France consists of the mainland – Metropolitan France – plus a number of overseas territories. Metropolitan France sits on the western edge of Europe and runs from the North Sea and English Channel in the north to the Mediterranean Sea and the borders with Andorra and Spain in the south. To the west is the Bay of Biscay, part of the North Atlantic Ocean, and to the east are the borders with Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The Belgium and Luxembourg borders are to the north-east and Monaco perches on the south coast.
The UK and France have been connected by the Channel Tunnel since 1994. It runs from Folkestone in Kent to Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais.
France has a population of 67 million people. Almost 65 million live in Metropolitan France, with over 2 million residents in the capital city of Paris, the largest and most populous city.
Statistics show almost 800,000 UK citizens live in the EU, with around 150,000 settled in France. France is in the Central European Time (CET) zone, which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The currency is the euro, and if you need to telephone anyone, the country dialling code is +33.
The official language is French and if you’re to integrate successfully you need to learn at least the basics.
France is a large country, about twice the size of the UK, and the terrain is varied. There are regions that are mountainous, there’s a lot of coastline and there are both rural and urban areas. Unsurprisingly, the climate is varied.
In the Alps and the Pyrenees it’s cold all year round and snowy in the winter months. The south enjoys hot summers and moderate winters on the Med. It’s cooler to the west, rainy and more humid, whereas the east enjoys a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters.
France is renowned for food, fashion, art – and so much more.
Food is a hugely important element of French culture, to the extent that lunch breaks may stretch to two hours. Many shops close during this time – think of it as a French siesta – so plan your day accordingly. Of the 137 three-star Michelin restaurants in the world, France boasts 29, which puts it joint top with Japan. Next in line is the USA, with 14.
France became the undisputed leader of European style way back in the 17th century, and also gave us the world’s first fashion magazine, Le Mercure Galant, in 1672. Famous French fashion designers include Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Nicole Farhi and Christian Dior.
The Louvre, arguably the most famous art gallery on the globe, is in Paris. It houses a plethora of priceless works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
EU citizens are not required to apply for a visa or permit to live, study or work in France. If you like, you can apply for an EU-citizen residence card.
If you’ll be earning an income, you’ll need an SPI (Simplification des Procedures d’Imposition), a French tax identification number. It should be assigned automatically after you submit your first tax return.
To work in France, even in an English-speaking role, you’ll need to be fluent in French. Your CV should be provided in French, and often in English, too, depending on the job in question. Generally, CVs for junior roles cover one side of A4, with senior roles covering two sides. It’s common to attach a formal photograph.
Job hunting may be carried out online or via networking. As well as the main job boards, check out expat websites and forums.
The working week in France is 35 hours. There are 11 public holidays, and you can expect around 25 days paid holiday. There’s a guaranteed minimum hourly wage, the Salaire Minimum Interprofessionnel de Croissance (SMIC). Social security charges are automatically deducted, but not income tax; earnings must be declared annually and the tax due paid.
Cost of living
Overall, the cost of living in France is around 10% higher than in the UK. That isn’t applied evenly across the board; rent and property prices are lower, whereas food and mobile phones are more expensive. When it comes to utilities, it depends where you are. Broadly speaking, prices are lower, but you’ll want air-conditioning in the hotter regions and that’s costly to run, and rural areas often don’t have mains gas, meaning you have to shell out on bottled gas.
Renting or buying a property
Renting in France is popular, especially in the cities, where properties are plentiful. Unfurnished rentals come with a three-year lease, although you can give three months’ notice to the landlord at any time.
Leases on furnished properties are for just 12 months. As well as furniture, things like bedding and crockery must also be provided.
The tenancy agreement will cover who is responsible for what, in terms of payments and responsibilities. For example, a dripping tap might be the responsibility of the tenant, whereas a leak would be down to the landlord to fix. Rent controls are in place.
When it comes to buying a house in France, expect to need a deposit of 10%. The cost of a mortgage and other regular expenses is restricted to a percentage of your household income. For buyers over 65, income must be passive or from a pension, not earned.
Estate agents in France are expensive, so many sellers choose to sell direct. Having said that, estate agents are highly regulated and can be useful when you are house-hunting.
Once you find a property you like and the offer has been accepted, rather than both buyer and seller appointing a solicitor, an impartial public officer who operates on behalf of the state – known as a notaire – steps in. They’ll draw up legal documents, starting with initial sale and purchase contract known as the compromis de vente, conduct searches and so on. You must use a notaire and their fees are set by the government.
Sellers are required to provide a Dossier de Diagnostic Technique, or DDT, containing various surveys. You might want to have separate surveys carried out yourself.
Expect it to take a couple of months from signing the compromis de vente to completion of the sale.
You must have a French bank account to buy property.
To open a current account – un compte courant – you’ll need your passport, proof of address, and something to show your residency status. You may also be asked to provide your French income tax return. Basic accounts tend to be free.
Services you get free in the UK, such as making payments via Direct Debit, may be chargeable in France.
Education in France is high quality and in demand – it’s the fourth most popular destination for students. Fees are the same for French nationals and international students; expect to pay between €200 and €400 per year at state universities, depending on the course. Private institutions charge more – generally somewhere between €3,000 and €10,000 per year.
EU nationals should apply direct to the university of their choice.
As a resident in France, you are legally obliged to have health insurance in order to access their excellent healthcare system. The insurance obtained can be private or via the public healthcare system. Following the introduction of the universal public healthcare system, Protection Maladie Universelle (PUMA), unlimited healthcare access is a right of all residents.
Healthcare is not always free at the point of use. For example, you may need to pay a flat fee when visiting a doctor, which is then partially reimbursed afterwards. If you need medication it works slightly differently, in that you only pay the amount not covered by insurance at the pharmacy – a bit like paying a set amount per prescription item on the NHS in England.
As well as registering with a doctor, don’t forget to register with a dentist; dental care is also covered by state healthcare (although not totally free – as in the UK, there are charges attached).
If you are employed, your employer may handle registration for you. Otherwise, you must register with the social security system or visit your local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM). You should also visit CPAM if you qualify for healthcare under PUMA.
Once registered, you’ll need to apply for a health insurance card (carte vitale), which will give you your social security number – as well as for health insurance purposes, it’s used for national identification and social security.
Happily, taking your pet to France is pretty straightforward. There are three main requirements: it must be microchipped, have a pet passport, and have been vaccinated against rabies no less than 21 days prior to travel.
It is forbidden to import the following dogs: Staffordshire terrier, pit bull terrier; mastiff, and tosa.
You can drive in France indefinitely if you have a licence issued by an EU country; if not, you must exchange your licence for a French licence within 12 months. You can choose to exchange your licence at any time, even if not required to by law, but you are obliged to do so if you commit a driving offence and are penalised for it. You must be at least 18 to drive in France.
The procedure for exchanging UK driving licences is currently in flux. The official information, found here, states: “The procedure for exchanging a driving licence obtained in a country of the European Union, the European Economic Area or in the United Kingdom will be done online on the ANTS website from March 3, 2020.”
In the meantime, it seems there is no available method and they ask that exchange requests no longer be sent by post to Centre d’Expertise et de Ressources des Titres (CERT).
Moving abroad to live in another country is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Having a removals company that knows how to deal with necessary paperwork and also has local knowledge of the country you’re moving to can be a huge help.
When you move to France, your belongings are most likely going to be shifted by road, and there are two main types of delivery you can book: direct load and groupage.
If you have a sizeable load to move and need a fixed delivery date, go for a direct load. It means you can specify the date you want to receive your belongings and the lorry will only be transporting your goods.
To cut costs, especially on a small load, go for groupage. With this, smaller consignments are booked until the lorry is full, then it travels across the country making a series of smaller deliveries on the way. You have little control over when your load will arrive, but you will be given a reasonable idea of when to expect it.
Make sure you book a company with experience of international transportation. As well as looking after your belongings, they need to look after the necessary paperwork.
Ask for a written estimate and make sure everything is fully insured.
How TFM can help
Our friendly, family-run business can help with your relocation to France, or any other European or international destination. TFM are members of BAR (British Association of Removers) and have almost 30 years of experience in removals. We’re well aware of the vagaries of customs and other official bodies and know how to work with them to ensure smooth transit.
Our fully-insured expert team can help take the stress out of relocation, so you can enjoy the adventure. As well as a comprehensive worldwide removals service, we offer both long-term and short-term storage solutions, and a wrapping and packing service.
Contact us today for a free quotation or more information.