Moving to France

(24 Posts)
mpuddleduck Sat 16-Apr-16 10:26:46

Hi,
We are thinking of moving to France with dc aged 9 and 12. We have been looking at Brittany/Normandy or Dordogne (don't really know where we want to go as each area has its own + and - , but we do have a limited budget for a house purchase as I want to save some cash for living whilst we get established).

Does anyone live in Brittany or Normandy? Why are the house prices so much cheaper here?

Any advice on schools for dc who have limited french at the moment, but are working on it! (read good and bad about just immersing them into a local school).

We already live in a very rural area so the children are used to entertaining themselves.
We would hope to make a living eventually running a B&B /self catering accommodation, craft work and market gardening.
Any thoughts on area would be gratefully received.
Many thanks.

BoboChic Sat 16-Apr-16 10:31:07

If you want to run a B&B you need to look very carefully at the local tourist market and amenities and what you would be able to offer people. I have been to some gorgeous foreign run B&Bs in France (where I live) that struggle to fill their rooms because of the shortage of restaurants and entertainment in their area.

Rural French schools are often appalling.

EmilyAlice Sat 16-Apr-16 10:47:06

We have lived in rural Normandy for over ten years. We love it here, but we are retired and not needing to try to earn a living. We know many young families who have moved back to the UK because it is incredibly difficult to make a living from a small business. This is mostly because the contributions that you are obliged to pay are very, very high. Small businesses often struggle and that applies to French-owned businesses as well.
Houses are cheap because the market has been depressed for many years and people do not really view houses as an asset in the same way as they do in England. We love our house but recognise that anything we spend on it is for our own enjoyment; we would be very unlikely to get any money back.
Rural schools do indeed vary in quality and practice is very different from England. I taught English in primary schools when we first arrived and practice reminded me of how things were when I started teaching in the 1970s.
If you do decide to try it then I would strongly recommend renting first. I think you would struggle to make a living from the areas you suggest. If you can get paid employment from a French company then that would be much better.
Sorry to be so negative, but I have met a lot of unhappy families over the years.

Ancienchateau Sat 16-Apr-16 12:30:22

Agree with both pps. Also be very careful about schools for your DC. It is likely that they will find it extremely hard in all areas especially the 12 year old. Schools in France are academically rigorous with very long days (my 14 year old's school day is 07.50-17.30 with about 2 hours homework each night for example) and when you don't speak the language ...

It sound's like fun on paper but do your homework and, yes, rent don't buy to begin with!

Costacoffeeplease Sat 16-Apr-16 12:37:15

Have a look at the laymyhat forum, lots of people there run b&bs and gite accommodation in France, and you'll see what pp mean about the costs and obstacles involved

IvyLeaf Sat 16-Apr-16 12:38:14

Please don't! That's such a difficult age. I was 13 when my mother did this and it was utterly horrendous. French schooling makes no allowances for anyone. I had a good level of French and could understand most things but not articulate. It was miserable, I was lonely and depressed. We lasted 3 months before my mum couldn't see me like that any more and we came home. It was nearly 15 years ago now and I can remember exactly how miserable I was all the time. Awful.
Wait until your children are adults.

Mishaps Sat 16-Apr-16 12:42:44

Try angloinfo.com - and get on the French site, then choose the area you are interested in. Here's the link for Brittany www.angloinfo.com/brittany - there is one for Normandy and Dordogne too. Lots of forums and advice. You will be up to your eyes in it. Get on an education thread and you will see that school is very strict over there! Lots of Brits in the areas you are looking at and sometimes there is underlying resentment. You must speak or learn French pdq or you will not be very popular! Lots of complex taxes etc. to get your head round.

We nearly moved to France many years ago, but changed our minds and we are glad we did as OH was diagnosed with progressive neuro disorder so we are very glad that we can see lots of our family without travelling far.

mix56 Sat 16-Apr-16 12:56:26

The reason why any property is cheap in any area of France, is that there is no industry, & little work available there. These areas either become ghost towns or live for 3 to 6 months p/y on tourism. (exception in the SE, but that is because you pay for sun)
I think the pp are right, both re country schools, kids adapting, income, & thinking you can live on income from B&B.(unlikey unless near well known tourist attraction, or beach, and house prices will then go up.)
Plus, unbelievably, the socialist govt. are talking about taxing home owners, if they no longer have a mortgage, (a % of the plausible rental income it could earn) on top of the incredibly high taxes they already take. on top of your local taxes, on top of obligatory social tax.... The economy is failing, more & more people out of work & social unrest. (think Greece)
Plus, there is a big Cultural difference that people underestimate, The French & English have a long history of war ! & they still haven't forgotten Joan of Arc--.
and, finally if you arrive without working french, it will not as easy as you might hope.

Ancienchateau Sat 16-Apr-16 13:40:32

It's very different in French cities and I would always recommend living in one as an expat (or to anyone for that matter) especially with older DC and especially if you don't speak French.

Booboostwo Sat 16-Apr-16 14:43:07

We live in rural France. Firstly it is very difficult to cope without speaking fluent French. The locals either do not speak English or are too embarrassed to try the little they know. You may find it difficult to integrate into the local village community unless you know at least one family who can introduce you to others. Secondly this is a difficult time for your DCs to move schools. The French approach to education is quite different to the UK, here it's one seine fits all, no support for anyone who has different interests or needs, little understanding of difficulties and language problems. Your best bet would be to move near an international school, private school fees are an added cost but much more affordable than the UK. Thirdly look carefully at how you will make a living. The B&B market is absolutely saturated, you have to be in just the right spot and offer something exceptional for this to work. Additionally get professional advice on the tax implications of any move as France is differently and more heavily taxed than the UK and you need to plan in advance. Finally houses are cheap because people do not make money from their houses, it is easy to build, restoring old buildings is not as valued as it is in the UK and the housing market is dead.

pastaofplenty Sun 17-Apr-16 10:09:04

It can work but I think it will be incredibly difficult for your older DC.

We moved when DD was 7 and she struggled for a while. However it was easier that she was still in primary school (a good rural one by the way) as there was the same "school-gate" chat that you get in UK. This was great for making friends and also for improving French.

However once the DC go to college (often at age of ten/11) then it's very similar to the UK and there are less opportunities to integrate and chat with other parents. Depending on your 12 year old date of birth they may well be going into 6eme or 5eme - so not even starting college at first stage.

Help with assimilation - re-doubling a year - may be available, but then your DC may be in classes with kids a lot younger than them.

Don't waste money on limited French classes in the UK - total immersion is the only way and if your French is patchy don't try and teach them.

Running a BB is very patchy if you are not living in a touristy place that is open all year round. Most places (even in popular tourist areas) "close" from late September through to April. This includes restaurants and attractions that would appeal to your BB guests - there's no point going somewhere if all local facilities are closed, however attractive your BB.

Also remember you will have to pay taxes on your business - which in the early days are very, very restrictive and based on potential earnings not what you actually made.

As PP have said property is very cheap because there is often no jobs or infrastructure nearby. Nor do the French place the same value on doing-up homes - most of my French friends have or aspire to buy a new build. Please rent for a year and see if it suits you - renting can be incredibly cheap and is the best way forward (we sold up and although love France and it has been good to us - it is my biggest regret!)

Also be wary of moving to anywhere with a high percentage of ex pats (Normandy, Dordogne and Brittany) as there is the "danger" of being sucked into English-speaking activities and groups and miss out on the "real" France. You will also be competing with others who run B&Bs, market gardens, arts and craft stalls etc.. In these places there are often English-speaking kids in schools but it can restrict your DC's learning French and making their own friends.

At the end of the day only you know what's right for your family - it worked for us so it would be hypocritical to say don't do it - just make sure you do your research and have a fall-back property in UK.

mpuddleduck Sun 17-Apr-16 13:06:23

Thank you for your thoughts, I do have concerns re ds, but he is really keen to give it a go. I will look at the links you have given. We are really struggling as our finances just aren't big enough to let us own anything in the uk and we want to use the small inheritance we have.

IvyLeaf Sun 17-Apr-16 18:14:56

I was also keen, but the reality was a whole universe away from the thought!

Costacoffeeplease Sun 17-Apr-16 18:50:12

With the best will in the world, a 9 and 12 year old can't have the first idea of what would be involved in a move to France. 12 especially is a difficult age with puberty, and all that that entails regarding confidence and fitting in, I think it could be a nightmare

frenchfancy Sun 17-Apr-16 19:24:13

Please don't move to France just because the houses are cheap. I think 7 year old is about the limit for moving, over that the education system is very difficult for non-french speakers to penetrate. If your finances aren't big enough to own in the UK then it is unlikely that you can buy anything decent in France without a mortgage. If you can then it is because the location isn't great - in that services and jobs are hard to come by. Mortgages are very hard to come by unless you have a permanent job.

jenpetronus Tue 19-Apr-16 16:36:43

I've lived in Brittany for 13 years, and run a gite for 10 of them. You're welcome to pm me if you have any questions, but just some initial thoughts -

Property prices vary hugely within areas - rural Brittany is very affordable, down here on the South Coast (and I'm sure the North coast too) it is considerably more - many places are owned buy Parisians as Maison secondaires - but if you want to attract any kind of tourists you need to be somewhere they would want to visit.

My DS's were much younger when we arrived, but I do know of success stories with older children, but you need to be much more determined, and resiliant when you are here - don't expect any help from the school (then if you get any it'll be a pleasant surprise!) They will hate it at first and so will you, but it'll pass. My eldest is 14 and I couldn't have hoped for a comparable education in the UK, he is not just bilingual in French/English, but has fluency in Spanish and Latin. He's also learnt to sail, goes skiing every year and has had the opportunity to try things he never would have in the UK, so there are lots of positives!

My advice would be to come and have a look round - not in the summer! And research some areas you are interested in when they look a bit grim and miserable - if it still appeals, keep researching and keep up the French lessons.
Good luck whatever you do.

JollyXmasJumper Tue 19-Apr-16 17:05:29

I am from Brittany and I especially agree with Jenpetronus. Don't fall in the "cheap old cute house to renovate in rural Brittany" trap. Renovations cost a lot of money there. That is why those houses ruins are so cheap and people sadly build new houses. A B&B business is also not very likely to flourish there (but it could, depending on where you settle). TBF though, eco tourism is developing at the moment so depending on how you market it, there may be a niche for your business.

Regarding the kids' integration, it is pretty much a given that schools will not help. The French education system has a very holistic approach, miles away from the British more individualistic approach. You also need to know that kids tend to learn things here by listening to the teacher and learn everything by heart and repeat like parrots. Not by doing things/experimenting. If your kids are not fluent in French, this is going to be an obstacle they need to be prepared to face. If you do move to Brittany I think your best bet regarding school support/teaching method is to get them both in the Breton speaking system. Granted they may learn Breton first instead of French, which is not what you are aiming for, but the Diwan schools are bloody amazing at integrating people, kids and parents. Happy to give you more info if you want as I went to one until high school.

That being said, Brittany is absolutely beautiful and people are very welcoming not biased at all. It also has the best schools (overall).

jenpetronus Tue 19-Apr-16 17:11:24

Jolly I absolutely agree with your last statement!

There have been highs and lows, but I would not want to live anywhere else. (though I could not manage more than a few words of Breton, trugarez wink)

Debbieviard1975 Sat 14-May-16 13:52:19

hi we are also looking at moving to brittany in france so if you would like a chat let me know xx

SEW360 Tue 17-May-16 11:30:58

Hello all,

Going to be moving to our property in france in three weeks .. area 36 (indre)
have two girls 4 year old and one year old... just wondered if anyone lives nearby?
Our village is Paulnay.
This is a permanent move, have been out for 6 mths a few years ago so not too scary

Ancienchateau Tue 17-May-16 12:24:46

Good luck with your move SEW360. You might want to create a new thread because, although this board is good for overseas advice, it is pretty quiet from a meet up point of view. There are a few FB groups that are worth looking at though if you are interested.

LillianGish Wed 18-May-16 11:56:27

Please don't move to France just because the property is cheap - I second that. There are cheap areas in the UK would you move to one of those? Ask yourself why not.

Parker231 Wed 18-May-16 13:12:24

OP - what level of French are your DC's at - can they have a conversation with their own age group? What about being able to produce their homework in French - particularly for your elder DC who is likely to have a couple hours homework a night. If you live in a rural area your DC's are probably going to be using the school bus - days are long at French schools , could they cope with this? What's their knowledge of French geography and history - this will help their understanding at school.

Paperthinspider Thu 26-May-16 13:45:27

We live in Brittany with a 6 year old in a local public school and although there are good points to living here, it seems anyone, local and not local, has a hard time running a business, I say that as I've seen restaurants and shops, not owned by English but French (from other areas of France) and other nationalities, close down.
We rent and having been here for nearly a year, I'm glad we didn't buy.
I don't know how easily an older child would learn French, maybe in a bigger town where they are used to non French speaking children arriving in schools would be better.

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