Moving To France From The UK
Despite a rather rocky history with our close neighbour, which includes us pinching parts of their land for hundreds of years, France is a hugely popular destination for British citizens looking to move away from the UK. As of 2014 the official number of Brits in France was around 300,000 but this is without taking into account all the unregistered people and the second-home owners who spend most of their time in the Hexagon.
It’s not hard to see why it’s such a popular destination for a new life - there’s only an hour’s time difference, the Eurostar and budget airlines have made travel there and back both easy and cheap, and the French quality of life has reached mythical status due to the beautiful monuments, world-famous cuisine and stunning beaches. What’s more, for a UK citizen, there’s no need for a visa - just a valid European passport will suffice.
However, as much as you’d like to jump on the next train to Paris with your passport in hand, it’s important to understand some key elements about moving to France from the UK, including how much you’ll need, how to find a place to live, and what the major cultural differences are. Read on to find out more, and start planning your move today!
Do your research
Are you considering a moving to France because you love the culture and have some great work opportunities lined up, or because you once had a wonderful holiday in the Dordogne in 2011? Living in France can be wonderful, but for many British people who move here expecting an idyllic life of constant baguettes, wine, and only working 35 hours a week the reality can be a real disappointment.
While France does indeed have all these things, it’s not a magical solution - there will still be boring days at work, queues at the supermarket, and inevitable rainy weeks. Think carefully about your reasons for moving before making any major decisions.
Have a realistic budget
One of the main issues faced by those moving to another country is quickly running out of money because they haven’t been realistic about their budget. Shipping costs, staying somewhere temporary while you look for an apartment, estate agent fees, bank charges, necessary home insurance and buying furniture for a new place all add up quickly - and that’s before you think of your wine and cheese budget! Save up and create a contingency fund before you go to make sure any surprise costs can be covered easily.
Learn the language
While it is technically possible to move to France without knowing any French (there’s no language test at the border!) you’ll find your life there much, much easier if you at least know the basics, and are willing to learn more. Even in major cities such as Paris not many people speak fluent English, and you will struggle with administrative tasks such as opening a bank account, finding a job or even navigation public transport without using la langue français. In rural areas there is likely to be even less English spoken, making socialising nearly impossible unless you find fellow expats.
Fortunately there are plenty of ways to learn French, whatever your learning style. From classes at schools such as the Institut Francais, to Rosetta Stone tapes and the DuoLingo app, you can start learning wherever and whenever you want. As for practicing, watching French films and TV series are a great way to pick up casual language and common phrases.
Find a place to live
Ideally you’d find somewhere to live before you arrive, but in cities where housing goes fast it might not be possible until you get there. Make sure you have your dossier together and take it with you to any viewings that you arrange. This vital folder should include all your key documents, including previous pay slips, proof of identity, your job contract, bank details and the information for your guarantor should you need one.
Flatshares are less common in Paris than in UK cities (although they can be found on websites such as Le Bon Coin and Appartager), and it’s more common to live in a studio apartment in France than back in Britain. Rental costs in general are lower, but prepare to pay quite hefty estate agent fees too!
While you’re hunting, it’s a good idea to stay in an Airbnb in the area you hope to live in. This will give you a chance to get to know the neighborhood, and normally works out much cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Understand the cultural differences
While there may only be twenty-something miles between the two countries, when it comes to cultural differences France and the UK can sometimes feel worlds apart. To integrate yourself into French life, it’s important to be aware of these differences.
Some will be a great surprise, such as the higher number of bank holidays and the dedication to two-hour lunches, while others such as the unusual opening hours (many things are closed on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesday afternoons) and getting to grips with when to use the informal "tu" or the more formal "vous" might take longer to get used to. Studying at university in France is a much different experience than in the UK, and some regional food might take you by surprise if you’re not fond of offal and pungent cheeses!
But at the end of the day, it’s these cultural differences and quirks that make living in France so interesting. Plan ahead, save up, practice your French and you’ll never regret giving la vie Français a try!