Tips to make the most of retiring to France

From choosing where to settle to staying resilient

Resilience is an important trait for prospective retirees to France
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We talk to those who have made the move to find out what advice they would give to anyone considering retiring to France. 

Choose your location wisely 

“Choose a location with good public transport links,” say Bill Richardson, 69, and Bob Halcums, 71, who retired to Carcassonne from Georgia in 2016. The couple run the blog Let’s Live in France, where they chronicle their travels and give advice to others considering moving to France. 

“If you can find a location that does not require a car then you will have much more money to be able to enjoy your retirement and be able to explore France and the rest of Europe.”

“It is just right for us to spend our retirement, (we love) to travel and explore everything around us,” they say. 

Read more: Can we still retire to France? Are certain income levels now required?

Make things walkable 

While the peace of the French countryside might be attractive, do not discount the convenience of being able to walk to your local amenities. 

“Choose a home within walking distance to businesses, medical facilities and recreational facilities,” say Mr Richardson and Mr Halcums. 

Read more: Where are the best places to grow old in France?

Enjoy every day 

Relocating is “just the beginning of your French adventure”, says Deborah Bine, who retired to the south of France from the US in 2012. 

She encourages newcomers to really make the most of what France has to offer, from its diverse landscape, to its history and culinary scene. 

“If you allow it, there is never a dull moment,” she says. 

Read more: Retiring to Spain or France: what are the main differences?

Start learning French before you leave 

Knuckling down and revising your French may take a back seat to all your other retirement preparations, but you will be grateful for doing some extra work once you arrive in France. 

“Learn as much French as you can before you move,” say Mr Richardson and Mr Halcums.

“Join a conversation group online or a one-on-one language exchange. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because even the French do not always understand each other.” 

Read more: Why you may be struggling with French - and what you can do about it

Get involved in your community

There are many expat groups in France, a great resource for socialising and meeting people who understand what you are going through and can give you some advice about the process. 

“There are plenty of English-speaking groups and communities centred around mutual interests and activities,” says Justyna Simmons, of Your Friend in Paris, which helps people who are thinking about moving to the French capital, including those thinking about retiring to the city. 

Bloggers Bob Richardson and Bill Halcums advise introducing yourself to your new French neighbours as soon as you can to “break the ice”.

Read more: Seven tips to help you integrate in France

Be flexible 

Flexibility is not just recommended, but is a necessity for anyone considering retiring to France, says blogger Deborah Bine. 

“Moving to a new country is filled with unpredictable moments,” she says, adding the ability to adapt can help you to navigate these moments more smoothly. 


Do not worry too much about the paperwork; if you are prepared, things should go more smoothly. 

“Accept that bureaucracy exists everywhere but just give the documents asked for in the order requested and attempt to speak French,” say Mr Richardson and Mr Halcums. “Even just a “bonjour” is very appreciated.” 

Read more: French bureaucracy: 12 ways your local France Services office can help

Make use of France’s public healthcare 

“After living in France for three months on a visitor's visa, retirees qualify for public healthcare,” says Ms Simmons, who encourages retirees to make sure they use France’s public health system as and when they need to. 

“With a carte Vitale and a mutuelle, you can find an English-speaking doctor of any specialty and pay very little to see them. It is also great that most prescription medications are fully covered by public health care.” 

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

Consider renting at first 

There is no need to take the plunge of buying a house in France immediately. Renting is a good option while you find your feet and work out exactly where you would like to live. 

“If you are not certain that you will be happy in a location then find a long-term rental and test out the area before buying any property,” say Mr Richardson and Mr Halcums, who rented a house when they first arrived in France, before buying a property after a year. 

Take advantage of senior discounts

Mr Richardson and Mr Halcums also advise newcomers to take advantage of senior discount passes for local and long-distance travel. 

Read more: What are the best discount cards for over-55s in France?

For example, the Carte Avantage Senior, offered by national rail operator SNCF, gives over 60s discounts of between 25% and 50% on rail journeys in France. 

Be resilient 

It is normal for homesickness to strike when moving away from friends and family and it is how you deal with it that is the most important thing, according to Ms Bine. 

“The path to creating a new home in a foreign land is challenging,” she says, but suggests joining expat groups and embracing language learning as ways to acclimatise to your new surroundings.

Read more: Five tips to enjoy a long and financially secure retirement in France

Get involved in your community

There are many expat groups in France, a great resource for socialising and meeting people who have been there, done that and can give you some advice about the process. 

“There are plenty of English-speaking groups and communities centred around mutual interests and activities,” says Ms Simmons.

Remember there is no age limit for fun 

“You can do whatever you want at whatever age and no one will make you feel like you can’t,” says Ms Simmons, of retiring to Paris. 

However, this “give it a go” mentality is one that would stand many prospective retirees to France in good stead. 

“Here in Paris, there is no age limit for fun, and many of our clients say that being able to participate in activities from music festivals to Pride events with no social pressure energises them and allows them to fully enjoy their retirement,” she says.