You’ve found your dream house in France, signed on the dot­ted line and a mov­ing date is on the hori­zon. Kate McNally ex­plains how to en­sure your move across the Chan­nel goes as smoothly as pos­si­ble

Living France - - CONTENTS -

Cover story If a move is on the hori­zon, read our prac­ti­cal guide with the key con­sid­er­a­tions

As most psy­chother­a­pists are happy to tell us, mov­ing house is up there with di­vorce and los­ing your job as one of the most stress­ful of life’s ex­pe­ri­ences. So, we can safely say that mov­ing fam­ily, pets and be­long­ings all the way to France is likely to throw you a few wob­bles – not least say­ing good­byes to friends and loved ones, even if you know they’ll be out to visit in a few weeks. But with care­ful plan­ning and keep­ing a fo­cus on your new life ahead (rather than look­ing back on what you’re leav­ing be­hind), the mov­ing process will be over be­fore you know it and you’ll soon be able to start your new life in France.


Well in ad­vance of the big move, you need to de­cide whether you’re go­ing to hire a re­moval com­pany or hire a small lorry and do it your­self. This will no doubt de­pend on your fi­nances and how much ‘cargo’ you plan to trans­fer across the wa­ter. It is a good idea to start work­ing out what you want to take a few months be­fore­hand. A move is al­ways a prime time to de­clut­ter, but equally you may need to leave some fur­ni­ture and be­long­ings in stor­age (ei­ther in the UK or in France) depend­ing on cir­cum­stances, so this could af­fect your de­ci­sion also. Ei­ther way, you will need to draw up a re­moval ‘in­ven­tory’ in ad­vance, ei­ther for the re­moval com­pany or to cal­cu­late what size ve­hi­cle to hire.

It pays to do your home­work when choos­ing an in­ter­na­tional re­moval firm. Ask friends or ac­quain­tances who have al­ready moved abroad, or ask on fo­rum sites for ex­pats in France. Fail­ing any first-hand rec­om­men­da­tions, it may be pru­dent to opt for a reg­is­tered af­fil­i­ate of FIDI (the lead­ing global al­liance of in­ter­na­tional re­movals com­pa­nies) or BAR (Bri­tish As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­movers). These com­pa­nies will have ex­pe­ri­ence of han­dling moves abroad, which can be very re­as­sur­ing on the big day, and they will have the nec­es­sary in­sur­ances in place.

If you opt for the DIY route, make sure the hired ve­hi­cle is in good work­ing or­der and in­sured for driv­ing in France. If pos­si­ble, view the ve­hi­cle in ad­vance so you know ex­actly what you are get­ting. The last thing you want is a nasty sur­prise on the day if, say, it’s not as big as it looked in the web­site photos or the speedome­ter isn’t work­ing. There will be too many ar­range­ments in place to re­ject the ve­hi­cle on the day. Check also that the lorry will be able to gain ac­cess to your new home in France – many ru­ral areas have small ac­cess roads to vil­lages and ham­lets.


Once you have con­firmed the mov­ing day with the re­moval firm or ve­hi­cle hire com­pany, you will need to book your per­sonal travel ar­range­ments. Again, if you are tak­ing your own car with you to France, make sure you have the nec­es­sary in­sur­ance cover. Keep car own­er­ship doc­u­ments and your driv­ing li­cence with you or in the car.

You will no doubt need cash dur­ing the jour­ney and on ar­rival, so don’t for­get to stock up on eu­ros a day or two be­fore­hand. It is best to use cash to pay for petrol and mo­tor­way tolls as well. You can use your UK bank card if nec­es­sary, but each trans­ac­tion will be sub­ject to a han­dling fee. If pos­si­ble, set up a French bank ac­count prior to your move, or or­gan­ise an in­ter­na­tional ac­count with your UK bank – it will sim­plify fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions and save you money dur­ing the tran­si­tory phase.

Don’t for­get to book any overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion if nec­es­sary. If you are driv­ing, it is espe­cially im­por­tant to take your time and stay safe rather than in­creas­ing stress lev­els with a mad dash through the night!

Fi­nally, check all travel book­ings both a cou­ple of weeks and the day be­fore trav­el­ling to avoid any nasty sur­prises en route – French trans­port work­ers tend to call a strike fairly reg­u­larly and of­ten at short no­tice.

If pos­si­ble, set up a French bank ac­count prior to your move


There’s a pop­u­lar say­ing in the act­ing world, ‘never work with chil­dren or an­i­mals’. The same could be said about mov­ing house,

par­tic­u­larly a house in an­other coun­try! Ob­vi­ously both will be com­ing with you to start a new life in France, how­ever, it might be eas­ier if they fol­lowed a few days later.

If you have chil­dren, it would be less dis­rup­tive for them to move dur­ing a school hol­i­day pe­riod. You can reg­is­ter them in ad­vance at the lo­cal school in France, ready to start at the be­gin­ning of a new term. This gives them time to say good­bye to old friends at the end of term and a short tran­si­tion pe­riod to ad­just ahead of what is a big, and po­ten­tially chal­leng­ing, new ad­ven­ture. Don’t for­get to check their pass­ports are valid well ahead of the planned move.

As for any pets, they will need a valid EU pet pass­port; proof that they have been vac­ci­nated against ra­bies within 21 days of travel, and a vet­eri­nary cer­tifi­cate stat­ing that they are in good health. Cur­rently, you are only al­lowed to take a max­i­mum of five pets with you, and they must be more than three months old.


The jour­ney may be longer than planned depend­ing on hold-ups, traf­fic and weather. Re­mem­ber your Scouts or Brown­ies’ rules and be pre­pared! Keep the fol­low­ing to hand:

• Pass­port and tick­ets • Cash (eu­ros) and bank cards • A map of France (the sat­nav is not al­ways re­li­able in more ru­ral and moun­tain­ous areas) • Driv­ing li­cence • Ve­hi­cle in­sur­ance pa­pers • Euro­pean Health In­sur­ance Card • French-English dic­tio­nary • Bot­tle of wa­ter and snacks • Tooth­brushes, towel and a change of un­der­wear/clothes • Mo­bile phone charger (you might need to li­aise with the re­moval com­pany and you don’t want to run out of bat­tery at the cru­cial mo­ment!) • Swiss army knife

You may want to con­sider also tak­ing a small holdall with any par­tic­u­larly valu­able per­sonal items, for ex­am­ple jew­ellery or cher­ished fam­ily photos, as well as any im­por­tant doc­u­ments such as birth cer­tifi­cates and med­i­cal re­ports.

3-4 months

• Start to as­sess fur­ni­ture and be­long­ings –

what is go­ing and what isn’t. • Check all pass­ports are up to date.

3 months

• Be­gin en­quiries for re­moval com­pa­nies/lorry hire firms and re­quest quotes.

2 months

• Con­firm mov­ing date with re­moval com­pany and check ahead with the lo­cal mairie in France that there are no road re­pairs or street fes­ti­vals planned for that day. • Book any travel ar­range­ments.

6 weeks

• Put to­gether a de­tailed in­ven­tory. For a DIY move, or­der pack­ing boxes and/or start col­lect­ing card­board boxes. • In­form schools, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, doc­tors and

util­ity providers of your move to France. • Con­firm start­ing date with schools in France. For pri­mary schools, con­tact the lo­cal mairie. For sec­ondary schools, con­tact the sec­ondary school di­rect or the rel­e­vant ed­u­ca­tional au­thor­ity ( académie ré­gionale).

4 weeks

• Ar­range any nec­es­sary move/travel in­sur­ance. Speak to the Post Of­fice about redi­rect­ing your mail to France. • Make a start on clear­ing out the garage and loft, and re­cy­cle or throw away any un­wanted items. • Book stor­age space in the UK or France if

this is needed.

1-2 weeks

• Can­cel any de­liv­er­ies. Re­mind the tele­phone/ in­ter­net provider to stop your ser­vice from your mov­ing date on­wards. • Start pack­ing, it al­ways takes longer than you think! Don’t for­get to la­bel your boxes, in­di­cat­ing if the con­tents are frag­ile. • Or­der your eu­ros.

2 days

• Ask neigh­bours to leave space for the re­moval vans out­side your house on the day of mov­ing – if pos­si­ble, put out red cones or dust­bins with a ‘Mov­ing House’ sign to block the space. If you have con­tact de­tails for your fu­ture neigh­bours in France, make a sim­i­lar re­quest.

1 day

• De­frost the fridge, note me­ter read­ings for any util­i­ties.

Mov­ing day

• Turn off the wa­ter, gas and elec­tric­ity. Give the house keys to a fam­ily mem­ber or es­tate agent. • Leave your­self plenty of time to make travel con­nec­tions.

Use­ful web­sites am­­ing-and-trav­el­ling-toFrance­port


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