Comments 4

DON’T MOVE TO FRANCE COMMENTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM OTHER PEOPLE 4
Please feel free to contribute yourself by emailing the author, John Bradley
JohnMartinBradley … at … gmail.com

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Response to “Mindset”
Hello John
I have just been reading your reply to “Mindset” and would like to give my own view.
We are just starting our second year of full time living in France after debating, renovating our house and getting to know the locals for sixteen years! We actually intended to take the plunge thirteen years ago but things didn’t work out that way, so we waited until offspring had all left home and here we are.
We are lucky because we don’t have to find employment, I have a small pension from my employers and we live very simply. We find the cost of living to be similar to the U.K. (although rates and other taxes are much less) and of course we only have ourselves, dog and three cats to look after. The French we have met, who are mostly our neighbours, have been very friendly and helpful especially if you try to speak the language and we do try to join in any events ( except when it involves Langue de Bouef which we both hate!) We do most of our own renovations but when needed we try to us local labour and I think they appreciate it. Joining local associations, singing, dancing or whatever your hobby is, is also useful. We could if we wanted to be exclusively British, there are lots of us in our area, but that’s not what we moved here for.
When we go out to eat we tend to go for lunch to an ‘Ouvrier’ where you can eat a good three, for or five course menu for around 11 Euros. The food is good and you don’t need to eat again that day!
I realise our experience is very different from what yours would be but the only thing that I miss about England is my family.
I realise that you’ve probably heard all these comments before but I just had to have my say.
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LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER
Dear Mr. Bradley
I found your information very interesting, entertaining, and completely honest.
My research over the last two years has taught me so much. I started early, as I knew it would be a minefield, and It is.
My husband and I, intend to retire to France next year, so I have subscribed to every mag, read every book, surfed the net till I am blind, and even more confused…Made every effort to go over every 6 weeks to test the waters, find the location, and get a feel for life there. In the meantime, private French lessons. We just love France.
I am no crusader, but I have felt so much concern for others during my quest..the words lambs and slaughter come to mind.
The magazines sell the dream, the websites promote it, everyone wants a piece of the action .the British can afford it.all that equity in their homes, lets have some of that!
You only have to look at www. frenchentree.com to see how it has grown from an informative site to a commercial venture. The adverts scream at you from every angle. You are invited to ask a question and someone wants to sell you something.
The latest article by FINAM (an advertiser, and Fr. Estate Agent) last month on the property page, said the prices in France will rise by such and such per cent. When I talk on the ground there, to honest agents, the market is as flat as a pancake……nothing has moved since last summer, and I can vouch for that as I am on the web most days.. I should get out more!
The prices are so inflated it is a nonsense, and as for the euro, well.
I have seen prices quoted on a French immo site, and the English translation price has been £14.000 more.for the same property. Excuse me, the price in the 6 other agencies are all over the place too you go in cold, you get taken.
I see articles written about the French being insulted by offers, please, the French negotiate, .why are the English being led in this way? Who can afford to be polite, when your spending your life’s savings, or mortgaging yourself to the hilt?
In the Var. where we intend living, it is £200,000 for nothing larger than my garden shed.
The days of a barn for £4,000 are well and truly over, you may find one in a remote hamlet, sans infrastructure, next to a pig penn..in the North
Then you look at the English private sales.all I can say is, each to their own .the prices are as high as Surreyveveryone has been led to believe they are sitting on a gold mine.
How long are people prepared to perch on an ingot! ………2 years, 3 or more….forever?
So we come to the raison d’etre………..more for less………….but is it?
The harsh reality, soon blows those dreams away, but sadly you have to live it to realise it.
I have met those that have bought their snip, live in an ex pat society, and know after 5 years, just enough French to buy a croissant….drink themselves to death, love every new Brit they meet, but would not give them the time of day ‘at home.’
I have met others trying to make a living with their gite, DIY done, and no money left to get reasonable healthcare.
Met the wealthy, that pour good money after bad, applying for retrospective permis because most of their home is illegal……bof, it’s France……’don’t talk to me about the builders!’
My cousin and his wife hope to move there, she is learning French, he thinks he will pick it up as he goes along……..does he want to spend the rest of his life communicating in sign language, feeling an idiot, and an outcast!……….what about the bureaucracy, inheritance laws, E forms, healthcare, integration, etc.etc.etc. Oh I see, the wife will do it…….
What I keep asking myself is, are these people getting what they deserve? Not really, they are just not equipped to deal with France, as they have been led to believe in sunshine, wine, a cute culture……….and cheap homes …..what on earth can go wrong?
One can rest in bed at night feeling it is better than the UK, even though the fosse septique, which you have no idea how to maintain………..stinks.
The house what you bought has never known maintenance………and the kids will love it when you go…shame about the steppies at 60% IHT
The garden is huge, must get that tractor, and hopefully the local farmer will not bring his cows over again, ……….. you get used to the barking dogs after a while….funny didn’t notice them when we were viewing, still it only took a day………we had to get the flight back.
I am sure the Notaire was working in our interest……..didn’t say much……….very French.
The 40 minute drive to the supermarket is not that bad, and it would be nice if there were more than one old man and 2 cats living in the village in November. I am looking forward to the cafe/bar opening in June…it gets a bit busy then with all these bloody foreigners!
I know this sounds crazy but we have seen this first hand, talk about learning at the expense of others.
But at the end of the day it’s peoples lives I am talking about……
France is a foreign jungle……. so different, incomprehensible, and at times an obstacle course.
I believe you have to use every talent you have to survive there. You must speak the language, be part of the community, learn about the system, and be prepared to work it to your advantage if you know what that is. One in six work for the government ….that’s a lot of paperwork.
As for my husband and I, we will take whatever France has to throw at us. I am not the brightest button in the box, but I am a dog with a bone, and no lightweight. Plus, I have spent every available moment learning everything I can. We are in our early fifties, I have 2 children from previous marriages……..so succession is a nightmare. We are fortunate enough to have to pay wealth tax, but who wants to! The UK is a great place, and has been kind to me………the property market even more so. I am not about to throw it at the French government…………. but everything has it’s price, and sunshine can be expensive.
I have found the definitive Notaire and English speaking Solicitor outside Toulon, who will arrange our succession and conveyance, it will be translated into English, at no extra cost………. It’s out there you just have to find it. They liaise with Blevins Franks France……so the Estate will be managed to our advantage too…one hopes.
We are over next week to look at 2 garden sheds, just on the faint possibility that I can use my vision, and make something resembling a scout hut into something I will love to live in.
If not, we sell here next year, and go over lock stock, and render ourselves homeless for a while….daunting!
I have been building and renovating in the UK for 30 years, so I’ve had it with the 6 bedrooms, and all the rest. I want a simple life, with old fashioned values, fewer distractions, and a pace of life that gives you time to reflect on the quality of it…..Am I dreaming too?
I hope not.
Writing this has been a huge catharsis for me……hope you don’t mind.
Best Wishes
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Comment about crime in France:
My understanding is that levels of reported crime in the UK and France are comparable overall although the pattern slightly different. Further, in my corner of rural France, the vast majority of crime is unreported; those French people who have lived in both cities and the countryside consider serious crime to be a far greater problem in the countryside than in cities.
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More About Crime in France
… mind you the only place we have ever been burgled is France. Once in Cap d’Ail. They scaled the walls , came in through the one window that had no bars, gassed us and then stole everyone’s valuables . Second time St Tropez , again came in while we were all sleeping and lifted all the valuables . But at least you know you will not be killed or tortured (unlike South Africa) !!!! I still feel physically safe . They can have the goods !
Actually also heard they came in during the day into a house in Mougin this last summer and used pepper spray . So where is one safe ????
England the weather is diabolical !!!!    –      Best of luck
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Subject: Missing the point.
Bonjour.
I have read your comments about France the French and life in France.
Although I accept your premise that people thinking about moving to France should do so with their eyes open, I cannot agree with your descriptions of France and what life is like here. They are just wrong.
I am originally from Britain but settled here in SW France 20 years ago. I have to say that all I have read on your strange site is indicative of an attitude of mind I was so glad to leave behind. You seem unable to grasp the point of moving to a culture which is so completely different from your own. Your attitudes are similar to the old British colonials in India and Africa. When things are done differently to your American/Anglicised cultural view of the world you regard it as negative.
Growing up is like that. If you have had a life of diverse experience your attitudes in your twenties are not the same when you reach your fifties. Or on the contrary, if you have had a life doing pretty much the same thing in the same cultural environment you are unlikely to embrace difference whatever age you reach. I suspect you fit into the latter.
You have entirely missed the point about France and as a consequence France is so much better off for you staying in Britain.
France in my opinion is almost a perfect place to live. I have lived in many other countries around the globe so speak from experience. You dismiss so easily the institutions which hold the fabric of this society together. You do that because you fail to understand how things work and why they exist in the first place. You do it because you are so deeply entrenched in a culture which is different not better. In short you are sooooo English. This society is fairer and more equal than most other countries. Wealth is more equally distributed without the state dependency of the UK underclass. Education and healthcare is vastly superior to the UK. because government spending is always directed toward it. Public transport, sport, literature and the arts. The lists go on. Public pensions and care of the elderly continue to outstrip that of the UK. There is a sense of community in my small village, people care about each other and look out for each other. Folk do their best for the place in which they spend their lives. France has more geographical space, people do not live in run down council owned ghettos or in each others space. They contribute and expect nothing as a consequence. Income tax is lower in France, council tax is considerably lower in France. It is cheaper to buy a comfortable home in France. Food and wine is cheaper in France. Cars are cheaper in France. Petrol is cheaper in France and incomes are the same as UK.
I feel very sorry for you continuing to suffer in your overpriced Britain, racked by crime, traffic pollution, poor healthcare, a rotten war mongering prime minister and an over bearing tax regime which will only get worse.
Life is good in France and I for one will be staying here the rest of my days.
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Litany of Fear
Hi John,
I found ‘Don’t Move to France’ amusing… something of a litany of fear!! I wondered why it was you had considered coming in the first place?I rather side with the ‘Missing the Point’ poster whom you didn’t comprehend, and the follow up from ‘Mindset’ which followed.
It seems evident to me that you do need some kind of mindset to live anywhere other than the town you were raised in! I’ve been in France about four years. I had the right mindset because as a single parent on a low income and an array of benefits in the UK, my choices as to how to raise my child in Britain were limited to nothing. Council house accommodation on a bad estate didn’t seem like a decent option to me and the UK housing market was entirely out of our reach. So I came to France because it afforded my small family the chance to have a home of our own. I did almost no research about living here and have struggled through without being weighted down by bureaucracy or legal/tax related infringements. I had very little French, my daughter none at all. We bought a ruin, parked our caravan in the local campsite and hoped for the best.
Four years later my daughter is doing pretty well in our local school, she’s fluent, and for the most part is being superbly educated and, when necessary, well cared for by local medical and pedagogic services. Of course there are problems, but they are nothing compared to those experienced by UK school kids, even despite the money thrown at the system. Of course it’s not perfect here, teaching standards are falling everywhere, but my child’s level of education is much higher than that of her UK contemporaries.
Yes, financially it can be tough. Jobs are scarce. Money is tight, we survive without benefits, getting work wherever and living frugally. It’s tough, but we will never, ever, come back.
It’s true France is not necessarily cheaper, warmer or less screwed up than other countries or societies, but rural France is a place that welcomes strangers and is supportive of the community. People leave you alone, do not judge your lifestyle or affluence (at least not where I live) and stop to help you when you break down by the roadside.
I have made a great many friends, English, French and Dutch, and have fewer complaints about life under the French system than the British system. Of course it’s not perfect. Nowhere is. Life is lived the same by everyone… I came here so that I could own my own home, and I do. It’s now worth five times what I paid for it. I’ve had to suffer the TV, which is awful and we have, like others, now reverted to BBC via satellite, but we watched French TV for two years and enjoyed it for what it was. On the upside, I think the range of music on offer here is much, much better and more varied than in the UK.
Fear is a funny thing. For me, staying in the UK was scarier than jumping into the unknown. If I have a complaint about France it is that it isn’t warm enough for me, but I’m not yet ready to brave the move to Spain, where I hear you can REALLY be fleeced by the locals!!! (happy for anyone to contradict me here!)
I can recommend France. There are lots of things wrong with it. One big plus point for me… we didn’t go to war with Iraq here in France. I see that as a great big plus sign and I thank Chirac for having the sense to keep out of all that. Don’t be afraid to come. Just don’t expect it to be an improved version of the UK. It’s not. It’s French and it has a history as long, if not longer than our own. One it is still, sometimes, proud of. I like them most of all for that.

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Proudly Resident en France
Hi John…
In general, I find life easier here….
It wasn’t always that way and settling in and making friends was hard, but I’ve found this corner of France much more welcoming than many of the rural parts of Britain I’ve lived in!
Your point seems to be that you looked into it and decided to take the safe option of not braving it.
I think the point I want to make is, I don’t believe you should be trying to put others off making a step which could change their lives for the better, even if your intention is to help them avoid a situation that might make their lives my worse! France is no terrifying third world country, it’s like moving next door, and your fear seems to be that the street next door or the town next door should be looked at with caution because they might do things differently there…! Your ‘Britain is best’ attitude isn’t entirely accurate, is mildly offensive to those of us who have done the French thing and not had too much problem, and might prevent some other single mum in desperate circumstances in the UK from doing something which might change her life very much for the better, like me!
Other posters criticised you and said that France was better off without you… I’ll change that and nicen it by saying that perhaps you would be better off for actually taking the plunge and doing France! I think you might find it all much less hassle than you think. After all, the whole point about the rules in France, is so that you can either break, circumnavigate, or simply ignore them!!!
Feel free to post my comments… There’s no malice in anything I’ve said. I challenge you to give France four years of your life and then tell me what you think!! I don’t think you’d regret it at all!
Regards, warm ones from a chilly Dordogne … Proudly Resident en France.
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Happy in France
John,
I am the Welfare Coordinator for the British Association of the VAR and we deal with ALL aspects of living in France for British Passport holders living or visiting the VAR.  There are 4 other similar associations (Cannes, Nice, Menton and Monaco).
I read tonight, with interest your website regarding your move to France.  I am actually living in France and have done so for just over 5 years.
We are very happy here and a lot of that is due to the research and planning that my husband and I did BEFORE we decided where we would live – UK. USA or France.    My husband speaks French very well but on arriving I could just about mutter greetings and goodbyes!  Needless to say that I have attended classes, and will continue to do so even though my basic French is improving.  Although under retirement age we did not plan to work and that is where the most mistakes are made.
The job situation in France is no better than in the UK.  Also, in France you MUST have French qualifications to be a builder, plumber, electrician, gardener, carer etc and there are dire consequences for both the ‘contractor’ and the client in the form of heavy fines AND the work will have to be redone using a qualified ‘contractor’ – this could mean rebuilding a house!!   After each job, there is a requirement for a certificate to confirm that the work has been done properly and if someone wants to sell their house, these certificates are required.  All qualifications gained outside of France will be considered but it could take months for them to decide.  Even UK nurses have had to work as carers for over a year before their qualifications have been accepted.  In some cases additional courses have had to be undertaken before applying for positions.
We have a number of ‘younger’ people arriving in the area thinking that they are moving to the good life in the South of France but have done nothing in the form of research or having any money to support themselves for at least a year to eighteen months.  The only way to come to France without problems is to obtain a job first.   There is so much relating to registering at the tax office (not paying tax), obtaining medical cover (has to be private now) that it requires a lot of research.  As to the taxes here – we actually pay a lot less that we did in UK.   It is also worth talking to an International Finance Company.
I am sorry that you had such a bad time trying to come to France.  We live on the outskirts of a large village amongst French people and we have yet to have any bad experiences.  I too have work all over Europe and the only place I have found ‘unfriendly’ people is Paris.
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Dear John,
I have been reading through Don’t Move to France with interest and thought that I may be able to help others with our experiences.
My husband and I moved to la Dordogne in 2002 and bought a hotel/bar/restaurant to renovate and run by ourselves. We too had bought into ‘the dream’ and went over pretty much with eyes and ears closed to reality. It was extremely hard work. My husband has French as his mother tong but I had very basic school French at that time which meant that to begin with it fell to him to deal with everything bureaucratic and anything relating to life in general – which takes HOURS in France I can tell you! Employing people in France is incredibly expensive so at times I would be waiting on and serving at the bar for up to 70 people on my own. We would get up at 6am some days to do breakfasts for hotel guests and then not go to bed till 2am after busy nights. Meanwhile – we happily became pregnant so you can imagine how hard it was in 42 deg heat and a bump!
Eventually we employed some staff to help us as it was just not feasible to do it all on our own – but that meant taking a huge cut in our own salaries. Two weeks after our gorgeous son was born (another story but wow – the hospital and after care was amazing) I was back to work and my husband had no time off at all. Frankly I don’t know how we did it but I do know that a few months after he was born I had told my husband that I wasn’t going to be continuing like that.
The summer was fun – but not fun enough to carry us through the long, cold and lonely winter. Once the tourists have all gone home it is spookily quiet. I missed the buzz, I missed strolling through the shops, I missed museums, I missed family and I missed Costa Coffee!! I felt that there wasn’t enough to offer our son when he grew up. Most of all I loved our French friends and neighbours but I couldn’t bear the Brits who had been there for years and yet spoke no French, claimed the chaumage and were on the permanent hunt for beans and chips. We had no choice but to be nice to those people who were customers (or just pint drinkers!).. Eventually we left the business closed and moved back to the UK. I just couldn’t take anymore of it so we cut our losses.
On a positive note – we came back having made a good profit and with a much larger deposit for our home here. But it took almost 2 years to sell the business and house and it was very, very touch and go even then.
However……!!! Believe it or not we are going to be moving back there. Now that our children are 5 and 3 we have different priorities – who was I kidding back then? I haven’t strolled around a Museum for months! Our children are the main reason – I don’t want them to grow up here where we have had no choice but to put one in a substandard school and where they wont ever be allowed to play out on their own.
This time we are renting out our house here to provide something for our children should they decide they want to come back when they are older and more importantly we will be able to immerse ourselves in everything French without having to even speak to those nasty Brits! We have lots of young French friends who are there all year round and I am proud to say that having spent those two years working like I have never worked before, I am fluent in French too. The local school is beautiful and the health care is second to none. Yes – you pay your insurance, but I’d rather do that and get such a high standard of care than get it ‘free’ here and get bugger all for it!
Yes – the grass is always greener. But having experienced both – I know which pasture I’d rather roam.
I’ve skimmed over the details so I’m sorry if it is all a bit confusing but I hope it may help someone else considering doing the same!
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Comments from site visitors about Estate Agents, Property Exhibitions and Property Websites:
The text in black is from the author, the text in blue is a response to the comments.
A lot of Brits living in France now rely on the huge foreign interest in French property (prior to editing I also said that some Brits selling property in France couldn’t speak French and working in property sales was the only way they could find work).
Sorry – this is rubbish. Anybody working officially in estate agency in France has to have good French as they must deal with notaires, French sellers, help buyers with phone, electricity, water, officials etc. Mrs. T works in this business so we should know.
Consequently, they have a vested interest in painting a positive picture of life in France. Scrape beneath the surface, however, and all is not what it seems.
People reported never seeing their estate agent again after the deal was done. Often with loose ends not tied up and promises unfulfilled or downright lies leading to misery on behalf of the buyer.
Again, NOT the way a proper agent would dream of working.
When we were house hunting we met quite a few Brits who were assigned to show us around on house viewings. Some were excellent, but many left us thinking they had very little knowledge of the estate agency business and the rules of regulations of house renovation and reconstruction.
Then please warn about these people – name and shame if necessary because they are doing us all a big disservice, don’t make out that all British nationals in French property are like that.
On the other hand, we also spoke to people who became firm friends with their estate agent after the sale and found them immeasurably helpful and friendly in the years following the purchase of their French dream. If you find someone like this, then treat them like gold. It may be more expensive, but you will probably be better off in the long run. Word of mouth is always a good way to find out who are the “good guys”.
That’s more like it – I think you will find a lot of agents are like that.
If you are a fluent French speaker, then you may be better off buying through a notaire Many notaires have files on local properties for sale that are more competitively priced than the same or similar properties advertised through an estate agent.
The reason they are ‘competitive’ is that the notaire quotes the price that the seller will get, which is the same whether you buy from an agent or notaire. The notaire adds on his own fees, plus a ‘negotiating fee’ fixed by the French government, of 2.5% to 5%. Notaires don’t tell you about that… So there IS an agency fee, in effect, albeit smaller than most immobiliers’.
French estate agents do not have exclusivity over a property. The buyer pays the agent’s fees, not the seller.
True in most of France, but not all – some parts of the south operate a similar system to the UK as far as agency fees are concerned.
In the UK, the seller pays the fees and usually has an exclusive contract with a single agent. This means that in France, a seller may put a property on with several agents. It also means that if a property has a For Sale sign on it, you can just walk up to the vendor and deal with him directly; thus saving the agent’s fees (c4 – 6% variable).
If you have already seen the property through a notaire or agent then you could be in trouble. Many houses don’t have For Sale signs and even if they do you will most likely have to go through the notaire or agent to contact the vendor as it will be an inheritance sale or the like. If you aren’t a fluent French speaker with a comprehensive knowledge of property systems in France going direct is a recipe for disaster.
In some cases though, you may be far better off using an estate agent.
I’d say in most cases 

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Comment about unemployment in France:
The key to a successful move here is to learn French, and if you do that every thing else becomes possible. A well kept secret is that if you sign on as unemployed here, the French government will pay for you to go on an intensive French course.
Both my wife and myself have been offered good jobs since moving to France, and we have not applied for any yet. I don’t trust UK employment figures – on the one hand they say the UK has full employment, yet the number of people “economically active as a proportion of the population” has shrunk fro 60% in 1979 to 50% in 2004 where I used to live (RCT). My son and lots of his friends found it difficult to get real work when they left school last year, although there were lots of government sponsored low wage “training” schemes on offer. Though what training is involved in being e.g. a ‘delivery van assistant’ makes one wonder what they mean.
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Comment about education in France:
How long will we reside in France I do not know, one issue I would like to build upon is the Education Section. Yes, I am aware of the changes and I am sure these will no doubt happen, but another factor for English families to consider is the French system of rote learning which will then in turn start to change the culture of their children. I have heard countless times oh ‘I would love my children to grow up French!” 12 months later the reality hits them and they realise they don’t want this at all. Rote learning maybe good in its formative years but it is not good (in my opinion) for the challenges ahead, unless you are one of those who get to go the Grande Ecoles. The sheer amount of school work and pressure given to these young children from an early age is very high. There is a very high child suicide rate/depression rate in France. Children are terrified of failing, they learn through fear. Not a good learning method. If your child is less than average it is going to be very hard for that child and children of ex-pat families will feel this even more so because they are different.
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I have taught in French schools and have seen first hand what goes on! There are some good things – resources – soon to be withdrawn. Both my husband and I know one thing for sure about our future – we will not put our children through secondary education in France (College, Lycee etc). The rest is well up to us.
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Television:
We spoke to many British people living in France who started with good intentions to immerse themselves in French life and in particular to watch only French TV.
It seems that for many these sound resolutions lasted a month or so before giving-in and subscribing to SKY in order to get British TV.
This is partly to do with the desire to fully understand what is being said on TV without having to concentrate, but also because French television is dire.
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Comments about “The Difference”:
For those who consider France is a foreign country and who know what this means, the move to France should not be traumatic. The problem for most Brits making the move is that they expect it to be like Britain – indeed better in many respects – whereas in fact it is very different.
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Comments from site visitors about “The Difference” and the book 60 Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong:
Like you, I have read to anthropological study “Sixty Million Frenchman can’t be wrong, why we love France but not the French” . It is a bit of a curates egg and lots of their ‘revelations’ about the French actually apply to must Europeans. How they missed the impact of the May 1968 revolt on contemporary France illustrated a lot of their ignorance, oh and the first world war. I also wonder about the efficacy of trying to understand a country by moving to its capital – would moving to London for a year give a fair study of what England is like? Last time I was there most of the bar staff, waiters and hotel staff had English as a poor second or third language. Name withheld by request.
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The Key to a Successful Move – a comment from a reader
The key to a successful move here is to learn French, and if you do that every thing else becomes possible. A well kept secret is that if you sign on as unemployed here, the French government will pay for you to go on an intensive French course.
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Great Pleasure
Learning the French language has been a great pleasure and enriched my life enormously. I think that the majority of people could learn to communicate competently if they took the time, money and effort required to follow sufficient courses at the Alliance Française in London; I have not heard of anyone being disappointed by their courses which are run all over the world. The French Institute in London runs similar courses and there are other organisations in France, the UK and other nations offering something similar.
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What complete nonsense
I am so incensed by the following post I can barely bring myself to put it on the website. This guy is so full of nonsense.  I disagree with almost everything he says. He should subscribe to The Economist magazine.
John Bradley – the producer of this website
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Dear JohnFurther to our recent email exchange and your publishing my comments in your most excellent site, I thought that the following, might also add to the debate.I do read quite a lot of nonsense about the strength of the British economy and the weakness of the French economy etc.BTW, I do write on global economic and business matters, but have been far too occupied, professionally, lately, to spend time on this facet.Best wishesThe French Economy versus Britain’sMost people who have commented on the negative side for this site, seem to share rose-tinted blinkers on this topic.I thought it was time to redress the imbalance! French Economy:In general, France is far healthier, fiscally, than the UK.French industry still exists: better, France, as much as practicable, consumes French made goods. Cars, vans and trucks are a good example. Most patriotic French citizens drive Renault, Citroen or Peugeot. Compare this to Britain!It is most interesting to note that when Renault were bankrupt, they were taken over, quite a few years ago, by the state. Compare their example to Rover.The French government, turned Renault around. It is now a successful business. Additionally, during the time of state ownership, Renault developed turbo-powered Formula One racing cars and dominated Grand Prix racing. They recently came back once more.Where is Rover now?SGS-Thompson (a merger between Thompson Electronics, France and SGS Milan, a state-owned multi-faceted electronics company) are now, globally, one of the biggest in the world, in silicon chip fabrication. The UK has two plants which can make silicon chips: one in Glenrothes, Scotland (Silicon Glen) and one in Birmingham, Allied Signal. However, both facilities are limited, in terms of wafer size and type and are totally insignificant in global terms of reference.It must be realised that silicon chip manufacture is an essential part of any developed nation state which wishes to participate in the technology race. France does: the UK does not.Consider the French network of autoroutes and the sheer size of the project! Metropolitan France is roughly five times the size of England, wherein dwell the majority of population.Instead of public meetings and protests, vacillation and procrastination, France simply got on with the job and now, France has probably the best road system in the world, which neatly integrates to its neighbours’ systems. France realised, long ago, that affordable communications infrastructure was essential if a state wanted to be a competitive player in the New Age of commercial reality.Same with SNCF: France accepted that if it wanted a superior, affordable and viable high speed railway network, (again, essential for a modern competitive economy), then it essentially required state funding. SNCF is now one of the world’s greatest railway networks: cheap, fast, ontime, reliable and above all clean.Now think of British (privatised) cattle trucks!Yes, France does have a problem with its social state: but then, so do most other Western countries, including the USA and of course, the UK!One advantage France does have, is the absolute right to demonstrate. So, when the PM decides to extend the working week, raise the retirement age or whatever, if the French workforce disagrees, then the country grinds to a halt and the government have to sharpen their pencils!What this does mean in practical terms, is that unlike the UK and USA, companies will be forced to “pick up more of the tab”, rather than the majority of workers.Almost everyday, we all see examples of greedy company directors, awarding themselves huge pay rises, pension contributions and stock options: and then, in the next breath, stating that the workforce has to exercise pay restraint!Doesn’t happen to the same extent in France, basically, since the French workforce are more empowered and their unions are still intact, very much “Joined Up” and very militant, if and when their government seeks to attack the socialist state.In terms of technology, France invented the credit/debit card with chip, years ago. France rolled out its Minitel network, whilst the UK struggled and failed with Prestel. Why? Simple! France Telecom gave small businesses the Minitel terminals, in exchange for a contractual commitment. This is why fax machines are rare in France: everyone used Minitel.France, which is fairly well committed to ecology, rolled out solar powered road warning signs years ago: Britain only recently followed suite.Like it or hate it, France decided on nuclear as the way forward on electricity generation. Having wasted most of its North Sea gas, on small, natural gas powered turbine stations, (the so-called, “Dash for Gas”) as a result of Thatcher’s insane energy privatisation, Britain is finally accepting the reality of nuclear, as its only option for the future: but, as always, too little, too late.Go to your local supermarche: check out where much of the consumer durables on sale are manufactured. OK, like most places now, China, but invariably on contract to a French company.Yes, France has fiscal problems, mainly caused by its health care and social state, but, as I stated before, so do most developed Western economies. France, on the other hand, has probably the best healthcare service in the world (check out the patient to doctor ratios: and the patient to nurse ratios, too.) and one of the most generous social systems.Thus France needs to overhaul its budget: like most other states.The reality, perhaps, is that least we can see the benefits of France’s over-spending! Can we say the same in the UK? Er, no.British Economy:At present, this is mainly built on imported goods being retailed, much on credit.Further and worse, the current downside, is the vast over-dependence on the residential housing market. To put this into perspective, consider:”VALUE OF GREAT BRITAINStatistics released by the Office for National Statistics, in December 2003, valued Great Britain at £5 Trillion.However, 55% of this value (£2.7 Trillion), is represented by residential homes! Manufacturing is valued at just £ 200 billion: precisely the same value as at 1998! Adjusted for inflation, this clearly illustrates a rapid contraction.To put the massive over-valuation of residential property into perspective, commercial buildings and public buildings, were collectively worth just £ 565 Billion! Almost the same total value as roads, pipelines and railways at £ 537 Billion.The value of residential homes has more than doubled in the past 15 years. From 1999 the average house value was circa £90,000. Today it is put at £175,000. Fairly obviously, neither income nor GDP have expanded at the same or a similar rate. The most worrying component of this analysis is the single fact that so much of Britain’s economic activity and value, is vested, in residential real estate.”Copyright: Axisoflogic.comSo, there we have it; in a nutshell: great pity we can’t find a way to export houses! There is worse to come. For a number of years (far too many) Britain has, suffered a Balance of Trade Deficit: which means, simply, that we import far too much and export far too little. Now, we all know about the almost total collapse of British industry. What can you buy, today, which is made in Britain? Not a lot. Additionally, British people have over £1 trillion of debt! An awesome amount, particularly when a majority has been used to buy “Toys”. France still maintains close control over consumer credit and mortgages: France is not prepared to allow a house price explosion. OK, house prices have escalated, in France, but at nowhere near the same rate as the UK. Just yesterday, the EU slapped Gordon Brown’s wrist: the so-called “Prudent” Chancellor, has allowed his public borrowing (which has repeatedly far exceeded his budgetary estimates!) to rise above allowed EU limits. Personally, my analysis of the UK’s forward economy is dire. Collapsed infrastructure, health and education systems: no real industrial base; over-dependence on imports; excessive personal borrowing; vast Balance of Trade Imbalance; insane housing market; a core economy which depends on retailing imported consumer durables. It cannot be long before the whole sorry mess melts down. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of any forward analysis, has to be the reality of pensions expectation. new Labour’s recent report, clearly states that they expect people in the near future (except civil servants and company directors, of course!) to work, progressively until they are 67 and then 69. This is based on apparent longevity. Trouble here, is that mortality statistics demonstrate loud and clear, that lower income groups enjoy decreased life expectancy, compared to, for example, the City whiz kids, replete with their six figure bonuses and huge salaries. France accepts, at present, a retirement age of between 55 and 60. Where would you really prefer to live? _________________________________________________
Different Culture
Hello,
Thanks for the site. At last, a refreshing change. I love France. I live in the U.K.
I for one am completely sick of hearing what a dump the U.K. is and how fantastic France is. I get sick of the elitist attitude of the English that have moved to France. They go on as they had moved to the other side of the world not 22 miles across the channel. Let’s face it, it’s different, but it’s not THAT different. A slightly different culture, maybe, but it’s not the same as moving to Calcutta for example.
They conveniently overlook the fact that that the U.K. has made them well off enough to buy property abroad. They buy some picture postcard cottage in Brittany then compare living there to living in a large English town such as Wolverhampton.
Slagging of the U.K. seems to be their favourite pastime. Telling us what fools we are for staying here. What they forget is that, as British people, they have contributed to making Britain what it is today. Have you noticed that it’s not THEIR fault but always someone else’s?
The people on Anglo info, especially Brittany, make me want to gag. Who DO they think they are?
If someone should DARE to post there that maybe it’s not Shangri-La in France then the post is deleted almost straight away! Try it! Can’t slag anybody off either due to something about French law. Liberty?
There was a post recently asking what to do about young teenagers pining to come back to the U.K. to their friends etc. Crying themselves to sleep and all that stuff. The answer was obvious. Go back to the U.K. What sort of parents put their kids through this hell in pursuit of THEIR own dream?
I know the U.K. has problems, which country doesn’t? Life here is not really that bad at all. The problem with a lot of people in the U.K. is that they really do not appreciate how well off they really are.
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Comments about French food from readers:
I think you have it wrong! You’ve given French food as one of the reasons to move to France. Hah, French food is vastly overrated and is mostly rubbish. Wish someone would tell me where all the ‘marvellous French cuisine’ can be had – in Brittany! We don’t like horseflesh, tripe sausage, gizzards on salad, tough as old boot ‘steak’, cheese mostly the consistency of snot (exception is Brie Meaux), or miserable sour wine. Or Tete De Veau, yuk.But, France is pretty decent, at least in our corner and as long as I cook!
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The food here is relatively limited and many people get bored with it, although a wider variety is becoming available. I produce much of my own and am fond of the local last-a-week loaves of bread…
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Note from the author: in spite of the comments above, I don’t know why anybody would want to do this, but if you want British food in France, then this link may be useful: http://www.britishcornershop.co.uk/
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Good morning from France,
As a French fellow in my early 30’s, I was quite amused to find your website on top of my web research when I typed “move from France to the UK” in the most common engine.
I am indeed quite fed up with this hellhole many people see as an idealised paradise, and more and more think about making the opposite step: moving from France to the UK.
And I thought it’d be quite useful to share my diagnosis of France, and why its administration is so much crazy. First thing first: I consider France as an anomaly in Europe – it is neither a northern country (like Britain, Germany, Norway, …), nor a latin country (like Spain, Italy, Greece, …), but instead both at the same time.
Let me explain this a bit further: like northern countries, people are expected to abide detailed rules (like going to MOT or TÜV if you modify your vehicle, for instance). Not to say latin countries don’t have rules, of course. But after having lived in Spain for about a year, and rather extensively visited other latin countries, it ended up clear to me that nobody is expected to follow the rules (all of them perfectly silly) in latin countries.
And that’s the most general problem with France: rules here are most silly, just like in any latin country. But unlike over those, you’re expected to respect them, like in northern countries. Silly rules you have to abide: THAT’s the problem of France. Kafkaian mentality is the problem of France. Split personality up to the point of total dementia is the problem of France.
France is nothing more than a bastardised hybrid in between northern and southern ways of life, always retaining the worst of both, and thus never making any drop of sense. Of course, northerners will a priori come to think it’s not so far from their native system, with the added benefit of being a tad more frivolous; just as much as southerners will a priori think they’ll benefit from having a little less blood-boiling latin craziness, while not engulfing themselves in northern rigidity. That’d be like that in an ideal world, if France were to be a successful hybrid. Well, it’s all but such.
From there comes the rampant socialist constructivism. From there comes the “war-waging against any wealth” mentality of the administration (look up the way contributions to URSSAF, an entity you have to pay for some social se[r]vices, whatever you do, are enforced during literally fascist controls: it’s really no wonder it contains URSS, the French for USSR, in its name). From there comes the permanent legal insecurity (far from only being fiscal, but extending to each and every domain thinkable of), fatal to so many businesses. From there comes the omnipresent crony capitalism organized by the state himself (don’t dare thinking about investing in a privileged domain of the state or of the “elites” school friends; and so, with the blessing of the population, who on the contrary sees private investment as necessarily suspicious). And from there will (possibly, soon) come the downfall of this hellhole (François Hollande will soon succeed to Nicolas Sarkozy, but whichever the party in charge, nothing’ll change: more and more taxes, to more and more uselessly spend your own money in a bottomless administrative pit, which’ll spawn more and more unabidable rules you’ll have to follow under the penalty of having your legs broken; and yet, those with still even an half ounce of capital will more and more be accused of being the source of the problems). I even come to think France will collapse before any of the PIIGS (except the “G”, maybe).
The piece of advice from the French I am: don’t make the folly of coming or investing anywhere near here. Except if you’re already raving mad; then you’d have good chances of finding yourself most at home.

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