So maybe you are sitting in the Rain in England .. or approaching retirement and wanting to come over from the US to Europe and you keep thinking let’s do it let’s make the move to a Life in France well then this episode 35 is for you. 10 tips and more to planning that Expat move to France.
- Learn the language
- Customs and Traditions
- Check the area town vv country
- Paperwork Administration
- Permits and benefits
- Removal companies
- Mindset Emotions
Important links mentioned in this episode
Lou Messugo http://www.loumessugo.com/en/blog
Blevins Franks www.blevinsfranks.com/France
Welcome to episode 35 Moving to France. Recording this in February 2018.Macron is pulling France out of the doldrums of the previous government .. business is booming, people are feeling confident and right now down in the South of France the sun is shining , the sea is glistening, the mountains are snow capped what is not to love.
Famously here in the Cote d’Azur you can be on the mountains skiing for breakfast and lunch then down with your toes in the sand enjoying a glass of Rose in the afternoon.
We too are in the throws of Brexit and so now is a great time to use that European passport and make the move while you still can!
Around 16 years ago Mr BB and I were living happily in the South of England .. a great entrepreneurial, cultural country living in booming Brighton before selling our cute little terrace house for something bigger further out. It was the time when there were regular TV shows and documentaries about people who were moving to France generally to set up a gite or B&B the disasters the flowing wine ..we were reading
Books A year in Provence Peter Mayell .. A year in the Merde ? and dreaming .. my French was OK having studied it at Uni .. Mr BBs was restricted to a bonjour but there must have been an adventurous gene a bohemian nomadic trait somewhere as we just kept talking about a Life in France.
I actually already had family living down in Nice .. but financially we were looking at what our money could buy elsewhere in France .. gorgeous Farmhouses .. old stone , period features the dream.
But my sister insisted the Cote d’Azur was a better 300 days of sunshine bet. More expensive though ..so we summed and agghed.
Meanwhile after baby number 1 arrived and it was approaching time to go back to work my amazing boss at Amex agreed to let me work part time (which in England meant 3 days per week) and 2 days of that from home but for it to work they set me up with an ISDN line at home and all I needed to organise was childcare at home .. a French Au Pair appealed (I’d been one myself once as had my sister) so after some conversations my sister and I decided to set up our first company together ?Pebbles Au Pairs so named because of the Pebbles in Brighton and the Pebbles in Nice!
She found Au Pairs from France and I found host families in England. Despite there already being a plethora of agencies this was niche and old school as we focussed on the French to English market.
And I was one of the first customers .. nothing like testing your own products?
The wonderful Sophie came and joined us and she actually ended up staying 18 months in the end.. now why am I telling you this – It’s because my top tip number 1 for moving to France is to start learning the language before leaving.
Research .. read books, join groups, subscribe to magazines ? my 2 favourite and most useful publications are
Connexion France newspaper – For me this is essential reading wherever you are in France . A monthly highlight on law changes, useful information, tips on cultural things you didn’t know.
I also love The Local France as this has a great roundup in English of all the news items.
I would say everyone prior to and once here should be regularly checking in with these.
2) Learn French before leaving.
Sophie talked to our baby for the first 18 months of his life in French in fact one of his first words was voiture. She also gave Mr BB French lessons ..later when Sophie left and baby number 2 came along we were joined by Cindy who did the same with Little Miss D .. so by the time it came to us leaving Blighty everyone had a good smattering of the lingo.
This really helps when you get here .. despite what they say not every French person speaks English indeed that is why so many of my classes at KidooLand my little English school have wait lists because the French want their children to have better exposure to the language of Shakespeare.
I don’t know about you but I also think there is an etiquette .. politeness factor here in doing your best in the local language so get onto it before coming over there is so much free stuff available on youtube .. or find a French podcast
Once you are here don’t just join the English activities and groups. Live like a local .. get involved in local community .
Nearly all of my interviews on this podcast ask my guest the question for tips on how to meet the locals and make friends so do go and check that out.
3) Understanding Customs and traditions ? saying Bonjour is one of the French 10 commandments as you walk in a shop or even around it ..out for a walk in the country
The bis – French Kiss, greetings in the workplace , the lunch hour.
I read years agobut there are many more available now to help you before you live your home country understand how best to fit in.
It’s key to making sure you don’t make any faux pas .. of course many of these can be laughed off but good research will pay off.
Did you know that children don’t go to school on Wednesdays .. it’s activity day and that’s why I am so busy on a Wednesday as my team at KidooLand are busy teaching English through fun activities to French children .. it’s their day to do football, dance, art, music and more all over France. I think it is a great break in the week for children and I love that they go to the specialist for each discipline instead of hoping the teacher can do it all..but as a working parent you will have to bear this in mind.
Another culture shock which I love is that shops are shut on a Sunday. If you come from Britain or the US where you are used to 24/7 this can be quite a challenge initially. It is in fact very liberating and one of the many reasons I love France .. a day for family, for exploring, for chilling and enjoying this wonderful country.
Monday’s are also pretty quiet .. hairdressers , beauticians etc all stay closed so that they can have their own “2 day weekend” and why not.
A more frustrating one for me is the 12-14h close that even in your big stores like Conforama that sell more entry level furniture will close. I cannot understand how such a huge shop can’t fathom out a rota so it can stay open but on the plus side is people don’t expect me and my own company to be open and I have to say I love Wednesdays where me and the team chow down , door closed and have a laugh it’s an important moment of connection in the day.
The local Fetes are also just brilliant you can have the small very local ones like in Chateauneuf de Grasse we have an annual Fete des Courges .. basically a pumpkin festival we also have a Fete de bois there .. it’s huge a traffic stopping day ..
Fête de la Mimosa, Citrons or Lemons in Menton, Oranges in Bar Sur Loup, Miel or honey in Mouans Sartoux Musique all around France, then you have the more well known ones Carnival in Nice, Cannes Lions and the Film Festival, Grand Prix basically there is something going on every weekend.
The French know how to fête! and they do it very well.
4) Check out the different areas .. come on holiday again do your research .. like I said we originally had been looking more at where we could buy our dream chateau well there were some great deals 15 years ago..probably in the middle of nowhere ..in the end we went for the South of France..why?
We had been here on holiday visiting my sister ..my sister was here ..having a friendly face especially in the early days was a lifesaver ..the sunshine factor and the quality of life and outdoor living that brings was a huge factor..having Italy on the doorstep how cool is it to just pop there for lunch .. or Spain just 4 hours drive away .. the beach the countryside and the snowy Alps all available really makes it the dream location.
We also wanted it to be significantly French but with an International edge ..we live in a sleepy Provencal village 15 minutes from the bustling and typically Provencal village of Valbonne and the International Perfume city of Grasse. Nice is under 40 minutes away with an international airport with lo cost and standard airlines and so this area has a good International slant for example lots of International schools from the high end to the public schools with advanced English classes (See episode xx)
It’s a region that is well set up to cater for tourists and therefore anglophones moving here. and you don’t have to live in the tourist hub like I say there are authentically cute villages dotted around just a short drive from the metropolis.
So I am biased to this region but I have lived in Paris for a year and Angers for another year so I’ve been around!
A resource I’d highly recommend you check out whether you are thinking or moving here or just visiting is Lou Message Gite apartment’s Blog
One thing I have noticed in several of the Facebook groups is that remoteness can be a huge problem emotionally so if you did find that gorgeous chateau but it’s in the ,middle of nowhere you do run the risk of feeling quite isolated. Weigh up the pros and cons carefully.
I am really happy we chose the PACA region. I have been able to make great French friends but also some Anglo friends which sometimes I think you just need .. that wingman or girl there for those frustrating down days and moments .. people who really understand your expat issues.
Many of the French here in PACA have an International outlook .. they might work for global corporations , they have to travel ..lots of them seem to have lived abroad and have come back and of course they are all used to dealing with tourists which is a positive mainly when it comes to settling in.
On the home front ? Try before you buy ..Rent first .. we made that mistake I would say by buying before we moved here .. though we had a happy time we hadn’t fully researched all the different villages we really plunged in at the deep end. Buying has a myriad of issues attached too in the UK you have surveyors that check properties out for structure etc but that isn’t really the case here and is something we will be discussing fully in another episode soon.
Out in the country you can find such a hotpotch of bolt on problems for example our house ‘shared a water meter with the neighbour’s .. not something we realised until we had moved in!
Years ago the whole plot belonged to one person, who then divided the plot and the daughter lived in one house and them in the other .. roll on to our purchase and we had some kind of meter madness .. had to fork out for our own meter to have our own control.
So do try and do some research on the Estate Agents too ..the Fresh unsuspecting buyer could find themselves with a right clanger on their hands..I think Real Estate agents are getting a whole lot better from what I”ve seen here ..back in the day you would see one bizarre photo on a website and very limited details do what you can to research .. turn up for the RDV only to find the agent takes you to 3 or 4 properties you had no intention of visiting ?
We have an episode coming up on buying property so do tune back in for that.
With regards to renting, do also check out contractual law for renting which is very different for furnished properties and unfurnished. Get some professional solid advice because there are some sharks out there and some unscrupulous landlords will try to hoodwink you so do find out the facts forewarned is forearmed . Note too it can be difficult as a foreigner to find a landlord willing to rent to you .. there are quite strict rules around how much you earn versus the rental amount and some landlords will demand you blocking 12 months worth of rent as a deposit .. then you have to pay rent on top!
ConnexionFrance would be a great place to start for this info.
5) Paperwork and Admin. France is founded on this and the sooner you accept this the better.
Make sure you have all your original documents in a folder ready. With photocopies of each one available too. Birth certificates , marriage, divorce, rental agreements, EDF bills everything.
The administration here need to tick boxes otherwise the computer it says no. And then you have to go away and re queue and come back .
Carte Vital medical system , registering at the Drs , signing up for phone and internet contracts.
I think it is difficult wherever you go not just France .. and recently there is more and more moving to online so registering a car, changing driving licences etc.
There are many people set up to help you too .. they can be found in the Facebook Groups for the regions e.g. Cote d’Azur Living.
I always felt a sense of accomplishment when I got the boxes ticked and you got approval !
Think too about your exit paperwork .. Tax authorities, bank accounts etc.. you will have to declare all assets and bank accounts once in France .
Research also what will happen to your pension and how you plan to maintain healthcare benefits.
Make sure you have all your medical records and before leaving do an eye test, get your vaccins up to date come over with everything ready to go that way you won’t be floundering in the early days looking for opticiens and Drs and trying to figure out what whooping cough is in French.
Get your EHIC which lasts for a short period and S1 if you are British so you can access the CPAM Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie) which won’t give you full cover, you may need to organise private top up.
For financials speak to the experts Blevin’s Franks is one I would recommend getting in touch with www.blevinsfranks.com/France
Make sure you get your insurance into place for you , your car, your health , your home , your pets. I always think that being a foreigner
If you are thinking of setting up your own company this is a whole different set of admin hoops .. get yourself a good accountant. As Rachael Dickens the English Osteopath who I interviewed in episode 18 says “spend money on getting an accountant to sort out all your admin. Even if you are a competent French speaker. Itll save you money time and energy in the short run as well as the long run.”
There are some big Facebook Groups for entrepreneurs such as Riviera Entrepreneurs Ladies and I have a smaller more intimate support group Riviera Business Cocoon where we share tips and help each other in a positive environment.
6) Permits and residency
Make sure you have all the correct paperwork in place. EU Nationals have freedom of movement .. we don’t know quite what will happen toe the British after Brexit so if you are coming over from there before March 2019 make sure you register with the local authorities .. apply for voting rights , Carte de Séjour .. you can contact the British Embassy (see episode 25) if you have a problem so that you can start clocking up your time officially here.
NON EU must request permits and visas before working so do make sure you have checked that out. There is a useful group called Americans in France on Facebook that is worth joining.
For paperwork and administration listen to my podcast with Tracy Leonetti rivierafirefly.com/podcasts/11 she is the go to for all things paperwork and serves people all over France.
Tracy may also be a great person to start with to find out about benefits and help available her plus an accountant will help you understand what tax breaks there are etc.
7)Animals you will need to ensure they have the correct vaccines and health checks, are chipped (don’t forget to have that updated when you are in France)
Think about the journey and how you are getting them here and if traveling by plane make sure you have checked on the crate requirements etc.
There are some very helpful groups on Facebook like French Riviera Animals https://www.facebook.com/groups/329024693975161/ where you could ask your initial questions.
8) Removal companies .. do use a recommended company. We made a mistake here and used a broker who got us a cheap deal ..unbeknown to us this meant our load went on the lorry ..another person’s load was then added ..it then went to another part of France was unloaded while they moved them in .. then came to us a good 10 days after the agreed delivery date ( I was at the time on my own with a baby and a toddler awaiting furniture) and of course with all the reloads things got broken and essential parts went missing like part of the bed frame.
Facebook didn’t exist when we moved here but now it is a real resource.
9) Bringing over a car ? well actually we didn’t do that we decided to sell our Right hand drive and buy again over here .. which for practical reasons was the right one .. like overtaking.
It also makes it easier for the MOT / control technique and for insurance reasons.
It was a surprise to see how expensive 2nd hand cars were here though ..more recently we went to Italy and bought 2nd hand there .. it was relatively simple to import and register here and saved several thousands and of course is correctly set up for left had drive.
Make sure you do contact your driving authority before leaving get the right paperwork for France and Users beware .. not all US driving licences allow you to drive over here depends on your state so research that fully particularly if you are going to be living in the countryside ..
why do I say that well country living is of course great for the should .. beautiful vistas we have a gorgeous one across the valley to a mini mountain ..but buses are at best sporadic and don’t even think about taking a taxi .. Uber has a limited success here but not so much in the country so a car might be essential.
10) Mindset and emotions
Setting up in a new country is a challenge there is no way around it. Doing research will help you through the minefield or practical things but there is also that feeling of being alone, facing emergencies and doing it all in a foreign language.
Once the initial excitement wears off it does become everyday living with its ups and downs. Certainly being on the beach in January can lift spirits for those that are used to near blizzard conditions but it can be cold and wet here too! The coast of living can be a surprise .. even though many things are cheaper many things are more expensive.
Missing friends is really hard – it definitely changes your relationship being so many miles away and you have to build in regular visits back home ..or keep opening your doors to regular visitors which has its pros and cons. If a family member gets sick then that can put quite a strain on your life in France and you may need to be ready to jump on a plane at a drop of a hat.
Planning on how you stay connected with the life you left is important – and easier with Facebook and WhatsApp but it does require maintenance and thought.
Diet. Depending on where you live you may have local access to some of your favourite products from back home . We are lucky here near us to have several British supermarkets .. Brittain’s in Valbonne, Geoffrey’s in Antibes and online options too.
As a vegetarian Britains has been a lifesaver for me when it comes to summer BBQs as up until recently supermarkets only sold chippolatas no Linda McCartney options there. Mince Pies at Christmas etc.
More and more of the supermarkets are stocking international products which just helps you have that link back home and also sharing your own culture with your children.
While I have been a bit of a wimp in the culinary department Mr BB has fully embraced it it helps having a French brother in law who loves frog legs and snails eugggh?
Without realising you start to become “very French” about your eating habits.. looking for organic and French .. appetisers the famous Apero.. picking your own fruit to make a tart, harvesting your olives and having it pressed to make your own oil, fresh baguettes with meals , rosé with the Sunday lunch .. exquisite cheeses we have an amazing cheese shop in Pre-De-Lac and there is another in Valbonne ..
The best chocolate none of that Dairy Milk .. in fact I have a great guest who makes chocolate coming soon to share some choctastic information.
Coffee .. well we are close to Italy ..need I go on??
12) Shopping is also a different experience it feels more personalized, a slower experience .. when I was back in Bath the other day everyone kept apologizing for keeping me waiting in the queue .. it was a lot faster than I was used to! Mostly you can get purchases gift wrapped really quite beautifully too. After sales still has a way to go however .. particularly in the larger stores they don’t yet seem to have bought into the client satisfaction route.
The beauty of online is that for the moment anyway many of your favorite shops will deliver to Europe ..
Now if you need more information first hand from me or people already living here in France then my Cote d’Azur Living Facebook community has now reached over 8,000 members which is just amazing how it snowballed.
As the administrator we get to see all sorts of stats so I can see that there has been over 7,000 posts likes and reactions in the last 28 days. That’s huge!
It’s such an easy place to find out .. what is that red beetle you’ve found in your garden, Is there snow in Greolieres, how to cancel an SFR contract (note to those moving here don’t even open one with them check the group for why!) and there’s fun stuff too like Alanea’s post on the 10 French words none of us can pronounce and even with my OK french I would say that’s pretty accurate!
As the Admin I can also see who have been our star contributors and they are Desira, Frances and David this month!! Their interaction helps keep the group laughing, useful and reduces the posts that we don’t want in the group ..with a simple flag to admin click our job is made easier in filtering out the stuff we don’t want in this group e.g. for sale and property searched .. there are other groups for that.
There is a great search facility in this group .. and more recently there is also a recommendations tab. So you can click this and see recommendations for restaurants , places to visit attractions etc.
Recommendations I took up recently was a Comedy event in Cannes which was a bit meh .. or maybe I am getting a bit old .. great to see some friendly faces there though?co-Admin June posted about the ISN’s latest Theatrical show Singing in the Rain now that was fantastic.
Once again hugely thankful that we have access to culture in English as well as in French . A huge plus of living here on the Cote d’Azur.
I see some great
So 8k members .. and about 100 requests a week to join . If I’m honest I decline ? of applications these days because I also have a full time job and am a full time mum!
It used to take a lot of time checking out profiles as we get an enormous amount of requests from fake profiles things I would be looking for are how many groups the person belongs to like if it’s over 200 that’s usually a warning flag .. if their account is less than 6 months old that’s another one and if they live in certain countries that’s another one!
FB has advanced a lot in the last 12 months helping administrators so if June , Dawn or I need to remove someone from the group we even get the option to delete all their previous posts .. huge change it used to take me forever if we had a serial spammer going in to each message.
So why are these people not being approved well its down to the entry questions .. 2 easy ones why you want to join and whether you want to occasionally receive a link to this podcast (its fine to say no to that one by the way but the other question must be answered and make sense not just be some random letters) .
I feel that the potential member who take 30 seconds to reply to those questions will be less likely yo spam our group. What I have found is that there is a whole lot les spam in the group if we just decline this applications.
I’ll leave you with a recent find ?I recently discovered Annie Sargent’s Join us in France great podcast discovering all the different regions and places to visit from Paris to Marseille, Brittany to Luberon. It’s also packed full of visitor tips like protecting yourself from pickpockets and even the attitude to tipping .
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Our sponsor – This podcast was sponsored by KidooLand the Little English School who have just opened inscriptions for the next holidays for 4-16 year olds KidooLand nicknamed “the little English school” by our clients has a year round premises is set up for the little and big people. We run English activities all year round as well as holiday camps in Vallauris Sophia and Valbonne. With the Ados that we get to explore the Cote d’Azur in great depth. Mougins, Cannes, Biot and more for cultural and really fun outings and this year we add in community awareness projects.
Riviera Firefly is your online guide to living on and visiting the French Riviera and the Côte d’Azur. We cover topics such as Education for children and adults, Places to visit, Health and lifestyle, hobbies and leisure and have lots of fun here in the Alpes Maritimes. We also talk to inspiring local entrepreneurs and small businesses about how they started their careers in France, dealing with administration and what brought them here in the first place. Topical issues such as Brexit and what this means to expats will also be covered in 2017. Our online directory and magazine can be found on www.rivierafirefly.com
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