British Optician in Brittany

20 Replies



Hello,  I am interested in your thoughts and opinions regarding eye tests and glasses in France. I am a British expat living in Brittany and for the past 10 years have commuted to the UK to work. I am an optometrist and so working in France was difficult due to differences in the eye care system. Things in France have changed over the past few years and an optician with the correct training can now do an eye test, and as I am fed up with commuting I am considering opening an optician's shop in Brittany, doing eye tests ( within french regulations) and selling glasses and contact lenses.   I have seen several posts on this and other expat forums regarding the difficulties of having an eye test in France with long waiting times for an eye exam with an ophthalmologist and regarding how expensive glasses can be here.   It would be great to hear your thoughts on eye tests and purchasing glasses in France and get some market research from the expat community in Brittany.   Thanks for your help,   Isabel 

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Init 1416140374

Hi Isabel,

                as long as you can comply with the french regs etc, I would say you would make a good business. My, and I think many others problem with the french system in most retail and service industry, is customer service. or lack of it! Which being British you should understand the principle!

Where would you be likely to operate from?

                                                                        Good luck, Ian 

one4all-436374 1416140454

Brittany is approximately the same size as Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset combined...a fact many people forget when talking about this Region. Consequently if you are intending to serve mainly the ex-Pat community, who are spread far and wide,  location would be critical, although perhaps many would be happy to travel. Good luck.

Harry Dresden 1416141903

If yuo have the necessary professional qualifications and can speak French then there is definitely a shortage of opthalamoligistes in all the places I have lived.

Opticians however, can only do eye tests under liimited conditions. 

Kanak 1416149279

Hi Isabel,   I have had some awful experiences with 'vite fait, bien fait' eye tests, and some wonderful experiences from hospital re. the health of my eyes, so I fall in the group of people who deplore the shortage of french professionals, but haven't gone down the road of internet shopping for cheapness. So, as with other businesses, the first thing you must do is find out exactly what is possible under french legislation, and then do the normal analysis of setting-up, cotisations and insurance (loads of threads on this site), and which suppliers will give you a good mark-up on frames. Location is also important if you want a predominantly british clientele. As a customer, I would prefer one properly adjusted pair of specs than an offer of a second pair (who really pays for these?) but I think you may have to invest heavily and wait a long time for a decent return.

Emu-408495 1416152566

As I understand things at the moment you have to visit an opthamologist to get a prescription for glasses.  You then take your prescription to an optician who can then perform an eye test if you should wish, before making up your order for glasses.  An optician will not provide you with an eye test and glasses unless you have an  opthamologist prescription.  I dont know of any opthamologists who run an optician business but perhaps someone out there knows of such a place.  If you have a decent mutual insurance for your health cover then the cost of glasses is not too high unless you pick silly overpriced "designer" frames.  I would doubt if there would be enough expats within a reasonable distance to whetever you choose to locate a business to make it viable.  There will always be a few who complain about all things French and will pledge their support for you but I doubt there would be enough of them to keep a British Optician in business.

rance-781573 1416154017

Emu whilst agreeing with your points in general, for a few years now there are some opticians who can test your eyesight and prescribe glasses. You would have to ring round to find out which opticians offer this service but of course, they won't give you the full works, so to speak, that an opthomologiste can offer.

To the OP, you will have mountains of hoops to jump through, totally fluent French for certain, proving to the neccessary people you are fully qualified to French standards, then you will have to work with CPAM and other facilities. The best of luck, I doubt it will be easy but manageable, well who knows?

icap45 1416160290


Thanks to all of you for your thoughts.


I'm also fluent in French and married to a native so the business side of things is a bit easier. I would aim to cater for the expat community but also for the French. I already have authorisation to work in France as an optician.


In the UK we would generally go the optician to have an eye exam. This would be performed by an optometrist (me) who would give you a prescription for glasses and or contact lenses. If there was a problem with the eye health the optometrist would refer you to see an ophthalmologist normally at a hospital clinic.


In France the eye exam is generally done by the ophthalmologist at his clinic, who would issue you with a glasses prescription and then you would go to the Dispensing Optician to buy glasses. In general the waiting time to get a routine appointment with an ophthalmologist in Brittany is 6-12 months depending on the region, there are just not enough ophthalmologists in France. The profession of Optometrist is not well known in France but does exist. There are several universities in France which teach it, but it is not a recognised profession by the department of health. There is an Association of Optometrists in France, of which I am a member. Their website has lots of useful information, in french. There is a health bill being put forward at the moment which is asking for Optometry to become a recognised profession to try and ease waiting times for eye examinations. But in true French style this has been 'en attente' for the past couple of years! 


An 'opticien optometriste' can do a sight test in France and it's perfectly legal as long as nothing medical is done, ie putting drops in eyes. But the majority of optician's in France are dispensing opticians and not optometrists so do not do sight tests. 

Since 2007 you can get your glasses reimbursed by the social security and your mutuelle as long as you have had an eye exam at the ophthalmologist within the last 3 years. For example Jan 2010 eye exam with ophthalmologist, buy specs, reimbursed. Jan 2012 you feel a change in vision so go to the optometrist rather than waiting for an ophthalmologist appointment , a new glasses prescription is issued and you can still be reimbursed by the social security and mutuelle.

Also I know of several people who have had optometrist prescription from France or UK countersigned by their French GP and then reimbursement under the French system becomes possible.

If you are not concerned by claiming back money from your mutuelle you can have an eye exam anywhere and buy glasses in France. Social security reimbursements for adults are rarely more than 5€.

Of course you can order glasses on the Internet without having any prescription but not everyone wishes to do this so I know that a lot of expats wait to go back to the UK to have an eye exam there and buy glasses.


Looking forward to hearing more of your opinions. 

canadienne-439650 1416871919


Hi icap45 !

I sent a message a few weeks ago about eye issues, and would be thrilled to find an optometrist who could help me manage between ophthalmologist appointments.  Presently in Toronto, I see my optometrist every six months, and she checks my vision and the progress of my Salzmann's Nodules (which she can see through her equipment).  When I have problems with dry eyes between the scheduled appointments, I pop in to see her, sometimes a few days a week until it is fixed. When the nodules get to the point of needing to be removed, she refers me to the ophthalmologist.  The optometrist's care keeps me out of the ophthalmologist's office more often than not!

We will be moving next summer, I think, so I'm very interested in where you might be setting up shop, as my eyes are a contributing factor to us moving to the better climate of Brittany!


La Pirouaie-386472 1416903828

When I worked for a group of opticians in the UK we had an associate in the Dordogne. Her details are here :

It might be worth contacting her to discuss the pros and cons.

Murfy 1451860133

Was just wondering if you ever set up in Brittany?

valbonne-home 1451861464

Seems like you are trying to drum up business already with your small font.

As most of the Brits are old up there in Brittany, you should do good business. Good luck

sabc15-427548 1451895766

Hey,I am not old only 72yrs.sabc15.

bretonlion 1451902459


Just logged in and had to "touch a eye" to do it .. strange ..

Still where are you in Brittany ..or have I missed reading that bit ..

Here in the Josselin / Ploermel / Pontivy triangle .. getting eye tests for diabetics is at least a six months wait at Noyal Pontivy Hospital .. it was less .. but has now got very busy there .. .. Ploermel about a year if you are lucky ..

There have been discussions about how many expats go back to the UK to get there eyes etc checked .. but I myself would like to be able to get it all done here ..



countrydweller 1451908787

Do not forget that if you have an S1  then you can get uk nhs treatment on the same basis as if you were uk resident

strawberry lips 1451910424

I beleive I have already had eye tests by yourself, I was so peased as you picked up something very relevant that had not been identified in the past and was followed up back in France. I hope you do set up in Brittany as I and my family will definitely be one of your customers. I also know alot of other people who would also be pleased to have a good, accessible and accurate optician where you can also but glasses at a reasonable rate. Please let us all know if you achieve this.

strawberry lips 1451910868


I don't think you need worry about JUST the ex-pat community, the French also expect value for money and you certainy provide that!

Frisbest01 1451926232


if you are resident in France and in receipt of an S1 - you can only receive NHS treatment in the UK if you produce an EHIC Card for treatment in the UK (issued by the UK Overseas Healthcare Team) otherwise you will be charged for treatment.

sonnetpete 1451929188

If you're wondering what happened to the original poster :

vichy-445734 1451932133


To far for us to travel 

Hey ho 



icap45 1459250445

Hi All,

Sorry for the late reply ......

Yes Murphy I did manage to set up in Brittany.

strawberry lips, That's great! I've already come across a few people here in France that I've already done a sight test for! I would be more than happy to see you and your family again!

Iris Centre de Vision is now open in Dinan, see angloinfo directory for more details.


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