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Thinking of moving to France

(20 Posts)
Sid77 Wed 29-Jul-15 14:46:53

Vaguely thinking of heading for a more outdoors lifestyle in a warmer climate. We've got 2 boys, nearly 2 and nearly 5 (starting school in september). Would we be mad to go? I'm a SAHP and DP works in financial services. Earns good money, we've got a small mortgage and could sell up and buy a property with holiday lets outright and would then run that as a business. Our concern is the future for our sons. Youth (un)employment, prospects in France for them etc. also fitting into a community, making friends and so on. Does anyone have an experience that they'd care to share? I love to dream, but I think that it will remain a dream!

GraysAnalogy Wed 29-Jul-15 14:48:19

Watching with interest, I've debated this too.

Where abouts were you thinking?

elelfrance Wed 29-Jul-15 14:55:49

Depends on what area you're thinking of. There are an awful lot of holiday rentals in France, so choose carefully where you would buy.
Regarding youth unemployment etc, its very high in lower working-class kind of situations, but not that bad for people in more comfortable situations. And being bilingual will be an absolute definite advantage, a lot moreso than being bilingual in the UK is.
As a british expat, I find we are very easily integrated into the community here (in the Paris region in our case)

Costacoffeeplease Wed 29-Jul-15 15:00:30

I'd do a lot of research on the holiday lets side, there are a lot of high social charges involved, plus you have to be in the right area to really make a go of it

Have a look at laymyhat website and forum, there are lots of people there doing exactly what you're thinking about, they can give it to you straight! Good luck

(By the way, I do something similar, but in the Algarve!)

ThePhoenixRising Wed 29-Jul-15 15:14:19

Do you speak French? I am on a lot of expat FB groups and so many questions people have are down to not speaking French. Those with holiday lets have mixed experiences. Some do OK, but a lot struggle to get bookings, plus have to deal with some proper nightmares caused by guests.

Your children would learn the language and adapt quite quickly. It is often the parents who have more trouble. University is a lot cheaper so if you are within commuting distance of one of the good ones I wouldn't worry about them being disadvantaged. The education system is, from what I can tell, easier to get to grips with the younger they start in it.

What would you do to fit in? The happiest people tend to be, from what I can see, people who have made an effort to learn the language, accept France with its flaws and accept that things are done differently there. Red tape is a bit of a shock for people coming from the UK, but that is just the way it is. People who expect things to be as easy in the UK as far as business stuff is concerned get a shock. Same with food, shops, services etc - it is different in France. Getting things done in August, in fact at any time of the year, might be a challenge. Shops aren't open all the time. Customer service is different (I don't think it is bad, it is just very different).

The culture shock is far higher than people expect it to be, and people get very lonely very quickly if they don't accept that things are done differently, or just mix with other expats.

I think it is a fabulous country. I have lived here most of my adult life, have married and had children here and have my own business here. It's my home. But I think some people have had quite a hard time of it.

Sid77 Wed 29-Jul-15 15:20:45

We're thinking of Brittany or Dordogne-y area and would wait another 2-3 years as DP has some shares that would mature then. Saw an absolutely lovely place for sale - 4 gites and an owners house, woodland, pool, all renovated to a good standard and (so the owners say) a successful business already. Selling for just over £400k in Brittany. Good point about there being a lot of holiday lets around, I think you maybe have to find a niche. And thanks for the point about the youth unemployment ele - and I love the idea of the children being bilingual. I'll have a look at that website costa thanks

Sid77 Wed 29-Jul-15 15:26:04

phoenix thank you - all really interesting points. We don't speak French but would intend to learn over the next couple of years. I think more research into holiday lets is required!

Costacoffeeplease Wed 29-Jul-15 15:29:39

Brittany often doesn't get great weather in summer, not much different to the UK, so that's something else to bear in mind if you're looking at a gite type business

Are you happy with having people in your space all summer? With their kids and different types of parenting? Having people knock on your door at all hours because a bulb has gone, or the loo is blocked or whatever else. Are you going to be doing all the cleaning/laundry of the gites while you watch everyone else enjoying your pool/gardens?

I don't live onsite, I'm 5 minutes drive from my properties, and never even see most of my clients, but I know I couldn't cope with the lack of privacy involved in a gite business

hollypocks Wed 29-Jul-15 15:33:22

As someone who is married to a Frenchman and lived in various parts of the country for the past 14 years, I would really think long and hard before leaving the UK. France is in a very depressed state economically and has high living costs, it has changed a lot over the last decade. Schooling is of a very different ethos to the UK, very negative IMO, and does not equip children with the skills they need to life just how to regurgitate learning. We have our children who are perfectly bilingual in an international school for these reasons. Not trying to be negative but honestly consider long and hard before coming here!

Sid77 Wed 29-Jul-15 18:01:40

Thanks everyone! Really varied experiences and perspectives - thank you

PinkSpottyHat Wed 29-Jul-15 18:06:39

As someone who was taken there to live as a child - don't unless you spend a lot more time there and learn the language first. It's wonderful to holiday in, it's awful to try and integrate. I have never been so miserable in my life.

Booboostwo Wed 29-Jul-15 19:06:09

We moved to France five years ago.

Firstly I think you need to speak French or you will find it very difficult to integrate, especially in a rural area. Villages have a very closed life, it's all about who you know and getting introduced - being the foreigner who does not speak French may leave you alienated.

Secondly, taxes of all kinds are very complicated. You would need to have specialist advise before you bought a property, think about inheritance tax and ensure that your income after tax would be sufficient to live off. Being self-employed in France is a bureaucratic nightmare and very heavily taxed.

Thirdly, while rural primary schools may be fine or even great, by secondary you would probably want your kids to escape the restrictive French educational system. International schools are few and far between outside Paris so you need to take that into account for your relocation.

Finally the hospitality business is quite hard work and may only pay adequate returns if you do all the business, e.g. all the cleaning, sheet changing, repairs, maintenance, etc. Make sure that if you buy a bite business it is financially viable.

ThePhoenixRising Wed 29-Jul-15 19:35:48

Booboo I think we know each other on some of the groups smile

I agree for secondary schools - the education system can be great for those who fit into the mould, but I am already thinking, ten years down the line, of plan Bs for collège and lycée.

OP I would make learning French an absolute priority, plenty of trips over to the areas that interest you, and explore some other areas too. Maybe think about what skills you have that you could re-use over there.

If it really is your dream and you do everything to help yourself (ie learn French, get good advice and research properly) then do it.

Booboostwo Wed 29-Jul-15 19:56:14

ThePhoenix I'm on some great FB groups, probably through there? I have an unpronounceable Greek name in RL!

DD is only in moyene section but we are already thinking of moving for her secondaire! Her pre-school/primary is great but even private choices for secondary school her in the countryside are dire.

AgathaF Wed 29-Jul-15 20:18:12

We have a holiday gite in Brittany. We love it and use it a lot, but struggle to get many bookings for it. Partly because it is rural, partly because in the last few years, the area has become swamped with holiday lets, so there is lots of choice for people. So although a few years ago, we were booked pretty much throughout the summer weeks, this is no longer the case, and others with gites have told me the same thing.

Brittany is a beautiful part of France, but the winters are hard - cold and very damp mostly. Many, many expats become quite depressed during the winter months especially as they tend to become quite isolated. The Dordogne is also beautiful, but again swamped with gites/holiday lets, so I wouldn't rely on a gite business to give you a decent quality of living.

You definitely need to speak good french to live here comfortably, not just 'restaurant french'.

Houses also tend to take quite a while to sell in France, so if you did decide that you'd made a mistake, it could be quite a long time before you could sell and return to the UK. If you do decide to do it, is there any way that you could retain a property in the UK to return to if necessary?

Sid77 Thu 30-Jul-15 10:54:11

Sorry I disappeared yesterday but thanks for all of your comments - it's really invaluable when you're at the day dreaming stage!

Anglaise1 Sun 02-Aug-15 10:48:50

I gave up my job and moved to Brittany to run a gite business 13 years ago. My daughter was 18 months old and since then I've had a son. I've never regretted it. I spoke French before moving out here which made things a lot easier but there are many things you need to think about, which have been highlighted by other posters. Also are you sure you can stand living and working with your DH all the time? My relationship didn't survive.
The social charges are heavy here, running gites can be expensive if you want to maintain the standards that people expect nowadays.
Regarding Brittany, the letting season (for UK guests and out of season for French guests) can be longer than the Dordogne because it is easier and quicker to get here.
My kids are both in public school and very happy. It doesn't suit everyone, you fit the system rather than the system fitting you. But some subjects, such as maths are taught to a much higher level than in the UK.
You have to be very open and turn a blind eye to a lot of things when you live on site. It can be very pleasant, equally it can be quite stressful depending on the guests. And now with review sites like Trip Advisor who can make or break your business you have to be very diplomatic about everything.
I'm very glad that I live near a large town like Rennes because living and working in the French countryside can be difficult in the winter. I only live 5kms from the nearest village where my children go to school but it can get very annoying having to take the car whenever I want to go anywhere (apart from when I go running).
Definitely not a decision to make lightly and if and when you do go to visit gite businesses make sure you see proof of their income! Good luck.

jenpetronus Sun 02-Aug-15 20:35:28

Sorry, I've come a bit late to this discussion.
I'm in Brittany too, near Vannes & have been here almost twelve years, and run our gite for nearly ten. DS1 was two when we arrived, DS2 born here in 2008.
There have been some excellent points made already about speaking the language, being prepared for endless paperwork & red tape & checking the area well (I would not, for anything, want to be any more isolated than I am at the minute & we are in a village within walking distance of school & ten minutes drive from Vannes - I still feel cut off in the winter)
That all said, there are many, many plus points to balance the negatives. Both my boys are totally bilingual, DS1 now does German, Latin & Spanish at school (as well as English & French) they have both had opportunities & freedom way above anything I could have hoped for in the UK. The gite does very well - on average 20-30 weeks a year & has allowed me to live a very pleasant life & we live in a fabulous home which we could never have achieved mortgage free in the UK.
Only you know what you want and what makes you happy. Compare all arguments for & against & come & have a good look round - in the winter!
Please pm me or ask away if you have any questions

Anglaise1 Sun 02-Aug-15 21:11:33

Yes, my 3 gites are rented for around 30 weeks a year. It is possible (in Brittany at least!). But you really need to be mortgage free to make a living (I'm not, so teach English as well. But it is very enjoyable and gets me out in the winter months!).

Summergarden Wed 05-Aug-15 10:13:07

The owners of the gite we are staying in now also rent out the gite to foreign workers in the low season for months at a time, Poles mainly, and have found this works well.

Perhaps approach it from the stance of what holidaymakers are looking for to decide your target market. For instance, I was looking for better weather than the UK to make it worth the extra travelling, so drove further to the Vendee rather than Brittany to increase the odds of sunshine. We also wanted a gite with pool on site (shared with other gites was fine), or easy walking distance to shared community pool, plus kids playground equipment on site. This one is perfect with kids playhouse, trampoline, swing and slide.

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