Good weather, fine gas­tron­omy and var­ied land­scapes are just some of the rea­sons so many of us choose to re­tire in France. Kate McNally re­veals what you need to con­sider if you’re plan­ning on mak­ing the move

Living France - - CONTENTS -

Cover story Our es­sen­tial guide for those want­ing to spend their golden years in France

With the EU ref­er­en­dum tak­ing place in June, many peo­ple may be hold­ing off on their dream to re­tire to France, pre­fer­ring to wait for greater clarity on the im­pli­ca­tions for UK ex­pats liv­ing in France, should the Bri­tish pub­lic vote to leave the Euro­pean Union. That said, with so many UK res­i­dents in France and the grow­ing num­bers of young French nationals mov­ing across the Chan­nel to work in the UK, it could be hoped that in the event of a ‘Brexit’, the two coun­tries’ gov­ern­ments would still co­op­er­ate to main­tain an en­tente cordiale in terms of re­cip­ro­cat­ing res­i­dency and em­ploy­ment op­tions. What­ever hap­pens, the dream can still come true, you might just need to ap­proach the move dif­fer­ently – and take more le­gal ad­vice be­fore head­ing off!

France con­tin­ues to be a key des­ti­na­tion of choice for UK re­tired ex­pats de­spite higher costs and taxes than many other po­ten­tial re­tire­ment des­ti­na­tions. The good weather, food and wine cou­pled with an end­less choice of beau­ti­ful re­gions and, in gen­eral, good con­nec­tions back to the UK, means la douce France will al­ways pack a pow­er­ful punch when it comes to lur­ing us English to spend our twi­light years in her hexag­o­nal hug.

So, de­ci­sion made, what are the key ar­eas to con­sider when plan­ning to re­tire in France?


Most Fran­cophiles have a favourite part of France and it is of­ten here that they see them­selves re­tir­ing in a eu­phoric bub­ble of sun­shine and rosé. But even if you know a place well, it pays to do some real home­work on the area and also to con­sider al­ter­na­tives – there is noth­ing like a com­par­i­son to help con­firm your choice or to start ques­tion­ing it. If pos­si­ble, spend a month or two ac­tu­ally liv­ing in the area prior to mak­ing any com­mit­ments, be­cause the quaint vil­lage full of pretty flow­ers and lively restau­rants on your sum­mer hol­i­day can be less en­tic­ing when grey and half-de­serted in win­ter!

Find out about the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion (who are they; are there many peo­ple of re­tire­ment age for in­stance?) and the lo­cal area – what ac­tiv­i­ties are on of­fer year-round, what fa­cil­i­ties are there in terms of health­care, restau­rants and pub­lic ameni­ties, how far away is the near­est su­per­mar­ket? Check out trans­port con­nec­tions too – can you eas­ily get to other parts of France where per­haps you have friends or fam­ily, and most im­por­tantly, is it rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, and not too ex­pen­sive, to get back to the UK reg­u­larly?

Also con­sider if it is im­por­tant to you to mix with other English-speak­ing ex­pats, and if so, look at ar­eas pop­u­lar with for­eign res­i­dents – for ex­am­ple, Dor­dogne, Brit­tany and Provence have quite large con­tin­gents of Bri­tish in­hab­i­tants. Equally, if you in­tend to top-up your re­tire­ment in­come with part-time work, what em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties are there in the area, or will the lo­ca­tion at­tract tourists if you set up a cham­bres d’hôtes or hol­i­day gîtes for ex­am­ple?


It might seem like stat­ing the ob­vi­ous, but the bet­ter your French, the bet­ter your life in France will be. Friend­ships are forged more read­ily, the dreaded French ad­min­is­tra­tion is ne­go­ti­ated with less dif­fi­culty (and less frus­tra­tion), French cul­ture and me­dia can be ap­pre­ci­ated more fully, and, most im­por­tantly, you will feel con­sid­er­ably less vul­ner­a­ble as the years tick by when the lit­tle things in life go wrong.

Pen­sions At the mo­ment, the UK and France have a re­cip­ro­cal ar­range­ment for pen­sions and a UK pen­sion can be paid di­rect in euros into a French bank ac­count. Equally, for those who have lived and worked for a pe­riod in France prior to re­tire­ment, there is cur­rently a sys­tem in place to ef­fec­tively com­bine the two state pen­sions. If you re­ceive the UK state pen­sion, take your S1 Form* with you as this will ex­empt you from pay­ing the French so­cial charges levied on pen­sion in­come. If you are al­ready re­tired in France, check out last year’s changes to UK pen­sion reg­u­la­tions al­low­ing early draw­down or a lump-sum re­trieval as French tax laws might work in your favour.

Of course, all this could be sub­ject to change in the case of a Brexit, but what­ever hap­pens, make sure you seek ad­vice from an in­ter­na­tional pen­sions ex­pert so you know you are putting the right mea­sures in place for your par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion.

Health­care cover Again, if you re­ceive the UK state pen­sion, then show the S1 Form to the lo­cal French health au­thor­ity (CPAM – Caisse Pri­maire d’As­sur­ance Mal­adie) in order to be reg­is­tered as el­i­gi­ble for state health­care in France un­der EU re­cip­ro­cal ar­range­ments.

Early re­tirees are no longer el­i­gi­ble for the S1 Form, how­ever they are el­i­gi­ble, af­ter three months liv­ing in France, for state health­care cover known as PUMA – La Pro­tec­tion Uni­verselle Mal­adie (ap­ply at the lo­cal CPAM). Should you de­cide to work part-time to top-up funds, you will con­trib­ute to the French so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tems through the co­ti­sa­tions so­ciales taxed on earn­ings, and you are thereby au­to­mat­i­cally cov­ered by the French health­care sys­tem.

Be mind­ful, how­ever, that health­care is not free in France – there is al­ways a per­cent­age charged to the pa­tient and most French peo­ple take out ad­di­tional pri­vate health in­sur­ance cover, in the form of a mutuelle, which cov­ers, to a greater or lesser de­gree, the amount charged to them.

Wills and tes­ta­ments Re­vised EU leg­is­la­tion passed last year has made it pos­si­ble for Euro­pean nationals liv­ing abroad to opt for ei­ther the in­her­i­tance laws in their coun­try of birth or in their coun­try of per­ma­nent res­i­dency. This makes the sit­u­a­tion much less opaque (French in­her­i­tance laws are dif­fer­ent and stricter than UK laws) but you must have stated clearly in your UK will that you wish to choose UK in­her­i­tance laws, oth­er­wise the process could still prove a mine­field for in­her­i­tors of your es­tate.

Again, it’s al­ways good to use so­lic­i­tors ex­pe­ri­enced in draw­ing up wills for clients who live abroad.

* The SI Form proves that you have reached re­tire­ment age, have paid the re­quired num­ber of so­cial se­cu­rity con­tri­bu­tions and are re­ceiv­ing a state pen­sion.


Many peo­ple seek out a range of ac­tiv­i­ties in re­tire­ment to keep ac­tive, but also to main­tain reg­u­lar con­tact with the world be­yond the front door. As in the UK, most lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in France run var­i­ous clubs and as­so­ci­a­tions, from pé­tanque or Pi­lates to walk­ing groups or bridge clubs. Ask at the mairie or the com­mu­nauté d’ag­gloméra­tion for de­tails.

Thanks to con­tin­ued strong fam­ily links in France, the older gen­er­a­tion is held in high es­teem. Given that they gen­er­ally also have more spare time, their as­sis­tance and ex­pe­ri­ence is of­ten sought af­ter when it comes to of­fi­ci­at­ing roles in mu­nic­i­pal life.

Once you have be­come more in­te­grated into the lo­cal com­mu­nity and if you have a rea­son­able level of French, you may also want to con­sider pur­su­ing more se­ri­ous in­volve­ment in lo­cal pol­i­tics and af­fairs by seek­ing elec­tion as a vol­un­tary of­fi­cial ( élu) – some French com­mu­ni­ties have even been known to have a Bri­tish mayor!

Even if you opt for a more go-slow re­tire­ment, be sure to stop reg­u­larly for a cof­fee or beer when­ever you go to the boulan­gerie or the weekly mar­ket. As well as be­ing the beat­ing heart of many a com­mu­nity, the lo­cal bar is the de facto Time Out magazine for what’s on, as well as to what’s go­ing on around you!


Even though you’ve taken the de­ci­sion to live across the Chan­nel, the chances are you would like to take a lit­tle bit of home with you, whether it’s your favourite ra­dio sta­tion, daily news­pa­per or per­haps your best friend.

In the modern dig­i­tal, satel­lite and cable world, all of this is a sim­ple con­nec­tion away – all you have to do is choose your sup­plier and pack­age wisely on ar­rival in France.

Big play­ers in­clude Or­ange (for­merly France Télé­com) for in­ter­net, tele­vi­sion and phone pack­ages and Canal+ for satel­lite TV which has a range of English-speak­ing chan­nels, but as ev­ery­where, the playing field is get­ting big­ger and big­ger.

Also, more and more for­eign pro­grammes, in­clud­ing Bri­tish ones, are be­ing in­cluded in the French TV sched­ul­ing, and can be ac­cessed in ver­sion orig­i­nal ( VO), i.e. in the orig­i­nal lan­guage.

Most lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in France run var­i­ous clubs and as­so­ci­a­tions

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