DON’T MOVE TO FRANCE COMMENTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM OTHER PEOPLE 3
Please feel free to contribute yourself by emailing the author, John Bradley
JohnMartinBradley … at … gmail.com
TIPS FOR THOSE WISHING TO MOVE TO FRANCE
1. The most honest and outstanding advice I can give to anyone considering a move to rural France is : DON’T DO IT ! Save yourself time, money, heartache and disappointment and stay where you are. If you cannot be dissuaded then at least change destination and move instead to Italy or Spain where the people are reputedly more friendly.
The simple truth is the French don’t like the English. It’s nothing personal- they don’t like any foreigners. The French don’t do multiculturalism, they’ve never even heard of it. When you explain the concept they laugh heartily at what they think is an outstanding joke.
Look at a map of France. It is a nation surrounded by other countries who have a nasty tendency to invade them and vice-versa. Borders are also porous, so France has constructed its sense of nationhood and national identity by rigorously rejecting foreign influence. Even within France until very recently regional identities and languages were ruthlessly suppressed. Languedoc where I live, means « the language of Occitan », it is the former native dialect of the region but has been forcibly extinguished by being forbidden in schools and in all public institutions.
Difference, foreign-ness, otherness is simply not accepted here and nor will you be.
North Africans have been living in this country for three generations with little or no success at integration. Black or brown faces are almost completely absent from French TV. There is an advert running on TV at the moment for a snack-aperitif (called ‘apericube’) that features half naked black men with painted faces and bones through their noses swinging from trees. Overt racism in France is sadly socially acceptable. You will end up the butt of it.
Do not believe anything you see on TV or read in the newspapers about moving to France. Most of these journalist- pundits are either ill- informed or have a superficial understanding of French society, property and law. If the Sunday Times former correspondent Helena Frith-Powell were being honest she would give you exactly the same advice as me.
She isn’t and she doesn’t because she is making a living out of selling the dream as are the TV programme makers and everybody else offering you a service. 90% of British ex-pats do not speak French well enough to find a proper job in French society. Their only hope is to make money out of newly arrived ex-pats or would be ex-pats and they will in my experience take you for a ride and a fool. Be warned !
3. Rent before you buy. No one wants to do it. We are all eager to find the dream home and settle in. The idea of a year or two in limbo doesn’t appeal, putting furniture in storage etc… But I wished to God I had taken this piece of advice ! I would have discovered the character of the village I am in after a few months and I would have been able to cut my losses and get out. But now I am stuck in some terrible Stephen King- style horror story unable to leave. At least check the politics of your village before you buy. You can visit the town hall and ask to see the break down of votes from the last local election. If there is a high percentage of votes for either the National Front or the French Communist Party then you will not be made to feel welcome. Sadly in my village there is a high percentage of votes for both parties. The NF supporters will hate you because you’re a foreigner and the PC supporters because you are a rich English capitalist pushing up local property prices.
4. Learn fluent French before you go. No I am not joking : pidgin French will not hack it. Do not fool yourself by thinking that once in France you will pick up the lingo in no time ; it doesn’t happen like that. Learning French in France is like climbing a steep mountain- barefoot – hands tied behind your back along a path lined with French people slapping you in the face every step of the way. If you ever read as I have done that the locals will be pleased that you have made a bit of an effort with the language, do not believe it, it is a lie. If you make grammatical errors and speak in a bad accent people here will look at you as if you had broken wind in front of them, loudly and on purpose. French is a highly complex and intellectually challenging language to learn. It takes years, between 5 and 10 to become fluent, and that is if you practise at length every single day. Most Brits live in a little Anglophone bubble, their only contact is with the checkout girl at the supermarket. Buying property, getting a job, even going to the doctors requires a high level of French and if you don’t speak it you will downgrade yourself from a second to a third class citizen straight away. God help you if you have legal problems or want to start a business, even the French find those difficult.
5. Do your homework before you go. Check the history of the area you have chosen in as much detail as possible. Certain regions have a well established reputation for being difficult and unwelcoming to outsiders. Check internet ex-pat forums for info and put up postings to contact others who may have moved to the area before you, their experiences like mine may save you a great deal of trouble.
I am not a Francophobe despite my experiences and I do not wish to demonise the French. In fact like the Parisians I do not regard these rural provincials as French. French society is changing, catching up perhaps belatedly with the rest of the developed world but catching up nonetheless. They have let themselves fall behind and the best of them realise it. France has a great cultural and political tradition and if it can break free from its prejudice and isolationism it can have a great future too.
If I sell my house will I leave France ? Like Macbeth « I am in blood steeped so far that it is as tedious to go o’er as it is to go back » ; I have put so much effort into learning the language and fighting for my rights here that I am loathe to throw it away and crawl back to England. So I will probably stay and move somewhere more civilized. But would I do it all again ? NEVER !
My wife has just read what I have written and said, ‘ It’s too extreme, no one will take you seriously’. When I asked if the account of our experience was accurate she agreed it was but added, ‘ Just because it’s true doesn’t mean anyone will believe you’. Here’s hoping…
For all the well meaning British escapees thinking of moving to France below are some expat observations that are a result of 10 years running a business & family in Normandy.
France differs more from the U.K. than you think. The similarities are superficial and the differences are astonishing.
The state uses its administration to control the public. A couple of years after settling in (and becoming a tax resident) you may be investigated regarding your worldwide assets without having the right to either representation or defense from a lawyer. The law in France states that you are guilty until you prove your innocence. Enforced distribution of private wealth for the benefit of the state is why those the population who do not work for the state tend to hide anything they have earned. Do not under any circumstances become a French tax resident.
The moment it has been decided that you have, retrospectively for the last decade, spent more than 183 days resident in any one year (or have your principal home/wealth in France) your home, finances and activities will be descended upon by several state departments demanding an array of payments/justifications for unspecific obligations (and often fines for your negligence in not registering the day of arrival) in a desperate attempt to keep the administration classes well cared for.
France is going bust. Due to deeply suspect administrative spending plus the short sight contempt of its entrepreneurs, the economy is in a spiraling deficit. The state costs more to run than the current annual GDP. Economists estimate collapse within 5 years.
The Gendarmerie are not police but are a wing of the military and not a civil organisation. They have unlimited power and answer only to the state. They can enter your property at any time demanding papers & proof of your existence and have the right to seize possessions or people without warrant or reason. Ironically when you call them because there is a drunk man in your garden with a shotgun they will tell you that they may pass in the morning to ‘pick up the pieces’. Quote!
Notaries and agents do not work for you. You are paying yet this does not oblige them to tell the truth, advise you of horrendous legal and property law traps, or protect your interests in any way. The polite smiles can be disarming. The Notaire is really a tax collector and works for the state, not the buyer or seller, so the bigger legal mess you end up in will be more work for him/her in the future along with money for the state in fines and fees. Agents also have no legal obligations to tell you the truth about anything. Their motivation is purely to get you to contract.
French have disliked the British for millennia. They can be a jealous, petty and unhappy lot. They have a surprising contempt for each other also. As a foreigner you risk being exploited often and overcharged everywhere because you ‘can afford it’. This is known as ‘le prix Anglais’. The French are past masters at insincere cooperation and their bureaucratic complexity and insincerity disturbingly reflects the cultural identity of its people.
‘Champagne’, ‘Versailles’, ‘Chanel’ and ‘Grand cru classé’ are misleading representations of the modern French culture. Post revolution France views beauty, luxury and style as capitalist luxuries from their oppressed past and really only for export. Much of France can be very ugly indeed.
Your British qualification/experience is not acceptable here and you will not be allowed to exploit your European right to work. After five years of submitting stamped, signed and officially translated copies of every piece of paper you have ever handled you will get the subtle message! France has huge unemployment and the state prevents foreigners from taking or even creating work. They welcome our money but not our presence. The EU has no real jurisdiction in France irrespective of the infraction. Brussels has been known to indicate that the French Ministere is meant to comply but it is early days and you must be patient etc etc……
The French at school are blindly taught that no other country has a comparably civilized lifestyle. They truly believe that their ‘hole in the ground toilets’ are the envy of the world. One finds in fact that the food served in ‘average’ quality restaurants is expensive and of an extremely low quality.
The French administration is huge. Napoleon’s Orwellian Civil Code employs over half of the working population and still operates with a rigid, 18th century, superior attitude. It equates to a heavy and invasive paperwork implication upon everyday life for which it was not designed. In France a citizen is not permitted a life private of the state. Typically for one independent working person, his/her partner will take between 20 and 30 hours per week dealing with their bureaucratic demands. Unfortunately this paper generating system does function with any efficiency or consistency. There is little or no communication between state departments meaning copies of everything for each concerned and dramatic variations of advice from each individual questioned. Problems, which are encountered weekly, are very lengthy and difficult to solve, if at all. Many acquaintances’ administrative problems have never been eradicated despite continuous letter writing/ meetings etc. lasting over decades. This inherent inadequacy is not taken into account by the state when it makes costly and threatening demands requiring immediate payment without the option of query or negotiation. You may consider writing to the relevant department if the irregularity was an error yet they will claim no knowledge of the dossier despite continuing red payment demands. When reminded with a new dossier of copies your demand will be typically refused.
If you sell a property as a British citizen and French tax resident it is likely that you will immediately be required to host a Controle Fiscale inspection. This is typically 3 months in length and will require all professional and private financial records/ justifications for a decade. Fierce speculation of your earnings and assets ensue and, as in France you are guilty until you prove your own innocence, all kinds of charges are suggested as standard incurring fines payable within 7 days, no questions. You are not permitted representation and any error in Notarial texts or accountancy documentation is your responsibility despite the fact that you have employed a professional.
If you are not a tax resident and sell your property the state will demand a large sum of money as security IN CASE they find you owe something later. This is held for ten years and, upon reclamations, the administration will again claim no knowledge of the arrangement.
Despite the sometimes magically pretty countryside France has a lazy, arrogant, surprisingly poor and fundamentally dishonest culture. There is/are no consumer rights, customer services, flexibility or compassion. Holiday here but you will regret any legal connection with this communist regime that has been called ‘the new Russia’ by informed French acquaintances.
The self employed are considered to be the enemy of the state & deemed responsible for contributing the ultimate price for its well being. Consider an annual small business taxation of 40% then a social security obligation of 45% of the remaining net after a few deductions.
This wipes out 90% of small businesses within three years of startup. The tax & social charges are projected at the beginning of the year and payable immediately before you have earned a centime. Entrepreneurialism is ironically a capitalist idea and therefore abhorrent to the French state though taking the starting capital and hard work of people with the drive to make their own way serves a purpose in gaining revenue in the short term. The state evidently only considers their present sinking balance sheet. French entrepreneurs try once or twice before vowing never to try again. This will soon mean that there is no one left in France to generate revenue. The end is nigh. In a Proustian sense, the majority of despairing French want to work for the state as ‘fonctionnaires’ and not be independents for obvious reasons. When you work for the devil you get, temporarily anyway, comfort while you are doing his bidding. All French people are aware of this.
The aloof administration is your first & last point of contact for all things. It regulates everything and everyone to an incredibly invasive extent. Elusive and abstract permits/paper justifications are required for even tiny details of everyday life. You will be facelessly and namelessly told to make a rendez vous with someone, usually in 5 months time 100 km away, or write letter, after letter after letter, never getting to someone who has a clue or the will to assist. ‘Non’ seems to be the only word of advice on offer.
Years of planning & research into a dossier will be dealt with contempt and discard.
Statistically over 50% of hard working and well meaning Europeans who move to France return to their home countries in despair & broke within two years. The figure is 80% after 5 years. After 10 years it becomes over 90%. These include Dutch, Belgian, German, English etc. Same stats every time. 30 000 people move to France each year yet 100 000 leave.
France claims to be socialist. One thinks of labour and democrat equivalents. It is in fact a communist state that is run from the top by capitalist elite. These elite are openly immune from the law, receive large & legal cash monthly bonuses and live like all very wealthy businessmen. That is fine until one understands that if you are not related to or in the employ of this group you become a subject of a completely authoritarian system. As an example it is estimated that 25% of the prison population has not been tried but simply retained for non compliance or suspicion by the will of the state. It is important to consider that if one becomes a fiscal resident of a communist state, your wealth and assets can be taken from you at will with the most perfunctory of excuses. It is well known amongst the population that if you have the connections you can commit a crime and a phone call will make it disappear. The French are so oppressed that this is considered both acceptable and normal.
France’s press and media are censored. The people are not informed about events or information that may undermine the state’s credibility. For this reason it seems that we find an old, unhappy culture that has, after five revolutions and several wars, gathered a lot of baggage, resentment and severe administration.
It would be a serious underestimation to believe that learning the language was one’s largest concern when living in France.
Mindset – having the right mindset
A response from the author
Thanks for your comments and no I don’t think they’re condescending.
I’m going to respond to a couple of points you made (by the way, I enjoyed your email – unlike some, which leave me feeling a bit miserable).
(i) I agree strongly with your comments about the importance of the right mindset. I am still trying to make sense of the MISSING THE POINT email, not because I might think his post is right or wrong, but because he has lived in France for such a long period of time and so he should be taken seriously … and his view is so different to my own. What I can’t get to grips with is why he has made such a success of his move to France in the sense that he is happy there and feels it is right for him. … edit … he also says some things that I really disagree with. He clearly believes what he says is true – when I “know” that some of the things he says are untrue. And I think that, in this, is the nub of the gem that is in his email, and that is that he has the right mindset.
I think that a successful move to France has a lot to do with one’s mindset – you could be really badly prepared and still make a go of it, if you had the right mindset. Perhaps part of the role of good planning is to get to grips with what really is your mindset and to determine whether it is going to make your move to France a happy and successful one, or a disaster. To not be upset by bureaucracy, to not be surprised by high social charges, to not be upset by the trauma that goes with moving your children to a new school with a new language, and so on. By not being bowled over by these things, one should be better able to enjoy the good aspects of France.
If you put together a site called REALISING YOUR DREAMS IN FRANCE (btw I’d link to it – and I think this is the next step to DMTF), then I think a big part of this would be (i) your mindset (not seeing the negative / or working around the negative / or accepting the bad because there is so much good … missing the point etc) and (ii) a set of issues around having what it takes to cope with a move – some people would run “home” after two years even if they had planned things to the nth degree. The two best overseas moves I ever did involved virtually no preparation, a completely open mind, and a preparedness to adapt and embrace my new culture … btw I was younger then, single and had no children.
(ii) French TV is not to my taste either. I think one of the reasons I mentioned it, is it seems lots of Brits start out with good intentions of just watching French TV and listening to French radio … and like a New Year’s resolution this soon goes to pot, as do lots of other “good” intentions when one has actually made the move.
I’m a bit surprised by the food comments as well, but clearly not all of France has great food. This is also worth knowing. Expectations not in line with reality etc etc
Thanks again and ciao for now.
Saw your link on the living France forum – never knew this site existed – I think it is very good by the way. You must receive an interesting set of response emails – some probably very rude!
I think your site is exactly what the rose-tinted spec wannabee movers need to see. We have been in France 4 and a half years and were really cushioned by having proper jobs (CDI’s) to go too. I didn’t realise I was so lucky. When I started my job it felt like a backward step financially until I was informed my salary was in fact very good!
We now have moved and kinda do the Gite thing. Recently a couple of English families have moved to our village and we only arrived 6 months ago- I have been mortified to discover their total lack of knowledge of how things work, not to mention the language issues. One family I think will succeed as they are open to a new way of life the other I feel will have ploughed their life savings, property investment into a dream which will become a nightmare!” Name withheld by request.
Difficult To Do Your Homework Properly
I think it is very difficult if not impossible for people to do their homework properly, because there is so much misinformation around and because the French have not been in the habit of criticising their institutions as we have. Name withheld by request.
State Instigated Theft
To précis our story, my family moved to France in 1999.
We thought that it would be a difficulty integration exercise but nevertheless surmountable. As your site indicates well, this is far from the truth.
It has been a catalogue of discrimination, state instigated theft, controle fiscales (to which one is guilty until one proves one’s innocence) and the arrogant disregard for human rights and European Law, and as a translator working in real estate, I have seen criminality performed by officials that will condemn any immigrant to eventual purgatory.
People need to know and it is a pity that your site is dwarfed by thousands of self interested and dishonest sites.
Despite still being here and living with Grand Frere watching everything we do, I feel that I must help people from falling innocently into the contrived trap that is French residency status as a foreigner.
BONJOUR AMIS ANGLAIS, ECOSSAIS, GALLOIS et NORD IRLANDAIS!!!! But especially to the British living in France!!!!!
“BIENVENUE EN FRANCE”, and I really mean it!! I am writing to all the British people who are thinking that France is a dreamland !! aghh you really dream too much!! France is not a Dreamland, and French people don t like really much people who criticise France country (it is true there is a lot of problem…)!! But what about the Brits (ask a German, a Spanish, an Italian or even a Czech, what they think about you (and I feel sorry for the really nice Brits people that I know..) But look at your reputation, your food, your weather, cost of life….. I could carry on a long long time… SO STOP !! If you don t feel good in France, if you don t like the food, the French sense of humour (nasty but funny), the wine at 1.70 pounds for a really good vin rose carte noire, the restaurants (with often a free drink on the house) plus all the nice activities, concerts for free, cheap football(under 5 pounds for the French league matches)….And of course, to all the Brits who even don’t speak a word in French (they think that they could live with the only “BONJOUR MADAME “and “MERCI monsieur” with such a crap accent that nobody understand (French don’t like to speak English…) SO if you are one of them who even don’t want to know anything about French culture, but just buying a house and live “A la British”, so well yes it is time to think of going back across the channel to the so lovely UK full of neds, plenty Stress, cameras everywhere (cctv), full of migrants who put bombs under your feet… shit properties at 200 000 pounds for 2 bedrooms!!! yes you’ve got really bad things as well, and concerning the jobs, I am sorry but it is true, there is a lot there but they are rubbish jobs and underpaid, you have a crap social service, a dead horrible education system, furthermore nothing is FREE in this country (this is a country suitable for the only rich people…) and so many hypocritical people in the UK, with so many drunk people (especially on W-E) !! oh yes lovely Britain , I’ll see you again!!! Let s go back home!!!!!!! France is full of beautiful things (talk to a Brit, he’ll tell you that everything is better in France!!!!).So what do you answer after that!!!
Anyway you are all welcome, French could be really nice people, plenty of humour, inviting you for a dinner (even if they don t know your really well (it is a good opportunity), they will offering you always with presents because French people like to make the others HAPPY!!Vive la France et Vive la Grande Bretagne SORRY FOR THE MISTAKES (see if you can do it in French)
Pat (a French Frog)
Author’s note: I love this post.
Do Don’t Move to France
Let me just start by saying that you should not have called your web site dontmovetofrance but dodontmovetofrance!!!
I am of French nationality, I agree with most of the comments in your web site. It is thru that the French bureaucracy can be (ooops) is extremely annoying
take it from me I have setup my own busyness!!!!
I have been out of France for 16 years, then after a redundancy run in my last company in the UK, we moved to Germany, but things did not go as well as expected (I won’t go in to details, let say make another site dodontmovetogermany.org.uk), so we took the decision of moving to France. Although this pace of life is very good for my daughter who’s 5½ years old, for us it is not what we had expected to find. For me it’s been more of a reverse culture chock than anything else.
So my conclusion is, before moving to France which can be a great place to leave, make sure you check every aspect of your move, don’t leave anything out, as moving out will be tiresome!!!!
After Three Years We Love It
I love your site. I only came across it as I was asked by a client to add you to their links page on their site (which we designed for them). I wish I had more time to read all of the comments as it is a topic close to my heart and a fascinating argument – one I feel has raged for centuries and will continue to do so.
My partner and I left the UK nearly 3 years ago now to start afresh in France. Lots of reasons to leave but we did not leave under a cloud, we both love London, the country, the culture and feel very proud to be British – an amazing little island race that have given so much to the world. However, we are both in our thirties – not retirement age – and wanted more from life. I suppose in a nutshell the reason we left the UK was that we were sick of being consumers. Caught in the trap of working very hard (and being well paid for it) to pay for the house we needed to be able to do the job we did – you know the hamsters wheel I am talking about. I was very aware of a growing sense of frustration and hostility in the people around me (Londoners). It seemed the joy of life had gone, no time to stop and enjoy it any more, get out of my way I’m late… Also we wanted to take charge of our life and that meant for us – to run our own business. Of course the weather was another huge factor!
So anyway France it was – to be honest if the US or Australia had easier immigration that would have allowed us to move without having to do what we were doing in the UK, we may well have gone there – however France had and still has a huge appeal and being in the EU meant it was very easy for us to just cross the boarder and get started.
So after nearly 3 exciting years we still love it – but it is VERY different to any other country either of us have ever lived in (again we have both lived extended periods in many countries).
You know it is not about what is better or worse, at the end of the day the French social model and culture is very different to the British. It is extraordinary that two nations living so close to each other, can be so totally different.
In a way I feel very sorry for the French, as the world around them moves in a different direction, they fight harder to hold onto their way of life. Something will have to change, the more pressure that they (and their government) feel the more anger, frustration and confusion they feel. I liken the French to children – their every needs are attended to by the state and as such are sheltered from the harsh realities of life. But as the pressures of a changing world have forced the rest of us to grow up (with all the pains and difficulties that that brings) they remain like a sulking child, refusing to let go of the dream childhood. Things have to change and they are – slowly. They cannot continue hold back the rest of Europe by demanding that the rest of the EU basically fund the French way of life. Also for their own good things must change and that does not mean that all will be lost.
Sorry I am rambling!
I think my basic message is this – we can all learn from each-other, and should not be so arrogant to believe that our way is the only way. So by peoples moving to live in different countries we should be not only enriching our own lives, but also enriching those around us by the two way cultural exchange that should go on. However it is very important to point out that when ever you go to live in another country, you MUST respect the way of life around you. I always believe in leadership by example.
Secondly – Life is about living. So for all those doubters or worriers – FACE YOUR FEARS! Go for it! Life is not a rehearsal… and all those clichés. I can’t tell you how much happier we are since making the move. We are vital again – living. Of course some of us maybe more risk adverse than others, but you have to be flexible – don’t move anywhere if you expect it to be the same as where you are now. That is true if you are moving to a new town, Scotland or France. But surely life is about new experiences, stretching oneself, growing as a person though those experiences (good or bad).
We are human BEINGS not human DOINGS.
Also you must read ’60 million Frenchmen cannot be wrong’ it is an excellent crash course on the cultural history that shaped modern France.
I agree with some of your comments but not all!
Dear John Bradley,
I am someone who is seriously considering moving to France, more specifically the French Alps. I agree with some of your comments but not all! My son is educated in a French school in England and the bi plus for us was the idea that he would learn by rote which is how I was taught when I was young and not by using some of these fancy liberal ideas which seem to leave kids in a position when they leave school at 16 or 18 of having a poor grasp of English and being unable to spell or do even the most basic maths.
I have a slight advantage over quite a few English people moving to France in that I have a good grasp of French and would not take very long to get this up to a level that the French would consider fluent. My disadvantage on this point is that my French is probably not good enough to work in France as I write.
Another advantage I have is that around the environs of Chambery, most of my partner’s family live and we would live in that area.
I would comment that food is cheaper in France. I brought 5 kilos of apricots back with me last week which were superb fruit, large, ripe and juicy at a cost of 1 Euro per kilo which is something like 30 pence per pound. This compares with my local supermarket where apricots retail for £2.99 per kilo or £1.00 per pound and are hard, yellow and dry! That is just one example! There are many more I could give you! The quality is infinitely superior in France too in many areas of the shopping list! Fuel is certainly cheaper as are cars and property, although property has risen sharply in the last 5 years. However, My cousin (in-law) was horrified to find that his substantial house 1 kilometre from the centre of Chambery with three bedrooms (1 ensuite), vast lounge diner, decent kitchen, land all the way round with double garage, cave and three utility rooms spread over three floors was about £25,000 less in value than my tiny two bedroom flat in the suburbs of West London which would easily fit in to one floor of his house!
I would like your input on two things. Firstly, we would consider buying a property with two properties in one. Quite a popular style in France. It would give us a house/maisonette for us and within the same building, another property we could let out which would provide an income. However, trying to find a decent website on this is tricky! Secondly, I would need a job. I am a financial adviser in this country but I wouldn’t be able to do that in France unless my French was significantly better. And to be honest, the French life insurance and mortgage market is a completely different animal to the English market! Nor would I be so disappointed if I was no longer in the industry. However, I could teach English and have been advised that there is a French Government website which gives help and advice on this. Have you any ideas? I am aware of at least one English teacher teaching English as a foreign language in Chambery and one of the cousins is a teacher!
P.S. It took me two years to have all the tests required for my malady through the NHS. It could have been cancer but fortunately it wasn’t. I know for a fact that had I been in France, I would have had all the test and the diagnosis within a matter of weeks, although I do tend to agree with you that the French could be heading for problems with their State subsidies for health, retirement and education.
You have to take a risk in life
Your site is a great help to a lot of people. It certainly helps to evaluate the pros and cons of moving over there. I suppose in the end though, you have to take a risk in life. If you don’t sometimes look over the precipice and take that step, you will never know that you are always caught. Every experience is a learning curve, I undoubtedly have lost money but I have gained self knowledge and strength.
I would be lying if I said it was a bed of roses
I have just read your piece about moving to France. Its great. I agree with your thoughts etc. I moved there about two and half years ago. Northern France, not the posh bit. I spent a year there trying to accustom myself to the change in pace, language culture etc. I have consequently bought a house in the Pas de Calais area but I work in England commuting each week to Braintree in Essex. I would be lying if I said it was a bed of roses, its different. I love the countryside, hills, forests, lakes, rivers etc. The people have been kind and helpful, health service good. The bureaucracy is absolutely awful, makes England seem almost efficient!
There is good and bad to both countries, France isn’t Eden but its ok for the moment.
Take care, be strong. Best regards
I have been reading ding your web site which is informative even if biased against the French system of taxation.
As a permanent resident of France for the last 4 years and therefore liable to declare my worldwide income and pay tax to the French government I have found the French system to be very straightforward. The people are also extremely friendly and helpful in all respects that I have had contact with.
Please could you amend your article to point out that when capital gains tax is due the amount payable by British residents (i.e. those who have a second home which is in France) only have to pay 16% tax not the full 26% which includes the social charges. This is not mentioned in your article and may give a false impression of the tax due. It is only when the seller is a French resident and sells a second property or land the full 26 % is payable.
I have bought and sold a total of ten properties since moving to France and as 5 of them have been my permanent residence have not had to pay any capital gain at all. The remaining properties have had the tax deducted at source and do not require to be noted on the tax return.
Thank you Regards
Two Steps Backward
Also, since writing at the end of October I have read a book that so accurately describes why some people shouldn’t even consider moving to France – or anywhere else for that matter.
It’s called “Two Steps Backward” by Susie Kelly and the portraits of most of her English fellow-emigrants are straight out of Gilbert & Sullivan. Perhaps you should modify the name of the website – “Some people shouldn’t move to France.”
I’ve always been fond of jokes that (kindly) demonstrate national characteristics and I pass on the one below.
A retired English Colonel arrives at the station booking office in Rome and asks the clerk `A ticket to Rome please.` The clerk replies ` E comme Signor?`
The Colonel then says something in a loud voice that sounds like a firework going off: the clerk recoils in horror so the Colonel turns to the crowd and exclaims: `My God, the poor fellow doesn’t speak Swahili either!`
… from an earlier email …
I have earmarked the points in your submission that I want to comment on, from A to I.
I first went to France in the late summer of 1980 and rode a bicycle 600 miles through Brittany and Normandy. It left a lasting impression. Food. Wine. Scenery. People. Weather.
A. In the early ‘90’s, although I was based in London, I spent time in Paris working for an American multinational. I soon realised that the French business fraternity does things differently. My job was to assess the viability of opening an office in France with a view to introduce some leading-edge technology into the French market by establishing a partnership with a French company. Ultimately, I recommended not doing so as I got the impression that the French just wanted to steal our ideas and use them independently from us. Naive as this may sound, I thought this was not cricket.
B. On the other hand, my generally xenophobic octogenarian English father surprised me a couple of years ago when, primed with some fine brandy, he waxed lyrical about how he admired the French. In his words they got things done regardless of what the rest of the world thought and damn the consequences. They did things their own way.
In my humble opinion, the French do do things their own way and this underpins the good and the bad in the French.
C. I am worried about moving to France, because we are now seeing the walking wounded struggling to get back to the UK. Those who moved there allured by cheap houses and a good life … and lost their shirts. Bureaucracy, the language, a lack of preparation, and high taxes being their undoing. And, of course, having left the UK, they are now finding it difficult to get back onto the property ladder (not to mention that it can be very difficult to sell your French house and if you do, you may get hit with capital gains tax).
D. I am worried by France’s claim to liberty in the face of mind numbing bureaucracy and (when it suits them) an obsequious attitude to authority.
E. I am worried by the view held in France that Napoleon was some form of lesser god, when in other countries he is viewed as the Hitler of his time.
F. I am worried by the idea of a European Community with France and Germany at its head.
G. I am worried that France is the only country in the world except for Zimbabwe, Cuba, North Korea and China where educated intelligent people look you in the eye and tell you they are committed communists and that communism is the only way forward.
H. I am worried by The Emperor’s Clothes. I think France is in for a nasty shock in terms of its national finances. It is yet to go through the pain and grief that Britain went through in the 1980’s. I don’t see how it can carry on with its culture of massive subsidies to its large corporations. Its reliance on the state coffers to prop-up its uncompetitive big industries and its enormous public sector. The argument goes that when the party is over, the hangover is going to lead to some unpalatable changes within the country and many of the things that the French have taken for granted for so long, the things that many consider make it such a good place to live, will be a thing of the past (first class medicine, well funded state education, welfare and the 35 hour week).
I. On the other hand, France has survived major crises before and, no matter what happens, the French countryside will still be beautiful, the wine bountiful, the food delicious, and the sun will still shine.
A. If you think business is cricket I suggest you return to academia! I, too, worked for US multinationals (in Hong Kong) and US companies as well as UK companies will steal others ideas if they can. It’s Business!
B. Your father was right, even if for the wrong reasons. He sounds like Major Thompson in the well known (French-written) books.
C. Of course there are walking wounded. These are the folk who move to France without a word of the language and don’t bother to find out about the most basic things that are different. I lived and worked in the US for many years but I would not think of moving permanently to the US without finding out the basics of their system, which is very different.
D. The bureaucracy in France can be awesome: but by and large the French ignore a lot of it as it suits them. Also, the key to overcoming bureaucracy in France is eye-to-eye contact with the bureaucrat: it works miracles – but of course unless you have reasonable French this is out of the question!!
E. You will find that France doesn’t idolise Napoleon on account of his military adventures but because of his genius in organising the Departmental system (UK should emulate) and his laying down of the Code Napoleon for the judiciary. Again, in the UK we would benefit if, instead of the Police or the Attorney General investigating offences (which results in a bias on the side of prosecuting) we had an Investigating Magistrate in the French way simply to assess the facts. The US does it better with its Grand Jury system.
F. Agreed. But the answer to this has been at the UK’s fingertips for at least 20 years – get more involved in the EU and join the EURO!
G. No-one in France takes the communists too seriously any longer. Britain had the right idea at least 40 years ago in more or less laughing at Harry Pollitt and Ian Micardo (an old boy of my school!) and the menace self-destructed. The US should have followed our example.
H. There is truth in what you say, but France has now begun the easy let-down in this respect. There may be more manifestations to come but eventually Sarkozy and his followers will prevail. “Be-nice-to-everyone” Chirac has had his day – thanks to the “NON” on the constitution.
I. D’accord! Cordialement,
I can’t get back to England
I found it interesting to read your comments on France – I am a little different as I sold up and came to France to live near my son, wife and grandchildren. My son tried to start a business and needed money and although I helped him out by moving here after six months they went back to UK.
I can’t as I haven’t enough money to start all over again – My daughter-in-laws parents live here on top of the mountain as we are all retired but they made a lot of friends before I came out and had two years experience. On the mountain there are no shops and I have not bought a car yet as the winter here is very harsh and I don’t fancy driving the mountain roads in winter.
I am also an anaphylactic and the Doctor although very pleasant has caused an emergency by changing my medicine twice and that makes me nervous as the last attack almost killed me.
I made the mistake of following my son and if in time I can get back to England I shan’t move again to be near him. I also find the language very difficult but the people here are excellent and helpful with problems even if you can’t speak their language which in the Auvergne is a little different to the rest of the country.
Comments for the bureaucracy page
You’re absolutely right that the bureaucracy is not just a myth. Of course, it does happen that administrative work is completed like a dream, but according to what I’ve been through, that is the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, you can never trust the advice of a fonctionnaire, because many of them don’t know their job and when they don’t know the right answer to your question, they just say no. Even notaires and huissiers cannot be systematically trusted. Some of them knowingly violate regulations such as the fixed fees per act that they are obliged to take. These less honest individuals simply increase the fee illegally when they think the fee fixed by regulation is not enough for their work. Of course, if you never check their fees, you will never know when you’ve been taken for a ride.
France had a record high trade deficit last year. The surplus mentioned by someone else must be another figure, but not a trade surplus. Also, the state budget’s deficit is exceeding the EU’s stability pact year after year. Interest payments on the public debt now absorb all income taxes in France. Because of the euro, France cannot devaluate their currency as they used to do when the economy got too bad after continued overspending. Former EU commissioners are now openly talking about the possibility that the euro cannot survive another ten years. That was already clear to those who’d read Bernard Connolly’s book “The Rotten Heart of Europe”. Because there will be no political union in the foreseeable future, and because a political union is necessary for the euro to work, the euro has a hard time ahead, and in the meantime, it’s populations in France, Germany and elsewhere who pay for this political project by being unemployed and seeing their economies ruined. Member states like France and Germany are not introducing the structural changes necessary to boost the euro. What I fear most is the moment when the euro will break into two or more pieces and economic chaos will follow. I no longer consider it a question if the euro will break up but when it will break up.
Finn, it does beg the question, why do you live in France if it is screwed up as it appears to be?
That’s a very sensible question. Well, I was unemployed in the UK for a year in 1998 and then found a good contract in Paris. Then I found my wife in Paris. The trouble after 20 years IT was that jobs in my area had been drying up for years, so where should I go after the end of the 2 years in Paris?
I had been learning French for 3 years in Denmark and was very positive about France. However, little by little, as I discovered what France really is, I got more and more disappointed by France, the French and the propaganda I had read about France in book after book and article after article. I guess that was how I got the idea to start the site. It was a counter-measure against all the propaganda.
In fact, both my wife and I have many times seriously thought about leaving. My wife is sick of the country. I too am sick of many things. On the other hand, I cannot deny that Provence has its charms. If we could have it without the French, it would be a paradise. Switzerland is a country I’ve been looking at. It’s outside the EU and outside the euro but in many ways inside the single market. When the euro crashes, the Swiss franc shouldn’t be too affected. Living costs in France are going up and up, closer and closer to Swiss levels anyway. Another consequence of the euro.
www.skovgaard.org/europe/france.htm and www.skovgaard.org/europolitics/
Comment about bureaucracy in France:
Bureaucracy – I have bought and sold houses in Wales and France, conclusion, much more efficient in France – the one Notaire handled everything, all I had to do was sign some papers and write a cheque. They even provided, for free, a translator for the final session to make sure I understood everything. Getting a form from the DWP in Newcastle – forms, registered post, delays, incompetence – total 2 months to get an E106; using said E106 to register for French health care – 5 minutes in waiting room, one form, registration certificate in two weeks. Getting child into French school system – one form and photocopy of vaccination certificate.
Patience with the Bureaucracy
I have lived for about 14 years in France and I am married to a French woman, so I know France and all the pitfalls (well maybe not all,) the endless bureaucracy etc, etc, that one can come up against, and if it were not for my wife it is unlikely that I would have stayed in France.
… as an end note, my wife spent the better part of the day dealing with our paperwork, and that of my parents who moved to France nearly 10 years ago. French bureaucracy drives her crazy and I will never understand her patience, but thank goodness she has that patience because I could by no means deal with what she managed to deal with. ……….but I love France.
Our Kids Terrorised
We moved, en famille, to France in September 2001 doing all the silly things that you have mentioned. At least I could speak French well (but not fluently as I had believed!), but we had sold our house, uprooted the kids & thought we could camp out in a horse lorry until we renovated the house.
We ended up in a predominantly Front Nationale village, had our kids terrorised & bullied at school, fell foul of the Maire & French bureaucracy & had to sell our ruin because no-one would renovate it for us & then we ran out of money because we hadn’t realised that there was no way our English qualifications (I am a teacher & my husband is an accountant) were going to be recognised in France & get us full-time permanent jobs.
Five years later we are still here though 3 or 4 times a year we panic & think this is finally the end. We were lucky in that I have 10 years professional experience working with animals & a BHSAI so we were allowed to breed dogs! We have sunk everything into our business and it has grown from the 9 dogs we brought over with us to around 45. We are up to date with our cotisations, the kids are doing well in school & we have finally found a nice house to rent. (It is opposite some gens du voyage so no French person wants it).
However, you have confirmed my suspicions. We have accommodated the taxation, the bureaucracy & the racism. But puppy farming is big business in France & if we had realised this we would never have even tried to do the kennels. The bribery & corruption that goes into supporting these businesses is apparently quite widespread & of course there are subsidies as well which no-one will give us. (I have asked!)
More-over we share your anxieties about how long France can continue on her crazy course but as we can’t buy a house in the UK we have to carry on with fingers crossed. I have felt I was a voice in the wilderness until I found your site. Well done.
Of course I can equate with the thrust of your argument that people should try and research every facet of making a move to France to protect themselves. Fine.
Obviously you will generate the ‘For’ and ‘Against’ usually with a very positive bias in either direction. This is natural and can be informative or just plain rude.
I find it strange that the most important qualifications to enable ordinary people to re-locate anywhere in the world do not seem relevant to France.
First. Common sense.
Secondly. A basic knowledge of the country and language, sensible finance, a good sense of humour and tenacity.
Thirdly. Good luck.
France and the French are different. Of course it is and they are. Not only that but France is a big country. In different departments many things vary wildly.
The French are protectionist. Very. It is called nationalism. The French have this weird ideal that, as a Republic, the people own the country and it should always be governed by the people, for the people. The UK used to have a similar system, even as a Monarchy, it was called democracy. The French also consider that they have an inherent right to enjoy their country and all it’s abundance, together with the right to ignore any laws they do not agree with, protest is second nature. Whilst being the most caring, sharing, generous people on a personal basis in all other ways they are as mean as hell and create havoc when anything goes up by a euro cent.
Yes, it is difficult to find work in France. It can also be difficult to find work in UK.
Yes, a new business can fail in France. Many also fail in UK.
With respect virtually all the problems associated with a move from, say, the Oxford area to any department in France could equally apply to a move from Oxford to Wales, or Cornwall, or Scotland, or Newcastle, plus all other EU countries and beyond. For some it works, for some it is a disaster, but, for all, an experience.
My philosophy, for what it is worth, is that life is but a series of experiences, both good and bad. To do nothing but grow old and die is for vegetables, not humans.
To venture forth, to meet challenges, to win or pick up the pieces and start again, that is experience, that is living the time we are allotted, that is life.
Of course you can research, quantify every aspect of a move, use ‘experts’ and still be a square peg in a round hole. In contrast, on a whim, people have, truly, up sticks, moved to France and lived (of course not without problems – as everywhere) a different but enjoyable life that they prefer to the one they had previously.
My proverb. ‘He who looks carefully where he treads, lest he trip, sees not the branch which smacks him on the head’.
Scrabbling About for Anything Going
I was a 32 when I moved here to be with my French girlfriend.
If you don’t speak the language you will never find work except in abattoirs and worse…
Rural France has nothing to offer young people.
No cinemas, shops, life, work, future….
If you have at least 20’000euro+ per annum to live on as a pension/private income then you will survive even as a couple but there will be no foreign holidays and your car will have to last…
For us Brits its a great place if you are financially secure but not a place if you have to earn a living.
I am a self employed person here and pay 48% of ALL PROFIT to the state in social charges.
The Black Labour Market here is huge! There are enormous numbers of impoverished, middle class, educated, capital rich, money poor Brits who scrabble about for any grass cutting or renovation job going. They haunt bars and internet sites trying to snap up anything going rather than work in a factory gutting pigs…
Brits come here hoping to live off the back of proceeds from the sale of their U.K residence and by renting out a few gites… sadly a market over subscribed…
We are returning to the U.K in order to earn better money. As an Anglo French couple we can earn little better than the minimum wage here in France and the property is only cheap in the deepest sticks where of course there is no work. 10%+ unemployment reaching 40%+ in certain age groups.
Having said that…
If I had no money worries I should choose to retire here…but that’s another eulogy…
More truth for you… Brain stormed and needs editing…
Back in the U.K, the fail rate for new business start ups is 1:3 in the first 3 years.
Imagine trying to start a business in France…
If you are a tradesman such as in the building and renovation trades then you need to be able to prove your credentials and abilities to the Chambre de Metiers.
If you manage to convince this organisation that you hold qualifications or can prove your ‘expertise’ then you will have to sit a 5 day business course and pay for the privilege.
The French to their credit do hold a very limited number of these obligatory courses in English but these are few and far between.
Then you must find an accountant to guide you through the myriad of paperwork and procedures.
Even before you have earned a single cent you are obliged to pay your way in health assurances, pensions and up to 17 different organisations who will send letters demanding a ‘cotisation’ or payment.
You can’t run or hide…
Building trades must pay 3000/5000euros per annum in ‘deccenial assurances’
that cover their works.
You must learn the French ‘Norm’ or way of doing things…
Almost everything is done differently in France.
I have seen many Brits rewire their property in U.K wiring and plumbing only to find difficulty selling on to French and the more savvy Brits.
So back to new business failures…
Imagine here in France…
You are a Brit and start up a business.
You speak ‘basic’ French.
How many Brits compared with French are there in your area…?
It may seem lots but in fact rarely more than 5% at most.
How many French will use your business…?
Few to none at all!
French employ French and the Brits employ Brits!
Unless you have something no-one else can offer then you will be in for a life of hardship and possibly economic failure…
You may open a shop, offer basic gardening and cleaning services without formal qualifications but anything that requires ‘creation’ such as baking, cooking, hairdressing, building trades require you to furnish translated certificates and to be able to prove your experiences.
The state takes more than 48% of all profit in ‘Social Charges’.
There are no tax allowances here and so it is almost unheard of to run a part time business for pocket money.
Strangely enough… the only way to reduce you social charges is to have three or more kids as you get back more than 500euros per month as well as free cinema tickets, holidays and meals.
You rarely see disabled people or see many facilities here… They are still largely hidden from public gaze…
Don’t bring you child here if they suffer from any learning disabilities…
The French rarely recognise the much flaunted ticket of ‘my Johnny has Dyslexia’ or ‘ My Billy is Hyperactive’…
They are just likely to be called thick and badly behaved and cuffed around the head in class. It is normal for French teachers to hit even quite small children much to the dismay of British parents.
Many Brits buy a property requiring huge renovation works.
Such a property may only have a token local tax rating of a few hundred euros before the works…
Afterwards the local commune may levy a rate comparable with the U.K council tax…
Also, there is a one off tax to be paid upon completion of your renovation which is often in the region of several thousands of euros.
There are NO BUILDING CONTROLS here…
Great for the renovator and amateur builder but many a poor renovation has been sold on to unsuspecting Brits with dangerous/illegal wiring and hidden building faults.
That’s all for now..
Is this what you are looking for or am I boring you…?
Author’s note: not boring me at all …
I read Don’t Move to France with interest and some of the points are very just but for some people it does make sense. If you speak French and like French people and the life style in France or even if your French is basic but the other two are true then you will pick up the language. A lot of people have seen their modest property in Britain reach astronomical prices and have been tempted to sell and buy a similar or better house at a fraction of the former house, put the profit in the bank and come to France. Sometimes they have acted very stupidly in a way that annoyed French people. I read one case of an estate agent who worked out a fair price for a client leaving room for bargaining at 70,000 euros only to have an Englishman offer 114,000.
This disrupted the house pricing in the area. House prices have doubled in France in the last 5/6 years and some of the blame does lie with British buyers.
Not everyone stands a good chance in France but two groups seem to find the change good. Retired couples with at least one a fair speaker of French and those who have a skill which fits their new community.
Families with children seem to fit in well and the children pick up language skills amazingly quickly and love their new schools. (my limited experience).That is if the parents have found a niche.
France has an unemployment problem so it is foolish to imagine that you will easily find work. This is due to the high social charges and means that most French work much harder than British. You have just to look at a typical restaurant where 2 or 3 people serve and cook for a busy restaurant.
Certainly you are right to tell people of the difficulties
I am leaving France after doing my 2 year stint here soon and after reading “Hoodies and Knives” it has made me think of why I left!
Many many good points are made by both sides of this web debate but I think the above article is one of the sad but true points that cannot be argued.
I have made good French friends here who were brought up to respect their family and elders, and also brought up to believe English food is muck! It has been an eye opener for me seeing what the French really think of English people and their ways (you only get the true version when you know them well) and I was unable to explain when asked why English people have allowed their Country to slip into its state relating to all the points made in the above named article. Sure France like many Countries has its problems but I think it has less than England’s share of “cultural cancer” and PC madness.
Vive La Differance
No French – how dreadful is that?
A couple we met about four years ago have lived there ever since and he cannot even count in French cannot ask for a table just speaks in English to the French how dreadful is that?
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