Whilst many come to live in France as retirees to live out their golden years, lots of us are not yet of that age and must still work for a living! So, what are the important things to know about remote working in France?
Many of us beginning our new lives in France must continue to earn a living, alongside enjoying the change of lifestyle, the pace of life and numerous other benefits that our new chapter may bring. And, as a large proportion of us end up living in more rural areas in the French countryside, the importance of communication links here is not to be underestimated during the planning stages. This is especially true if you are not simply relying on that technology to stay in touch with friends and family, but your business necessitates remote working in France.
Do your research
In rural areas, you may be pleasantly (or otherwise) surprised by the strength of signal connection, so the first tip is never to make any assumptions. It is important to carefully conduct research on the particular area within which you have decided to focus your property search. Once you believe that you have found that dream property, an important part of the decision-making process may involve considering the strength of the internet signal and the possibility of installing WiFi (particularly if you are running a business from your home, planning on remote working in France or providing holiday accommodation).
If this is one of your requirements, remember to consider this issue early on, as there is no point looking within areas where WiFi and comms are impossible to access via the usual routes. You certainly don’t want to fall in love with your dream home only to find that you need a large satellite dish, destroying the vista of your otherwise picture-perfect garden. Ask your agent, find out what the previous owners used, speak to others in the area and check and check again!
Having WiFi installed into your home is much the same as it is anywhere else. The most important thing to check is which of the suppliers provide the best network coverage within your particular area. Check reviews and ask how others have experienced these providers. Are the connections generally stable and what is the customer service like should you have issues?
Many of the telecoms providers here offer English speaking helplines, for which people arriving here are initially very grateful. And do remember that there will undoubtedly be a time lag between moving in and any completion of installation. This may make you reliant on potential methods of communicating on mobile phones via data packages or even dongles in the interim, particularly if your immediate plans involve remote working in France.
Many of the telecoms providers here offer English speaking helplines, for which people arriving here are initially very grateful.
Accessibility of internet services
Historically, France has been a big lover of face to face contact with most administrative tasks conducted in that fashion here. People have gotten used to presenting themselves at offices armed with reams of paperwork and there has been little in the way of streamlined online processes. The reputation of internet connection in France over the years has certainly not been held in high regard, especially in rural areas with low housing density and slow and unreliable connections. This has long been a bone of contention for those needing to conduct remote working in France from their rural properties.
However, during the pandemic, even people who may have never before used such technology, (including the elderly) have learnt to do so, due to the restrictions placed on them by social distancing rules. Never has this technology been more important in order to stay in touch and connected with both friends and family, as well as to stay mentally healthy.
This means that over the last 18 months, both the providers and the government have been pressured to improve the required technology infrastructure and put processes in place to enable more to be done remotely and online. Most importantly, they have been challenged to provide accessibility to *all*, regardless of where they choose to live.
Taken a shine to any of these properties? Make sure you’re prepared for a viewing trip with the tips and tricks from our Viewing Trip guide.
Improvements on the horizon
In November 2020, France vowed to eradicate all ‘dead spots’ (known currently as zone blanche) from the map by providing even the most rural areas with a useable internet connection. If these uncertain times continue, this will only increase the necessity for communication infrastructure improvements throughout the country.
The heightened demand for viable and reliable infrastructure has also, in no small part, been accelerated by the absolute need throughout these strange times for France to re-examine its views on how to conduct business. Many businesses in France have had no choice but to agree to remote working. In many cases, this is the for the first time ever and something that would have not been considered previously.
With the rising trend that has been seen in the property market since the pandemic (of people displacing from towns into more rural areas) this only further strengthens the argument that there is nothing quite as important as digital communication links. All of this will only serve to push forward the promised and envisaged improvements and keep pressure on both the government and the telecoms providers to continue to improve services as per their promises.
Fibre in France
Fibre network deployment initially started in France in 2007. Since then, the leader of Fibre to the Home has been the supplier Orange. They set the goal of covering 60% of the population of France by 2020 and in January 2021, they announced a partnership with long term investors to reinforce their development in fibre, notably in rural areas.
But numerous users are still currently reliant on ADSL connections, meaning you must have a fixed phone line for the internet line to piggyback on. And the nature of this method of provisioning means you can be at the mercy of whatever speed that provides, which may not even be consistent.
However, in recent times, more rural areas are gradually receiving notice (in our specific case of ‘within 2 years’) that fibre is slowly but surely wending its merry way to the French countryside. Your Mairie is the best place to ask about any known plans and timelines for this within your area. And if your work situation dictates a requirement for remote working in France, it would be a very useful piece of information to have sight of.
For a smooth move to France, you need to make sure that your budget is protected to reduce risk from exchange rate flux. Find out how in our partner Smart Currency Exchange’s guide, The Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.
Free WiFi connections are, of course, available in many bars, restaurants and other establishments. But this tends to be more prevalent within cities and you wouldn’t necessarily get away with spending all day remote working in France from the same café or restaurant without landing yourself with an expensive remote office bill!
And in some areas where WiFi is not available, you can still access the internet via Satellite if you really have your heart set on that particular home. So, there are other options but they need full investigation and are often far more costly.
And if like me, you live in an area where the WiFi seems fine in the main, but you notice the occasional slow down/lag, or if data-rich tasks seem impossible (for example, calling over VOIP), then I can heartily recommend stepping back in time several decades and connecting directly to your live box via network cable!
Whilst in the new age of tech we may have become so spoilt that we expect everything to work perfectly without cables, you may just be surprised by the difference that using cables makes. And yes, you may need to be in a fixed position next to your router, but if you are reliant on remote working in France, then this may be the deciding factor for where to position your desk!