Tips for retirees moving to France

Tips for retirees moving to France - Part 1

If you read our comprehensive Guide to Buying a Property in France, you’ll be aware (if you weren’t already), that without the right planning, your move could be fraught with danger. In life, hindsight is a wonderful thing and one of the key areas that many people who move to France to retire wish they’d done better is their preparation for their new life before they leave the UK.

If you’re thinking of making the big move to start a new chapter of your life in France, there are plenty of things you can be doing right now to make the transition easier and that’s what we want to share with you today.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series of articles and will focus on the importance of getting known in your new location before you make the big move; getting your head round the language and checking out your healthcare options. Part 2 of this article will encourage you to get your financial ducks in a row; help you deal with leaving your friends and family behind and will remind you that you’re only a couple of hours away, well, if you live in the UK.

Here are our first 3 Top Tips you should consider doing before leaving the UK:

1. Visits your chosen location. There’s no reason why your integration into the French community needs to wait until your removal truck arrives; there’s plenty you can do beforehand. Once you’ve decided where you want to be, or once you’ve chosen your new home and you’re waiting for the formalities to be sorted out, it’s a good idea to make a few trips to your new town or village. Most small towns and villages in France have regular events going on throughout the year such as fêtes, festivals and celebratory meals.

These events are a great way to get to meet the movers and shakers in your new community and the perfect way to feel immediately welcome once you’re in situ full time. In terms of finding out what might be going on, the town or village website or Comité des Fêtes is a great place to start. If neither of these comes up trumps, the Office de Tourisme or the Mairie will give you a list. Also, make an effort to get to know your new neighbours if you’re already in the process of buying. They will be a huge support system for you when you become permanently resident.

2. Get your head round the language. Most people who decide to relocate to France have a bit of a grip on the language, but not a good enough command of ‘la langue Française’ when they finally land on French soil. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, get as much practice as you can speaking and listening to French voices. Movers have a tendency to focus on grammar before vocabulary, often stressing too much over the complex French verb tenses, rather than building up the essential vocabulary that will stand them in great stead when (and if) push comes to shove.

For example, if you’re moving to France to renovate a property, make sure you start to learn DIY or basic building vocabulary before you move. This will make the whole process much easier. If you’re a fan of playing cards, again make sure you have a bit of card playing vocabulary. There are plenty of language packages, on DVD and/or online such a Rosetta Stone, also we find watching the News to be helpful as the newsreader will use useful, everyday vocabulary and usually deliver in a neutral tone with no or very little accent. If you love French cinema, films and literature, watch your favorite films again but in French language, perhaps with subtitles if you’re feeling a little rusty.

Most importantly, if you have any health issues, make sure you can communicate, even at a basic level, with the healthcare experts you’ll need to support you.

3. Check your healthcare options. There’s much news in the UK press at the moment about how non-British residents might be dealt with by the NHS, but as a life-time UK resident, you’ll be accustomed to going to the doctor, or the hospital and knowing the ropes. This won’t necessarily be the case when you first use the healthcare system in France, so making sure you know what your options are before you move is a great idea.

The healthcare system in France is a little complicated, but the good news is that according to many health experts, it’s one of the finest systems in the world. Funded in much the same way as the National Health Service, the system in France differs because you pay for pretty much every service you use up front and then claim your money back later. While we’ll publish a detailed article on the healthcare system later, in a nutshell, if you’re registered in the healthcare system, you can expect the refund from the state to be anywhere between 60 and 80% of your spend. For the remainder, you can either fund that yourself or take out a top up health insurance policy (a mutuelle) to cover the difference. Like everything, there are exceptions to this, which again we’ll cover later, but this is generally how it works. The message for now is that it’s important before making your move to know what your rights are likely to be and to have your applications made to either the French healthcare system for membership, or to know you will be covered for a period under the UK system as well as organising a complimentary health policy if you need one.