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Moving to France

Picturesque town in France

France is an iconic European country famous for its wine, food and romance. Whether you're looking for a busy cosmopolitan metropolis like Paris, or a quiet rural village such as Collonges la Rouge, Turenne or Segur le Chateau, France has a lot to offer. From sleepy countryside retreats to sunny beaches and mountain skiing, you can find activities to suit all ages. Its architecture, literature, art and music document a culturally rich heritage that makes France one of the most popular destinations in Europe.

Planning Your Move

Moving abroad is a big step, so it's important to make sure it's definitely the right choice for you and your family. Here are some suggestions to help prepare you for the decision.

  • Rent before you buy. Renting an apartment for a few months in France can give you invaluable experience of living there without making a big commitment. You can also use your time in France to look for potential employment options and acquaint yourself with the local language and customs.
  • Take part in a home exchange. These programs allow you to swap homes for an agreed period of time with a French family. Visit, and for information on how to sign up.
  • Make sure your chosen area is suited to your needs. Look for schools if you have children, a hospital if you or a member of your family has specific healthcare needs, good public transport links and other social amenities that will make life easier.
  • If you are looking for a job in France, make some trips before your final move to scope the job market and secure a position. If you are planning on running your own business, do some market research in your chosen area to make sure your business will be welcome and profitable.
  • Properties on the coast of France are generally the most expensive and temperatures can be very high in the summer. Properties in the mountains are very picturesque, but can become isolated and even dangerous during bad weather. Before buying make sure you have found the best area to suit your needs.

Your New Home

When you arrive in your new home in France you'll want to make sure that everything is set up ready for you to move in straight away. The complicated and often stressful process of buying a house is made all the more difficult when you have to travel long distances to view the property and are not always available to be on-site if problems should occur. Not only this, but if your French is not good, negotiating with the Estate Agent may prove tricky. Here are some tips to help you get the best start in your new home.

  • In France, Estate Agents as known as immobiliers.
  • If you can, hire your own notaire (solicitor) - preferably one who is unrelated to your house purchase so you can ensure objective advice.
  • In France it is not common practice to have a full survey carried out on a property before the sale, so make sure you ask for this to be done in order to avoid potentially expensive repair work, or worse.
  • The French don't generally restore old properties, preferring new builds, so if you are looking for an old property you may have to do a lot of the restoration work yourself.
  • French Contracts of Sale, or Compromis de Vente, are drawn up upon agreement of the sale and detail the property, land, previous owners, rights over the land, and so on. They may also include sub-clauses which are subject to the property being approved by a surveyor or the buyer being able to secure a mortgage. These clauses allow you to make stipulations about your property, such as how the neighbouring land can be used. Make sure you fully understand the clauses of your contract before entering into the sale.
  • Visit the property in summer and winter. Damp is often concealed when it dries up in the summer, so paying another visit in poor weather conditions can give you a better idea of potential structural problems.
  • In France, unfurnished properties often do not include appliances such as cookers, fridges and washing machines, so be prepared to buy these when you arrive.

Moving Companies

Once you have chosen your new home, one of the first things to think about before leaving the UK is how best to transport your belongings to France. Franklins Removals specialise in moving from the UK to France - visit their website for a quote: Global Movers is a price comparison site that offers quotes from six removal companies to bring you the best price. Check out for a quote as well. Beware that some movers charge a fee for excess loads that is only disclosed upon delivery so make sure you get an accurate and fixed quote before your move.

Rural French valley town

The Practical Details

The excitement of moving abroad can easily eclipse the practical - and often boring - details, but these are vital for a smooth transition to a new country. Please check with the local authority of your region to make sure you have fulfilled all of your legal obligations.

  • If you are moving with children make sure you visit the schools in the area before the move to make sure they are suitable for your children's needs. If your children don't speak fluent French, be warned that they may be held back a year.
  • French schools require children to be insured against accidents at school and all immunisations should be up to date.
  • If you are moving with pets note that they must be fully vetted and passported at least 6 months in advance of your move.
  • Mountainous regions in France are often hazardous to drive through, especially in the winter months. Road blocks are sometimes used during heavy snowfall. Make sure your car is equipped with snow tires in order to avoid accidents on icy roads.
  • Carte Vitale (Green Card) will entitle you to medical treatment in France at a small cost (medical costs are mostly funded by the state, but you may be asked to pay the difference). You will probably be expected to pay medical costs up front and then claim them back from the state. You may wish to take out a complémentaire health insurance policy to cover extra medical costs. Those of working age must pay contributions to the French Social Security System (Sécurité Sociale) to be covered by the Carte Vitale.
  • Taxes and social security payments are high in France so employ a good accountant to ensure you're not overpaying.
  • France provides benefits for the unemployed in the form of RMI unemployment benefit, or revenu de solidarte active. If you are unemployed, make sure you are registered to receive these benefits.
  • If you are taking your car to France you will need to obtain a carte grise or certificat d'immatriculation, for which you will need to present all documentation pertaining to your vehicle, including the original bill of sale, plus registration and insurance documents. You will also need to obtain a quitus de TVA which proves that the car is exempt from VAT, and a valid contrôle technique certificate which may cost around €80. You will also need to provide proof of ID and residence in France. For full details of all the paperwork involved, contact the Direction Régionale de l'Environnement, de l'Aménagement et du Logement (DREAL), whose website gives regional office contact details.

Making the Most of your Move

  • Learn the language. This may take longer than you think and it's worth starting long before you move. Learning French will not only make all of the legal and official processes involved a lot easier, but it will help you integrate better with the natives and give you a greater sense of belonging to the community.
  • Vegetable gardens are very popular in France, so your move may inspire you to develop green fingers!
  • Finding employment in France can be a challenge, so consider taking on an established business that is already profitable.
  • Join an online ex-pat forum such as or There you can talk to people who have already made the move and get invaluable advice on the benefits of living in France, as well as some of the potential pitfalls.

Following the Rules

French laws differ subtly from UK ones so it is easy to accidentally get into trouble. Similarly, if you do not understand the local customs and etiquette you run the risk of offending your new neighbours. Here is a quick list of things to watch out for.

  • It is illegal to conceal the face in public areas. This includes balaclavas, full veils or any other garment that masks or conceals the face.
  • It is illegal to drive without a NF-approved (Norme Française) breathalyser in your car.
  • A warning triangle and reflective jacket must be kept in your car at all times and used in the event of a breakdown.
  • Speed limits in France are: 50kph in towns, 80-100kph on open roads and 110-130kph on motorways.
  • The alcohol limit for driving is lower in France than in the UK. In France, the limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, which is less than the UK limit of 80 mg/100ml. For new drivers the limit is as low as 10mg/100ml of blood. If in doubt, don't drive!
  • First names are reserved for family and close friends. When meeting someone new, wait until invited before using their first name.
  • Flowers should always be given in odd numbers - but never 13 because this is considered unlucky!
  • Always arrive on time when invited to a French house for dinner. Tardiness is not looked upon kindly.


France is a wonderful country, but you might find you miss some of the more unique quirks of living in the UK. Don't worry, The British Corner Shop ( delivers UK products all over France. If you prefer not to shop online visit Specialites de Grande Bretagne, a shop stocking British foods and gifts, located at 6 Rue de la Madeleine, Rodez 12000 - tel. +33 (0)5 65 68 38 59. Le Bookshop, located at 18 Rue des Anciens Combattants, Beziers 34500, is an English bookshop stocking a wide range of titles - tel. +33 (0)4 67 36 67 82.

More Useful Links

For information about French emergency services:

For general information about moving to France: