Retiring to France
What does France mean to you? Great food, undoubtedly, and wine of course; a rich and diverse culture from its wonderful historic towns to its prolific artistic heritage. And a highly appealing way of life. We all want to share in the ‘joie de vivre’ that makes the French appear to have an enviable grip on how to enjoy life.
This is a country with the same population as the UK but twice the land mass. If you want tranquility and solace while looking across beautiful landscapes you can find it throughout France. If you want beaches or ski slopes, medieval villages or modern cities, it’s all there.
Around 250,000 Britons live permanently in France, about 57,000 of them retired. A further 18,000 are joining their ranks each year, making it the most popular country in Europe for migrating Britons.
Nearly 90% of British residents in France live in the countryside. Unlike Spain, where most foreign residents settle in established coastal resorts with large English-speaking populations, France offers little of that kind of coastal community – and it isn’t typically what those who move to France want.
Instead, its interior – ‘La France profonde’ – holds the greatest allure. That partly – perhaps overwhelmingly – comes down to cost. As the French migrated to cities from the 1960s, rural villages were left largely abandoned and country properties fell into disrepair. The foreign property pioneers of the Peter Mayle variety in the 1980s found ruins to renovate and became a pivotal part of local village life in the process, inspiring many more to make a similar move.
There are the day-to-day costs, including food, car, utility bills, rent or mortgage. There are also the long-term considerations such as how your income or pension will be affected by a change in the currency rate. Brexit has affected the value of sterling, but UK expats already experienced near parity of the euro and pound during the global financial crisis, and the pound recovered, so it may do again.
The cost of living in France – as in much of Europe – has increased dramatically in the past decade. Housing is between 70%-95% pricier in Paris than in southern cities such as Perpignan, Marseille and Nice. Transport, food and entertainment are similarly far more expensive in the capital.
Utility costs vary in France. Electricity and mains gas are cheap compared with most of the EU, but water costs are among the most expensive in the world and vary hugely from region to region. But some elements remain cheaper than in other Northern European countries, including property, food, alcohol, public transport and entertainment.
EU nationals can live and work in France with just a valid passport. There is no need for a visa or residency permit. You must register with the town hall (mairie) in the commune where you live within three months of moving there. You will need to show proof of identity, residence and of your financial means to support yourself.
Non-EU nationals with a British spouse may still enter France without a visa provided they have a valid passport and a UK residence endorsement, as long as they are joining their spouse in France. Non-EU nationals wishing to move to France need a carte de sejour.
See our ‘Brexit Update’ pages for how your retirement to France may be affected as the UK leaves the EU.
‘Retiring to Europe‘ provides you with the key information you need to consider when planning your retirement to any of the most popular countries in Europe. The following subjects are comprehensively covered for each destination:
Cost of Living
Retiring to Europe
Europe remains a popular retirement destination for Britons. But where best to retire in Europe? The full-colour, 264-page book ‘Retiring to Europe’ considers the pros and cons of the popular options. It examines in detail climate, lifestyle, language, travel connections, the affordability of property, access to healthcare and the tax and other financial implications of residency in ten European countries.
It focuses on the areas of Mediterranean Europe that Britons prefer to retire to: France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Turkey and Croatia. It also looks at the UK as a retirement option.