The French culture and way of life is all part of the big attraction. Here are our 5 tips for making the most of it and integrating into your community
1. Get involved in local events
Depending on the size of your community, there will usually be a number of organised social activities throughout the year, from a summer festival to bingo nights. These events are the perfect way to meet and chat to your neighbours in an informal setting. Find out when the markets take place – they are a great place to meet people in your community, practise your French and find out more about local produce and delicacies.
2. Start a new hobby
For many, starting a new life in France is the perfect time to start a new hobby, and can be an excellent way to make friends and improve your French. If your language level is limited at first, sporting or craft activities are ideal. Becky Brown moved to a small village in Tarn-et-Garonne in 2003 with her family, where they have made every effort to try something new. “I joined the village choir and my husband joined a local basketball team. Both have social events and meeting regularly with people means we get to practise our French as well as make friends,” says Becky.
3. Prepare for red tape
It’s important to accept that there is a different way of doing things in France and that there will be various bureaucratic hoops to jump through if you want to register your car, open a bank account or start a business. A piece of advice that we hear regularly from expats is to be patient and persevere. It’s worth noting that the French authorities prefer to resolve issues face-to-face so if you’re struggling, make a visit to the relevant office in person.
4. Forge links with your mairie
French mayors have far more responsibility than their British counterparts, and their duties range from organising local childcare to granting planning permission. Karen Blakemore moved to Corrèze with her husband in 2013. Her advice is to drop in at themairieas often as you can: “When you move to France there will be lots of routine information you will require and Madame la Secrétaire will have it all; she will become your new best friend! If she doesn’t have the info, she will ‘know a man who does’.”
5. Keep up to date
Before you relocate, make sure you are up to date with the latest changes regarding health care and inheritance law. New health care rules came into effect in July 2014 which means that visitors to France are advised to take out travel insurance and many British residents living in France should have private medical insurance. Visit www.gov.uk/living-in-france for more information.