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You could owe the rose-tinted view many of us have about France to the countless movies that have been staged in the capital, Paris, or some other quiet and delightful medieval French town. The great news is that this same rose-tinted image is not that far off from what living in France is like. And even the country’s reputation for glamor and the finer taste, has many thinking that can never afford to live in France and enjoy what this stunning retirement and digital nomad destination has to offer, but can be a mistake.
Whether you dream of city life or a farmhouse among roses and sunflowers, France is actually far more affordable than you might think. In many parts of France homes in medieval villages brimming with sun-baked old stone houses or apartments next to golden sand beaches and winding mountain trails can cost a lot less than $170,000. And this is just the appetizer as there are plenty of reasonably priced “hidden corners” in France that most retirees are unaware of.
France shares a border with Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco on the east and Spain on the west in continental Europe as well as Netherlands and Brazil through its overseas territories of French Guiana and Saint Martin.
France has something unique for every taste; a buzzing metropolis, quiet villages and countryside in the Occitanie, dramatic mountains and skiing in the French Alps, endless vineyards where you can enjoy a glass od some of the world’s best wine just a short walk from where it was produced, world-renowned gastronomy or glamorous, sun-kissed beaches on the Côte d’Azur home to some fashion’s great as France is often termed the fashion capital of the world.
The cherry on the top, none other than France’s rich history, which comes to life in the beautiful and diverse architecture, charming and old traditions, and heavenly cuisine. From the numerous churches and world-class museums to the hundreds of art galleries, France has more to offer than one can consume in a lifetime.
With a mainly temperate climate, sun-seekers will be content with year-round wonderful warm climate and sandy beaches of the south. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, the South France and namely Cote d’Azur region has by far the nicest weather in the country. Those who prefer cooler weather will enjoy the timbered houses, emerald fields, more pastoral setting and milder temperatures of Normandy in the north. Those who choose the north need to enjoy gray skies, rain and snowfall in the winter and get rewarded with some of the attractive and stunning towns and cities in the country. If you are a mountain-lover, then look no further than the Rhône-Alpes’s crystal clear ice-blue lakes, dramatic landscapes and snow covered peaks of the Alps.
Retirees that choose France enjoy a very high quality of life. Get ready for an adjustment as life moves at a much slower pace here. The French appreciate quality time with family and friends, are always happy to indulge in interesting conversations and share stories over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, any time of the day. There is a very large number of thriving expat communities spread out throughout the country. These vibrant and welcoming communities make the transition to the other side of the Atlantic a lot easier and less daunting.
And how about the reputation of the French as unfriendly and rude? You will very quickly find out that this is simply a stereotype. Yes, French people are direct and speak their mind, so you should not be expecting anyone to put on an act, but they are genuinely welcoming, open and friendly. Most French people you meet on the street will be able to speak very basic English, but make an effort to speak French – even if it’s a simple merci- and they will always appreciate it.
Overall, France is considered a very safe country, especially outside large cities like Paris. Violent crime occurs at very similar rates to the US. French authorities are mostly concerned with residents driving habits like respecting the speed limit.Nonetheless, it is always prudent to take the common-sense precautions of guarding your valuables especially in touristy areas where incidents of petty theft are more common and avoid certain neighborhoods where criminal activity is possible.
Due to recent security concerns over the terror-related attacks that occurred over the past few years, the government has tightened security in certain parts of the big cities (tourist destinations, stadiums, museums etc). While this is an important note, these were isolated incidents, as overall France is a very safe destination.
France isn’t a budget destination. But of course this should not come as a surprise as the cost of living in this part of Europe can be very similar to that of the United States. That is of course if you choose one of the sought after destinations like the center of Paris or Lyon or beach hotspots along the Cote d’Azur. Venture out of the capital into smaller cities, towns and villages and the cost of owning property and everyday expenses can drop drastically as life in a picturesque cottage in the beautiful French countryside can be extremely affordable.
And while the cost of utilities, services and entertainment is no different than that of the US, you can enjoy significant savings from housing costs (renting a house can be 40% lower than in the U.S) and healthcare. This means you can enjoy a similar lifestyle to the US for a lot less and have enough left over in your monthly budget to either spend or save.
Overall, France is not a cheap destination, but you can enjoy high-standard of living on a budget if you just know where to settle.
Generally, taxes in France are high. But this is to be expected given the very high standard of living. In return though, the retirees here get rewarded with the very best and affordable health care (almost free) on the planet.
Generally, long term residency in France for Americans is not very hard to obtain and is rather straightforward process. In pursuit of obtaining a French visa, a bit of time and patience will do.
Before you set out to stay in France for more than 90 days, you will need to put in an application for an extended stay from the French consulate. This is known as the extended stay visa or, in the local dialect, Visas De Long Séjour. If you plan to spend more than a year in the country, you will need a residence permit called “carte de séjour à solliciter” which you will need to obtain while still in the US and three months before you arrive in France as it is not possible to apply for a french residence card as a tourist in the country. The “carte de séjour à solliciter” can be renewed annually and after three years of living in France you can apply for a residency card that is valid for 10-years, allowing you to stay and work if you would like to.
There is just plenty to love about the healthcare system of France. According to the World Health Organization, the French Healthcare system ranks as the best in the world and, to crown it all, it comes at a very affordable price – actually it’s mostly free-. Most residents in France benefit from the state health insurance. Expats, you aren’t left behind; as they are granted access to this excellent public healthcare system after three months of residency in France. Swipe the small green social security ID that the state will provide and every time you see the doctor or visit the pharmacist your bank account will be automatically reimbursed. For reference, a typical doctor’s appointment will cost $29, a specialist visit $58 and 70% of that amount will go back to your bank account. Too good to be true? Well there is more. French doctors are considered to be some of the best in the world trained in some of the top-notch French universities.
Communication can be an issue though as most doctors will be very limited in their capacity to speak and communicate in English.
An ideal place to make real estate investments must be in France. For one reason, the country pulls in many people as tourists, residents, and even retirees. As a result, which doubles as the other reason, the market is quite large. Even more, there are no restraints placed on foreigners owning properties.
If your dream was to always live in the center of the romantic Paris then get ready for real estate prices and cost of living that will be very similar to that of New York City. Other popular cities in France like Nice, Cannes, Lyon and Marseille come very close when it comes to the cost of buying and renting.
But do not despair. There are plenty of bargains in France in some of the most beautiful and picturesque regions of the country. Deals in certain parts of both North and South France are incredible. The north is well known for its cold, rainy and humid winters which is a vast difference from the warm south with the mild winter and hot summers.
As you know, there is plenty to go around for everyone in France. From the best of foods to wines and even the sceneries, all suited for your lifestyle. If you are a fan of city life, big cities like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille, should be your first port of call. In these places, you will enjoy the best food and the coziest of environments.
Probably you are a great fan of the countryside; then you will love places like Occitane and Carcassonne where life isn’t all hustle and bustle. There are many fruits and vegetables in these regions, and you will surely enjoy their chit-chatting with the local farmers.
The azure sky and beautiful scenery at Cotê d’Azur make for a delightful resort location for expats with Monaco’s luxurious lifestyle, private yachts and casinos only a short drive away.
The good news is that you can be in France in less than eight hours as there are plenty of daily direct flights from cities like New York to Paris. From Paris your final destination can be a short hour flight or a 3 hour drive.
Activities and Recreation
If you didn’t know already, the French are lovers of outdoor activities. And with a countryside of an unraveled beauty, who can blame them. So, if you are big on kayaking, paddle boarding, skiing in the winter or even hiking in the spring, then France is one place you should be. Sports like tennis (the Roland Garros) or cycling (the Tour de France) are also popular leisure activities you can engage in. There are plenty of top-notch golf courses and elite tennis courts spread out throughout the french country.
Activities that engage your mind and stimulate deep thinking are also encouraged in France. Might you want to take language classes, visit a local library, listen to a public lecture or take up cooking classes? There are quite a good number of opportunities to learn at the local universities in the country.
By and by, France has an excellent reputation for glitz and glamor, so if you are all about the finest of things, then France should top your list of retirement options.
From romantic cities to pristine beaches, endless vineyards, beautiful architecture, rich culture and world-class gastronomy to some of the best ski slopes in Europe, France has something in store for everyone. Becoming a permanent resident can be more challenging than in other parts of the world, however, France makes the wait worthwhile with a variety of offerings and the best healthcare system in the world. It should then come as no surprise that so many Americans want to retire in this most beautiful and unique part of the world.