Is the grass really greener?....
It can be but there are several important things to consider before you make the final decision to settle in France.
Only a small minority of French people in rural areas speak English. It is absolutely essential for you to have at least a basic understanding of French.
If you want to work, you will be expected to speak French to a high standard.
The French education system is very different to that in the UK. Children who do not know the language may find life very difficult and many schools do not have the facilities or resources to treat non-French children as special cases. Due to a lack of entertainment in rural areas teenagers can find life very dull.
Generally, unemployment in rural France is higher than in the UK.It will not be at all easy to find employment however good your qualifications
Self employment in France is not a cheap option. All businesses must be registered and fees can be involved in this process as well as the day to day running costs e.g. taxation, state contributions, business insurances etc.
It is illegal to undertake paid work if you are not registered and the consequences if discovered are severe.
Generally, this is not available to non-French citizens. Changed rules mean it is virtually impossible to receive any financial help.
France is a very bureaucratic nation. Everyone will ask you for documents which will often include proof of identity, birth certificate, marriage certificate, utility bills, bank statements etc. You can't even buy a mobile phone sim card without showing your passport or some form of identity
COST OF LIVING
The cost of living in France is not necessarily cheaper, but it can depend on your chosen lifestyle. In comparison to the UK there are several similar and several different expenses in France.
Taxe d'Habitation and Taxe Fonciere are like the Council Tax. There is a tax on televisions equivalent to the UK TV licence, even if you are just watching videos. However, if you are on a low income or over a certain age, this will be free. You will need to consider the cost of Top Up Health Insurance, (see Healthcare below).
Contributions are made towards the debt incurred on the health system and, of course, there is Income Tax which can include a Wealth Tax. All taxes are subject to various thresholds and allowances.
Healthcare in France is very good but is not free. The state scheme generally only refunds 70% of costs incurred for those who are eligible. If you work, you must pay a Social Tax (somewhat like National Insurance) for your basic 70% cover. If you are retired, but below UK retirement age, you may need to purchase full medical insurance as you will not qualify for the 70%refund.
If you have reached the UK retirement age and therefore hold an S1 form issued by the UK Department of Work and Pensions, you will qualify for the 70% refund.
Stays in hospital are expensive and the state does not refund anything towards the cost of hospital accommodation. You should therefore consider buying top-up insurance for these costs plus the remaining 30% of health care costs not met by the state.
Be aware that there are strict inheritance laws in France which constrain what you can do with your estate.
Believe it or not, the sun does not always shine - as you can see from the pictures on this page! Even in our region, winters can have very cold days. There are thunder storms with spectacular lightning, sometimes accompanied by very strong winds and heavy rain. When lighting is predicted, it is essential you unplug the TV, computer and broadband equipment.
But for most of us, the hot, sunny days more than make up up for it...