So, I guess one of the obvious questions early on in the process is “why France?”
When we decided we wanted to start a new life abroad, inevitably there were lots of possible destinations in the running. Many countries ticked one or more of our boxes, but France is the only place that really met all of our needs. Here’s why…
France is easily accessible from the UK
As proximity to the UK goes, it’s hard to beat France. The north of the country is really well served by ferries. As we currently live in Devon that makes them a great option for driving between the UK and France. In the short term, this is really useful for research trips in our campervan. In the longer term, it’s a great option for moving furniture and having family visit us for extended periods. Once we’re established in France there are plenty of cheap flights connecting the UK and the south-west of France, which is where we’re starting our search.
Why do transport links matter so much?
We want to make the move to France and base ourselves there full-time. So arguably transport links are less important than for people that want to use France as a holiday home or move regularly between countries. However, being able to visit friends and family is important to us, as well as having them be able to easily come to us. Also in the longer term, we’d like to develop The French Hideout as a B&B destination. Basing ourselves within easy reach of airports serving UK flights means we can market ourselves to UK customers where language and marketing will be easier in the short term.
(Rural) property is more affordable in France
UK property prices are high, particularly in the countryside. Outside of London, rural property is on average a fifth more expensive than urban homes. Living the rural life in the UK means a high mortgage and therefore working full-time just to pay the bills. In France, the pattern is reversed, with rural properties priced much lower than urban dwellings. The potential to own land and rural property in France is far greater. In France the dream of owning property without an enormous mortgage is achievable. By reducing our monthly bills we gain the financial freedom to explore other work opportunities.
We love French culture & climate
There are some big appeals to France in terms of the country’s culture. We love French cuisine, and the French way of life, particularly in rural areas. In the south-west of France, where we hope to base ourselves, the climate is good and substantially warmer than the UK. This lends itself really well to the more outdoors lifestyle we want to lead.
The Pre-Brexit window of opportunity
Brexit is looming, we don’t know what that means yet. But we know something’s coming and that it is highly likely to restrict our ability to live and work in Europe. We don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to live in another country and experience another culture.
Brexit has accelerated a thought process we’ve had for a while. In the relatively short time available to us we can make the transition to France fairly easily, making use of the ability to live and work within the EU while we still can.
We can already speak some French
Language is always a big consideration when moving abroad. We want to be part of the community when we move. Being able to speak to the locals is a big part of that! We’re going to have to step up our learning a lot in the next 18 months, but we at least have a foundation to build on. The other contenders…which other countries we considered France is our first choice because it offers so many opportunities. There were other countries we considered, but none seemed to have everything we were after. Here’s a quick run-through of our other options.
In terms of the landscape, language and culture we love New Zealand, but in terms of accessibility, it’s just so far from friends and family. We’d also be tied into conventional jobs while we applied for residency.
Croatia & Portugal
We’ve not spent much time in Croatia, but it’s a beautiful country with rural locations available at an affordable price. The language was the major barrier for us, but also that we’ve just not spent as much time there as we have in France to know enough about where to base ourselves. Portugal was another area that we considered but had to rule out for similar reasons. It has similar benefits to France in terms of climate, property and proximity to the UK. However, we have no understanding of the language or different regions within the country.
This was easily our biggest contender. We love Spain and have visited regularly. It’s easily and cheaply accessible from the UK and has a great culture and climate. We have some limited understanding of the language and a good idea of different regions and areas.
We settled on France over Spain for relatively minor distinctions. Our knowledge of French language outweighs our Spanish. The climate in France and the rural countryside is probably a little more akin to what we’re looking for.
And finally, because in time we want to start a tourism business we think that the kind of B&B business we’re planning would work better in France. Spanish tourism can be geared more towards coastal regions and our budget puts us in a more rural location, which potentially works better in France.
What next on the road to France
Having decided on France as our base there’s a lot more we still need to work on. Over the coming months we’ll be blogging about our research into different areas and some of the early practicalities in making the move.