Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Seven tips on moving to France

We did it ourselves in 2003 and I've been helping clients do it ever since.

Here are my seven top tips - if you have any others please feel free to share.

1. Make sure your finances are in place and you know how you will earn a living. It's no use thinking "I'll easily get a job when I'm there". Unless you are completely fluent and have a special skill with great contacts it will be difficult to enter the corporate world. That means you'll probably be self employed and 100% reliant on your own endeavours to put bread on the table.

2. Get your tax affairs sorted out from the off. The only thing in life more complicated than the French tax system is the Duckworth-Lewis system in cricket. Use a specialist and understand the implications of your move.

3. Make an effort to learn the language. It's not easy and takes application but it's essential to your integration and enjoyment. So many things rely upon you being able to converse with the locals (work, schooling, healthcare, social activities). Even if you were hopeless at languages at school. Fail to do this and you'll miss out on all the good stuff.

4. Research, research, research. Look at the area you want to move to - how hot does it get in summer, how cold & wet in winter? Is it lively all year round? What are communication links like (airports, motorways, TGV). Do the schools have a good reputation and are there plenty of activities for your kids?

5. Understand what houses are available. It looks pretty easy when you're sat at home looking at pretty pictures on the internet. You think you have a handle on the market. You're wrong! Most agents don't have websites and you're seeing the tip of the iceberg. By definition you're looking at houses which are being marketed by "switched on" agents....and guess what, they come at a premium price. Nearly 50% of houses bought & sold in France are private sales. then there are the notaires and the many back street agents who don't have websites, email and glossy photos. They do have some cracking houses at low prices though.

6. Paperwork. Make at least five copies of passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate and get any diplomas or degree certificates translated. The French just love paperwork.

7. Buy "Living & Working in France" by David Hampshire (and no, I'm not on commission, nor have I ever met him). We found it invaluable.

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