Thinking of moving to south of France

So my girl friend and I are thinking of moving to the south of France, but we have so many questions going through are heads, and we are starting to look in to it to see if it’s possible to do. We like the idea of having better weather a better life style and hopefully being mortgage free. But as you can imagine it’s a big decision for us so could do with some help and advice please.

I am 31 and Laura is 27 so not wanting to retire yet haha so will be looking for work to get us by, but I have made some money on doing a few houses up in the uk and also getting paid a good wage as im a self employed qualified carpenter and carry out other building work, my girlfriend has just passed a phd in science so what would the chance of us getting work? I asumme it will be a little harder for Laura but would it be hard for me to find a job and what sort of money would I expect to get? Ideally we would like to buy a house to do up also if this would be possible but need to looking in to this.

Laura speaks a little French and she will teach me and I hope to learn more if we come out and I'll try learn before hand.

Kevin and Laura

Hello to you both. I would say do as much research as you can...and then do some more research!!

We moved out here in 2014 and made the mistake of buying a renovation project in the wrong area. We are in the Charente, where there is loads of cheap property and there are loads of Brits here for that reason. However with further detailed research we would 100% not have chosen to live the the Charente.

I would suggest renting first in any area (we will do this when we sell our current place) for a few months or even a year to get a feel for the place and what it is like to actually live there. Visiting for a few days and checking out many properties, pretty villages, facilities etc is not the same as living there. See my discussion thread "Living in the Charente is Doing My Head In" as there is loads of useful information in there from hundreds of people!

This is my pennyworth! Someone has said that expats are dwindling - not my experience here in the Aude - for everyone going there are still the same amount coming out here so I don't agree with that statement. I know that carpenters are always needed here - like someone said earlier, good tradesmen hard to come by but you need to start trying to come to grips with the language too. I know people who have recently registered without any French but very hard to do so now - but can be done. Of course you don't need the same amount of money to live on here if you are coming for a better kind of life - we all exist on a lot less but the sunny (especially in this part of France) makes up for cinemas, theatres, gadgets and the like. Walking by the river in the evening sun is free followed by a very cheap glass of wine does not cost the earth. You have to rethink how you have managed in UK - do you really need an up to date TV or dishwasher? It is back to basics for a lot of us but that's why we like it here. Good luck with whatever you decide

No one's dared to mention rose tinted glasses yet. As a retiree, my life is idyllic, but although I'd like to be young again, I wouldn't enjoy trying to get on the ladder here in France now. Unemployment, tax etc. all need to be taken into account . At your age, and with only £150,000 up front, you might find, as a lot of other Brits have, that you're then not able to afford to go back, if you've made the wrong decision.

Having said that, all I'd say is....think deeply, do your research, and if you still think it's for you....go for it! You only live once! Good luck.

The best advice I can give you is to study the language before you leave so that you are able to communicate with people beyond being able to order a beer. You would want to be able to carry on basic conversations. The danger is that without some sort of fluency you may get stuck in an anglophone circle.

Hi Kevin I'm in Herault in LR. It's not easy to make a profit on renovating houses in France imo as you pay quite a lot of notaires fees to buy the property and the market isn't that strong (in my experience people don't move as often as the UK). Obviously it helps if you do the labour yourself to keep costs down but you are then responsible for major works for 10 years should there be any issues. French builders have attestation decennale (10 year guarantee of works) which transfers to the new owner on sale of a property. On sale of a property there are diagnostic tests to be paid for and if electrics have been replaced there should be a certificate of conformity and again the insurance guarantee may still apply.

Agents fees on purchase are high which you'll see below compared to the UK and many people buy direct which is difficult if you don't speak French (so do try to progress this as this could save a lot of money)

We bought our first house through an agent and he deserved his fee as he worked hard sorting out the paperwork with the mortgage company and helped us get planning permission for renovation works (another thing you have to pay for AND if the house is >170m2 you need an architect...VERY expensive compared to UK although there are some English speaking architects around who would be better placed to help.

Other fees on buying: property fees .


There are two types of council taxes foncieres and habitation that have to be paid and these vary greatly depending on which commune you are in. For example Sete in Herault is very expensive whereas some of the smaller villages away from the coast e.g. Margon, Caux, Tourbes are much less expensive.

On selling If there is a mortgage involved then don't forget that when clearing the mortgage there is a fee to remove the hypotheque - ours was 600 euro I recall.

I'd recommend renting a gite or holiday let out of season for a while and deciding where you want to live and if you can and want to make a go of it here. Given the outlay to purchase a property its an expensive event if you decide you can't make a living. We moved here when I was 32, I work from home in IT but my husband has to work in the UK to fund our renovation project...not quite the original plan which was to live mortgage free (we did for a while then started a family and bought a bigger renovation which took on a life of its own). I wouldn't want to leave now, we are well integrated, do lots in the community, I run a local association for kids activities and a parent toddler group and we have lots of friends (both French and English speaking). We've been welcomed by everyone but we did get out into the community as others have said and it makes a huge difference to settling.

Good luck and do try to learn some French before you come - my hubby didn't know any but school French and now he speaks well, understands most conversations although as the kids say he has a terrible french accent...can't do much about that! Good Luck!

Wow thank you all for your replys, we will take all on board what has been said first making sure we learn as much French as possible before if we do move. The area we seem to like is Languedoc-Roussillon so we are planing on a 4 day stay over may time to see if we like it. Does anyone know if that would be a good area for building work? We did also wonder if we could buy a property to renovate to then sell on and maybe do another would this be as easy as it sounds? If I was to sell my house in the uk we could come over with around 150 grand cash but then then we wouldn't have any thing to fall back on if needed, so we wondered if we would be best to put a small deposit on a house here to rent out and come over with the rest. I would say I'd rent mine out but I've done it really nice and wouldn't want it to get messed up by some idiot. Any help would be appreciated.


Clarification, paying social charges on your annual income only entitles you to pay for access to the health care system as a separate expense. Once in the system you are then able to buy top up cover because the system does not pay everything. That ='s a 3 tier 2 payor inefficient system. BTW I totalled up my costs and reimbursements for the past 5 months today double OUCH. Paid out over 4 times my reimbursements to 3 different entities and still did not recoup 100% of expenditures. PS the same income was taxed in Canada and I have health coverage there that I cannot use because I am here. Dumb EH!

I live near Lyon and there are lots of science -based companies here. Major pharmaceutical companies are in the ouest and petrochemical companies to the east and south. Lyon is a lovely city and the Monts Lyonnais to the west are one of France’s major agricultural regions. There are lots of ex-pats dotted around often,like myself, married to natives. Down side is the sometimes very cold continental climate winters, though this year was pretty mild.

If it hasn't been mentioned in the many replies here do check out the healthcare situation carefully. One of you needs to be working (officially) and paying social charges, otherwise you won't be covered. Any accident/illness could prove expensive.

UK insurance will only be temporary.

Hi Kevin,

Laura might give it a try at Cadarache/Iter a nuclear study centre just north of Aix-en-Provence. And since there are loads of foreigners living in the Luberon, I'm sure you won't have troubles either. We renovated 2 houses and had serious problems to find reliable artisans, although we speak the language a.s.o.

France is a wonderful and romantic place to go on vacation. PS: So is Italy, Greece, Lithuania.

As said, Andrew - it's been calculated so that for the average business doing that type of activity, 25 per cent of turnover works out the same as your 40-odd per cent of profit. Eg for prof lib, overheads of I think 32 per cent have been built into the calculations, which is what they worked out as average for prof lib activities.

So if your overheads are lower than average you're better off as a micro, if you have higher than average overheads you're worse off on micro.

All i can say is trying to get a good carpenter here in our part of the Tarn is like finding hens teeth we had a British guy 20 years experience he said,he fitted our kitchen units and built another, within 12 months the one he built fell apart, literally it fell apart,the rest fitted where it touched, took another 12 months to get him back, in the end i took the whole kitchen apart and rebuilt it and i'm an engineer, bloody useless knock a six inch nail in and bend it over seems to be his idea.There are two Brit builders in the area and both are pulled out of the place with work but people are prepared to wait especially for a guy who climbed on the roof replaced a broken tile when asked how he much replies to my wife bake me a cake, he loves my wifes baking

Very well said, Gerda, the language is so important, especially for younger people who need to work here, and people really need to see rural France in winter when it's dead!

As others have said, language is your first step. As one who has tried, it’s not easy! You need a good grasp of the language to deal with bureaucracy in France as everything is regulated. For example, NI in UK is broken up into health, retirement and family support in France and they are all administered separately in each region for each employment category. If you change region or profession then you need to change the organisation that you deal with.

After 18 months of near disaster I returned to London and continued learning French at the Institut Francais in South Kensington where I did a DELF B level before returning for another try. You can do the DELF (Diplôme Langue Études Française) at other places and I highly recommend it.

I have since given up on France as it dawned on me that once all my taxes were paid, I had nothing left to save with and I would be too old for the excellent French pension when I got old. You are younger, but planning is the key.

er, once you're out of the auto entrepreneur scheme you're looking at 48% charges sociales, now I think there's quite a big difference there, speaking from someone who's done both. However one is on turn over, the other is on earnings. You need to look into it carefully beforehand ;-)

Best get as much French under your belt as possible before coming out here, you'll need it, and unemployment is far higher here than in the UK so try to have a good idea about what you're going to do, research it and prepare.

Bonne chance ! ;-)

Most of it's been said well already, but here's my two-penny's worth. If Laura wants a proper career in something to do with her PhD she'll have to be in or close to one of the big cities and she'll soon become a globe-trotter. Our son-in-law is in that boat. A lot of science-based work is in expensive eastern France, places like Strasbourg and Basle are major centres. If she's happy to retire from it already then your plan may work. However, you willl have to find an area that will support you, which realistically means a large Brit community willling to give work to another Brit. You won't get work for the French until your French language is up to standard and you know enough French locals to get recommendations. There are a lot of Brit builders here, very few specialists - carpenters, joiners, plasterers and even, sometimes, electricians & plumbers etc all become 'builders' after quite a short while just to get paid work. I've never heard of any of them getting jobs with French companies so you should expect to have to run your own business. You may also need to be aware that a high proportion of Brit 'builders' get away with working on the black at lower rates than will pay the cotisations and getting properly 'legal' here, which puts many locals and even other Brits off from employing Brits - any Brits - because they think all Brit tradesmen are on the same game. Thats the view here, at least.

Having said all that, South West France is a wonderful place to live if you can afford it, yet cheaper than the south in, say, PACA and less crime-ridden. Nice people if you take the trouble to get to know them, going to commune events to get known and make a contribution, good support networks, great health service, cheap land and property (but expensive renovation costs). However it doesn't suit everyone and a fair proportion of people give up and go back to the UK by 3 or 4 years. If your can enjoy the first 5 years you'll probably stay forever, imo.

Bonne chance!

I live in Perpignan which is the centre of the South of France, I completely agree with Allen, the Roussillon generally has some unemployment, with Herault leading the way for jobs, but Aude and the PO in particular has a huge unemployment problem and again as Allen said priority is always for the French,you will not be able to rely on the Ex pats whose numbers are dwindling, competent French is a must. Gerda Bolton offers very sound advice.

I think that my advice is that both of you learn to speak French BEFORE you move, especiallyl if you need to make a living here...

Be open minded and try visiting different towns and villages, in winter especially. Life here is very different in the summer vs winter.