There are many reasons you should consider a move to France: The beaches of Normandy, the stunning Paris cityscape, the resorts of the Atlantic and Mediterranean…but France is more than just a pretty place to live…
As IL’s South of France Correspondent, I’ve lived here for a few years now and discovered it’s also a highly practical place to retire to… Here are my top five reasons why:
1. Low cost of living
While many items are a similar price to items in North America, many are much, much cheaper. France has a thousand different cheeses and they start off at a tiny $1.15 for a home-brand camembert or brie. You can try a different cheese every day of the year without breaking the bank.
Wine, beer and spirits are ridiculously cheap. You will find a red or white from the hundreds in the local supermarket that suits your individual palate for around $3.50. You can get a supermarket baguette for 40 cents or an artisan baguette from the boulangerie for $1.15. French supermarkets are not allowed to throw food away, so there are always plenty of bargains.
2. Cheap real estate
Sure, if you want to live in 6th Arrondissement in the center of Paris or in a Mediterranean resort town, it’s going to cost. But there are hundreds of properties in beautiful country towns and villages with all the work done at very affordable prices. You can get a small townhouse for as little as $34,400, or less if you want a project to fix up. For $92,000 you can get a terrific house with a garden. Imagine selling your house back home, buying a wonderful home in France for under $100,000, and living like royalty on the balance.
3. Cheap and Easy Travel and Connectivity
France has a brilliant rail system and there are terrific discounts for people over 60. Its biggest international airport, Charles de Gaulle, has a TGV (very fast train) station underneath the terminal so you get off the train, go up the escalator and you’re in the airport terminal.
It is also well placed for easy travel to the U.K. and the rest of Europe. There is free movement between France and Spain, so go for a drive. Same for Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. There are also lots of regional airports which have connecting flights around the world. My wife recently got a return flight from Limoges (Limousin) to London Stansted for under $30. Roads are good and, while tolls on the big motorways can be expensive, the routes are well maintained.
France also has terrific broadband and an ongoing fiber roll-out with a choice of excellent mobile phone providers. Free Wifi is available in most places, especially the more popular tourist areas.
The health system in France is the best in the world (WHO rankings). A visit to the doctor costs about $30 and after three months residency you can get 70% back. Hospitals are terrific and specialist fees are fixed by the Government. Prescription medicine is less than half the price you pay in the U.S. If you do develop a long-term illness such as cancer, diabetes, liver or kidney failure, then medication is free.
5. You Can Drink Water Straight from the Tap
One of the first questions at any International Living event is: “Can you drink the water?” France has a remarkable setup for making sure water is potable straight from the tap. Every city, town, village and hamlet is connected up. You will never have to buy bottled water again.
Bonus: France has a polite, friendly population with a good sense of humor. The French are welcoming, and if you learn a few words and phrases they will go out of their way to help you.
We’ve recently moved after spending three years in a stunning maison de maitre in Bellac, a small community in the Limousin. We’re now living in the Aude, part of the Languedoc- Roussillon where you can find a home within easy reach of Mediterranean beaches, historic towns to explore, a couple of hours drive to ski slopes and a short run into Spain for some tapas. I’ve seen terrific village houses for under $105,000.
Decide on your own criteria and you may have more than the five I’ve listed, but before you make any decision on where to live the dream overseas, check out France.