Adam (50) and Catherine (49) decided to move to France in January 2021 with their children. It was had long been Adam’s dream to live the French good life and the family had spent many holidays in France and loved the laid back lifestyle.
Adam and Catherine had planned to move before Brexit, but finding the right house took longer than they had thought and then Covid interrupted their goals. They decided to locate to the far north of France, Pas-de-Calais, for its ease of transport to the UK where they have family and proximity to Paris (just 2 hours by train).
We ask them about their experience of moving to France…
What made you decide to move to France
‘It was’ says Adam, a copywriter, ‘something I’d longed to do for years. I just felt that I’m not getting any younger, but I’m still young enough to set up and run my business from France. And to enjoy everything there is here skiing, the great beaches, the culture, the food and wine…’
Catherine says he was ‘having a mid-life crisis!’ But, after much discussion with their two daughters, Hilary (12) and Samantha (16), the whole family agreed to take a leap of faith across the English Channel.
‘The girls simply said dad stop going on about it’ laughs Adam. ‘Their attitude was, if we’re going to go, just make up your mind and get on with it.’
But the family didn’t just rush the move, they carefully researched every aspect from buying the house, schools, transport, working, health care, learning French and more.
What was it like actually moving to France
‘We sold our house in Chepstow and bought a 4-bedroom house near the historic town of Montreuil-sur-Mer for a lot less. We’re not far from the sandy beaches of the Opal Coast but we’re in the beautiful countryside. Before we came here, I had investigated how to set up as self-employed in France. Our estate agent helped us to make sure we had all the utilities connected, especially the internet. It meant the kids were happy they could be in contact with their friends. And we knew we would be able to get to work as soon as we finished unpacking if need be’ says Adam. ‘Although we came here for the good life, we still need to earn an income.’
Feeling at home from day one
‘We didn’t want to stress about the practicalities of moving on top of everything else that needed doing’ says Catherine. ‘We had enough on our hands moving the cat and the dog and us! ‘We looked for a removals company that had great testimonials and lots of experience. We chose a company that could help with the paperwork because post Brexit, there’s a lot more form filling to do and we didn’t want to have anything go wrong and it was clear they had the relevant experience.
We used a “road-train” service which meant we shared with other consignments and that kept the cost down. The company helped with the paperwork and the inventory that’s needed. Everything had to be logged, from books to cutlery. We’ve heard other people moving here have problems with deliveries, things not arriving when they should or lorries being turned back for having the wrong paperwork, and we didn’t want that. We wanted our experience to start on a positive note.
How have you found it living in France?
Adam and Catherine spoke a little French and the girls had been learning French at school but none of them were fluent. After almost a year, the girls are speaking French like locals. Adam and Catherine aren’t quite as good but as part of being self-employed, they’ve been offered free lessons and the girls are helping them.
‘We were worried about how the girls would cope’ says Catherine. ‘It wasn’t all easy. But now we truly feel we did the best thing for them. They’re going to be fully bilingual and they’ve made some really good friends here. They’ve had nothing but great support from the teachers at their schools.’
France is famous for its bureaucracy and Adam agrees, it can be bewildering at times. He advises anyone moving to France to just accept that a lot of paperwork is required. ‘There’s nothing you can do about it! But when your carte vitale (health card) comes through, your visa, your carte de sejour, your confirmation that things are being set up, they are each a little victory. And over time, the admin becomes less…’
The key to success to moving to France
‘We planned thoroughly’ says Catherine. ‘We made lists of what needed to be done, what paperwork was required, we took copies of everything, and we learned to be pragmatic but also determined and to just accept it is what it is when dealing with the admin requirements for living here.’
‘Also, we had help when we needed it, like the practical side of moving. A ‘hand holder’ set up our business. It was worth every euro as it meant within a short time of arriving we felt settled, the girls were really happy to have their things, and we were able to work.’
‘Would we go back?’ muses Catherine looking around as everyone shakes their heads. ‘No, in fact, my mum is in the process of selling her house and moving here too. She’s already booked a removals company to come and pack her things and move it all here. She’s buying a house that’s just a 2-minute walk from ours!
We love it here. The markets, the people, the space, the way everyone says hello, the brilliant healthcare and so much more. This is our home now, we’re here to stay.’
Find out more about the requirements for moving to France from the French Government website: france-visas.gouv.fr