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Thinking of moving from U.S. to France - Need advice on my stuff

Thinking of moving from U.S. to France - Need advice on my stuff

Aug 6th, 2007, 04:26 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,703
I thought I would just add my experience on actually moving to France to this thread.

While I agree that most rational people would visit the country numerous times, for long periods of time, we didn’t actually do that. I first came to France in 1973 as part of a 'grand tour’ of Europe – and it was the only country I didn’t like. The next time I came back, there must have been some change on both sides, because my husband and I fell in love with the Perigord (the Dordogne to you), came back the next year, and basically decided over lunch that we were really going to move to France. Apart from what the French call ‘a coup de foudre’ love at first sight, we were both not happy with corporate life, and at an age when a change looked good.

We went home, put our house on the market, which immediately headed down, and instead of being here in 6 months, it took us 6 years. We used that time to save money, move into an apartment, and most important – work on our French. Night classes every week, then twice a week.

We managed to buy a house before we actually moved here – and so got to know people in the village on our holidays (mostly spent working on the house). That decision affected what we did with our possessions, as we had to start furnishing the house while we were still in Canada.

When we finally managed to move here, we left furniture at home, brought lots of books, pictures and china, and brought some electric items, with heavy-duty transformers. I probably wouldn’t do that again, as it’s a bit of a drag to have to use a transformer, and some things, like my food processor, didn’t appreciate being the treatment, and didn’t last too long.

We’re in a village, which is great for us, as we found a group of friends, often hard to do when you are out in the middle of the country. From the start we avoided the ‘cliques’ of English speaking people here (it is quite possible to live most of your life in English here, but not what we came for) We had a neighbour who pointed out that if we were going to integrate into the village we needed to participate – and there was a meeting that night! So from the start we met people, worked on village activities, invited our neighbours and friends in, even when we were nervous about what and how we would talk to them. We’re now on the executive of several village associations, and receive lots of compliments on how well we’ve integrated. We will never be the same as people who were born here, but ‘I’ve come to see that that’s ok, and it doesn’t seem to bother our friends and neighbours.

Living here is easier for us because we both managed to have British passports (I was born in England, my husbands father was also.) However, when we came we had to have a Carte de Sejour (residency permit), which involved proving that you had enough in the bank to live on, and had health insurance. A simple letter from our bank indicated that we were solvent (I can't remember how much it had to be, but not a lot -we didn’t actually think we could live on what they wanted). Proof of insurance – I doubt that emergency coverage on an existing policy would do, but joining the system isn’t expensive here if you are a full time resident. In our case the requirements came from our local Prefecture – you could have a look at http://www.prefecture-police-paris.i...our/sejour.htm
but you’ll start to see why you will need French.

Other things to consider are of course tax and inheritance, which are very different here. The current French government is about to make changes in inheritance tax, but the system will still be very different from what you know – removing much of the choice of how your estate is handled. It really needs a conversation with a French tax lawyer to understand even some of the differences and the ways of dealing with them.

You might want to do some reading before you go any further. Just check ‘living in France’ on Amazon and you’ll find David Hampshire’s Living and working in France, plus lots of others.

But, despite our lack of research, we made exactly the right move for us, one we’ve never regretted. By the time we finally got here, we were very committed – sold up everything, packed up the two cats, got on the plane, and started living the life we had dreamed of, which was even better than we imagined.

Finally, one of the main things we learned here is how important it is to ask the right question – you usually get an answer, but only if you’ve asked the right questions. So, to ask how difficult it is to become a French citizen is not the same as asking how to live here. Don’t make assumptions – some things will be the same, many will be different.
Carlux is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 04:57 AM
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Great thread!
Images2 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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When I finally zeroed to live forever in France, maybe people would ask why.

I've told people that France is better, it's not worse, it's just different.

For those who have already moved and spent some time here, I think this statement is correct.

For those planning on heading to France, they should understand there won't be heaven.

But I'm quite happy here.

blackduff is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 08:23 AM
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I should have proof read my statement.
I've told people that France is better, it's not worse, it's just different

Should read I've told people that France is not better, it's not worse, it's just different

blackduff is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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Thanks for putting yourself out there, BB, with such equanimity, grace and enthusiasm. I hope my contribution here is not too far off the nuts and bolts of your concerns.

This thread is near to my heart, as my last 3 month trip driving solo through France and Italy ended up with a 16 night stay in Paris which had me *convinced* I wanted to move to Paris. (A 2000 6 month solo drive trip through Europe also made me want to move there, but commitments here to pets, which are now nearly at an end, prohibited it.) Those interested can see a thread I initiated on another site on the subject here:


In my case, the longing to move to Paris had to do with how it forced me to become active, hence, more healthy--doing all the things I love to do there kept me moving--whereas sitting in my leather recliner here in bucolic Marin County, living my fortunate early retirement life (57), addicted to my laptop and cable news, beholding my beautiful garden, was/is more than I could overcome with my lackluster self-discipline. I'm in love with the joy Europe's beauty gives me, and it motivates me to 'get out there'.

Since then, the numerous, tedious, and onerous realities (outlined very helpfully by many above) of making it work, especially alone, have sunk in, along with my re-ensconsement with above noted addictions. Much of what's involved and it's 'do-ability' has to do with one's personality--knowing yourself well enough to face which strengths and liabilities you bring to the challenge. (At one end are the deliberative ones who take 5 years to put the pieces in place...at the other end, I just read of an LA woman who bought a 5 story house in the Perigord from LA without seeing it inside, and is happily traveling back & forth, hiring Dutch workmen to gut and rebuild it, adjusting to the new reality that she won't live in it for several years.)

I'm now thinking on a different strategy: To buy a decent VW camper over there, which I can park near a friend's house in the south Paris suburbs, and do a mix of meandering all the regions of France, (and other European countries) armed with current Gites books; and, renting in Paris for a few months at a time. Two long road trips have taught me that many delightful experiences ensue from calling an obscure Gite mid-afternoon to stay that night--it's a great way to experience the people. And, if you pass into other countries, you can get around the time-limited VISA problems.

I offer this as an extended-research option to consider for getting a feel of French life, places you might want to buy, and such, while having a glorious adventure at the same time.


KarenKM is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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DanM is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 10:39 AM
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Re your statement: "one that we can use as a home base for jaunts to the parts of the world we'd never get to see if we remained in the U.S.", would that be Cuba or North Korea you're attracted to (after France)?
tomboy is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 10:48 AM
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LOL....sadly, so.

Stu T.
tower is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 02:58 PM
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Very interesting thread. Thanks to all for the information. If I ever need it, it will be here.
Kristinelaine is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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My wife and I too plan for an early retirement, in about six or seven years, and we had thought very seriously about buying a home in France. Six months here, six months there was the plan.

I've concluded that it doesn't make much sense to do buy a house there. A decent place, according to the many listings on the internet, is going to run you any where from E$150 to E$200K, $225K to $275K USD at the current rate of exchange. Leaving that same money in an investment account, you'd realize, oh, say $10K USD in six months. One can rent a comfortable gite or bungalow in rural France for a half year, for that.

Doing it this way, you maintain your freedom to vary your stay, chosing different departments if you choose; one frees oneself of the considerable trouble, anguish and expense of home ownership; you don't have to worry about French inheritance laws; you get to spend time with family back home; and if you decide that France isn't for you, you have little investment in the place and you can easily come home. A pied in both terres.
JeffreyJ is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 05:06 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Been out most of the day -- just now catching up on the thread and finding more great thoughts and info since my last post!

Carlux, I had to laugh at your recommendation to check out Amazon and David Hampshire's book. Upon returning home today, my mailbox contained Hampshire's "Retiring in France", which I ordered along with a couple other titles from Amazon a couple weeks ago.

To everyone else who has generously taken the time to share your insights and experiences, many many thanks. I'm finding that my thinking on this matter is evolving, and I'm beginning to consider options that I otherwise might not have.

Although an eventual move to France still remains on the table, there are now several intermediate "win-win" alternatives in play, which have superceded the "all in" bet I was previously considering.

Have I mentioned that you folks are awesome?
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 01:21 AM
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Keren is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 06:40 AM
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This is a wonderful thread. Thanks for staring it, BunkerBoy. And for being such a good sport about the replies.
suze is offline  

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