Just on the other side of the English channel exists the Mediterranean dream for many Brits. If you’re thinking about moving to France, here’s what you need to know.
- 1 Why Move to France?
- 2 France Visa Requirements for Brits
- 3 Way of Life in France
- 4 Cost of Living in France
- 5 Popular Areas for Brits
- 6 British Communities in France
- 7 France Essentials
Brits generally move to France in order to take advantage of a culturally rich, beautiful country that’s sat right on their doorstep.
For many, it’s the perfect retirement spot – not too far from the grandchildren, but with a slower pace of life and certain benefits that simply aren’t available in the UK.
France is a hugely diverse country and different areas offering different things — people wanting to move to Paris, for instance, are unlikely to be the same people wanting to move to Cannes or Grenoble. Character varies wildly between cities, while it’s well established that Paris is pretty unique in the country for being such a huge urban metropolis.
What everywhere in France largely does have in common, however, is a devotion to delicious food and drink. Every corner of the country enjoys home-grown wine, champagne, cheese and meats.
It’s also an incredibly beautiful spot in European – whether in the stunning Alpine region, on the streets of Paris on on the beaches of the French Riviera.
Life is good in France.
France Visa Requirements for Brits
As of now, British citizens currently do not need a visa or a residence permit to live, work or study in France.
However, as of June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU in a country-wide referendum. It is not yet known how this will affect British citizens already living in or planning to move to France, as exit negotiations are not yet underway. Nothing will change until the official point of exit. It is thought that UK citizens will be able to continue living in France once we have left the EU, although expats may lose their automatic right to work there.
For Brits that own property in France, they should be aware that an exit from the EU may trigger a change in inheritance and tax laws. Seek advice from a European tax expert if you’re concerned.
Way of Life in France
The attraction of moving to France from the UK for many people is being able to live a slower paced life.
Outside of Paris, which is a very efficient, cosmopolitan and fast-moving city, the rest of France is known for the rural appeal of the simple life. While there are a few notable cities, much of the nation is countryside and villages, with people living a sustainable and happy life.
As we hinted at earlier, food and drink are cherished in France and much of the country is given over to vineyards and farming.
Of course, there are pockets of glamour: Nice and Cannes on the Riviera are known for their celebrity clientele, while the Alpine resorts attract swathes of moneyed Europeans. Paris, too, is expensive and glamorous, particularly in the touristy pockets.
While older Brits generally like to retire to France and live in the rural areas, many younger UK citizens are attracted to French shores as well — but generally to larger cities like Paris, Lyon or Marseilles. The French education system, including universities, is excellent, and many young people love the cultural benefits of living here too.
Despite being incredibly close to the UK, France is quite different from its neighbour in many ways. Most importantly, although English is spoken widely, you will need to be able to communicate in French in order to best assimilate and make friends. This is particularly the case away from the cities. It’s unlikely that you’ll find work here without at least a working knowledge of French too.
Cost of Living in France
As with most countries around the world, cost of living varies widely in France depending on your location.
If you’re planning to move to Paris, for instance, it will likely be expensive, with rent and entertainment costing in the same ballpark as London. Average rent for a one-bed apartment in the centre of Paris is €1,100 (£914) a month, while a three-bed rises to €2,270 (£1,886) per month.
Of course, there are a huge number of rentals available in the capital, and it’s just as easy to find a comparatively low-cost apartment as it is a luxury one. Be prepared to compromise on space, neighbourhood and condition if you have a lower budget in Paris.
Not quite as expensive as Paris, larger cities like Marseilles and Lyon are also towards the more expensive end, while homes in the Alps near the major ski centres, and those on the French Riviera in Cannes and Nice are quite pricey too.
Utility costs are largely the same as in the UK, while broadband is slightly higher thanks to a lack of competition.
Rent, dining and entertainment rates decrease the further you venture away from the cities and into the countryside, and you can expect a lot more bang for your buck in terms of space, land and condition. You will need to buy a car to successfully navigate the French countryside, however, so should include that in your budget.
Property taxes are lower in France than Britain so it is often cheaper to buy a home here than it would be at home.
Just like in the UK, there is a 20% VAT on most goods so you won’t see too much difference in clothes and other products.
In terms of groceries, there are some huge, inexpensive hypermarkets in most towns, as well as street side markets, although smaller supermarkets and stores can be comparatively expensive.
Popular Areas for Brits
Thanks to it being the largest capital on continental Europe, Paris is the place to be for many British expats.
It’s dripping in character, stunning beautiful, with a reliable and extensive infrastructure to get around the city and suburbs. It is the most expensive area to live in France, but those on a reasonable salary will be able to find accommodation easily.
The city is made up of 20 separate neighbourhoods, known as arrondissements which are numbered as they circle out from the centre: Île de la Cité. Popular neighbourhoods include Bourse (2nd arrondissement), Saint Germain (6th arrondissement) and Bastille (11th arrondissement).
The second largest city in France, Marseille also attracts a fair few Brits moving to France.
Unlike Paris, it’s on the Southern coast and enjoys a blissful Mediterranean climate, and is nearby the delights of the French Riviera. There’s plenty of accommodation, as well as restaurants, bars and cultural activities.
Another popular spot for British expats, the city of Lyon is known for its growing economy and plethora of job opportunities, second only to Paris.
It’s continually ranked as one of the best places to live in France.
One of the best parts of Lyon is undeniably the incredible food culture here — hundreds of wonderful restaurants sit alongside centres of education and learning for French chefs.
The place to be for foodies!
Nestled into the corner of Southeast France, between glamorous Cannes and Monaco, is Nice.
Often preferred as a holiday destination, the fifth largest city in France is also a wonderful spot to move to, and particularly popular with English retirees who come from the sun, Cote d’Azurbeaches and laidback vibe.
You’re also just a hop, skip and a jump away from the delights of Italy and the Alps!
If you’d prefer to be a bit closer to the comforts of home, many Brits choose to move to Brittany.
Straddling both the Atlantic and the English Channel, Brittany is home to some beautiful beaches as well as swathes of French countryside, and numerous areas of historic importance. Cities like Rennes manage to combine French character with a functioning and thriving economy (that means lots of jobs!).
Thanks to the proximity with the UK, there are plenty of British expats making a home for themselves in Brittany.
The Alpine region is particularly popular with expats moving to France who want to take advantage of the incredible scenery and mountains, not to mention the wonderful skiing on offer here.
The best towns in the Alps for Brits include Val d’Isere, Tignes, Chamonix, Grenoble, and even north up to Geneva.
If the French mainland doesn’t do it for you, you could also consider a move to Corsica.
Corsica offers island living and a really slow pace of life in the middle of the Mediterranean. It’s not exactly teeming with expats, although there are small communities of foreigners, including Brits, who’ve escaped the rat race — a mix of digital nomads and retirees.
There’s certainly less infrastructure in Corsica than the rest of France, but you do get to experience an abundance of natural beauty and the delights of being so close to nature.
British Communities in France
There are literally thousands of Brits in France — 171,000 at the last count — so you’ll have no problem finding like-minded people, particularly if you relocate to one of the popular areas above.
As well as plenty of in-person opportunities to meet fellow Brits, there are also lots of online communities to get involved in too. Here’s a list of some of the most useful:
- British in France
- Vingt Paris: Live Like a Local
- Belle Provence Travels
- Life on La Lune
- Expat Forum France
- Expatica France
- InterNations France
- France This Way
Despite the proximity to the UK, it won’t necessarily be easy for Brits to find a job in France.
Most company and service positions will require a high level of conversational, if not fluent, French, while a familiarity with local customs and company hierarchy will be needed to pass interviews.
The French jobs economy is known to rely a fair amount on personal introductions, particularly for foreigners. If you’re serious about getting a job in France, you’ll need to start networking.
Many of the younger people who move to France choose to work as English teachers or private tutors, where there is less of a need for a command of the French language. Of course, you could also work online and become self-employed if that suits you.
Brits who manage to find high level jobs within French companies are often offered positions prior to moving from the UK, or are transferred from an international multinational organisation to a French office.
If you already work in a multinational, ask your manager about the transfer opportunities available.
The healthcare system in France is very well rated, with a number one world ranking by the World Health Organisation.
Compared to the UK, where long waiting lists and a lack of choice in doctors drags down the NHS, French healthcare is efficient and of an exceptionally high standard.
British Citizens should apply for an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) which grants you the right to access state provided healthcare during your time in France — at least that which is medically necessary. This usually covers around 70% of the cost of your medical bill.
Most Brits or those planning to stay long-term in France, supplement their EHIC with private health insurance, which covers the excess of any large medical bills and will give you access to wider healthcare than just that which is medically necessary in the case of an emergency.
There are over 1,000 hospitals in the French medical network, so you will always be able to access emergency care.
Bringing Kids to France
France is a wonderful country to bring up children, thanks to a high standard of education from pre-school to university, and a generally safe and inclusive environment for children to thrive in.
One thing to consider before moving kids to France is the language barrier – generally all public and private schools will see lessons taught in French, save for the network of international schools.
British international schools see lessons taught in English and to the English teaching curriculum (or the International Baccalaureate), but are mostly only found in large cities like Paris, Marseilles and Lyon. They can be prohibitively expensive too.
The French public and private school system may be suitable for your child if they already have a command of French, or if they’ve passed through French nursery and kindergarten, where they will have had early exposure to the language.
Try to speak to other expat parents to work out the best schools in your area for English-speaking kids.