Your moving to france guide – Essentials
Like hundreds of thousands of other people who move abroad from UK to France every year, you’ve made the decision to swap the rainy cities and towns of the UK for the sunnier climes enjoyed by our neighbours across the Channel. Congratulations!
No matter whether you’re moving to the rural, countryside regions like Limousine or Burgundy or the bustling metropolises of large cities like Paris, Lyon or Bordeaux, you’ve made the right decision. You’ve got a lifetime of delicious cheeses, gorgeous wine and holidays to the Riviera to look forward to, not to mention a much warmer climate and a more relaxed pace of life.
But leaving Britain behind for a new life in France isn’t always a smooth process. You now have several practical and logistical problems to solve, ranging from how you’ll sort out your money to where you’ll live and how you’ll get through the piles of forms waiting to be filled out.
And with Brexit looming on the horizon, you’ll also need to think long-term about citizenship issues and the consequences of moving across the English Channel.
Luckily, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll share with you our checklist for those moving to France from UK. We’ll help you think about issues ranging from how to sort out paperwork like your finances to more practical points which will affect your day-to-day life.
Many people move from Britain to France every single year without a hitch or a problem, so there’s no need to worry. Instead, simply allow our expert top tips to be your guide as you navigate the waters of an international move and start your new life abroad.
SIGN UP WITH THE AUTHORITIES
YOU SHOULDN’T NEED ANY SORT OF PERMIT OR VISA IN ORDER TO WORK AND LIVE IN THE COUNTRY DUE TO THE LAWS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU). HOWEVER, FOLLOWING THE UK’S VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU THIS STATUS IS IN DOUBT IN THE LONG RUN, AND THE NEW RULES HAVE NOT YET BEEN DECIDED.
It’s certainly advisable to keep abreast of all developments when it comes to the impact Brexit could have on your ability to live and work in EU countries, especially if the timeframe of your move to France is likely to be in the next two or three years – as this will be during the negotiation process.
Even if you’re from the EU, you can still register with the authorities in France if you wish. A residence permit is free and lasts for five years.
OPEN A FRENCH BANK ACCOUNT
You can’t subsist properly in France unless you get your affairs in order and make sure your financial status is all correct, so it’s vital to do this as soon as possible.
To open a French bank account when moving to France you don’t necessarily have to be in the country, so it might be possible to do this before you even arrive, but not all banks permit non-French people to open accounts remotely.
If you bank in Britain with international brands like HSBC or smaller French banks like Britline, you might not even need to switch accounts at all. Get in touch with your old and new banks well in advance to find out the best course of action.
Many of the British stereotypes about French culture aren’t true, but it’s certainly the case that there’s often a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy involved when it comes to carrying out relatively simple tasks here. You’ll need to provide your new French bank with a number of documents such as proof of your new French address and an identification document like a passport.
Handwritten documents are usually not accepted and references may also be needed, so you should allow yourself plenty of time to complete this task.
TAKE OUT HEALTH INSURANCE AND REGISTER WITH A DOCTOR
Your health is in many ways your most important asset, and you won’t be able to enjoy your new life in France to the full if you don’t look after yourself and get the care you need if you fall ill. The French healthcare system differs from the British one in a variety of important ways, so it’s important to do your research and be prepared before moving.
While there is a healthcare system in place in France, it is insurance-based and it’s against the law to not have the relevant health insurance.
The French government pays for most of your insurance fees, so in practice will largely be free at the point of use. The state health insurance system, known as sécurité sociale, can be accessed by registering with an organisation called Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) – and until you do that, you’re at risk of all sorts of procedural complications should you fall ill.
Only 80% of hospital costs are covered by the government’s insurance system, so to cover the shortfall you’ll need to pay extra into your insurance – known as the supplementary cost – unless you’re a member of a “mutuelle” group, which costs around 30 Euros per month to join.
A few groups of people don’t qualify for the sécurité sociales system at all. In that case, you’ll unfortunately be required to take out private health insurance provisions.
Because of the nature and structure of the system, it’s vital that you sort all of this out as soon as you can when moving to France. If you find yourself with a serious health condition but without healthcare coverage, it could quickly turn into a financial and legal headache for you.
FIND A HOME AND TAKE OUT INSURANCE
Ensuring you have somewhere to live once you arrive in France is arguably the most important decision you’ll need to make – as you certainly don’t want to end up living out of a suitcase in a hotel room for months when you first get there!
Firstly, decide whether you’re planning to buy or rent. If you choose to buy, approach a bank for a mortgage. These are readily available – even if you’re from abroad, banks in France are happy to lend between 70% and 80% of the property’s value.
Be sure to have your financial affairs in order, with well-kept records in place. The bank will add up all of your expenses before offering you a loan, and the total of all your liabilities must never go over 30% of your net household income.
Before buying, consider renting when you first arrive – as if your move goes wrong or you decide you’d prefer to live in a different part of the country, you’re less tied down. If like 40% of French people you plan to rent in the long run, you have lots of rights: landlords cannot enter the property while you live there except to carry out maintenance, and notice periods are particularly long.
You’ll also need to decide where to go when moving to France. Paris is an unusual case, and if you’re moving there, be aware that high demand means prices and rents are also high, but the quality does not always match.
If you’re bringing up a family in Paris, definitely consider taking up residence at least in suburbs like Saint Cloud or St Germain-de-Laye. Parisian flats are generally very small compared to apartments in other major global cities, and many are ideal only for one or two people.
Outside of Paris, you will find that there are lots of places in France which offer peaceful conditions, large living areas and lots of green space.
The first place to look when kicking off the search for your new home is the internet. Many resources are available online, including LeBonCoin which is similar to Craigslist. SeLoger and Particulier a Particulier are aggregators of both the purchase and rental properties offered by agencies.
Of course, it’s important to exercise your common sense when searching on the internet. Don’t give out any bank details or send money online, and if a listing on one of these sites looks too good to be true is probably is.
French landlords have the legal right to force you to take out insurance for a variety of dangers and hazards, ranging from fire to water damage. If you don’t, your landlord can either evict you or pay for it then bill the cost to you – so don’t risk it!
GET YOUR HOME READY TO LIVE IN
Once you have found your new French home, have sorted contracts and collected keys, there are some other key processes to sort out. This is your Moving to France checklist:
TV and radio
Firstly, you must make sure you budget for a TV license – known as a redevance audiovisuelle. This will be collected as part of a larger local tax known as the taxe d’habitation. There is no tax on radio use.
You also need to look into utility provision. Usually, electricity is provided to French properties by EDF while gas comes from the similarly-named GDF. You may find that you’re able to take advantage of the market by shopping around, so do make sure you look on price comparison sites like Kelkoo.fr to check if you’re getting the most for your Euros – especially if you’re on a budget.
When it comes to communications, many places already have the infrastructure in place. If not, you may need to contact France Telecom – which looks after phone and Internet connections – in order to set up a new connection if there is not one already there. Again, it may be worth using price comparison sites to discover packages and deals which suit your needs. Your mobile phone must be able to connect to a GSM network – the standard across Europe.
You should also clearly mark your name on your property’s mailbox to ensure that your post does not get lost, which is especially important if you’re waiting for important registration documents. If you rent a flat and are in doubt about which mailbox in the communal area is yours, speak to your landlord.
If you’re moving to France for a long period or perhaps even indefinitely, then you’ll want to invest in an international removals firm capable of transporting whatever items you need to move.
Before moving everything over to France, it’s wise to wait and see what sort of home you’re moving into before you decide. For example, if you live in an old place back in Britain and are moving into a modern flat in France, you’ll want to kit out your new home with lots of new furniture to match the new decor. In that case, it may well be better to buy your new items once you’re in France.
If it makes sense for you to take most of what you already own with you, choose a company wisely. Firms with good reviews and safety features like insurance cover and GPS-tracked vans are a good bet, as are companies which have strong customer service processes.
You will obviously need to pay a reasonable amount for a decent service, but it’s also vital not to get ripped off. The best companies will be able to offer you a fast turnaround time and not keep you waiting.
Moving from UK to France should certainly take no longer than one week, and many of the leading removal agencies like Lopa Removals are able to get a cross-Channel job done in two to five days.
Ask your landlord or neighbours what day the rubbish is collected in your building or area – and don’t forget to check what you can and can’t put in the bin.
In cities, communal recycling bins are often located on streets in residential areas.
MEMORISE THE FRENCH EMERGENCY NUMBERS
In France, as in any European country, it’s possible to call 112 to reach all of the emergency services if you’re unsure which one you need. But if you need a specific service, it’s worth knowing what numbers to call.
For paramedics – known as SAMU, or the Service d’Aide Médicale d’Urgence or SAMU – the number is 15. The sapeurs pompiers, or the fire bridgade, can be reached on 18, while you can reach the police by dialling 17.
Number you need to know when moving to France:
Medical help/SAMU: 15
Police/Police Nationale (Gendarmerie): 17
Fire & accident/Sapeurs Pompiers: 18
SOS – all services (recommended when calling from a mobile): 112
SOS – all services (hearing assisted): 114
Emergency Shelter: 115
Child in danger (child protection): 119
Missing Child: 116 000
Out-of-hours doctors (as of January 2017): 116 117
Emergency: Sea & Lake (calling from land): 112 or 196
Emergency at Sea (calling from sea) VHF Channel: 16
Emergency Tel: 112
Terror/Kidnapping Hotline Tel: 197
When it comes to driving, any EU or EEA issued driving license is valid to use on French roads. There are some beautiful sights to see in France and the roads are generally very well-maintained, so you should definitely hire or buy a car and head out exploring.
If you’re living in a city, biking may be a better option. Several French cities operate affordable systems similar to London’s cycle hire scheme, whereby you collect and return your hired bike to hubs located around the city.
France has an excellent train network with high-speed services connecting cities across the country, and many local cities and regions offer efficient metro and bus systems. The most famous Metro, of course, is Paris – but because public transport is popular in France, all major cities have integrated transport systems of one kind or another.
ENSURE YOU SORT OUT YOUR TAX AFFAIRS
When living in France, you will be required to fill in an annual tax return. Once you arrive in France you’ll be designated as a tax resident from day one if you plan to stay for over 182 days, so you need to make sure you’re signed up to pay. To do this, you need to go down to the town hall or the local tax office.
France doesn’t yet operate a pay-as-you-earn system like the one in Britain which allows employers to deduct taxes before wages are paid, so until this kicks in in 2018, you’ll need to make sure you fill out the annual return.
Second home owners who earn rental income in France are liable to French income tax and thereby obliged to complete a French income tax return. The French government have changed the basis on which such income is now taxed.
Residents need to declare the income of everyone in your household, although there are particular rules concerning children over 18 years of age and unmarried couples.
Moving to France? Make sure to do a complete research.
GET TO GRIPS WITH THE FRENCH LANGUAGE
Learning the language is important. If you don’t already speak French, it’s definitely advisable to get some lessons as soon as possible before you move – otherwise you may find yourself unable to integrate properly.
Speaking the language will make it much easier to communicate and co-operate with those around you, and will also assist you as you go through the many registration processes you will face after your move.
This is especially important if you are making the big move on your own. Over time, a lack of human contact can have a serious impact on your mental health and wellbeing – and it’s important to be as upbeat as possible to make the most out of your big move to France.
To learn French you can take lessons while you’re still in UK, or you can use smartphone apps or online resources to perfect your skills. You can get some practice in by making visits to France before you go, or going to meet-ups or exchanges in Britain with other speakers.
Finally, once you’re good enough you can keep up-to-date with French culture and current affairs by taking a look over newspapers like Le Monde and working out what’s being discussed.
AVOID CULTURE SHOCK
Once you move into your new home, you might suddenly find yourself suffering from culture shock.
This unpleasant and disorientating experience often happens when people suddenly get uprooted from one place and immersed in another. Acclimatising to new dominant social norms and ways of doing things can be difficult, and this can lead to feelings of confusion and even physical symptoms like sickness.
It’s normal to feel this way, even in a place like France where it’s relatively easy to make trips back to see family, friends and all that is familiar. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made the wrong decision, or that you’re homesick or unhappy. It’s more common than you think.
To lessen the impact of culture shock, it’s important to be prepared. Spend some time meeting and talking to French people with an open mind: if you’re quick to judge the French way of life as unusual or out of the ordinary, it will take longer for you to get used to it.
Bread – known in French as pain – is one of France’s favourite foodstuffs. You can pick up bread almost any time of day from a local boulangerie (bakery), and it’s wise to try out a few different boulangeries in different locations around your new town first to see which is best.
Markets are very popular in France, and almost all major towns will have one at least once a week. This is an ideal opportunity to try out French cuisine and to enjoy some of the finest foods made by French butchers, bakers, confectioners and more. It’s not just food, either: household wares, clothes, and much more are all available.
Hit up cafes and restaurants
In France, many shops and offices will close at lunchtime – often for quite long periods like a couple of hours. Lunch is probably the most important meal of the French day, and it’s often accompanied by a glass of wine or a coffee.
While it might take some adjusting first, just embrace it! Eating a relaxed meal in early afternoon with friends, family or colleagues a lovely part of French culture, and you’ll get used to it in a heartbeat.
Moving across the Channel and away from the UK marks the start of a new chapter in your life, and you’re sure to quickly fall in love with the charms of France. From rustic slices of countryside to bustling cosmopolitan cities and towns of every shape and size in between, you won’t struggle to find your perfect home.
Whether you’re planning to use your spare time to roll through the fields on a bicycle or sit outside vibrant bars with a glass of fine wine, a new life awaits for everyone who seeks it in France.
Don’t let the headaches of moving stop you from enjoying your new life in France to the full, though. While there may be several big issues to resolve like making decisions about where to live, finding a home, sorting out health insurance and opening a bank account, don’t worry: help is at hand.
From the myriad online resources provided by everyone from local businesses to the French government, you’ll find your way through the process and come out on the other side as a happy and settled expat ready to kickstart your French dream.