READER FEEDBACK: What you wish you had known before moving to France

See recommendations from those who have taken the plunge

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What things are worth considering before moving to France?
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From navigating French healthcare to preparing for a mountain of paperwork, Connexion readers tell us what they overlooked before making the move.


For those who think they might end up spending their retirement in France, check your information beforehand. 

“If you are retiring to France before being in receipt of your UK state pension check your entitlement and if you want/need to buy extra years do so before you move. It becomes more admin heavy after the move,” says Barbara Lynch. 

Read more: Explainer: how to top up your UK state pension when living in France


Understanding the huge differences between the French healthcare system and that in the UK or US is essential before setting off. 

Readers said that in France the onus is very much on the patient to manage their own healthcare. 

“There is little, if any, direct communication between medical professionals, leaving the patient to find specialists and aftercare and to make appointments,” said Philip Graham. “You do get used to it but it can be difficult and stressful at times.” 

Read more: Health insurance in France: what you should expect to pay per age

“You need to understand how healthcare works here if you come from the UK. Here, you self-manage your healthcare through your choice of providers. The state scheme is an insurance scheme not a managed service scheme like the NHS,” said Joel Verneuil. 

“So be prepared to look for your own doctor, search out and make your own follow up specialist appointments, register every time you go to a different provider, and also store and manage your own files of results etc. 

There is no ‘system’ as such. Every individual provider is different. Even inside hospitals, you are dealing with the specialist, not the hospital. And you pay them directly, or your insurance does. It is like being totally private in the UK but without BUPA advising you on where or who you can use. All that is up to you. So make sure you have health insurance and make sure you register with your local CPAM as soon as you can.”


Many readers stressed that while they had heard French admin was intense, they were not prepared for quite how stressful it could be. 

One thing reader Robert Jefferson overlooked was “how bad the government administration is”. 

“Take photocopies of every state issued document you have, (birth certificate, marriage certificate etc) and also have copies of bank statements and payslips for at least 13 months ready to produce on demand,” says Joel Verneuil. 

“The photocopier industry must love the French!” said Steve Morton. 


Britons moving to France should “tell HMRC quickly that you will be paying your tax in France and keep copies of all correspondence,” advises Barbara Lynch. 

“There is a form for this but it is a bit vague. You may be double taxed in year one and HMRC can be slow to repay.” 

Read more: Key errors foreigners may make with French tax declarations

Customer Service 

Several readers were quick to learn there are differences between French customer service and that in other countries. 

“Customer service is not necessarily like you imagine it should be here. Employees rights are just as important as your consumer rights, so do not expect to be treated as the most important person. And keep your receipts.” says Joel Verneuil.

“Service is not a word that is recognised in French,” adds Robert Jefferson. 

Read more: Explainer: how shop refunds and returns work in France

Inheritance laws 

It is worth looking into French inheritance laws, “especially the importance of including a ‘tontine’ clause when buying property in France,” advises Amanda Fava-Verde. 

Read more: Inheritance Law and Wills in France* Take a look inside the guide

Pace yourself

With all the excitement of making a big move, it is easy to overlook just how tiring it may be. 

Reader Gill Bedding did not realise “how completely exhausting it is to have to do everything that needs doing all at once”.