Moving to France to setup Yoga Retreat/ Glamping Business

44 Replies
Tom Crew



Hi folks,Looking a bit of advice/input. My wife and I are looking to move to France from the UK to setup and run a Yoga Retreat. In addition, we hope to offer camping/glamping/gite facilities for non-Yoga customers as we won't be running Yoga all the time. We will be targeting the English market.We spent a couple of weeks in the Dordogne last summer and thought it was perfect for our venture as the weather is superb, the house prices are very reasonable, come with land and location is perfect for access to airports of Bergerac, Limoges and Bordeaux.We have a 1 year old daughter, who will be 2 by the time we hope to move, so we need to factor schools into our search and not being too 'cut off'.We are currently in 'box ticking' phase. What do you think of our idea?Does anyone have any experience of doing anything like this?Are there any other areas in France that would be suitable for our venture?Are there things to consider we may have missed?Any advice/help would be most welcome.ThanksTom

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Josephine-Blogger-853338 1480929965

Obviously you realise that holidaying in France as a UK resident, is very different to living and working in France.

The two things you need to research are firstly, the cost of living - there is more to the cost of living than property prices! In the UK, healthcare is "free" or very cheap and houses are expensive. In France, houses are cheap but the cost of healthcare can be very significant e.g. if you run a business in France, expect to pay 40+% of your profits in social security contributions, ie healthcare, pension etc, depending on your business statut. Your social security cotisations entitle you to state healthcare which reimburses approx 70% of non-emergency medical costs (emergencies or long term illnesses are usually covered 100%). The remaining 30% can either be met by you, or you can take out a top up insurance policy to cover some or all of them - so, another expense that you wouldn't have in the UK.

Secondly, you need to research the facts about running a business in France (which as mentioned above is connected to the cost of healthcare). France is not as small-business-friendly as the UK. There are a lot of regulations, various choices to be made where it's important to make the right decision, and even when you have made the right decisions you'll still find more of your 'profit' goes to the state in France than it would in the UK, one way and another. You'd need to jump through hoops to set up a new campsite. Not sure what would be involved in a yoga retreat, you would need to find that out - if yoga is classed as a therapy it may be regulated and you may have to obtain French qualifications.

Child benefits might be another consideration because child allowance as such only starts with the second child in France, although there are certain payments you would receive for the first child.

So there is a lot to look into, hopefully your French is pretty good! if not, it'll soon get better...

I'm sure other posters will have comments about the wisdom of relying on an expat customer base. In the part of France I live in it's not a good idea but I know there are more expats in Dordogneshire, so maybe it is feasible there.

It's possible, but it's not a walk in the park.

alex crowe 1480934084

Hi Tom,

Hopefully it's a good idea, because it's exactly what I'm going to be doing next year. After six years of running a glampsite just south of the river at Lalinde, I'm turning écovallée into a yoga and meditation centre. I'm spending the winter meeting practitioners and crystallising how it will all work. I haven't resolved the English/French dilemma. Certainly in the future, I will need more French guests. (This year has been very bad for visitors, for several reasons, including kickball contest, the Olympics, good weather in the north of France, Airbnb etc. And if Brexit goes ahead, followed by a Le Pen presidency, I think visitors from the UK will be few and far between.

At the moment, though, that's all speculation.

I'm guessing you're about 40. I was the same when I moved out here in 2007, to set up a glampsite. If I had known how much it would cost me, financially and emotionally, I would not have chosen the Dordogne – and probably not even France – but here I am. Now only slightly behind where I thought I was 10 years ago.

To help people like you, I documented the whole experience in a blog. This post might be a good starting point. If you do decide on this area, you will have to start thinking in decades instead of weeks. It's not unspoilt without very good reasons. (Which change every second Thursday, just to keep you on your toes.)

Get in touch if you want to talk about any of this. I'm always happy to help.


Tom Crew 1480950711

Thanks so much guys for taking the time to reply to my post. You have given us some food for thought and we'll continue to research etc etc. Lot of risk as you say, Brexit etc. I wish one could rent a place and try it out for a year first but hey! 

Bit more info, my wife has international yoga qualifications so she can teach all over the world. Also, we were going to rent our house in Liverpool so we would have money coming in from that and from a business my wife runs here so it wouldn't be as stressful as it could be but still.... always a risk.

Alex, what's your email address?

PS We're both mid 30s.

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1480952428

"would have money coming in from .... a business my wife runs here"

Careful with that. If you live/are tax resident in France and you run your own business from home, it has to be registered in France in some way, shape or form. There are various options and it depends on the structure of the UK business, but what you are not allowed to do is live here and physically run your business here, but not pay cotisations to France on the income,

Otherwise we'd all live here, register our businesses in the UK and save ourselves a fortune in cotisations ;-)

But, if your wife physically returns to the UK to do the work that earns the dosh, no probem. It's where your bum is when you carry out the  business activity that count, simple as that.

cab47 1480952617

you will need deep pockets to buy a suitable property and set it up as a home plus business and then on top comes advertising /  marketing / property tax / insurance etc to for quite some time until income starts to trickle in .

cost of living here is higher than the uk  / social charges to consider 

also Dordogne is already well saturated with all manner of gites / camping etc.

Tom Crew 1480953431

Thanks guys. All good info for us 

alex crowe 1480957668

Hi Tom. My e-address is ecovallee(at)mac(dot)com. I see we've got a few things in common (music, for example). We should definitely talk.

Fish24 1481003135

Do get in touch with Alex and take note of his experience(s) but with living and working in France being the most taxed country in Europe today, do have a Plan B or even C!

Tom Crew 1481009413

Thx fish 24. Alex, I'll be in touch. 

Tom Crew 1481020361

so are there any positives to living in France ? as anyone reading this discussion would be led to believe there are none. 

Tom Crew 1481020451

our main motivation is change of scene, better life style and weather. bear in mind we currently live in Liverpool in a 3 bed semi where it's mostly grey for the year and congestion everywhere

kathyc-99557 1481030586

You'll certainly have a change of scene but you'll find it very quiet here compared with Liverpool. You might find the lifestyle better but you might find it a lot worst - it depends on what you want.

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1481032362

Absolutely, in my view.

There are lots of differences - as you say less crowded, different scenery and maybe different climate depending on whereabouts in France you live, different language, different mindset, different lifestyle, different challenges, different opportunities. Whether these are positives or not, as kathyc says, it's purely a matter of personal preference which suits you best. There are 2 sides to every coin; for everything that's different France/UK, there will be some things that you prefer the UK take on and some things that you prefer the French take on, but you can't cherry pick, you have to choose one or the other, warts and all. On balance France suits me, even though I'm aware that I'd probably be financially better off in the UK. 

Sorry if my posts came across as negative, not meant to, but you did ask people what things you need to consider. Starting a new life even in the same country needs a lot of thought, eg if you moved from Liverpool to Cornwall you would have lots to find out. But moving to Cornwall you would already be familiar with how the legal side of things works, healthcare and tax and setting up a business and things. France is a different country and things work differently, so to me, this seems definitely something you need to consider before you decide to live here. If you sell up and move over without knowing how things work you'll be in a bit of a fog to start with and it'll take you a while to work things out, and then if having worked it out you decide you don't like the system here, then what? Not trying to put you off, just suggesting what research to do before you commit yourself in case you had underestimated the planning that needs to be done first.

Tom Crew 1481032867

Thanks Jo. Good to hear both sides. X

metisse 1481042787

Had to chuckle when you said is there any positives etc ...... running a business here takes up so much time and energy,  its hard sometimes to enjoy the things you came here to enjoy or thought you would enjoy.  To me its a huge gamble to take,  getting people to come to you to do yoga, and then just getting people if there is any shortfall will be hard, and as mentioned the area is saturated with holiday alternatives with new ones starting every year it seems. I would be very wary investing your time and money here and as someone else said,  target areas closer to home. 

Good luck

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1481043950

I guess it's like anything - if it works it's a dream come true, if it goes belly-up it's a nightmare. What price a crystal ball. But - it's a cliché but true - at the end of the day, your biggest regrets are likely to be the things you always wanted to do but never tried. If it's on your bucket list you need to give it a go, either it'll work or it'll get it out of your system for good.

Soon is a good time to go for it, before it starts impacting your little girl's education. Read Alex's excellent blog, work out your plans so you have an escape route should you need it, and best of luck. 

metisse 1481048390

With enough research, and a willingness to accept the hard truths there is no need for a crystal ball.  Research the area and I am willing to bet which ever area of the Dordogne you stab on a map, there are more holiday businesses for sale, or possibly  for sale if the right offer came along , and or  broken dreams than you can shake a stick at, why is that..

Tom Crew 1481048397

Thx peeps. Definitely onto Alex's blogs x

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1481049031

"I am willing to bet which ever area of the Dordogne you stab on a map, there are more holiday businesses for sale, or possibly  for sale if the right offer came along , and or  broken dreams than you can shake a stick at, why is that.

In a lot of cases, because folk didn't do enough research beforehand.

Tom Crew 1481049143

And great to have all this info from your experiences. So thanks. Makes it more real 

R-macon-873470 1481049747

real is also bankruptcy if you only target "brits" who will soon be required to have visas to visit your home/business & they might even have to pay for it.

Tom Crew 1481049893

Scary stuff. Keep the info coming. Ta. Anyone brought up young kids in France? 

metisse 1481057560

That remains one of the positives of living here with children, they learn a second language, gain a certain confidence, a plus that can never be underestimated.  It in many cases takes a huge toll on the family to remain here while this happens , but in many cases we, parents have been willing to endure the hardship for the sake of the children in the hope this will benefit them in the future. My eldest son is now studying abroad having picked up a third language, but  he is quite adamant he will never return here to work having seen and experienced how other countries business wise,  leave France standing still,  and the local friends he grew up with are so narrow minded now in their views, outlook and expectations.  The other English families here at the time my and their children were at school together,  have all moved back to the uk or beyond. The last family we keep in contact are making plans to leave France and their eldest daughter, nineteen has just secured a job back in the Uk and loving it, will she rush back here I doubt it.  Please take on board the comments expressed here the one's you agree with,  and want to read and the others, come with your eyes wide open and expect it to be much harder than you could ever imagine, if and only if,  you are happy to put yourselves through this,  cross the channel..

chèvrefeuille 1481058728

It takes all sorts. I was staying with relations last week, their children are all bilingual, have lived in France all their lives but know England well yet would never consider living and working in Britain. They are French and appreciate what this country can offer them. It's not all doom and gloom, that's just a personal opinion even if it is based on first hand experience.

Tom Crew 1481098445

What about other areas? Did any of you consider other parts of France further east or south? And why dordogne? We're probably going to take a road trip next year and visit as much as we can 

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1481103460

Why Dordogne indeed? You said you liked it.

France is immensely varied in terms of scenery, culture, lifestyle, economy, climate, food, accent, everything really.

If you really think targeting expats exclusively is a good idea, Dordogneshire is the obvious choice because, to make a very sweeping statement, it's probably the area Brits know best/like best/visit most/feel most comfortable in. Next popular with Brits is probably Brittany. Dordogne and Brittany are very different places.

But it has to be your personal choice. Nobody can tell you which bit of France you like best!

chèvrefeuille 1481106509

My observation regarding camping/glamping sites is that the successful ones seem to be located near to a separate tourist attraction. The sea is an obvious example but so are lakes, significant historical towns and buildings and leisure activities. Their may be a small number of British tourists who are searching for a glampsite with added yoga in the back of beyond but are they enough to build a business plan around? Personally I would look at the campsite in a viable location option as my main focus and make it appeal to international guests then offer the yoga as a specialist sideline. You might also need to be prepared to 'hit the road' during the off season months and take your yoga knowledge and experience to where the demand and British customers are located.

Tom Crew 1481107610

Thanks. Just to clarify our main business idea is a yoga retreat. The glamping thing/ additional accommodation is something secondary and may not even be necessary. Yoga is becoming increasingly more popular and there are many many  yoga enthusiasts seeking a weekend/week away to practice. Out of the UK in pleasant surroundings. Thx 

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1481112962

Well if you're hoping to get Brits coming for weekends you need to be near an airport, and preferably an airport with year-round flights if you want customers all year. So that limits things a bit. Folks aren't going to want a 10+ hour drive in each direction for a weekend - they'd need another yoga session to de-stress when they get back home :-)

forestgump 1481143860

Hi Tom,

It is fair to say that there will always be a lot of negative viewpoints from those of us who live here and try and make a living here. It is not easy....... and with french taxes to consider and the lack of UK holidaymakers these days the situation can be far from "living the dream". On the plus side for your family I can confirm the following - the Dordogne is a wonderful place to live and work, the french are also fantastic (advanced language skills required - please forget holiday french!) and the culture is laid back, inclusive and a real joy on the whole. We have family here who moved here with young children and they are now bilingual and very happy with their lives here. The very hard facts of earning a living here are unavoidable however. With super "pre move" marketing, website, facebook and advertising on specialist sites you will give yourself the best chance of hitting the ground running. That and having a significant financial buffer to support yourselves for a year or two whilst you get established....

The largest french Buddhist community is based near Plazac, close to where we are. Perhaps this is an avenue for you to pursue? Also... I play in a number of bands and so I know the restaurants have seen precious few UK holidaymakers, but the campsites are busy - another avenue for you - especially the dutch market. If you want to come down and chat, I would love to take your booking for one of our gites! ;-) Only joking.... or maybe not.... Suggestion for you...Why not run a course down here and use our gite complex (with hot tubs) to see what interest there is for your idea? If you get them up and running whilst being in the UK and they are successful, then you will stand a good chance of continuing when you move here. Seriously though, that is what I would do if I were you - risk paying for one weeks rentals on 3 houses rather than risk your entire life savings. Yes.... I used to be a salesman! Good Luck Tom, PM me for anything you want to know OK?

Tom Crew 1481180059

Hi Simon. Exactly what we've been discussing over the past few days. What's your email address? Link to your website? We holidayed near you last year. Thx 

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1481186133

Back to the boring stuff Tom - if you do this, which sounds an excellent idea, then to cover your back you need to inform HMRC in advance and get the official paperwork to allow you to legally operate in France without being a registered business here. Since your wife is already working in the same sector in the UK there should be no problem with this, they will issue you with a "portable health document" to confirm that you are covered by UK social security and are therefore exempted from joining the French system. Even if it's only for a month you should do this. Simon will know his commune and his mayor, but most mayors keep a close eye on these things and if a new business comes to their attention they will check up, especially if it involves members of the public. It's the mayor's responsibility to ensure nobody in his commune is flouting health and safety or other regulations, and no mayor wants bad newspaper publicity for his commune.

Tom Crew 1481186239

Thanks Jo. 

Ruth-F-879823 1481273314

Hi Tom and everyone else,

Me and my husband did what you're thinking of doing and rented out our house in England to pay for living out here. As long as you leave a door open to go back if you need to, why not just make the move! No reason you need to make a 'forever' decision. Of course there are some downsides, but so many amazing things that outweigh those. Swimming in the river, sitting outside for dinner every night in the summer, the beautiful markets filled with organic vegetables, the friendly people, that surprise day in January when you can sit outside in a T-shirt, the fresh air..... I could go on.

We're also musicians in our mid-thirties so we have a few things in common. PM me at ruth8280-at-hotmail-dot-com.

Tom Crew 1481273536

Hi Ruth. Great comments, I'll be sure to message you.

alex crowe 1481282048

Hi Ruth - Bizarrely, it was warm enough to have lunch outside yesterday. It's been over 19C twice in the last week. A bit chilly overnight though.

Davey1200-433468 1481299796

France is a deep moneypit, with more failures than successful business openings.

Josephine-Blogger-853338 1481303748

Well Davey it's easier to fail than to succeed and that's a fact.

In the UK you can often do well just by being good at what you do and providing a good service. Here that isn't always enough. To run a successful business here you need to be good at the business side too. You can be the best in the business and have tons of happy customers but if you don't understand how the nuts and bolts of your business work, the tax and the cotisations and what's possible and what's not possible, and what is possible but not right for your business, it can end in tears.

fabouche 1481312255

Well Josephine you really do have to be good at business in UK

unless you are some kind of super star with brilliant PR.

Nothing is exactly easy!
However on a bright note I have to say that I have more bookings at this

stage of the year than ever before.

It proves that everyone looks forward to a great holiday ....

And, that our region is still popular.

metisse 1481382702

So Tom, you have had a good amount of replies what have you taken from the comments... Do you still think its for you. 

Tom Crew 1481382939

Oh yeah baby. It's on. Big thanks to everyone who added to the discussion.  The pros outweigh the cons. More likely to do what Ruth did and try and rent somewhere off season. Just formulating our plan. 

Tom Crew 1481538016

simon, what's your email address so i can PM you

LIZZIE YOGA 1481539503

Hi All,

I'm Lizzie Tom's other 1/2. Really appreciate so many people commenting and sharing their mixed views, experiences and opinions. It has certainly helped us to formulate some thoughts and plans. As 'glass is half full' kind of people with many life & business skills to bring to this project and experience I have no doubt we will make it happen.

Hope some of you could join us for some Yoga/ Pilates classes when we're sorted :) What a cool experience that would be...from discussion group - face to face meetings.

Really interested in speaking further to Simon and Alex to see if there is potential for us to work together to run a mini Yoga retreat that I can offer to my current UK client base next year. 

I'm sure we'll be on the discussion group again between now and our actual move :)

Many Thanks to all...


Edward-Heavy-981900 1616318430

This is quite an interesting business idea. Hopefully, you'll manage it!

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