FRENCH property

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Living in France

If you are seriously considering buying property in France then you are probably convinced that it's a good place to live - either permanently or for holidays. And so it is. But there are invisible pitfalls and inconveniences which only a prolonged stay in this country can expose.

City v Country

Most people moving to France are making a double move: from one european country to another and from town to country living. This latter move is often over-looked but can be much more traumatic than the mere change of country. Are you ready for all that driving? Taking the kids to dancing lessons/horse-riding/dentists every week? Taking the (second?) car into the hypermarket 25 kms away once a week? Getting involved in village life ... speaking to the neighbours and minding their hamsters/chickens/etc? And are you ready for a bit of rejection, even hostility?

Anti-anglophone hostility

This has erupted over the past few years; a lot of rural French are convinced that rising house prices have one unique cause: the 'English'. Normally sane people can be heard muttering 'It's the fault of the english that our young people can't find decent priced housing in their own villages'. They are unaware that the house price bubble is a global phenomenon based, among other things, on the supply of cheap credit. Although a minority feeling, it is spreading throughout the French countryside and more and more British and Irish buyers are being subjected to snide comments or cold shoulders. Almost unknown in big towns and cities where foreign immigrants are well accepted and integrated.

Jobs

Not everyone is concerned by this category but it's surprising how even the most adamant layabout or early retiree starts thinking of finding a job or 'setting up a little business' just to pass the time or, more usually, pay those more-than-expected plumbing bills. Let's make it clear from the outset: France is a very hard place to find work unless you speak the language fluently, have a qualification that is recognized by the French authorities or have a skill that no one of working age within 200 kms has. As to starting a business just be warned that France is one of the most business-unfriendly countries in Europe - not just administratively but also socially: nine times out of ten you'll have to change a whole set of friends if you ever buy the local café or start touting for electrical work.

Health and Social Security

One of the best reasons for getting a job or going for self-employed status is the fact that it is a fasttrack method of getting into the social security system. For the first few months in France one is covered by the European exchange system (E111) but after 3 months you have to take out private health insurance or pay to join the French system. By taking a small job - even part time - one is covered for medical and hospital treatment, one pays into the unemployment fund and even a few euros goes towards the state pension. After 4 months work you're covered for the next 4 years: if you ever apply for benefit, and receive it, you're covered for the rest of your life!

Note, however, that medical costs are only covered 70% by the State system (you pay the doctor 20 euro, the State refunds you 16 or so two weeks later). Hospitalisation is free apart from a daily fee of 12 or so euros. To reduce these costs to zero you should take out a complimentary or top-up insurance known as a mutuelle which costs from 20 to 60 euros a month depending on your age and health.Be warned, however, that even with a mutuelle glasses are poorly covered as is specialized dentistry work.

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