As much as a move to France (or any new country) is always going to be something of a step into the unknown, the correct preparation is always going to help. Indeed, most people would regard some serious research into the practicalities of living in a new country as absolutely essential. Of course, we now have access to the information superhighway (er…. the internet) where you can find the answer to almost any question you might like to pose. This includes a multitude of websites with information about France, whether it is moving there, living there, buying property there or exiting the world (ekkk!) there.
Of course, there internet has its downsides and these include its size. While Google (and the other search engines) do a brilliant job of finding us what we want (providing we use the right terms to search for it), sometimes it’s nice just to hold the answers in your own hands. Yes, thankfully, there is still a place for the book!
As a quick browse on Amazon will soon demonstrate, when it comes to things French, there is plenty of choice in the book department – language resources, property renovation or personal experiences from those that have already done it – there is something useful available. In terms of a ‘one stop shop’ that covers all the basics of moving to France to live, perhaps the most well-known book is David Hampshire’s excellent ‘Living and working in France’ which I’ve reviewed in an earlier post. This runs to over 400 pages and is crammed with useful stuff.
However, if you want a slightly more concise take on the same general subject matter, you might like to check out ‘A complete guide to living in France’. This is published by Archant and bought to you by the same people responsible for Living France magazine. In fact, this is the third edition of this guide and the current edition has only just been published so the information should be pretty much up-to-date. In terms of for format, it comes in as an A5 book with approximately 180 pages. While a one-off publication rather than a magazine like Living France, the magazine heritage is clear as the physical format is not unlike a Reader’s Digest ‘book’ rather than something you would expect to pull of the shelf in your local bookstore. That said, it is nicely put together and, robustness of the outside cover as an exception, it is very well presented throughout.
Physical attributes aside, what’s more important is the information itself. This is divided into some 35 short chapters, each running to a few pages in length. As might be expected, this means you only get the basics of each topic with the key points highlighted but, if you are a ‘wannabe Francophile’ looking for a place to start your research from, this is not such a bad thing.
So, what sort of topics are covered? Well, pretty much everything I could think of. For example, there are chapters on property issues such as house hunting, the regions of France, the buying process, mortgages and inheritance laws (very different in France but also subject of some very recent changes I think for expats living in the country). Equally, there are chapters covering removals, renting of property (whether as tenant or landlord), installing and running a swimming pool (most helpful) and hiring tradespeople. For those not retiring to France, there are chapters on job hunting, self-employment, qualifications and teaching English. Oh, and there is also a chapter on retirement if you are retiring to France!
Given that the French healthcare system is so different to that in the UK, the various chapters on healthcare are bound to be of interest to those unfamiliar with the systems. These chapters cover the general healthcare system, the role of pharmacies, dentists, opticians, pregnancy and, once the baby is born, the legal requirements for registering the birth. At a more mundane level, there are also chapters on utilities, telephone and internet access, the banking system, insurance, the postal service and car registration. Other legal issues are covered in chapters on nationality, marriage, divorce (er… don’t do it as it sounds complicated) and bereavement (er… don’t let your loved ones do it as this sounds even more complicated for those left to deal with the consequences!). Perhaps my only real disappointment was the rather brief treatment given of the education system (a single chapter). This is also very different to that of the U.K. and, for anyone moving to France with children, would be a significant issue to grapple with – more detail please!
While the individual chapters themselves are concise and cover only the most important points, in most cases, the reader is pointed towards further sources of information (get your Google Chrome browser pointing at the French language websites!). As a very nice additional touch, each chapter also includes a page or so of related French vocabulary – the important French words for each topic are therefore always at hand should you need them.
Archant’s ‘A complete guide to living in France’ might be small, but it is very nicely formed. The information is up-to-date and presented in an accessible fashion. The bottom line is that there is a lot to like and little to be critical of. No, it is probably not ‘complete’ in the sense that all of the topics are only dealt with at an introductory level but, if you are just starting your ‘can I move to France’ research, then that is exactly what you need. The price is also at the pocket money level – for £6.9 don’t waste hours trying to dig up all this same information via the internet – buy a copy of this plus a copy of David Hampshire’s book, and you will have made an excellent start to your French research.
Archant’s ‘A complete guide to living in France’ is available here.
David Hampshire’s ‘Living and working in France’ is available from Amazon.