Mistakes expats make in France

Hello everyone,

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to France? What were they?

How did you address your mistakes? Did you learn anything from them?

With hindsight, what would you do differently?

Are there any tips you could give future expats in France to help them avoid these kinds of mistakes?

We look forward to hearing from you!


Hello everyone.
I would never try and put anyone off buying a property in France or moving here...however.
What I would say is make sure you do plenty of homework before you set sail across the channel, as it could cause you problems if you do not research in depth about moving abroad and all the implications of changing your country of residence.
I will admit that although we thought we had done plenty of research, in fact, we hadn't done anywhere near enough.
Renovation of old properties can be very expensive if you need to pay for all the work to be completed by tradesmen. Where I am reasonably DIY minded, my husband is definitely not.  We also fell foul of some tradesmen, who suffice to say let us down badly, which meant using more of our budget having work re done. On hind sight, this was our first mistake...we came to France with a smallish budget, which didn't really allow for having to have work done twice. So this put us under pressure as a couple, at a time when we should have been enjoying the whole experience. 
Tradesmen...check, check and check again all credentials, go and see work they have completed, ask around, join Facebook and other forums and don't be afraid to ask people and for referrals of good tradesmen.
One thing I would stress more than anything...Do not ever think of having tradesmen work for you on the 'Black' (meaning you pay them cash), it is illegal, and you could face a hefty fine. You must also take into consideration the tradesmen who are working legally, who are paying their taxes, insurances etc, and can not compete in price with those people who are working for a bit of pocket money. If you can't afford to pay proper tradesmen rates, then quite frankly you should not be buying a property in France.

Please don't be swayed at what kind of large property your money will buy...if it has lots of land...Stop and think, how you will manage the land, it all comes at a cost. You either have to buy machinery large enough to tackle the land, or you will need to budget for a gardener to do the work for you, but take into consideration that they have to buy their expensive machinery, so they charge accordingly. Also if you have paddocks/fields, these may need fencing, which is expensive and very hard work if you plan on trying to do this yourself.

Try and learn French, don't be like some of the English and not bother, you will find that the French will appreciate you a lot more if you at least try. Don't expect them to speak English, that's just lazy.

Stop and think before you leave the UK about how you will feel being separated from your family and friends, because this can cause heart ache for you, and put pressure on relationships. Once you have bought a house here, you have to remember that properties don't sell as quickly as back in the UK, so you could face being homesick for quite a long time while you wait for your house to sell. You could vastly reduce your property price to sell it quickly, but not everyone is in the fortunate position to be able to afford to, after all you will need money to return with.

Don't think that life comes easily to a lot us in France. If you are retired, then you'll be able to relax a lot sooner. However...if you are moving and aim to set up a business, be prepared that your customer base will be a lot smaller than in the UK (unless it's internet based) if you are basing it on the British customers.
With hard work, and a lot of determination you can eventually make a good life here. Good luck to everyone who has the dream to start again in beautiful rural France.

Hopefully it will be this summer when we make the move. In a few weeks we should begin looking for a place to rent in earnst. The plan is to arrange several viewings then come over and view and with a spot of luck select to one we like the best.

Once in France I need to find some lessons in french as mine is poor and the computer programme that we bought ............................. we let's say we don't seem to get one. Am thinking that I learn better from a person!

You make some good points and ones which we have been considering for a while. At least for us this is not a spur of the moment thing it has beena long term desire especially for Mother. The only thing is that she never thought it could really happen so we are doing our best to make it happen for her. As for family well in our case there is really no family left and those true friends will be on the end of the phone or even computer nowadays and as they all live several hundred miles away now it really won't be that different. The would be friends have over the last few trying years proved to be just that and so will not be missed and as we should be so isolated in France as we are looking for a place more in touch with a village or town than we are here in the UK there should be ample oppertunity to get to know new people.

Hobbies and interests should help by us getting involved this should also help pick up French.

No doubt there will be trials to be overcome but we are up for it.

Regards. Kevin

thank you for your advice as i am planning to retire in South France in four years thinking to buy a house and lot and establish a the moment i am doing lots of research and self learning french..

Good luck Kevin,
You are quite right, learning from people rather than off a computer is far better, and as long as you don't mind making mistakes and sometimes looking a little foolish because you have used the wrong word, you will learn.
What area of France are you looking to move to? If you have not already found a house, make a trip over, tour around, and keep an eye out for private for sale signs, check out a few websites where you will see houses advertised For Sale by Owner, that way you can save yourself thousands on not paying Immobilliers fees, which can be a deal breaker, 4% upwards in fees, can mean a potential saving of a few thousand pounds.
By all means visit immobilliers offices, to see how much houses are being sold for in that area.
Have fun when you move here, and I hope it all works out well for you, but remember, Don't have people working on the black (for cash) because if things go wrong, you have no recourse, and if you get found with people working illegally you will be fined heavily, so please take care.
Regards Avril

We are looking at the South West, Aquitaine and Poitou-Charentes, and am hoping to fly out to view some rental properties quite soon.

Well this was a non starter as the UK pension is not enough to get a rented place not by a long chalk. So Mothers dream is dashed !!! Am now trying to find a rented place in other countries with good climate for us. Am thinking maybe out by the Black Sea as there seems to be rental properties out there at least for the summer and maybe Autumn and by then even these darned snail solicitors should have managed to get the sale of the UK house completed. We thought that France took a long time to process a house sale but these lazy use less lot in the UK have them beat by miles. The buyers so called solictor still has not reviewed the draft contract that was sent to them via post AND email 12 days ago.

Hi everyone ,
I am Asian and I have been here nearly three years still struggling with the language even I'm trying my best everyday with learning by myself online.
My should learn French already a bit before comming to France , and if you don't know how to drive or no driving license yet must get that asasp before you come if you are planing to live in rural of France . French will come one you are working around with French people. And yes don't buy any old properties which requires a lot of works to do if you don't have a lot of spar money . Good luck

Don't buy a big house especially with big land unless you have big pockets.  Easy to sell your "London" semi thinking you're a millionaire and come here overexcited.

I'm from the States and I just want to let you know that France is a difficult place to make a business in ... it's not a supportive place for entrepreneurs ! 
It's a lovely place to live in many ways!
Good luck and enjoy!

I guess I am way ahead since I first studied French in junior high school.
France is my alternative to Thailand (for retirement) in case that doesn't work out.
But Thailand is much more affordable.

My experience is that of buying a holiday home in Montpellier in 2016. I did a lot of research before going and even so it was not enough. I had studied French for a number of years and visited different areas. It was only after that I decided where I would like to buy. I did hours of oral language exchange online ( helps your confidence) and have remained in contact with a number of these people ( they have been an invaluable source of information). French as taught is not the same as everyday french.

I chose to buy a flat in the centre of town as I did not want to live in the isolated countryside and I wanted to be able to move around without a car. I still struggle with French when someone speaks to me at 100 miles an hour. I find that many French people can speak English but don't rely on this. I dealt with an estate agent ( visited a few) for many months and it was only at the end of the process that I found out he spoke English( they don't like how they sound when speaking English). The buyer normally holds the card. Make sure you find out what the taxes/fees will before making any offer. I am lucky to have two French friends in the city and they have been invaluable. 

My advice is to learn the language. Use online forums to practice and watch French tv programmes you like on youtube.  Contrary to the stereotype, I find the French warm, friendly and relaxed. Like in any area there are horrible people. I find the administration slow but you simply have to exercise patience.

Finally, its a different country so don't be surprised if they do things differently.

If you are looking at renting please make sure you know about the challenges of renting through immobilier. We are looking at this and they require income demonstrating 3* rent and other documentation! Tenants have high level of security of tenure making landlords very conservative.

New topic