Living & Working in France
France is the top expat destination for Brits looking for a place in the sun and a more relaxed lifestyle, according to official government statistics.
The lure of long lunches, people watching from street side bars and cafes, less people and more sun proves too much for many.
The ‘entente cordiale’ between Brits abroad and the French is not as easy going - or laissez faire - as everyone would like to believe.
The French have a strong cultural roots and a great disdain for anyone who does not speak French as they believe the language should be spoken. For many, language is more of a barrier than the English Channel.
The cities are far more cosmopolitan, and anyone moving to France to work is moving to one of the world’s largest and richest economies.
However, language comes in to play again, as fluency in French can severely dent work prospects.
The economy is under stress, and the new socialist government of president Francois Hollande is keen to soak the rich to plug a €10 billion deficit.
A top rate of income tax of 75% awaits anyone earning around €100,000 a year - plus hikes in other wealth and property taxes.
Most British expats do not move to France to work - although some of the more picturesque backwaters are littered with white van tradesmen renovating their little piece of the world.
France is favoured by active retirees who want to savour a slower pace in life, enjoy their wine and live out their later years in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.
Although taxes are on the way up, the cost of living is about the same as home for many on a tight budget, and even cheaper in rural areas.
This is especially true if you shop like the French in street markets and their car boot sales or ‘vide greniers’.
A few things are spectacularly more expensive than in the UK.
If you believe British secondhand car sales are a rip off, wait until you meet a French dealer. In many cases, it’s cheaper to export a car from the UK, Spain or Germany than to buy in France.
Other anomalies are DIY supplies like timber, paint and white goods - fridges, washing machines and the like.
Like leaving in a remote part of the UK internet shopping makes finding a bargain easier, especially now VAT at 20% is added to the cost of clothing.
Schooling and and child care is cheaper than in the UK as the French government subsidises the cost. Healthcare is first class and subsidised, although most expats will have to make a contribution.
Public transport is cheap and reliable, while most motorways are toll roads - meaning they are better maintained and less crowded.Car insurance is also cheaper, but the French insure the vehicle, not the driver - and don’t forget the government does not levy any road tax.