year we sold our UK house, up sticks and moved. Easy! We knew we'd have to work so set up a caretaking/gardening business, put an advert in the local "English" bar, and got loads of work fairly quickly from holiday home owners and through word of mouth. But that was long ago; at that time we we're the only couple in the area doing that kind of work so it was easy to pick up jobs, but times changed and lots of folks are doing whatever they can to scratch a living.

We've slowed down now but still have other income streams - writing mainly - and have sold property a couple of times to make ends meet. It's hard here sometimes - if you have a business you seem to get constant bills - but we still love living here (although I've waivered a few times), so we've made it work for us.

Do plenty of research, learn basic French and bring enough capital with you to last a year or two, then if things go pear shaped you wont starve. Good luck..

I didn't know it was possible to earn money from u-tube. How does that work?

We moved here permanently a year ago, we bought the house outright in 2008. My husband took early retirement last year at the age of 58 so has a work pension, lump sum and rental income from our house in the uk, he now works part time here in his previous career as a mechanic and he invested in a cherry picker which he hires out and operates. I was an office worker but had previously worked in the fitness industry, so in preparation for our move I retrained as a personal trainer a th age of 50 so I could earn some pocket money out here as a private trainer! If my husband hadn’t been able to take early retirement and we hadn’t had his pension and the rental income we would not have been able to move to France. The time had to be right and our circumstances had to be right. The best advice I can give is plan ahead, re train if necessary so you can earn a living here, income from different sources is a good idea if possible as if one source of income doesn’t do so well you have something to fall back on, and do your homework, research working in France, registering, taxes, everything!!! This is where we let ourselves down!! And if you don’t already speak good French, learn now, don’t wait, you’ll save a fortune if you can understand your own forms, letters etc. Good luck, if you want it enough you’ll make it happen!!! Xx

Thanks for subscribing Michael! I feel very fortunate to be able to make my living in this manner but it was also due to years of hard work, plodding trade shows, building up contacts and sorting out the wheat from the chaff. I would add that we are living in an information revolution and there are huge opportunities for anyone to make a living online if they are at all serious and savvy.

Hi there,

First things first...where would you like to live, and what is your budget?

The area where you want to live, have you visited this during the different seasons, ie the summer season is VERY different to ie the winter season!

There are different things you could do to keep your nose above water...you could teach English as a foreign language?If you are an arty farty person, you might be able to teach this/these, but you need to know 'your' area very first of all!

Would you want to do gite, self-catering business and/or make a B&B? With regards to the last possibilities (we have a small B&B in Provence) you need to be close to amenities, motorway, airport, train station, as that way you will get more bookings, but there is no guarantee, never mind how wonderful your place is, and then not be afraid of hard work of course!

You need your finances to be OK. Could you keep your property, which I would always suggest, certainly in the first place, and rent this out!

Also, if you are not sure where to be, or you just happen to like an area, rent first, that way you can explore, and if you are not happy in the area, move on until you find 'the' place! This took us several years, sooo many visits, nearly gave up and that despite we have already had a place here for years and knew our area very well, and knew this was definitely the area we wanted to stay! However, the last step to say goodbye was a major step ie to give up work, selling our house, and buying something smaller (to be able to finance France) and all happened at the very same time (it was tough to put it mildly - and my husband is still working in London to 'keep me in the lifestyle I have become accustomed to' he says, and he will not retire until I stop spending money ie until we have renovated and done what needs to be done to our old house) and there is something that needs fixing all the time, trust me, and it costs money, but absolutely no regrets, we absolutely love our lovely old house!

Hope I have not ruined your dream, as it would be sad that you on your old days sat down and said if only...if only, then it's too late...so bon courage as they say...and if you move this way ie Provence, let me know, I will be happy to point you in the right direction wherever I can, and if nothing else, you can always come by for a glass of the local rose! :)

Short, sweet, and to the point.

If you are not an EU citizen it's even worse. I got sick of being ignored or turned down for rental accommodation. It got so bad my boyfriend and I had to strategise to the extreme. We would always arrive in his posh BMW and I let him do the talking while I smiled, looked charming and wore my best clobber. That's not enough though. I had a dossier of such thickness you wouldn't believe. I was expected to show my character thus required to show any financial interests back in NZ (such as proof of ownership of a house). I also found it necessary to include photos of all my overseas 'missions', photos of my then boss at work with M. Larcher (visual name-dropping) and on and on. I found it insulting, intrusive and an insult to my integrity. I had all the documents everyone mentioned above.

In the end I got an apartment without the need for all the stupidity. A proprietaire dealt directly with me, didn't need to see all the bumph and decided right there if I seemed a nice person. He was a bak manager and said it was his job to sum people up right away. It was a positive experience for the both of us until my employment situation deteriorated so much I lost my ability to have my own place. Now I only survive by having a couple of rooms at my boyfriend's house. Yes, some of us barely survive but I'm hanging on until I can get naturalisation (if all goes well).

Not bad.

Joe Dassin's a bit loud, though.


I was interested to read about your You tube channel and was wondering if you could put up a link for it? I also have a small channel based around our home here in Brittany.


We are both retired so lucky that we don't have to earn a living but am pleased that it has worked out so well for you.

I don't have too many qualifications but people tell me I should be certified !


John, I love being blinded by stats but your point is ?

Buying a decent wood burner instead of the old crap and build up will be absolutely minimal.

Billy, qualifications will never be better than the gift of people who are just plain good at what they do whether they have learned it or not. My father's partner was a bricklayer who had only been a wartime soldier before he took that up, my father had an incomplete apprenticeship as a butcher before he was called up. Both wives had qualifications in jobs they could not abide, so did other things at which both were good in their respective ways to the point that my mother's boss paid for a private doctor as her health was failing rather than have her retire early out of which he could never feasibly have benefited.

I have spent time in other countries, some longer than others, and France is not especially obsessed with qualification but does make the mistake of not accepting other national qualifications or having equivalence, which Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands do to their advantage. The old principle, that France is hanging on to but does not work as well in a fast changing world, is that qualification in a particular skill gives a career and thus security and stability for life. The principle is actually great but altruistic intentions like that can also make people inflexible meaning that if they need to change career later their skills and experience need to be cast to the wind and the uncertainties of change may make it not work, thus undermining an individual's confidence as well.

Exactly. Plus the fact that the insurance-companies don't want to know about these 'logs'.

According to Castorama, the logs dislodge remove tar on the condition that you light your fire normally 2 or three hours before placing the log on the embers.

Veronique I always like your input on here, however I'd really like to know the reason for the seemingly obsessive French dependence on "qualifications". Training in Britain, when bricklayers trained in that skill, welders in theirs and so on, exists but is diminished. Entrepreneurs were the popular way to go.

I trained as a land surveyor specifically in deep mines then opencast, after which I worked in a council as a planning technician followed by running my own landscape contracting business for many years.

Lastly I trained as an A&E ambulance advanced technician (a drugs technician - where we gave some drugs intra-muscular, and used some airways LMA, but not endotracheal ET tubes) so almost a Paramedic. However my qualifications probably wouldn't be accepted in France I guess. Yet also my ability to run a contracting business or do extensive landscaping for private customers exists but is unqualified as such...

I've met many qualified people who are fairly useless at their job.

I dont expect you want to hear this solution but we are now fully integrated and are very happy. The big problem is always finding work so we kept our house as a holiday home until we could retire here. The contacts we made during the long wait, twenty years, made it an easy transition. Good luck.

Jane, Haute Vienne ISN'T 'extremely cold in winter' !

The western side from Limoges to St Junien is as mild or as cool as the Charente though over to the east it can get more chilly. Please don't make misleading statements !

The rural parts are like the rural parts of anywhere else in France, quite isolated, this is not unique to the Haute Vienne !