Moving to France

I’ve just read yet another survey where France comes top of 192 countries in terms of “quality of life”. This one from a website called International Living ranked it just ahead of Switzerland, thanks mainly to its’ healthcare, climate and culture.

It’s hard for me to agree or disagree with these findings as I’ve only ever lived in two countries and have no idea if hospitals have a shorter waiting list in Luxembourg (4th), Liechtenstein (20th) or Liberia (183rd).

However, I can say with complete authority that I’m receiving more and more inquiries from people in the UK who are disillusioned with the quality of life it offers and want to up sticks and move to France.

In truth this saddens me because I’m English and proud of it – when Jonny kicked his drop goal against Les Bleus in last years Rugby World Cup I was the only person in a room full of a hundred people who was cheering. Certainly my motivation to moving to France had more to do with the positive things it could add to our life than any deep-rooted dislike of our life in London.

However, it’s clear from the emails I’m getting that there are many people who have finally said that “enough is enough”. A quick look at the BBC website shows headlines about falling house prices, BP shedding 5,000 jobs and some amazing research from the Centre for Social Justice that says in eight years time more than half of all Glasgows’ families will be headed by a single parent. More than half….that’s an amazing statistic that simply wouldn’t be believed here in the Charente where life still revolves around the family.

I always respond to these emails by saying that, in my opinion, life here in France isn’t better than in the UK, it’s just different. The things that we find attractive here could well be an anathema to others. Many of my old friends and colleagues would go mad trying to find bars that stay open after 8.00pm in the Winter and shops closing on Sundays and Mondays would send them over the edge. As a perfect example we have a terrific “take-away” pizza and burger place in Jarnac. I went there at 1.30pm the other day and there was a sign on the door saying closed for lunch…I jest not. Lunch here starts at Midi and if you miss it then you have to go hungry!

In contrast the amount of time and space you gain by moving here is breathtaking. Land values are much lower than in the UK and I have recently seen some wonderful properties with glorious gardens and views.

I’m doing a property search for a keen gardener and you don’t have to break the bank to find something special. I visited a lovely collection of buildings last week. On the market for 245,000 euros they form a small hamlet and consist of a renovated farmhouse, a large barn (permission for three gites), small barn (permission for one gite) and 12th century cottage (permission for one gite). All this sits in just under an acre and a half of grounds including an old vineyard and views over rolling countryside. I saw it on a sunny day and would happily have stayed there all morning just chilling out.

Sadly I had work to do and spent the rest of the day looking at a motley collection of overpriced old rubbish. There are still bargains to be had in the Charente valley but sadly they are becoming more and more difficult to find. The locals aren’t stupid and they know that on a sunny day practically every property out here can look romantic and people will follow their heart rather than their head.

Be careful though, finding your dream house is just one part of the equation. The dream could turn sour if you can’t find work and don’t have the income to sustain yourself.

One of the ways you could achieve this is to work in the real estate industry out here. I have recently joined forces with the team at FrenchEntree to create a property finder network throughout France. It’s a proven business model where we provide an exclusive licence, your own territory, full training, website and marketing support. If you are business-minded, interested in French property and enjoy meeting people this could be for you – to find out more contact me on the number below.

If this doesn’t appeal to you don’t worry because, despite high unemployment, France has staffing shortages in areas such as telecommunications and hotel and restaurant work.

Bilingual secretaries and accountants are also in big demand and English-language teachers are rarely out of work. The building industry is also greedy for personnel, but wages are rarely above the SMIC.

Like everything in life, the more research you can do the better, in fact that’s the first of five tips I have for those wanting to go it alone and set up business over here:

1. Undertake as much market research as possible – is there a demand for your goods/service and will you be able to satisfy it?
2. Take professional advice from local lawyers & accountants. The punishments for rule breaking in France are severe and, although not cheap, expert advice is a must.
3. Be comfortable with the language – don’t even think about starting a business if you don’t have basic French.
4. Be sure you have enough capital behind you to keep you going in the early days and through lean times. Don’t underestimate how much more difficult it is to earn money out here than it is in the UK (which for all it’s faults it is a haven for entrepreneurs).
5. Network, network, network – online, offline and in the local bars & cafes. Integrate into local life…the more you put in the more you will get out.

So there we have it. The experts have it right – France is a wonderful place to live and offers probably the highest quality of life of any country in the World. Property can be excellent value and you really can fulfil your dreams. The only dark cloud on the horizon is the need to generate an income to keep your dream from turning sour and if you follow the guidelines above you should have more than a fighting chance of funding this new lifestyle.

Just remember that dreams are ten a penny….it’s the people who turn them into reality who are priceless.

Graham Downie runs a property search agency covering the Charente & Charente Maritime. He can be contacted at or on 00 33 5 45 32 46 41. Visit his website at

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