Au Revoir Big City – Bienvenue South of France!
France remains decadently appealing to scores of vacationers and travelers the world over. It is a tourist hotspot with a venerable history, and an abundance of natural beauty. Those who dream of visiting this former monarchy have a veritable glut of attractions to look forward to. France is steeped in culture; a country with an inviolable reputation as a European leader, and a champion of Civil Liberties. The French certainly enjoy all the trappings of a life well lived; this much is evident in their art and culture, haute couture and culinary delights, and a lifestyle that is the envy of countries the world over.
The French language, in and of itself, is like poetry in motion. It is nuanced and delightful, melodious to the ear, and intricate where it counts. Few places are quite as appealing to foreigners as the South of France. It remains a vibrant enclave of delights as far as the eye can see. It is visually stunning, spiritually uplifting, and emotionally calming. All the charms that are such an indelible part of French culture are out in full display, with age-old rules being adhered to even in this modern day and age.
Food, Wine, and Culture Par Excellence
Food is such an intractable component of French culture. It is for all intents and purposes what binds people together in engaging, pleasurable, and savory daily pastimes. Meals are more than mere opportunities to fill one's belly; they are opportunities to chat and laugh and listen, enjoy, relax, and relish the company of friends, family, and guests. One can expect small breakfasts, and savory dinners. The notable absence of snacking is not lost on Anglophones, particularly westerners. Those who moved to the South of France are often met with cheers of adulation from loved ones. If one is to take leave of the rat race, where better than the South of France? Call it escapism, call it Carpe Diem – there is no denying that this dream destination is alluring beyond compare.
A caveat is in order: no decision comes without trials and tribulations. One must often forego all that one holds near and dear such as an aversion to change, or reluctance to adopt new cultural norms and values. The sights, smells, sounds, and feel of a new place bring with them a tidal wave of emotional and psychological challenges. And then of course there are the corporeal elements to consider, notably financial factors, relocation challenges, health and wellness, assets and investments, et al. Indeed, the decision to emigrate is laden with unknown variables. Due diligence is absolutely essential in every aspect of the migration process.
Financially Speaking: Getting All Your Proverbial Ducks in a Row
Romanticism aside, emigration is predicated on sound financial planning. It begins with a rudimentary property search in the South of France, which is no mean feat. There are many avenues to explore in this regard, with property prices in Languedoc and Provence encompassing many beautiful towns and cities such as Marseille, Touton, Nice, Camarque, and Montpellier, among others.
The French Riviera, la Cote d’Azur, is a resplendent part of the country that attracts the attention of global travelers. It's in coastal strip which extends from Cassis out in the West to the border with Italy in the east. During the summertime, it is overrun with tourists, yet it's entirely possible to find peace and quiet in and around this beautiful rugged landscape. For those who have an aversion to the coastline, there are many inland areas in Provence to explore. Many historic cities pepper the landscape, along with vineyards and fields, arid regions, and beautiful ancient villages.
According to the French property listings, the average price of real estate (2017 figures) in Provence-Alpes-Cote D’Azur ranges between €173,100 in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and €414,600 in Alpes-Maritimes. Other areas including Var offer real estate at €312,900, Vaucluse at €221,600, and Bouches-du-Rhone at €300,000. In the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, real estate prices average around €208,000, and as one moves across the country, prices fluctuate wildly. It comes as no surprise that many foreigners who choose to settle in France oftentimes choose the southern regions as their preferred destination. For example, many Americans opted to move to the South of France in the wake of the 2016 general election. Of the 31,180 Americans who moved, 2,404 relocated to Occitanie, 1,766 to Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 3,580 to Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, and 2,529 to Provence Alpes Cote D’Azur.
By far the largest concentration moved to the southern half of France, with only small numbers in areas like Bretagne, Normandie, Hauts De France, Bourgogne Franche-Comté, and Centre Val De Loire. It's worth pointing out that the average salary in France is €2,770 per month for a physician, €1,789 per month for a real estate professional, €1,210 per month for a cook, and €1,900 per month for a schoolteacher. Unless you have money to bring with you, you may wish to consider your options vis-a-vis employment visas and job offers. The French consulate typically requires several months to process applications (6 months) and you will have a 3-month window within which to enter France once you've been approved.
Cost Considerations in the South of France
Costs are an integral part of the process. When you are transferring money from your home country to France, be advised that there are fixed and variable costs to take care of. The average rental per month outside of the city centre is €530. In the city, expect to pay €650. Utilities can run you €95 per month. A pint of beer costs €5, and lunch for two typically costs €35. While local transport is affordable at €1.60 for a one-way ticket, a monthly transport pass is much more affordable at €56. Baguettes and loaves of bread cost €1.19 each, and membership of a gym will set you back €40. Of course, it is advisable to open up a bank account in France as soon as possible, making it much easier to deposit and withdraw funds. Without a bank account, it will be difficult for you to obtain a permanent address in France.
And by the same token, you need that permanent actress to open a bank account. Once you are ready to transfer funds from your UK account, your US account, or your Canadian bank account into your French bank account, you will want to use an online money transfer service that is affordable, trustworthy, and competitively priced. Beware of conventional money transfer services and select international money transfers to France that are fully vetted by other travelers, and immigrants. You certainly don't want to receive an unfavorable exchange rate when converting your home currency into euros. Some money transfer services actually offer borderless accounts where you can store scores of currencies without worrying about exchange rates.
You will need to be sure that you have adequate healthcare coverage before you move to France. Americans understand all too well about the pitfalls of the healthcare system, but Europeans are less inclined to be concerned given the provision of health care in countries like the UK, Spain, France, et al. France has universal healthcare for anyone who legally lives in France. As a permanent resident, you can apply for healthcare coverage after 3 months, or if you contribute towards the Social Security system in France. Regardless, you can easily go to a hospital for emergency treatment irrespective of your status. For those who don't have universal health care, the only option is private insurance. You cannot legally live in the country without it. Of course, other factors to consider include your proficiency in French, your ability to make new friends, and to immerse yourself in a new culture in the South of France without worrying too much about what you've left behind. Embrace the change and enjoy the experience!