Moving to France Q&A

I’ve set up this page to share my thoughts on the kinds of questions that come up when someone thinks of relocating to France. As my experience was of relocating as a family, there are relevant questions and answers here to my direct experience. Also we came here with a view to setting up our own businesses, so moving for an existing or new job with a company will likely lead to a different set of questions. If there’s anything in particular you want to know that is not covered here, feel free to contact me and ask a direct question.

How much of my personal “stuff” should I bring?

Short answer: All Of It. We left soooo much stuff, and if I had a euro for every time we’ve thought, “if only we had …” since moving here, I could have bought a bunch of it again. Unfortunately, we had to have a major clearout before our move, entirely because we didn’t have a house to come to and had a single room in our rented accommodation to use as storage: we didn’t want to be weighed down by our possessions, so brought only things that we considered to be essential. It turns out there were things we didn’t quite realise were essential until we’d moved. We also, mistakenly, judged that since we offloaded a lot of our gear at rock bottom prices (mostly down to a very competitive secondhand market where we were) that we’d be able to pick up the same stuff at equally low (sensible) prices here. In short (again): wrong. There’s a strange culture here where somehow second hand goods are treated like vintage items and people expect high prices for them, even if they’re old, obsolete, and basically destined for a skip if no-one pays. I truly believe that there are people here who would rather chuck a perfectly good sofa in a skip than charge a low price for it. It’s just one of the many quirks of this wonderful country. C’est la vie!

How did you transport your pets?

In our case we had three cats to bring with us: two relatively young male cats and one older female. We were also transporting two children and a car-load of stuff so we decided to pay a professional pet transport company in order to try and reduce the stress for all of us. The transport company had a specialist vehicle which meant that our animals were safe and able to keep cool for the duration of the journey. It also meant we could make our own journey, stopping when necessary and breaking the journey with an overnight stay, which would have been considerably more difficult with our animals. Read more about our experience here.

Should I rent or buy?

If you know where you want to be, by all means go ahead and buy straight away. Our plan was to buy but we ended up renting for a few years (actually, we’re still renting) because it took us a while to find what we were looking for. If you’re prepared to make compromises (or you have the kind of budget that doesn’t require you to make compromises) you will probably pick up something fairly easily. Our list of requirements turned out not to be all that compatible with kinds of properties that were available in this area, and our priority was to stay in this area. If you’re more flexible about where you want to be and the property is more important than the location, again, finding a property that meets your needs will probably be easier.

Having decided the location was as important as the property, we were able to learn alot about the local area by renting and we’re now glad we didn’t rush in and buy some of the earlier paces we viewed. If we had rushed in we might not have learned that:

– not every village in France has decent internet – and if your place doesn’t have a phone line you may never get one!
– many village houses were built for summer workers, so they’re nice and cool in summer but get zero sun in the winter and are therefore freezing cold.
– French village schools are not created equal and how the school is run (and the children are taught/treated) very much depends on the teacher or teachers who run it/them.
– many French houses are in terrible condition and would cost as much to renovate as they would to build from scratch!

Given our experience, I would definitely recommend renting first as then you’ll have time to get the feel of a place. It’s worth spending a whole year somewhere too so you’re not caught out by the changing seasons: here it’s the “south of france” but that doesn’t mean we get wall to wall sunshine year round – quite the opposite in fact! Renting gives you time to find your way around and start to hone in on what is and isn’t important about a place.

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