Relocating to a brand new country is exciting. Exploring a new culture, tasting new cuisines, meeting new people. Before the fun can begin, though, you’re going to have to make your way down an overwhelming, sometimes stressful path. Here’s what you need to know when buying a property and moving to France to help things run as smoothly as possible.
Finding Your Perfect Home in France
Where you buy property in France will depend on the lifestyle you’re looking for. Adventure-seekers and winter sports enthusiasts will want a home in the French Alps, preferably with ski-in/ski-out access. Yacht owners or anyone who wants warmth and year-round sunshine should consider living in the French Riviera. Paris and Nice are energetic and urban, while Bordeaux and Provence are perfectly peaceful and surrounding by beautiful countryside.
Once you have a list of what you want (and don’t want) in your new home, it’s time to get some help. By using the services of a buyer’s agent, you can narrow down your choices and only look at the property that truly suits your needs. A buyer’s agent will also be able to find you luxury property for sale that’s unlisted. Plus, you’ll have someone by your side throughout the entire buying process.
Overall, there’s so much to consider when buying property in France: where to look, how to find the right home, the country’s unique buying process, etc. Luckily, we covered this topic much more in-depth in our definitive buyer’s guide.
Hiring a Removal Company and Other Pre-Moving Must-Dos
Here are some must-dos for the days leading up to the big move.
Firstly, start collecting boxes early. Even if you hire a removal company, they won’t necessarily provide boxes. It is always a good idea to declutter by selling, donating and throwing away things you don’t want to take. This is an excellent opportunity to trim down the amount of stuff you’ll be moving.
Remember to cancel unwanted deliveries such as magazines, subscriptions, newspapers and redirect the rest of your mail to your new address. Beware that once you’re in France, you’ll need to have your name, not just your address, on your door or mailbox.
It is a good idea to pack a box to keep on hand throughout the move that includes important documents, valuables, and essentials like a change of clothes, toiletries, phone chargers and bed linens. Also wash a final load of laundry before you move! You don’t want to take dirty clothing or towels with you on moving day.
Finally, if needed, get a parking permit and permission for lift access for moving day.
Useful links and resources
Getting a Visa or Permit and Registering with French Authorities
Depending upon your nationality and home country, you may need a French visa in order to travel to France, a residence permit to live in France for more than three months, or both. If you’re going to be studying in France, there may be different requirements to meet. If you currently live in the EU, you do not need a visa to move to France.
The visa de long séjour, also known as a long-stay visa, requires you to register with the Office Francais de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII) within three months after moving to France. If you don’t have a visa de long séjour, you’ll have to go to the prefecture for a residence permit or to register your French residence.
After buying property in France and moving, you’ll need to register with French authorities, regardless of your nationality. Registration isn’t a fast process and it requires an interview and a medical review, so it’s a good idea to get started as soon as you can.
For more information about obtaining a visa in order to live in France, visit the OFII online.
Integrating into the French Way of Life
The business of moving to France can be complex, but sometimes assimilating into a new culture is the trickiest part. You’ll have an easier time if you’re willing to learn the cultural norms and etiquette that are expected. If you’re open to the French way of life, you’ll be more accepted in social circles and at work. Expect a culture shock when you first move to France, but know that it will get easier and more familiar with time.
Spend some time getting to know the local area to discover the shops you’ll frequent. Take note of their opening hours, and remember that a lot of shops in France are closed on Sunday.
It’s also common for businesses to be closed for an extended period during lunch. Long lunches are part of the culture in France, so order a glass of wine and enjoy your free time along with everyone else.
Just about every town in France has a market day (or two) each week. Find out when yours is and head there for the freshest local ingredients you can get your hands on. Some markets also sell other types of goods, like clothes, household items and antiques.
There is an assortment of newspapers to pick up in France, but Le Figaro and Le Monde are the two biggest ones, so start with those.
Football (soccer in the U.S.) and rugby are big in France, and you’re bound to run into crowds if you head to a bar or cafe after a game. If you want to get in on the action, sign up for a league – many towns in France have their own.
Useful links and resources
Most of the time, it will be necessary to speak fluent French in order to get a job in the country. This should be a top priority before you relocate and it will also help you through the process of buying property in France. If you don’t speak French, you’ll be very limited when it comes to the jobs you qualify for.
You can attend a language school in France in order to learn the language if you don’t already know it by the time you move, or you can take a French course online. You can also find someone who speaks the language as their first language and who is interested in learning your native language – you can do a language swap to teach one another.
Try out the language whenever you get the chance – the more you use it, the better you’ll get.
Joining an Expat Community
- You know you have to learn the language, and joining a French language event will connect you with others who are also new to the country.
- Many cities and towns in France are made for walking, and being out and about makes it easier to connect with locals.
- Partake in an event that attracts like-minded people (many of whom may be expats), like a mums-only group, a wine tasting experience or a fitness class.
- Some spots seem to attract expats more than others, like these places to meet expats in Paris.
Setting Up a French Bank Account and Managing Your Finances
In order to open a French bank account, you’ll need an ID and passport; proof of your French residence, such as a lease agreement; and a residence permit, if you have one. Some banks will let you open a French bank account before moving, but make sure to ask what their policy is regarding people who will be relocating to France.
Your French bank account can be opened in one day and you’ll receive your bank card and checkbook within a minimum of 10 business days. Since it can take a while to get your bank card and checkbook, it’s best to have euros or an international bank card with you when you first move, plus enough finances to get you through the first few weeks.
Useful links and resources
Paying French Taxes and Social Security
If you’re going to be living and working in France for more than 182 days each year, you’ll be considered a tax resident immediately upon your arrival. Once you move to France and are considered a French resident, you’ll need to pay taxes by either May 31 or the month of June, depending on how you file your tax return – if you file it online, you have until June to pay. You’ll also need to register with the tax office or mairie in order to pay social security.
If you don’t pay your taxes on time, you could get fined up to 10% of the tax bill. While you’ll most likely have a tax form sent to you, contact the tax office or the mairie in your area if you don’t receive one during your first year in France. Even if you think you’re going to fall under the income threshold and won’t have to pay taxes, you still need to file on time every year.
Accessing French Health Insurance
Useful links and resources
Signing Up for Home Insurance
Managing Utilities and Waste
Setting Up Telephone, Internet and TV
Getting Around France
Rural roads in France tend to be free of traffic and in great condition. If you have an EU or EEA driver’s license, it will be valid in France. If you have a non-EU license, it will only be valid for one year and you will also need an official French translation of the license.
Many French cities have self-service bike rentals available 24 hours thanks to the Vélib’ program. You can pick up and drop off bikes at any of the stations at any time. For quicker transportation around town, consider purchasing a moped.
Driving in France
Driving in a new country can be intimidating. Here are a few tips and laws to know so that you can be comfortable driving in France:
- When driving in France you’ll be driving on the right-hand side of the road – this makes it easier for Americans to adjust, but harder for expats from the UK!
- The law requires every driver to carry a warning triangle and a fluorescent safety vest in their car.
- You must also carry a breathalyser in your car. If you’re stopped, you may be asked to show your breathalyser; if you don’t have one, you could face a fine.
- Children under the age of 10 must sit in the back seat with the restraint system that’s appropriate for their weight (either a child seat or a booster seat with seatbelt).
- The speed limit changes based on the weather. For example, on motorways, the regular speed limit is 130 km/h (which is 80 mph) but lowers to 110 km/h (70 mph) when the roads are wet.
- In cities, the speed limit is much lower, usually 50 km/h or 30 mph.
Useful links and resources
Enjoying Your Move!
There’s so much that goes into buying property in France, preparing for your move, managing moving day, and then settling into a completely new life. It’s nearly impossible to get each and every “To Do” out of the way and you’re bound to have some loose ends to tie up in the days and weeks following your relocation. Knowing which official buildings you’ll need to contact, understanding the language and being familiar with French terminology will help you immensely. Eventually, the paperwork will be behind you and all you’ll have left to do is enjoy your new hometown.
We wish you a wonderful move and congratulations on your new life in France!