When you’re living in France, you need to plan for several important costs and considerations. This can range from removals, ongoing maintenance and utilities to residency, healthcare and legalities. Fortunately, you can find all this critical info gathered here, from the first-hand experience of expats living in France.

There’s so much to think about when moving to and living in France. We’ve all learned – and undoubtedly continue to learn – so much since we moved here. That’s why I feel the need to share my experience with others buying property in France. It’s so important to take all the different costs into account and research each part of the move carefully. The most frequent questions I get are about moving belonging to France, connecting to utilities and rights on healthcare.

Alexis Stratfold

France Buying Guide’s resident expert expat, Lives in the Languedoc with her husband, Rod

Essential Services and Information

Good news if you’re living in France: the healthcare system is excellent. However, to access it, you must be a legal resident. You must also register for basic public healthcare. Social security contributions fund much of public healthcare in France, so you need to factor these payments into your living budget.

A big plus of living in France is the excellent healthcare
Living in France, it’ll be easy to get about in many areas. France fortunately has an extremely modern rail network – ‘TGV’ are its flagship high-speed rail connections. There’s also a comprehensive road structure and frequent international connections by air or the Channel Tunnel. However, you’ll need to work out your transport options based on where you’re living in France. Rural areas will usually mean you’ll need a car to get about.

Transport is generally excellent, but if you're living in France's countryside, it will be less efficient, so a car will be needed
France has a strongly academic and highly disciplined education system, with its roots in the Napoleonic era. Young children living in France generally become bilingual quickly and pick up skills and knowledge beyond their years. However, it may be useful to employ a language tutor in the early days. Children tend to pick up languages well, and usually get used to and settle in to the new culture quickly.

For children living in France, becoming bilingual will be a relatively fast process
Learning basic French will be really helpful in settling in to living in France. Being able to communicate with the people around you is additionally a great way to stave off homesickness when you first move. Although most French people are able to speak at least some English, do not assume that everyone will understand it, especially in rural areas. Making the effort to learn and speak French wherever possible will certainly be enormously appreciated.

The legal system in France is very different to the British one. It operates on ‘civil law’, whereas Britain follows ‘common law’. You’ll need to get to grips with it when living in France, particularly the complex laws around residency, tax and inheritance. An independent solicitor can be a real help here, both during your property purchase and your life beyond.

Legal matters are completely crucial when living in France, and a trusted solicitor will help you immensely
Luckily for those of us living in France, the proximity to the UK means there are a number of ways to get your belongings over here. You could see how much you can fit yourself and take it over. You could also hire a van and drive it over yourself. Alternatively, you could hire a ‘man with a van’ or a specialist removals firm. Find out more in our guide.

One of the first steps of living in France is getting your belongings over – here are the was you can use

Settling in & Setting up Home

We know that moving to a new country can be a tiring, stressful and emotional process. It takes time to get used to our new home, even when you’ve bought your house and moved your belongings over. We asked our team of expats who have already made the move themselves for their top tips to help you settle in to your new life in France.

Discover our top tips for living in France, from people who've 'been there, done that'
Finding a tradesperson you can trust when you’re living in France will help your property maintenance go much more smoothly. The most important element for you to check is that they’re qualified and registered with the relevant authorities. This way, you can be assured they have the right skills to do the work you require.

Finding a reliable tradesperson will make living in France much easier
If you are planning to work while living in France, you certainly need to plan your income and expenditure carefully. Fortunately, there are no restrictions on working or setting up a business for EU residents living in France. However, you must also ensure you comply with all relevant local legislation and tax requirements to do so. There are a number of ways you can find work, based on your skills and experience.

It's not as difficult as you might think to find work when living in France
Anyone moving abroad will find that they experience pangs of homesickness at some point. There are ways to minimise these feelings, generally by settling in to your new life in France properly and integrating into the new culture and community. Our expats who have done this themselves offer their tips to get settled in as soon as possible, so that homesickness goes away fast.

Homesickness is a common part of the early stages of living in France – here's how to combat it
One of the key things to do when you first arrive in France is to get connected to all essential services, such as the Internet and household utilities (usually gas, electricity, and water for most areas of France). You may also want to get hooked up to TV services. That way, you can keep up with news of life back home, as well as practise listening to the language on the French channels.

An essential part of living in France is getting connected up to all utilities and essential services
It’s much easier than it used to be to take your pet with you to France. Legislation in 2012 and also 2014 brought in the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) to help people moving pets from the UK to other countries in Europe. However, this move must be planned carefully for the safety and welfare of your pet, and for legal reasons. They need to be microchipped and also have the rabies vaccination.

If you're thinking of living in France, you'll be pleased to know that it's easy to bring your pet

Lifestyle

France is a country steeped in history, with a culture and customs that date back many years. An especially great way to settle into living in France is to embrace the culture, both locally and across the country. The French are fiercely proud of their heritage – and there is much to learn! Every time you learn something new, you’ll find yourself going down new avenues that have piqued your curiosity.

A fascinating part of living in France is discovering the rich culture and history of this country
France is rightfully world-famous for its food and drink. Living in France, you’ll have the true pleasure of easy access to a wealth of culinary experiences. Buying from local markets, enjoying a leisurely bite at a pavement café or tucking into a delicious meal in a bistro… There’s something to suit every taste, as well as every budget.

Living in France means plentiful access to excellent food
Sport and leisure pursuits rank especially highly in French culture and are an important part of living in France. Football, tennis, rugby and also motor racing are popular sports, and fishing is a favourite pastime for many. Unquestionably, one of the best ways to spend your time in France is to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful countryside, coastline, scenery and architecture. There are stunning mountains, lakes, rivers, towns, cities and historical buildings to explore.

Sport and leisure activities are something you'll have plenty of time to indulge in when living in France, with French people strongly prioritising a work-life balance
Shopping is generally more leisurely and sociable in France. You will find that the main differences between shopping in the UK and France are the opening hours. Few shops are open on Mondays, and there are limited opening hours on Sundays, with many shops in quieter or more rural areas remaining closed. Local markets are an especially big part of living in France. They sell everything from fresh produce to antiques and bric-à-brac.

Local markets like this one are a big part of living in France
Buying a House in France Guide.

The France Buying Guide walks you step-by-step through each stage of the property buying process in France, with practical recommendations from our experts who have been through the process themselves. The guide will also help you to:


  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying in France

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