Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reasons to move to - or leave - France?

I am pretty sure no statistics exist which explain why some British people choose to move and live permanently in France, the variety of reasons why - and sadly, why some decide that this is not for them and return home to the UK, wiser in experience but possibly poorer materially.

During my years as a French estate agent negotiator and property adviser in the south of France, I have met many buyers of 'second homes' and an equal number of people who have decided to give up their British property and lifestyle and settle permanenty in France. The majority have stayed, moving the Mediterranean to enjoy their retirement, and in a few casers younger individuals have set up successful businesses. (This is quite different from the pattern of French moving from France to Britain, who are invariably of working age and go there to find jobs or set up their own business).

Among the few who have returned 'home' to Britain, their reasons have included:
- not being able to adjust to a radical change of lifestyle, though moving almost anywhere to enjoy ones retiremant can prove traumatic unless you plan ahead and are clear what you are looking for.
- not being able to cope with the French language.
- as a result of the above, unable to settle in a new location and make new friends and contacts.
- making a radical change from, say, a large (English) town to a small (French) village.
- health and prefering to rely on the known NHS rather than the excellent French healthcare system.
- in the case of parents, because the children are not appy in a French school.
- inability to find suitable work or set up a viable business.
- wanting to be closer to children and grandchildren or other family, back in England.
- death of one of the partners.

Looking at the list, it is clear that a permanent move to France needs careful planning about where to live, what sort of lifestyle you are seeking, effect on accompanying children and on those left behind, your prospects of survival either through working, pensions or savings; and some kind of 'what if?' contingency plan.

While I was selling appartments and houses on the Mediterranean coast, a typical client (who succeeded in settling permanently) :
- knew and had visited the region previously, usually on holiday
- had visited other reagions of France or even other countries such as Spain or Portugal, before deciding on this part of France
- knew more or less what they wanted - beachside apartment, country cottage etc - but sometimes changed their ideas
- had a clear idea of budget for the property purchase and their 'survival plan' to finance their new life
- sometimes had a Plan B in case their situation changed.

As often happens, people do not always follow their own advice and my own arrival in France happened entirely by accident! It all started when the central London property I was living in, with a controlled rent, was sold to property speculators, and I found myself facing a tripling of my rent and increasing uncertainty of freelance work lecturing, writing and consulting, as I moved towards retirement. It was a colleague at the university where I taught who introduced me to the region where we both now live. He had already bought a small holiday flat to enjoy during the long university holidays, and then decided to stay (finding lecturing assisngments locally and then setting up his own 'chambres d'hotes' with a French partner). I calculated I could just about affford a small property, using my savings, as this was just before ther boom in prices which took off after 2001. And I too found my own means of survival, doing much the same as I did back in London but with a French twist. It has not all been plain sailing but looking back I feel I made the best of a bad situation that was beyond my control.

The moral here is by all means plan ahead but sometimes you have to react quickly to events and do the best you can. It often works!