Mak­ing a liv­ing in France can be a chal­lenge, but with some care­ful plan­ning there is ev­ery rea­son to make a suc­cess of it, as ex­plains

Sally Stone

Living France - - LES PRATIQUES -

In re­cent years, there has been a dis­tinct change in the de­mo­graph­ics of peo­ple want­ing to re­lo­cate to France. While, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, the early re­tirees make a bee­line for the coun­try and its re­laxed way of life and af­ford­able prop­erty, there is a grow­ing num­ber of younger fam­i­lies want­ing to make a per­ma­nent move who need to make a liv­ing once they get there.

With the rate of un­em­ploy­ment over 10% in France, find­ing per­ma­nent work is dif­fi­cult un­less you are bilin­gual with a niche skill. How­ever, the new start presents a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to con­sider run­ning your own busi­ness and en­joy all the free­dom and ben­e­fits that it will bring to your new way of life.


Be­cause this is a fresh start and a new be­gin­ning, you will have enough new chal­lenges with­out rein­vent­ing your­self to­tally, so it will be a case of us­ing your ex­ist­ing skills, al­beit in a brand new way.

You need to carry out re­search to find whether a mar­ket ex­ists in France for that ser­vice or those goods you might sup­ply, and if it does, whether the peo­ple who might love what you are of­fer­ing have the bud­get for what you in­tend to pro­vide.

The lat­ter is some­thing which is of­ten over­looked. Peo­ple might love what you are of­fer­ing, but they also have to be able to af­ford it for you to make a liv­ing. It’s en­cour­ag­ing that so many en­trepreneurs do re­alise the re­search they need to do, and the plan­ning they need to have in place in or­der to make a suc­cess of the move and their new busi­ness. You re­ally do need to have a plan!


An­other thing to con­sider is where you are go­ing to be based – and not nec­es­sar­ily whether you want to live in Brit­tany or Bur­gundy, but where you will base your­self in the lo­cal area which you have al­ready pin­pointed as your favourite area of France, for what­ever rea­son. For your own fu­ture per­sonal hap­pi­ness, it’s good to be among other peo­ple when you move to a new coun­try. This is even more im­por­tant when you need to be broad­cast­ing the news of your new busi­ness.

Be­ing sev­eral kilo­me­tres from the near­est neigh­bours might ap­peal for a short time, but set­tling on the edge of a large vil­lage or small town is far bet­ter for your busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. In fact, you need to go to the lo­cal bar or café ev­ery day (what a chore!) and make sure you are talk­ing about what you are do­ing. If you haven’t been self-em­ployed be­fore, this is some­thing that will be new to you and is what peo­ple re­fer to as ‘net­work­ing’.

You need to let ev­ery­one know what you are pro­vid­ing or sell­ing, and never de­cide they don’t need to know – even if they don’t need your ser­vice or prod­uct, their neigh­bours or fam­ily might do so.

If you are in­tent on us­ing some ex­ist­ing skills in France, please don’t take it for granted that hav­ing the qual­i­fi­ca­tions trans­lated will mean they are trans­fer­able – it may well not be that sim­ple. You need to do some (very) lo­cal re­search in the area where you are in­tend­ing to set­tle.

Rules and reg­u­la­tions are de­cided at a lo­cal level in France for many aspects of life – busi­ness prac­tices and plan­ning reg­u­la­tions in par­tic­u­lar: or more pre­cisely, the rules are in­ter­preted at a lo­cal level. This means not as­sum­ing that some­thing ac­cept­able for your friend in an ad­join­ing re­gion will work for you 100km down the road.


It counts for noth­ing to have done home­work on the in­ter­net or at a dis­tance: visit the lo­cal cham­bre de métiers (if you have a trade) or cham­bre de com­merce (if you are of­fer­ing a com­mer­cial ser­vice or prod­uct) in per­son and talk to the clerks there at an early stage to see what your chances of suc­cess are, and al­ways have a back-up plan.

My ad­vice would be to re­search ex­ist­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties which might per­haps seem a lit­tle more mun­dane than what you are dream­ing about, but which would put bread and but­ter on the ta­ble, and slowly build up con­tacts and cred­i­bil­ity in the area. It would also sup­ply what you had hoped to do in a full-time ca­pac­ity, as an ad­junct to the ‘main’ busi­ness. I have seen this sce­nario re­peated suc­cess­fully time and time again.

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