Everything you need to know about this amazing country

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There is something about France that few people know …

France, with its reputation for glamor and the finer things in life, leads many people to leave the country off their list of retirement destinations, assuming they could never afford to live there. But this is a mistake.

Whether you dream of a pied-à-terre in the city … or a farm surrounded by sunflowers … or a village house wrapped in memories of yesteryear hanging on the wisteria, France is much more affordable than you don’t think so. In fact, there are many parts of the country where habitable homes in a storybook frame cost less than $ 170,000.

There is an area in the sunny south, for example, which offers a wonderful warm climate all year round … charming medieval villages teeming with old stone houses baked in the sun … white sandy beaches and winding mountain paths … big towns and small hamlets… and it’s practically a stone’s throw from the Spanish border. The region is called Languedoc-Rousillon, (also called Occitanie), and for the moment the prices are still reasonable …

Paris, France

If you prefer a cooler climate and a more bucolic setting, opt for charming Normandy. Just two hours from Paris, this region is full of half-timbered houses, often set on acres of emerald fields that seem straight out of a fairy tale. There is also a fascinating history, tasty rustic cuisine (think apples, poultry and creamy fresh dairy products), romantic windswept beaches and exquisite coastal towns… This is the perfect place for a vacation retreat or a quiet home all year round.

For mountain lovers, the Rhône-Alpes region is a dream come true. Here you will find clear blue lakes and country landscapes that offer fascinating views of the sharp peaks of the Alps, and many cities, from Grenoble to Lyon, as beautiful as they are lively and affordable.

And all of this is just for beginners. There are dozens of other “hidden corners” of France at reasonable prices that most foreigners know nothing about.

Advantages and disadvantages of living in France

By Tuula Rampon

Weather

Advantages: France is the largest country in Europe and the most diverse: German influences exist along its northern border, Spanish notions in the south, and an “Italian touch” stretches from Nice to Marseille. Without forgetting the Belgian, Swiss and Luxembourgish influences, which share its borders. The country’s climate is equally diverse: you will find sunny skies in the south of France, cool and rainy weather in Paris and the northern regions, and snow in the Pyrenees and the French Alps.

Known for its sunny and warm climate with more than 300 days of sunshine per year, the south-east of France, namely the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, enjoys the best weather in the country. Other mild and temperate areas include the region around Languedoc-Roussillon (the region known as Occitanie), the southern part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine (Biarritz and other seaside towns along the coast) and the Dordogne -Limousin in south-central France.

The inconvenients: The regions of northern France are home to some of the most appealing and visually stunning cities in the whole country… but their climates are geared towards those who like cooler, grayer weather… which often includes snowfall during the winter months . The region around Paris, called L’Ile de France, is one such region, along with the Grand Est (Lorraine, Alsace and Champagne) and the Hauts de France (the northernmost region, which includes the city of Lille).

Cost of life

Advantages: While the cost of utilities (gas, electricity, heating), telephone service (mobile devices) and entertainment (cable and internet) is quite similar to that of the United States, the real savings of living in France come from housing and health care costs. If you avoid popular coastal hot spots along the French Riviera, central Paris, and other major cities (like Lyon and Marseille), you can rent or buy in France for 25-50% less than that. that you would pay in the United States for a similar property.

This obviously does not concern the whole country, but opportunities exist for an inexpensive retirement in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (Occitanie), the region known as Dordogne-Limousin, and in the Provençal countryside… as well as other towns in France.

The French health system is accessible to everyone after three months of living in the country. Costs are set by the state and 70% of doctor visits and 80% to 100% of prescription drugs are covered. France does not tax U.S. Social Security or other forms of passive income, so expatriate residents are charged around 8% of any other income they declare for health care, a good deal for the level of service and the benefits you receive.

The inconvenients: If you are keen to live in the heart of Paris, it will cost you as much as renting or buying in New York. Other sought after cities in France are not as expensive, but some, like Nice and Cannes, come close. The low prices for accommodation in parts of the south of France are incredible, and you can find even better deals in many towns in the north, Normandy, Picardy and Lorraine to start with. Unfortunately, the north is known for its cold and rainy climate, which makes it a less pleasant place to live than the south of France.

Safety and security

Advantages: France is a very safe country and violent crime is very low. There is no right to bear arms and there is little interest in firearms – access to firearms is strictly regulated and controlled. As in large cities in the United States, it is recommended that you avoid certain neighborhoods where criminal activity is possible.

French safety concerns are mainly focused on the driving habits of residents: compliance with the speed limit, distracted driving, etc. If you come to France, you will see a lot of public service announcements on this topic.

The inconvenients: Petty theft and drug-related offenses are the most frequent security problems in France. Again, avoiding areas known for this kind of activity is the best safety measure for residents and visitors.

The French government has stepped up security after the terrorism-related crimes that have taken place in recent years. It is important to stress that, although devastating, these were isolated incidents, which did not affect the overall security of the country.

Medical care

Advantages: There is a lot to like about the French healthcare system. It’s easy to access… a green “social security card” is issued to you after three months in the country. Swipe it every time you see the doctor or pharmacist and your refund goes straight to your bank account. A standard visit to the doctor is $ 27, a visit to a specialist is $ 55 and 70% of this amount is reimbursed. It is also of high quality. France has excellent doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, dentists and top-notch educational universities, who are open to the public for the treatment of medical conditions by experts in the field.

The inconvenients: When you live abroad, it stands to reason that not everyone speaks English. This is the case with many doctors in France. You can search expat sites in your area to find English speaking practitioners, which may require driving to the nearby town or taking your French skills to the next level.

Activities

Advantages: France offers activities: sports, leisure, clubs and organizations, volunteering opportunities and training courses suitable for all interests and levels of knowledge. The French love the outdoors and are very active all year round. Whether it’s kayaking or paddle boarding in the summer, walking / hiking in the spring and fall, and skiing in the winter, they love being in nature. And with such beautiful landscapes all over France, who can blame them. Cycling (they’re crazy about the Tour de France), golf and tennis are also popular and easy-to-practice pastimes.

The French are also fond of intellectual activities. Public libraries and bookstores often organize book clubs and lecture series. If you want to improve your French, language courses are available nationwide at local universities. And I would be remiss if I did not mention two activities that form the true “heart” of what is dear to the country: cooking and wine studies. Somehow, it seems every Frenchman knows how to make a soufflé and which red wine to pair with beef bourguignon. You can put together a master dessert maker (pastry chef) or an amateur chef in no time.

The inconvenients: Many activities in France are free, especially the outdoor ones, but if you want to play golf on a top-notch course or join an elite tennis club, it will cost you a lot more. The prices of local courses; dancing, language, crafts, cooking, etc. are usually posted on a city or town’s municipal website with the prices listed for each activity.

Find out more from our France correspondent


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