Image via WikipediaDespite the level of the pound to the euro, despite the problems of selling property or getting a mortgage, people from the U.K. still want to move to France.
Now, a glance at the Daily Mail would convince you that you would move anywhere...Mars, the outer systems of the universe....to get away from feral children, microchips in your wheelie bin and institutional prejudice against Christians....while a glance at the Guardian would convince you likewise to get away from the mouthy liberals who seem to have produced what the Daily Mail is complaining of. However, is France the answer?
It depends on your question.
If you are looking to retire, then almost certainly it is.
Property is still attractive, especially if you can drop on a cash strapped Brit who bought on loans that are now difficult to repay, though I don't think that there are all that many about, despite the tales from estate agents about people selling up and taking a drop because property in the U.K. is now too cheap to miss. I don't see very much that is cheap in the U.K. compared to what you can buy in France, and consider this to be yet another ploy from agents to get people to drop their prices to put a commission in the agents' pockets.
A retired person qualifies for health care and unless you have something out of the ordinary, health care is good..though I don't agree with the idea that the NHS is dreadful. My mother has excellent care when she needs it, which keeps her independent in her late nineties. French health care isn't the free for all it used to be, where you could go to as many doctors as you liked until you found one who agreed with your view of your illness, the whole shebang paid for by the state, and waiting lists certainly exist, but on the whole, it's a good deal...if you are retired.
Tax is appalling, but so it is in the U.K..
There are, of course, the wine, the cheese and the smoked fish, among other delicacies, to encourage the move and lessen the pain of the bill for the removal van.
A lot depends on your assessment of your ability to take change. The language is the obvious hurdle, though agencies abound to help you...for a price...and they will also assist with house purchase and all the beaurocratic niceties of life in the Hexagon, as the French media refer to their country. You may have friends or family already in place and nowadays there are so many British expats about that you will never be short of an English language social life.....if that is what you want. A French social life is also possible...it takes about as much time as it would do in the U.K., and, like the U.K., areas differ.
The rest depends on your own character. If you are content to go with the stream, pay up whatever you are asked for and be uncritical of your new home, you will be fine. The French love praise...you can lay it on with a trowel...but having always been taught 'France good, everywhere else bad' since they first went to school, the faintest note of criticism brings on the cry of
'Why don't you go back home, then?'
No society is perfect and it is by exchanges that we learn that things do not have to be set in stone, but France is not, generally, open to exchange. It is a one way path. The French are taught that they have a 'civilising mission' in the world, and that they have nothing to learn from other cultures. Thus the horror at Sarkozy presenting himself as leaning to 'Anglo Saxon' ways of doing things...efficiency, etc. ...a horror now assuaged as people see that his government is being run by the same people who always run French governments, the graduates of the Ecole Normale d'Administration, well connected dumbos for whom there is only one question and only one answer, the summit of the French education system.
It all depends what bugs you. For me, it is the inequality in France which, living in the country as I do, is exemplified by the power and privilege of the farmers. I have already discussed the unfairness of their taxation status, which allows their families access to benefits designed for the poor and their dubious agricultural practices which pollute the environment for us all, but the latest sop to their bullying has annoyed me beyond reason.
When the Green Tax comes in in January, we, ordinary people, will be paying about four cents extra per litre for fuel, and living in the country with oil fired central heating and miles from the shops, that is no small amount over the year. Sarkozy's glove puppet, Prime Minister Fillon, has just announced that farmers and fishermen will only be paying one cent per litre...and the three cents refund will be in their bank accounts by February! As if they don't benefit already from cheap fuel to run their businesses with no one to check whether the fuel is delivered to the business premises or the house! Furthermore, for ordinary people, getting a refund for anything takes forever. One poor woman who was fined for speeding in a Brittany town...1 kilometre per hour over the limit....claimed a refund on the grounds that not only was she not there, but that the street in which the incident was alleged to have taken place did not exist - with a certificate from the town hall to prove it! She still had to pay her fine, and, months down the line is still waiting for a refund. She should have been a farmer.
The milk sector is in trouble, the price to producer having fallen dramatically as demand has fallen, and dairy farmers have just ended a fortnight of 'strikes'. Rather than deliver milk to the collection points, they are distributing it to the populace in market towns.....a rapid change of front as their first bright idea was to pour it over the fields in protest. According to a newspaper survey ninety per cent of the French believe that the dairy farmers are right to expect support payments and to demand that the interest they are paying on their business loans should be refunded. Ninety per cent of the French need their heads examining. The country is, whatever the figures say, in a parlous economic condition and all sorts of businesses are suffering. Do we see demands for a refund of interest payments for people running IT businesses or B and Bs? Some of those businesses are the size of dairy installations, so why are they less important? What about small family businesses also feeling the pressure.....the builders, plumbers, painters, electricians etc? Small country bars? Where is the rescue package for them?
As always, give in to one sector and the rest will soon be on the neck of the government....just wait for the transport industry and the taxi licence monopoly holders to start blocking the roads until they get their cut as well, while the ordinary person pays for all, as always. Where do governments think the money comes from in hard times?
I watched the dairy farmer at work at my last house......the pasture where his cattle were grazing was killed off by herbicide, the nitrate sacks dumped on the field and the grass resown, year after year. My well water, which had served the house for centuries, was unusable thanks to the level of nitrates leaching from his land. The maize he grew for silage was treated with 'Gaucho' or 'Regent', agents now held responsible for the decline and near disappearance of the honey bee.
The wild irresponsibility of the European Union agricultural policy and the pusillinamity of successive French governments have led us to a rich land where milk and honey can no longer be produced and all that is proposed is to perpetuate the system.
Different things bug different people. If you're not politically inclined, then a retirement to rural France could be ideal, and when the question is posed to you by your French neighbour
'Why did you want to come to France?'
You, like Israel Hands in 'Treasure Island', can reply
'Because I want their pickles and wines and that.'
But not the milk and honey.