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Living in France

Description Page Living in France

A British Expat's Guide to living in France

The decision to leave the security and familiarity of home is one that shouldn't be taken lightly by people considering permanent retirement in France. Although France is the UK's nearest neighbour, there are a multitude of differences that can make the move stressful. As well as the obvious language and cultural differences, expats must negotiate the minefield of fiscal management and because there are some significant differences between the two countries, managing money requires some research and careful planning.

Content Living in France


One of the trickiest areas of financial management for expats in France involves the opening of a new bank account. A Brit arriving in France for the first time will have no credit history, and the language barrier could further complicate the process. If it's possible, it could be far simpler to open a French bank account whilst still in the UK.

The French banking system operates direct debits in much the same way as they operate in the UK; however, they are referred to as 'prélèvement automatique'. To set up a direct debit, you will need to use the printed slips that will arrive in your cheque book. Referred to as relevé d'Identité bancaire (RIBs), they include all the relevant information required to set up a direct debit.

Transferring Your Funds and Assets from the UK to France

Transferring substantial funds to your new French account can be a costly process, with high street banks charging up to 4% more for the service than international currency specialists. An exchange rate can be fixed before moving to France.

Finding a Property

Many expats have plunged themselves straight into property ownership in France without sampling the local way of life first. While, in many cases, that decision has been vindicated, some people struggle with the culture, the language and the local customs. A far more prudent course of action is to rent at first; you can commit to a property purchase when you've settled into a specific region of France. The process for securing a tenancy is similar to that in the UK, and proof of income and references will usually be a minimum requirement. If you're new to France, it is a good idea to arrange accommodation before you leave the UK.

Medical Expenses

The French medical system is fundamentally different to the NHS in the UK, and every resident must ensure that they have healthcare arrangements in place. As soon as you arrive in France, you will need to fill out an E106 or S1 form and send it to the local French authority. If you were receiving your state pension or disability benefits in the UK, there is a good chance that you qualify for French healthcare paid for by the NHS. All residents will be issued with a European Health Insurance Card that allows the holder to receive healthcare funded by the state. However, such care usually only includes emergency treatments, so an element of private medical insurance may be necessary. However, registering an S1 or E106 with the local health authority in France will allow you to obtain your 'Carte Vitale'. You can then contribute to and benefit from France's state-funded healthcare system like any French national.

Taxation and Pensions

Expats permanently domiciled in France will be subject to the same taxes that apply to French nationals: income tax, registration tax, wealth tax, VAT and local taxes (which include property transaction taxes).

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