Once you have the keys to your new French home in your hand, it is incredibly exciting to think about furnishing it, stocking up on consumable items, perhaps a bit of DIY and browsing what the French shops and brocantes have to offer. However, some things are a bit more difficult to find – so here’s what to bring with you when you move.
What is more difficult to find in France?
Everyone likes to meander round a foreign supermarket, if only just to see how different things are! However, whilst there are some great shops stocking everything you may need in France, there are still some items which you would be wise to bring over from the UK, mostly because some are not readily available in France or because they are more costly in France. The list really ranges from building materials of all sorts to furniture and right down to good quality tea bags!
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Based on our own experience of several years living in the south of France, here are the main items which we would advise you to think about bringing with you – or ordering on a regular basis online.
Building materials and paint
Having taken on a sizeable renovation project, we have learnt that many building materials, particularly smaller items such as screws, nuts and bolts, door and window furniture etc. are much more expensive in France. This of course may be because France does not have such a history of DIY. The concept is relatively new. My husband regularly wishes he could import “Screwfix” here for example, although they do have a delivery service now to France.
Obviously larger items such as pipework, radiators etc. have to be bought in France but even with kitchen and bathroom fixtures, it may well be worth having these shipped over from the UK as often these are expensive here and sometimes not quite as good a quality and therefore even with the shipping costs, this may make sense.
Many people we have met who drive down here stock their car up with plenty of paint in the UK in advance of any works they may be contemplating doing.
Paint is notoriously expensive in France and frankly not the best quality. Many people we have met who drive down here stock their car up with plenty of paint in the UK in advance of any works they may be contemplating doing. There are now also some online sites from the UK shipping paint to France, such as the UK Paint Depot or Keep It Simple.
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Furniture and bedding
Although you will find a large variety of quality furniture in major cities such as Paris, Lyon, Montpellier, Toulouse etc., in smaller towns and rurally this is more of a challenge. There is always IKEA of course and if you are looking for older style furniture, it is great fun to wander around the antiques and second hand shops in France.
However, again if you are going to be bringing a fair amount of stuff over from the UK anyway or hiring a removal firm, it is worth spending some time comparing prices in the UK as well as choice of furniture. The French seem to think the “style anglais” is all the rage and in general they admire our taste in home furnishings so that must say something!
Food and drinks items
Most large supermarkets now have a good stock of British food and drink. We have noticed an increase in choice over the last few years, not surprisingly since there are so many British folk living in France or with second homes here! However, take a look at the prices before you stock up. Items we regularly bring back from the UK include biscuits, marmite, British bacon, pickles and jams. British tea bags are ridiculously expensive here so buy pack a 200 bag of, say PG Tips next time you are over in the UK. Not heavy and squash down even in your hand luggage and you will save money for sure!
The same applies to marmite which is very expensive here. Bacon, as we know it in the UK, is hard to find in France. They do have bacon but it is a good deal thinner and there is no apparent choice of smoked or unsmoked so another item well worth stocking up on when you are back in the UK.
Most large supermarkets now have a good stock of British food and drink. We have noticed an increase in choice over the last few years, not surprisingly since there are so many British folk living in France or with second homes here!
As for drinks, soft drinks such as lime cordial and ginger beer we have found to be rather difficult to trace. Wine on the other hand quite obviously is not a problem at all in France and here they definitely have the upper hand with some wonderful local wines at excellent value, particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon where we live, which is the largest wine growing area in the world!
Aside from all of the above, general groceries, fresh meat, vegetables and fruit are bountiful in France, particularly if you shop in local markets where prices are cheaper and produce often fresher.
Getting your belongings to France
Moving lock, stock and barrel across the Channel doesn’t need to be a stressful experience, or involve multiple round trips! You’ve a number of options available to take, including using a professional removals firm, registered with the British Association of Removers or the International Association of Movers.
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