CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

My advice for people moving to France is...

PUBLISHED: 12:45 03 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:55 08 November 2017

Enjoying life in France © Horsche / Thinkstockphotos

Enjoying life in France © Horsche / Thinkstockphotos


From tips on buying the right property to integrating with the locals, eight expats who have already moved to France share their advice for those of you thinking of making the move

1. Embrace your new life in France and throw yourself into the local community

Chris Radford retired to Creuse in 2006, with wife Brenda.

“Moving to a whole new place can be difficult, especially in retirement. But over the past 11 years, Brenda and I have really integrated with the local community. As soon as we arrived, we dived into the local social life. I became secretary of the local club ‘de troisième âge’ for two years (as no one else wanted to do it!) and we join in with communal meals, enjoy local dances and always make sure we attend local fêtes.

Brenda goes to a French country dancing club every week, despite struggling with the language, and we enjoy a certain notoriety locally as we are both cyclists and ride our tandem every Sunday. Sadly, not everyone seems able to integrate or to build a full life over here, which is a shame. I’d say to anyone thinking of making the move, make sure you don’t cling on to your old customs. You’ve chosen a new culture, so jump in and enjoy!”


Don’t miss

How to quickly integrate into French life

Why is it important to make friends with your neighbours?


2. Rent before you buy

Micala and Paul Wilkes moved to Deux-Sèvres in 2012.

“As well as keeping the focus on our businesses in the early days, we also learned a lot about what we were prepared to put up with in a house, and what we couldn’t cope with before we bought. So we really knew what to look for when the time came. We found our first rental property on a forum, and rented two different houses over a period of four years before buying the property in which we now live. One of the rentals we lived in had a ‘waterfall’ cascading down one of the chimneys, and a boiler that could only heat the house to 11°C. Another had electric heating – which we found to be very expensive.

Learning through experience as we did meant that when we did purchase, we chose something smaller that we could keep warm and maintain more easily. We also made sure we checked out internet connection speeds, and chose a property near to a main road so that Paul could easily get to his jobs. We’d always recommend people try before they buy.”

3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Gillian and Ray Harvey bought a house in France in 2009 but the subsequently relocated from a small village to a nearby town in Haute-Vienne.

“We began our house hunt in a small, pretty town. However, searching for the ‘right’ property, we chose size over location and ended up 20km away in a remote village. Seduced by the idea of a large barn and 5,000m² of garden, we signed on the dotted line without a second thought. Unfortunately, having 5,000km of garden wasn’t as wonderful as envisaged. Having purchased the property in the April, we arrived in the July to find 5-foot weeds crossing the entirety of the garden and all over the shingled drive!

Once a neighbour had mown down the weeds with his tractor, maintaining the garden became laborious. Worse, while beautiful, the garden was far bigger than we’d ever need – even though we lived in the property for three years, there are still corners on which we have probably never set foot. We also began to feel a bit lonely in our remote location. After a few years, we sold up and bought a different property in a local town. This time we chose a more modest property with 100 metres of garden – more than adequate for our children to play in and much easier to maintain.”


Don’t miss

I wish I’d known that before buying my French property

5 things to consider before buying a rural retreat in France


4. Remember that running a chambres d’hôtes is a lot of work

Laura and Paul Blew run a chambres d’hôtes in Peyrat-le-Château in Haute-Vienne.

“Even though Laura and I had done our research – with the help of Laura’s parents who already live in France – we still found ourselves wading through a lot of bureaucracy when we arrived. We now know that some of the websites and forums don’t necessarily have accurate information on them. In fact, in France, even the official channels can be inconsistent.

We opened our chambres d’hôtes in 2014, so 2017 will be our fourth season, and we feel a lot more confident about everything. The biggest problem a lot of new proprietors face is underestimating how much work actually goes into running a B&B. In peak season, you are working 12-hour days, seven days a week. It’s easy to run yourself ragged trying to meet individual guests’ demands, but I’d recommend deciding on the service you are offering, the breakfast menu and the house rules and sticking to them. Being upfront about what you expect means that you can provide a good service without spreading yourself too thin. We love our life in France, and our B&B is doing very well, but it was a steep learning curve at the start.”

5. Make an effort to integrate with the community

Brenda Cook lives in Croisilles, Pas-de-Calais

“When we moved to France, we were determined to become part of the community so we try to join in as much as possible. We always go to the commemorations for Armistice Day and VE Day. It is thanks to those men who gave their lives that we can enjoy a happy retirement in France.

The village committee organises outings and social events such as the fête des voisins and the Concours des Maisons Fleuries (floral garden display competition) and we attend as many as we can. We are the only native English speakers in the village and we have run English workshops with various themes. We talk about anything and everything and it’s non-stop laughter. I have also been to the school on several occasions and really enjoy introducing them to English culture and singing with them. There are lots of associations locally and so I have joined a choir, a keep-fit class and a line dancing group – things I have done in England so the only difference is the language. In short, if you make an effort to join in, you will be welcome and accepted. Of course, to be able to do these activities you have to speak some French, but it doesn’t have to be perfect and they really appreciate the effort. The more you use the language, the easier it becomes.

6. Don’t expect it to be like the movies

Annette Morris moved to France on her own in 2008, she now lives near Montpellier with her new partner Miles.

“I’ve always loved the sun-drenched, laid-back French culture portrayed in the movies, and have enjoyed family holidays in the country for as long as I can remember. As a fluent French speaker, when I made the move in 2008 I imagined myself living a similar life to the one I had in the UK – but speaking French, rather than English. I didn’t realise that the difference in our heritage and customs was as vast as it turned out to be.

I remember the first time I walked into the local bar, and it was as if tumbleweed could have blown through! I had to rethink my place in society and the way I perceive myself. I also found it difficult to understand why everything took so long – it took me seven years to get my Carte Vitale (health card) simply because a change of address wasn’t processed properly. It’s taken me a while to adjust, but I love life in rural France now and accept how things are. I often tell people it’s like living in the UK 40 years ago; it’s a rural environment, a slow pace of life. It’s glorious, but it takes a bit of getting used to. Thankfully, my experience hasn’t gone to waste. I now have a job helping expats with their admin, at a company called ‘Renestance’ – in that way I can make the transition easier for others.”


Don’t miss

8 reasons to rent before buying a property in France

This is why we love living in France all year round


7. Find something your children love to do

Jane and Doug Gardner moved to Indre-et-Loire in 1996 with their daughter Laura, then aged 11.

“When we arrived, Laura struggled at first – it was a culture shock. With no English speakers in the local school, although staff did their best, it was very difficult for her. Laura had loved horse riding in the UK, so we found a local club and encouraged her to join up. Despite the language barrier, because she was doing something she loved, she really thrived. The experience helped her to settle in, and also helped with her language acquisition.

As parents, you can’t really get on with life until your children are settled and I think finding something they love to do is a crucial part of that. Laura’s 24 now, and hoping to become a professional showjumper. She still has friends she’s made through the pony club, as well as friends from school and university. Finding the club made all the difference to our new life in France.”

8. Have a housewarming

Alex Phipp via Facebook

“Have a housewarming and invite all the neighbours. Invite them into each room, because otherwise they will stay in the first room you take them in. They will be curious about their new neighbour but keep to themselves unless they know you. But once they have been in your house they think of you as a friend. We didn’t speak much French but invited everyone and they all came. Now we have lots of friends who know who we are and what we are doing. They even pop in with visiting family to show them our house!”

Like this? You might enjoy:

Quiz: Where in France should I live?

11 things to do before you move to France

Ways you can learn French for free

Article by Living France Living France

More from Living in France

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

French cheese doesn’t just have to be saved for the cheeseboard, why not experiment with canapés too?

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now