I want to move to France, advice please...

28 Replies



Hi all, First I'd like to say what a brilliant and helpful site this is. My Husband and I wish to move to France with our two children within Three Years. The more we look into it, the more exciting it feels. However, I have a few questions and was hoping some of you could Help me. 1) Where would be the most suitable place for an English family of Four to live? We need to be near schools, a town or village, a safe and freindly place, near local amenities, amongst or near an English community (we are learning French at the mo.) and near a bus route maybe. 2) What is the situation with working in France? My Husband is a general labourer/Plasterer and I am a Qualified Travel Agent. (Although I am now a prison Officer, this is not my chosen career path!!) 3) Is it safe? Britain right now is the pits (I've already started a general debate on this subject) Is it realistic to say I can trust my children to go out to play without worrying about what dodgy people they could meet. Could I step outside on a dark evening to walk the dog without getting mugged or battered? 4) Next year in August, my Husband and I are flying to Bordeaux with just a hire car and backpack to look around Poitou-charentes and have a taste of French Life. Are their plenty of b&bs/hotels to stay in? Please help HayleyTiredmum1

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Granny-538866 1163577572

Well, Hayley, just a personal view. Make the move sooner rather than later, the younger the children, the easier the transition will be. Learn as much French as you can and make sure that you have enough money to live on, and/or jobs to come to. You can read on every forum about people running out of money, getting desperate and returning to UK.

In answer to your questions, depending on where you choose to live, France is a much safer country, people are friendly, kids and teenagers are generally well behaved and I have never felt threatened to be out on my own. BUT there are enormous cultural divides and you need to be prepared for them or you may be very disappointed. Younger people often find it very boring here - it isn't, but entertainment (especially in winter) is on a completely different level. Holiday France is very different from France as a permanent home.

There are plenty of B&Bs but near the coast you need to book in summer!

Happy planning!


sjeeves 1163580313

Hi Hayley

We moved out here just over a year ago. We love it and have 2 children ourselves and moved out U.K for some of same reasons. Children here can play freely and you dont need to worry about them so much. We consider ourselves young as we just past 30. Its not like U.k and in winter it is quiet. But that not bad thing as you try do more for your children in evenings. Work wise, i would get your husband registered straight away to be self employed (micro-enterprise) and dont be scared by people saying it cost alot of money charges etc. If you get a decent accountant at 1st they help you out. I know few people didnt register and now they cant get work as not registered and cant afford to register as people told them its expensive. But now they have no money and might have to go back uk to work. Once you registered you can advertise etc. Takes time build a new business up. All places here are safe, we walk our dog last thing at night and its pitch black and you feel safe. Only thing you scared off is dog seeing a animal and running after it.


ninahookins-539365 1163601612


We moved over 4 years ago with 3 children, then 5, 10 and 11. we are in a good village not far from Angouleme which has everything we need.

My 2 big tips would be, rent befor you buy, then you can settle kids at school and make sure you are in the right area. also try and find a commune with no other english families, ours hasn't and its really made us intergrate. We couldn't speak french when we arrived so had to work hard, but its all been worth it

Best of luck, its worth doing, We would never go back




nh627-538848 1163618386

Dear Hayley

We moved to a village just North of Parthenay in August to a pair of houses we had purchased the previous September. We chose that month to allow our daughter aged 6 to complete her academic year in the Uk. It also allowed me to give my employers 7+ months notice of my departure, as should this go "wrong" then we will return to Blighty. We have given ourselves a year to completely renovate two houses and so far we are on schedule, at the year end we will review as a family our options and decide our future.

We chose this area on the advice of an old friend with whom I worked through the 90's in Burgundy. He had spent a year travelling around France before deciding that this particular region had the most to offer in terms of climate and culture although it may fall short in other areas such as employment on balance it offered the most for him and his family.

Certainly the advice offered in all the other postings is excellent but perhaps I would echo the advice that you should firstly look at renting and secondly.try to move here whilst your children are still young, do not put it off for too long. Bon Courage et Bon Chance!

Nigel Hanlon

alicem-540018 1163673826

Hi, although you already have had lots of advice here goes:

Rent in a medium size town first. This should not be more than 400 to 500 euros for a modest house or flat. Go in the winter and that way you can see what both the town and country are like. Many people like the idea of the country, but if both of you are going to work it is much better to be in a town. You will not have time to care for a large property.and there is more work. You could buy an old house in town to do up and sell it on with a profit quite easily; not so easy in the country.

I live in Niort and have seen how safe children are here: World cup final; big screen in the centre of town; families watching, no drunks police take you in straight away! Good luck

suzanne-540672 1163688111

Hi Hayley

Just to say I moved to france 4 years ago when my husband and I split up. I made the decision on the spur of the moment even though I had never been to France and didn't speak any French. I bought a lovely big old stone house in Normandy, which I am now selling as I am living with my partner in the Charente area, Champagne Mouton and we are opening our brand new gites ready for next year. We completed yesterday and are back in Uk to pack. I have always felt much safer in France, can walk my dog at 2 in the morning down my beautiful lane, have lived in a small tent for months at a time back in the beginning and slept in my car and travelled 12,000 miles back and forth across the country. Its gorgeous and so safe and a great place to bring up children. My neighbours in Normandy are wonderful and have 2 samll children who I have grown so fond of. Where I live its peaceful, the children the only 2 in our small hamlet have a bus that picks them up for school and the ammienties are very good int he village and towns 15 minutes away. I am happy to send you details of either areas, both the gites which you are welcome to stay in in the Charente or my house in Normandy should you wish to view that area. I am going to be working with a very reputable property agency so can help you with your search should you need it. Do let me know if you would like any more info but I would say, dont hestate, do it, you will be so glad you did. Suzanne


micheline-540783 1164294123


I agree with all the comments in reply to your questions...I would re-iterate one of the comments...if you want to integrate with the French..try to settle in a non english community..it may be hard at first but if you have the courage to come to France to live then you can overcome every hurdle..my husband had virtually no French three years ago when we arrived..he now works at a French company and enjoys the banter with his colleagues. I would suggest that you don't just come over in the summer...try spending time here in the winter when it rains for days and then see if you like it. The day we bought our house it was torrential rain so it could only get better.

I have never felt safer..don't have a problem walking my dog in the dark ..we have only French neighbours who cannot do enough for us.

The children that we have met are happier, more polite and well behaved and do not put importance on material things.

Think long and hard..investigate thoroughly all aspects and remember that it can be costly if it doesn't work out and you have to return to expensive UK!!!!


T995 1164294741

Choose an area, and spend at least one or two months checking it out. Visit prospective properties at different times of day and have a good check on the neighbours for things like noise, regular fires and, of course, large packs of hunting dogs. In other words, buy a property, as you would in the UK. South of the Loire gets better weather (usually), coastal area's tends to be pricier. And, as said previously avoid any 'Brit Clics'...............

Tiredmum1 1164321937

Hi, Thanks every one who replied to my post, all advice is very much appreciated. We are considering moving to a French community rather than an English community after reading your advice. The only thing holding me back is how would it affect our children. My son is currently 8 and my daughter 6. Obviously a couple of years older by the time we're ready to move. I want to make the transition as easy as poss. for them. They are taking French lessons here in the UK. I would like them to be near other children, French or English. Any advice on this anyone?


micheline-540783 1164360692

Hi, Hayley

You would be surprised how quickly children adapt, they do not have the hang ups which adults have...don't worry about them..as soon as they go to school they will come home bringing their new friends with them and asking to visit their houses...their French will be very good because the younger they are the quicker they pick it up and the French children are eager to learn English.

If you want a good family life this is the place to be...


Gazza-538906 1164483064

For your best interest,

The main question is do you speak french, and understand, if you don't then think twice learn french before you come over?

To work for the french over here you must have what the french worker has, the experience and a good Cv translated in french, with your exams translated to the same as the french, thats done in England.

l have worked for the french for 11 years and once you get your foot in the door its good, but let be assure you your dream can become a night mare within a year your best time to come over is March as the job market is hotting up, the local housing constructers require good people like your husband, if you require any help l have heard of who is whanting what. gazza

sarah bee-544245 1195654841

we moved to the Vienne just over a year ago and although the 1st 6 months were very difficult we wouldn't change a thing. I agree with Nina, move to a community with no other english people as it is much easier to.

my son was 7 at the time and found it hard to start off with but now he is fluent and talks about France as home. our daughter was just 2 but started school in Jan( she was 27 months) and loves it.She too speaks fluently.

when we moved we made a decision not to start a business or run a gite as it wasn't something we'd done in England so why here.

my husband who didn't speak any french started looking for a job, not at all easy like in the uk, before you even start you must register with ASSIDIC and the french job centre(ANPE) and despite visiting almost everyday it took him 3 months to find one, independanley of ANPE

but he has now been there 9 months, speaks good french and actuaally enjoys it but he does work more than 35 hours a week, some things don't change.

winters are quiet and cold but life here is great for you and the children if you want it to be. things are very different but if you except that and the long hours doing paperwork you will be fine.

mail me if you have any questions

good luck

sarah bee

Karen C-542984 1195657444

Hi Hayley,

We moved 15 months ago with our two children then aged 6 and 10. We chose a hamlet with lots of children and that paid off as they were playing with the children after school and at school, so were speaking french very quickly. Neither could speak any french when we arrived and I would say that the best place to learn french is right here - though I appreciate you are trying to give them a helping hand, it isn't necessary. Come sooner rather than later!

It has been good living amongst the french - but it is also important at first, whilst your husband learns french, to be close enough to English communities so that he can work without the worry of a language barrier. We have a friend who is a plasterer and he is always busy and works mostly for the English.

It is safe here and I give my children much more freedom than I ever would have in the UK.

Renting is a good idea, but make sure that you choose the area which you want to live in first as moving the children to another new school a few months into your relocation will be stressful for them. Drive around, explore this beautiful area and keep in mind that if you do prefer the country that it is best to be within a 30 minute drive of a larger town for retail therapy!

Good luck


adw 1501 1195661083

I totally agree with most of what's been said. I would add that its important to join in with their community events, see your Maire and find out when they have the fêtes, champetres etc. and go to them. At first it really does feel as if you are under a giant spoylight, but it does get better. Ask if they have any children clubs your kids could attend and you can help out . We were the first Brits in our area, and now we do all of the above. Another couple moved in about 9 months ago and the locals sometimes make a casual remark that they don't appear to want to integrate. Most important of all, when you arrive anywhere, either renting or buying, it is the custom that you, the newcomer, go round and introduce yourself to the neighbours.

Jim Race-540397 1195662779

I would confirm what was said in the last post - in France it is up to you to go and introduce yourselves to the neighbours. It is something that we had not picked up in the books, but fortunately the chap we bought off told us. Otherwise we would have thought "what a miserable lot!"

Jim (10km south of Angoulême)

Us4-542672 1195686126

Don't worry about there being no English kids, it is more detrimental in the long run for your children to play regularly with English kids when they first arrive.

My parents took me to Spain when I was 5, and both my siblings and myself were all speaking the language coherently within 3 months, and fluent within 6.

We moved here (France) in Aug, kids started school in Sept, 3 months in and they don't speak a great deal of French, though they are settled and coming along well, I can't help but wonder if they would have progressed quicker if there weren't other English kids at their school, whom they play with rather than the French kids...

Kid's seem to adapt far quicker than adults in my experience, particularly in our case. We arrived here expecting the kids to be traumatised, 3 months in it is my partner who is finding it hard, and not the kids!

Also, you mentioned your partner/hubby is a tradesman, please please speak to an English speaking accountant and find out how it works before making any decisions, setting up a business/sole trader in France is very expensive and the taxes are really high. It's not a cheaper place to live, the only thing that is cheaper is council tax and property, everything else is on par with the UK, oh, except the vino of course ;)

clownhair-543128 1195713024

My advice is a follows:

1/ Move to a decent-sized village or town where there is life for your children. Don't be one of those Brits who buys some vast rural spread and then goes mad after 6 months because they never seen another human being. Have you seen 'The Shining'?

2/ Have realisitic expectations for you and your children. Yes, it is easier for kids but still VERY hard. Imagine having to learn Maths, History, Geography. Science etc IN FRENCH.

3/ Don't get to hung up whether they play with English, French or kids of any other nationality. It will all come good in the end

4/ A guy was stabbed by a pair of drunks in our village of 2,600 population last week. Don't imagine that it can't happen.

5/A better than average grasp of French is absolutely KEY to your success. Keep on with the lessons - this should be at the TOP of your list.

6/ There are nice French folk and there are nice English folk - the reverse also applies. Don't become too obsessed about the nationality of your friends. I get fed up hearing about so and so's 'French friends' as if its some kind of trophy thing. So what. There are a number of French I have met who I wouldn't give a tuppeny cuss for. Just enjoy the experience for what it is.

7/ Get professional advice regarding work. It can be very profitable if you know what you are doing.

If it ain't broke.........break it. Unofficial motto of the RAF Regt

JOSHUAPIP01-541570 1195740100

.........and join a French Families Association such as AVF

All over France and it is a families association with activities etc... to help new families integrate into local society - wherever you decide to move to


frog 1 1199481803

General labourer plasterer are you a tradesman?to many people arrive here claiming to be but arnt

Is this the way you intend to make a living? France is a very romantic place to want to live but it costs to live here just the same as in the uk.

Prison officer good pay and pension?

Telerhythmman 1199483058

Loads of advice, but as this post originated over a year ago how did it all turn out? Would be nice to know if there was a happy outcome.


Tiredmum1 1199542318

Hi to everyone who has posted over the past Year.

All postings have been so valuable to us and I wanted to thank everyone and post an update of our situation.

After 4 Years of research, our House is going on the market next Year.

This Year, we are booked to go to the Dordoyne for 12 days in October with the Kids. We will be looking around Dordoyne, Limousin and Poitou Charante. We plan on visiting schools and other important amenities.

We also want to take a look at long term rented accom to take place from next summer to the following March/April, as we prefer to rent first whilst looking for a home to buy. I hope to put down a deposit and 1st month rent this Year.

We have been learning Basic French but it always sounds so much different when were in France, LOL, but it's good to try.

Work for my Husband isn't so worrying as originaly thought. We have had a lot of support from people in the same trade in France who have offered a lot of advice and support.

I have spent the last year here in the uk working towards a diploma level 3 in interior design. Something I thoroughly enjoy and very good at. I plan on making a small business out of it starting with a few projects lined up in the uk.

On the slightly negative side, it always surprises me when people who send through posts or people here in the uk take the assumption that we're making this move because we think it's cheaper or we're deluded in some way!

Well, there are Two options for us at this time.

1) We could stay in the UK and continue to work our butts off till we're at least 55yrs when the mortgage will finally be paid ( best part of £1000 a month ) and pay monthly council tax of £200 ( this obviously varies on where you live ) plus money to live.


2) Sale our House and take a nice big cheque in equity value that has built up over the years and just sitting thier, move to a place we love, buy a house and have money left over to invest. Only this time, we will work to pay for the usual taxes and utilities and everyday things to help us get by.

We are not snobs, we are hard working people who don't believe in a Free ride. But we do believe that stress levels can be reduced and we can live a happier and healthier life.

We have been so inspired by people who have made this move and i love reading thier stories. It would be silly to go back on it all now.

Thank you all and keep sending through those posts, I could do with advice on long Term renting (with a Dog, no smoking, budget about £400 a month)




Zoot-544617 1199549982

Reading all these postings makes me feel like the 'oldest member' having been living in France since 1994

Just 2 thoughts

* you'll probably be looking to find the max. bricks for your hard earned bucks so check out regional/departmental variations in property prices, they can be quite large. There's a site, I think its www.immonot.com (or.fr) where property statistics provided by notaires give an idea of average prices for departments and even towns. You mentioned Ch.Maritime and Limousin: huge price differential between these two.

*climate; again look at regional variations thro' weather websites' statistics. I seem to remember the BBC weather is helpful. Inland France can be extremely cold in mid winter.

oh and thirdly, be careful about rushing to the rural idyll, which is what most Brits do. Lovely in the Summer being surrounded by fields and wildlife but the Winters can be lonely and depressing. My family and I have experienced hamlet, village, town and country living during our 14 years and we'd choose town life any time!

Courage, and, as others have emphasised, do your French homework!

In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king

GeorgeHenry-543731 1199612435

I agree with Zoot, we had a country residence in Charente 16
and were snowed in on successive years. Plus there's a lot of travelling to do in the Charente to get anywhere.

You need to get good advice about investing your money especially given the recent down turn in the £.

There are plenty of houses to buy here but they are not so easy to sell and try as much as possible to make sure you are not paying over the odds. We had an exchange with an Agent Immobilier who when we were pricing our house for sale pointed out that the one's they had in the window were overpriced and been on their books for years.
If you can buy privately then that will reduce your outlay.

You need to obtain tax advice especially if you are in receipt of a pension and going into business in France.
Employment here is an issue for expats and the cotistations are punitive.
As you rightly say France is not the cheap option.

Also you will need either employment or be self employed to be able to affiliate to the health system because new arrivals will not be able to affiliate to the system with their E106 if the current situation remains the same. Otherwise you will need private health insurance for you and family.

tkirk16320-546287 1225651468


we live near to Villebois Lavalette. Great schools, and a wonderful supportive French and English community. They even offer free French lessons at the local college.

Tony and Karena

MICK Fr 1225999619

Bit of advice for you is that it would be wise to live fairly near a town, as it is good for the children to mix with friends. Fortunately for us there are children locally but not much for them to do (teenagers)!.

live the dream

Gemini-561025 1266417156

Hello Hayley,

Wow, what a lot of advice! But at the most basic level...go for it. For all the reasons you outline here is a better place to raise children. It's different: winter can be cold (so can UK!) 'countryside' is quiet...for that read 'boring' in youngsters speak. But on a balance scale here wins hands down. Hubby will eventually find work if he perseveres. Plasterers are as rare as hens teeth here but the work (Charente certainly) of 'pierre-apparente' is everywhere. This is slicing off outer mortar coats on stone walls and re-pointing to show the stones. Reputation is all. Start as you mean to go on: First job, trial and error, second, a little better, third now you are beginning to stabilise...soon you have photos of work, references and so on and you don't look back. So have enough to cover you for a good year. We didn't bring children (for good reason they are 38 and 40!) but I know lots who did and not one has complained. Food isn't cheap-er, cars are expensive by UK standards (so if you plan bringing a car follow the advice for getting one registered here).
Sounds to me like by year 2 you will be whistling along the lanes wishing you had done this sooner! Your dogs will slightly complicate matters because some/a good few property owners shy away from renters with dogs - especially if they are 'inside' a lot of the time. You'll need to be sure they are contained within a boundary and not high-tailing it along the road! We had a border collie for 17 years and well remember the unique companionship she gave. But it's all manageable.

Good luck.

MyLovelyBoys-556468 1267610823

So, it's been over two years now since the original post - any closer to "making the move"?

Would be interested in your findings!

Intrigued - let us know! ;)


Neuvy 1641905891

I love living here but if I was to to do it all over again, I'd rent first as once you have chosen where to live it is as difficult to house move here as in the U.K. For instance if I'd known the winters are still quite cold inland of La Rochelle, I would have looked further South.

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