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Who can talk to me about the pros and cons of moving to France?(27 Posts)
I have been considering this for a while as I have been in London for ages and feel like having a break from the UK. It's not that I am in anyway against the UK - I had a fab time at uni here, love the work opportunities, the diversity, am grateful for things like the NHS etc, would miss friends and the scattering of family that I have here, but at the same time I find the weather almost intolerable (constant heating on all the time makes my bills astronomical) I find suburban areas too quiet and provincial as a city person yet London rents are really not affordable, and I am quite nomadic by nature so am not sure if I can settle here forever.
Speaking to my mother the other night she thought it might be an idea to relocate to France at some point, something I have occasionally discussed. She has a very high opinion of the French education system at all levels. I know the British one better but quite like the idea of dc's being educated in French and then I can speak English/Moroccan dialect at home. I am thinking of doing a part time masters degree while the dc's are young, I am not sure what the fees are like these days but obviously gone up a lot over here. My French is a bit rusty but I do understand it to a high level.
How did you MNers who have lived/are living in France settle in? I'm interested in job opportunities, experiences of uni, how much one can get renting/buying property wise, social life, everything really. Did you/your dc's make friends/ settle into the community easily? Obviously my experience will be slightly different from an English person (look obviously of Maghrebi origin) and as former colonised we get treated slightly differently if you see what I mean. I am very westernised though and from a fairly wealthy background (although am not rolling in money myself!) so that changes things somewhat. Still, would love to hear all your thoughts.
I have family living in France, and my DD did her uni internship in Paris.
I think that to understand the French it's good to remember that they believe that France and French culture is the centre of civilisation. In no particular order: their education is very good, telly not good, property is easy to let/rent and hard to buy/sell, beaurocracy is everywhere, the roads and traffic (outside of Paris) are very good compared to UK, they like children and other French people. You being of Moroccan descent means that you know something about French culture anyway, and if you speak the language well that's a good start.
The one thing that may not be so easy is getting work, although it may be easier if you are an EU citizen. You will find Paris as expensive at London, I'm afraid. Commuting for work from outlying towns where property is cheaper might suit you better since the train services are good and schools similar in most areas.
I have been in France for 15 years now and I love it. Uni is about 300/year for a masters in my nearest city. We bought a big old house for 150 000 a couple of years ago (no deposit, 25 year mortgage, 3.5%). I teach and earn 1800/month (as does DH). Both DCs were born here and speak French and English.
As you have Arabic origins, you will face discrimination , as will your DCs at school .
If the weather gets you down then make sure you head for one of the more southern cities. Bordeaux or Toulouse are cheaper than Paris but with lots going on.
Your job chances are helped greatly by the fact you speak French, but will obviously depend on your qualifications.
We had no problems settling into the community, but it took time, and alot of effort. Social life here is different in that it revolves alot around family rather than friends. We are in rural France though so I imangine city living would be different.
Thanks for all the replies so far, very interesting.
Much as I imagined really. I was thinking south of France as well.
Is there still marked discrimination, do you think? I don't mind so much for myself but I would be very worried with regard to the dcs.
I am really impressed by the cheap uni fees.
There is definately still a big problem with discrimination in certain sectors of society - just look at the support the national front are getting for the upcoming elections.
My advice would be to stick to the private school system. It is nominally Catholic but they don't insist on that at all. Fees are very small and in our experience any hint of discimination is stamped on very quickly.
"Speaking to my mother the other night she thought it might be an idea to relocate to France at some point, something I have occasionally discussed. She has a very high opinion of the French education system at all levels."
I wouldn't rely on your mother's opinion of the French education system.
French education is extremely academic, there is very little focus on the arts, and the needs of the child are rarely taken into account. The school day is very long 8 to 4 or 6. The holidays are currently longer than in the UK, but that is changing over the next few years. I'm not happy with the current situation, but I wouldn't be happy with my kids being in British schools either.
If the London weather gets you down, don't move to Paris, as it is similar. Head to the South.
IMO French education system is fine for able/bright kids and not so good for the ones that struggle. It's also very academic and not much time is devoted to sports or arts-that would be something that you would need to organize as an extra-curricular activity.
Re: discrimination, I think it does without a doubt exist, but I don't think on the school level, tbh. We lived in the 1st arr and now in the 12th and in all schools DC attended there were a good proportion of children of Arabic descent and I personally have never witnessed/heard anything that would make me think they were ostracised/bullied or ignored by teachers etc.
Paris is expensive, we pay over 2100 euros for a 86 sq m flat. OTOH rents are much more secure, the landlord cannot just kick you out with only a few weeks notice.
There are some lovely towns and cities in the south, Aix en Provence (being the most expensive), Avignon, Montpellier, Toulon etc.
The french curriculum in schools is dull and grey. What is studied by pupils is decided at government level and passed down. Even private schools have to comply.
But private school are far cheaper than in the UK.
France is no longeer any cheaper to live in than the UK.
If your French is not fluent, you will not find work easily, and the unemployment rate is still high.
I am sorry to say you will face discrimination - the police openly harrassed French-Africans in thr streets regularly where we lived (Paris) and DH was hassled by the Douanes when we travelled (he is of Mediterranean origin, not Arab, but they obviously thought he was the way they spoke to him- first in French, then in Arabic!!)
The bureaucracy is also a headache...
I would never live there again, in fact haven't been back in 7 years now.
Actually, the French curriculum does not serve the needs of very bright children well - it is not demanding enough or in the right way. The demands of the French system stem largely from trying to learn using outdated and inefficient teaching methods rather than from the innate difficulty of the concepts and skills the teachers are attempting to impart.
The teaching methods are evolving slowly, but it's still very heavily based on the Maths/French/Hist-Geo trinity.
We moved to the south of France 18 months ago and there are many advantages and disadvantages.
We live in a rural area but it is much better serviced and lively than the equivalent rural area in the UK. People are friendly in a Mediterranean sort of way, i.e. there is a lot of outdoors life but you make friends through friends, you need to be introduced to other people and then it's a lot easier to participate in the community life (which is very lively, our village of 270 people holds an annual 3 day fete!!!).
Social services are very well funded, for example health care is extremely well funded and you will never be delayed/refused treatment on cost grounds. However, doctors are very paternalistic so you have to get used to a different way of doing things. Anything to do with the state is extremely bureaucratic so you need to either be patient or find a way around the bureaucracy (like all bureaucratic countries those in the know tend to simply by-pass the rules!).
Some aspects of life in France are a lot more expenssive than the UK, others are not. Rents are low, childcare is massively subsidised, but supermarkets and shopping in general is much more expensive for poor quality products.
Starting your own business is a nightmare of bureaucratic requirements, barriers to entry and enormous social contributions. Being salaried is altogether easier.
"The teaching methods are evolving slowly." AFAIU, the Ministry of Education sends missives to teachers telling them what new methods to use, but provides no training and does not verify whether or not the teachers have the underlying skills that the new methods require.
The methods are evolving more in the sense that the new teachers are being told to be more centred around the pupils. But they have dispensed with the year of training so it's unlikely the new teachers are being taught much at all really.
It is, IME, immensely difficult for French teachers to even conceive of their being alternative ways to teach, never having encountered any .
I'm a teacher here (France) as I'd DH. I had a British education, and he grew up in France. We both have very very different approaches to teaching despite having been to uni together and then done the same training as each other. While doing our training we had to study the evolution of teaching methods since the early 40's and it's swings and roundabouts. The biggest shift in languages is moving away from lessons planned around grammar to lessons planned around communicating in "authentic" situations. The results IMO is that kids are not as good at languages as they were say 10 years ago (when there was more focus on structure and grammar).
I think one of the biggest differences in France is that its very difficult to "get rid of" a bad teacher; once you're in the system, unless you hit/abuse a child, it takes a long long time to be forcefully removed from the job (before losing your job you are moved to a different school and re-trained, this can take years). It's one of the attractions of the job: security (it's why I joined - not to become a bad teacher obviously, but to know that unless I am really crap, then I'll have a job). There isn't enough encouragement to be an outstanding teacher, that is a huge issue IMO.
The language-teaching issue is very problematic, I agree. In the past there was probably too much focus on grammar, literature and the written word at the expense of authentic communication. But unless more resources (time as much as anything) are available, the gain in one is the loss of the other.
As a child I had teachers trained in France (teaching in French) as well as teachers trained in England (teaching in English), and my DD is in a similar situation, albeit at a younger age than I was. It's very much same-old, same-old... English teachers try to make the subjects come alive and are keen to innovate (not always successfully!), French teachers cannot understand why anything would ever need to change and are convinced that nothing useful is being learned unless it is difficult for the pupils to achieve it!
"There isn't enough encouragement to be an outstanding teacher, that is a huge issue IMO."
There's barely a career structure - that's a pretty good deterrent to making any sort of effort in any job!
OK, I think I'm pretty much decided against this one now!
Thanks for all the replies, very very helpful!
Bonsoir you seem very clued up, just as a matter of interest why did you say not to rely on my mother's opinion? Obviously hers is only one point of view but am just wondering why you said that in particular - because it may be outmoded?
Sounds like discrimination is still around so it'll be a no no to this one I think. Plus the fact that I would have to brush up on my French, which now has a weird Anglo-Moroccan accent...
Amsterdam's another possibility, but I guess that needs a new thread.