Brexit: Borders, Benefits, Bureaucracy

ukeuropemap (2)I’ve lived in France for 10 years now but I still watch UK television. I tried French TV for a few weeks and in French hotels, I still get a dose of it for a few hours and I’m afraid it just doesn’t do it for me. I think the last straw on the back of my camel was an episode of French Countdown, ‘Des Chiffres et des Lettres.’
Therefore, the next few weeks’ television will consist of debate after debate; news item after news item; documentary after documentary about the so-called Brexit. Most supporters of the exit will (quite wrongly, in my opinion) concentrate on the 3 B’s above. They are by far the most emotive words bandied about by mainstream and social media alike.
I suppose I have a vested interest that is somewhat different to those still living in the UK, in that I will still be living in Europe if the UK decides to leave. But I will still have a British passport and I will always have one; I have no intention of changing that.
I’m going to have a go at suggesting what it might mean for the current British expat; nobody is absolutely certain what it will actually mean. I won’t discuss the people who are thinking of becoming expats, nor for those giving up on the life and leaving France. The status of the former group is even less certain but for the latter group, they will be subject to the same benefits (no, not that word!) or problems of suddenly being outside Europe. I say suddenly but I’m fairly sure that the exit will not be immediate; I believe it could take up to 2 years to ‘leave the building.’
I suppose that those wishing to return right now may find it difficult to sell up. It depends on the type of property they are selling but potential buyers in the UK may be reluctant to take the plunge at this point in time. The same obviously doesn’t go for buyers from other EU countries. But bon chance if that is what you are trying to do at the moment.
I don’t know the exact number of British expats living in France but the number seems to be approaching the 200,000 mark. Let’s split up these numbers in terms of demographics; retirees and those of working age, with or without children. I am not going to attempt to give financial advice to anyone, I am nowhere near qualified; I’ll keep it as simple and as uncertain as it seems to me.

• When I say retirees, I really mean those receiving pensions – I feel it is a kinder word than pensioners. At the moment, the state pension can be paid into your UK or French bank account. If it is a UK bank, there will obviously be no change. The change may come if it is paid into your French account. It will still be possible but will bank charges be higher? Will exchange rates be better or worse?
• One partner is claiming a pension and the other still working and you are therefore paying income tax. There is currently a ‘Double Taxation Convention,’ an agreement between France and England which ensures you will only pay tax on income once. So if you are paying tax on your UK pension in the UK, there will be no more to pay in France. I know this seems obvious but the point is, you can choose the country in which to pay your tax at the moment and it is this that may change.
• You are employed or you have your own business in France. Scaremongers have said that this will not continue, expats will not be able to have a French business. Our value to the French economy means that this is highly unlikely. Similarly, I’m quite sure that employees of French companies are just as valuable to them.
In all cases though, we may have to revert to the old way of registering our French residency, the so-called carte de sejour. This ought not to be a great hardship, I know a few American citizens who need to go through this process at the moment.

I have not tackled the subject of reciprocal healthcare arrangements for those not working in France and for those in the French health system who fall ill when spending time in the UK. I’m assuming that there will have to be changes as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is only valid in EU member countries. This is one of many current agreements that will have to be renegotiated.
To summarise then, a “Yes” to exit the EU will mean some changes, but I think that these will take some time and won’t be too drastic. I think. I hope!
For what it’s worth, and this is my personal view, not just from the point of view of an expat; I will be voting to stay in. I may well follow up this article with another, nearer the time, to explain why. What I need to do first is to fully research the real issues involved – ALL of them! I urge you all to do the same before you vote.
I will use this method:
Any British citizen who has lived outside the UK for less than 15 years can vote.
Another way is this:

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Identity crisis: the perfect combination of French and British?

“Mitigé” Adj: Mixed, combined, confused, complicated.

I have had a nomadic upbringing living in France, England and Africa as a child, which has given me what you could call eclectic tastes as well as a strange character.

I have now lived in Scotland for over 20 years and confess to being confused as to my roots and nationality! I see myself as a “European” rather than anything else. Not because I’m a great fan of the EU but because, being brought up in France I have very strong French characteristics as well a English and Scottish ones – and its probably true that they don’t always sit well together! There’s a reason why the Brits and the French have this long standing love/hate relationship – they’re poles apart, yet totally fascinated by one another.

 If as a Brit you have any kind of  interest in France – or indeed if as a French person you find something fascinating about Britain –   you should read “The Secret life of France” by Lucy Wadham.  Here you will to get a better understanding of the intricate, confusing and often infuriating relationship between these two nations! I discovered recently that my brothers, who are identical twins, hold different nationalities – one British the other French – says it all!

French characteristics such as a penchant for enjoyment rather than the serious, passionate temperaments, a cavalier attitude to time keeping, a love of all things aesthetic, the worshipping of food, affect mixed blood children in different ways. Traits differ among my siblings and me, with my sister being the most British of us all – efficient, organised, pragmatic, serious (dare I say it boring?) but we clearly all still have a strong Gallic line. 

Now a mother of three, aged, 17, 15 and 12, it’s fascinating to see how my children have picked up on this love of France, one in particular, and now that we will be able to spend more time there I hope their passion will grow. Appreciation of food has always been a great thing in my family and wondering around the markets and sampling strange things is a popular pass time.  Dare I admit that even shopping in the giant Leclerc in St Foy La Grande, fills us with joy and amazement as we gaze at the assortment of butters with an entire chilled isle to themselves let alone the cheese and fish counters . We have made sure our kitchen at Les Galineaux is well kitted out to help cope with the foodstuffs that bombard our senses.  A love of cooking is a great thing to cultivate. Even my son is a keen chef!

Panacotta with strawberry coulis.

Panacotta with strawberry coulis.

We are now fortunate enough to have this lovely big house in Aquitaine, South West France where we can indulge our love of all things French – not just the amazing food and wines but the relaxed pace of life, the sun, the joie de vivre and the conviviality of being with friends and family. In our house this is what we try to offer, a place to meet up with those you care about, in a simple and comfortable yet stylish setting, and enjoy lazy days in the sun, swimming, sightseeing,relaxing with a book or having an adventure.

Friends and family round the table

A good kitchen for cooking and a huge table for hours of enjoying local produce from the markets, talking, laughing and fun with children, friends, family and even newly discovered strangers – that’s what life should be about!


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Mange Tout Rodney, Mange Tout…..

Mange Tout Rodney, Mange Tout…..

Mange Tout Rodney

Mange Tout Rodney

I thought I’d share a few of my observations with you on “La Belle Langue”.
When we decided to change our lives, France was always the favourite, for many reasons, one of them being because I had a head start in the language, taking French, German and Latin ‘A’-levels, he said, showing his age.

With that head start, I’ll soon sound like a local, won’t I? NO!
But I have a few excuses, err, I mean reasons.

1. Age
I’m not a kid any more and more’s the pity as they seem to pick it up so easily. Many adults go to conversation classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, taken by expat or local French teachers and that can help.

2. Location
In our little hamlet, we only have one resident French neighbour, with a superb, gruff local accent that I can still barely make out. We hardly see him or his wife and although polite, they seem far more interested in seeing their family than us, which is fair enough and usually the case in rural areas. If you’re based in a larger village or town, day to day contact will help much more.

3. Work
Or for that matter school, if you have children of school age, contact with other parents will help. Unless they are teenagers, when they won’t want you to come within a country mile of the place and embarrass them. If you work with or amongst French people, progress will be far quicker. Most of our gîte guests are British as well, so that doesn’t help us much.

So if none of the above is helping you, what can be done?

You can make a start before you come out. I tried to brush up my ancient French with a CD-based learning course, which did remind me of a few things that I’d forgotten. However, it is when you get out here and try in real time that you really start to learn.

Don’t put yourself under pressure by thinking you’ll speak so fluently that you’ll actually sound French. When you hear someone speaking even really good French, 9 times out of 10 you do know if they’re British and quite often you can pick up from where in the UK they hailed, I myself do a great line in Northern Franglais. Listen to long-time UK residents Arsene Wenger and Raymond Blanc if it makes you feel better, it does work both ways. Yes, mispronunciation can lead to misunderstanding but try to concentrate on the word itself rather than trying to “Roll your Rs”.

Despite the apparent negativity displayed above, I’m quite happy where I am now. Still struggling a bit on the telephone, bottling it and relying on English speaking help lines from time to time but I can get by in most situations.

However, the key to any form of integration is to try, it is always appreciated, no matter how bad your attempt is. Frustratingly though, if you’ve rehearsed your opening salvo and you think you’ve done well, they can really dent your confidence by replying far too quickly for you to understand or even worse, answering in English.

Pois gourmands

Pois gourmands

As for the title, I think most of you will remember the “Only Fools” reference but the weird thing is, the French don’t seem to know them as mange tout, as a vegetarian friend found to her cost when she tried to order some at a local restaurant. I didn’t laugh. Much.



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And Finally We Arrive at the Dordogne – BUT…

What is the BUT – I hear you cry – why has she written a BUT – we know they live there now so what on earth can go wrong this time……….  well my friends several things can..

The Dordogne was the most expensive region we had searched – which meant that properties were smaller for the same amount of money as in, say, the Charente, but we had fallen in love with the area and so we decided that it was there – or no where.  So after several visit and several heartbreaks later – we had still found nothing.

The Dordogne is split into four distinct areas, The Green Périgord the most Northern part of the Dordogne filled with trees and green pastures,  The White Périgord surrounds the capital Périgueux, a city made up of white and grey limestone. The Black Périgord – which is home to dramatic cliff-hugging villages and towns including the spectacular Roccamadour and town of Sarlat.


And then we have The Purple Périgord, the wine producing region that gets its name from the colour of the grapes. Home to “bastides” (fortified villages), beautiful rolling countryside covered in vineyards, and fields of Sunflowers… – am I bias (YES)….

Anyway – back to our house hunt  –  I love Estate Agents (bit random I know) but why oh why were we shown properties that we would have bought but which were out of our price range – sometimes by nearly 100k euros… did they think the seller would drop (which is what we were hoping for) or did they think we had a money tree down the bottom of our English garden that would produce more dosh – I don’t know but we did see several properties that were beautiful but we just couldn’t afford – hence the heart break…

Then we found one – one I thought ‘could be the one’ – an established B & B.. not in a great area but it was OK, no pool, didn’t have an attached garden – but hey it was an established B & B….  then via some stern words from Nicholas – the rose coloured glasses fell from my eyes and I woke up to reality… lovely as it was, established as it was (even had heating) – but it wasn’t the one……..


I think we both felt the same – both felt as though we had spent years and years coming over to France looking for something special, for something we could call home and other people would enjoy visiting…all to no avail… All of that money spent on planes, trains and automobiles… if you add it all up we could have blinking built a small house……….  No more

Broken we returned to the UK – we had given up – we would create a new dream – France had beaten us  –   or had it…………………….(well you know it hadn’t but that’s not as dramatic)

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Why the best businesses work with The French Property Place



The French Property Place is fast becoming the service of choice for anyone looking to sell a property, rent a B&B or a gite in France.

Just some of the leading companies using The French Property Place to market their properties include


Your Friend In France

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My Renovation Magazine





Cendrillon Immobilier




  Perigorgeous Holiday





South of France Villas

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Joie de Vivre





Les Rossignols d’Ancheyra

les Rossignols



What makes The French Property Place so special?  The French Property Place is part of  The Sussex Newspaper Group. Our commitment is to revolutionize how properties – whether they are for sale,  rent, B&B’s and gites –  are marketed.

We believe that proactive and dynamic marketing is the most important part of any business.  And it is our duty to utilise modern social media to help you market properties.  We also know that the majority of people looking to buy a property in France or rent gite or B&B come from the UK.  So, as part of The French Property Place service,  we will market your property direct to the UK through our online newspaper,  The Sussex Newspaper.

As well as marketing through The Sussex Newspaper,   all of our properties are promoted through Twitter,  Facebook and Pinterest, which ensures  our ads are seen by thousands of people every day.

Our fees are reasonable,  our service is personalized and our staff are dedicated to helping you find the right buyers or property renters.

Give us a call on 06 22 90 39 64 to find out how we can work with you.

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Would you like to be a columnist?

writingThe French Property Place is looking for contributors to write regular columns.  The column will appear in The French Property Place website and will also be published in The Sussex Newspaper in the UK.  Ideally we’re looking for contributors who can provide well written, insightful and interesting features either as a once-off or on a regular basis. Our articles are aimed at providing advice and information to anyone planning to visit or move to France. We also offer an insight into what it is really like to live in France. We are very interested in personal blogs written by people who live in France . If you would like a platform for talking to people living in France and those thinking of relocating here please e-mail our community manager at and introduce yourself.

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On The French Property Place website, our Meet The Team section introduces our community manager. What is her name? To enter this competition, send your answer to:

One lucky winner will be chosen by the editor on December 1st 2014.

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Buying or renting in France? Here are 5 great tips for learning French

Many people view French as one of the most beautiful languages in the world because of its preciseness and way in which it can be eloquently spoken. Due to it’s fairly complex syntax and deformation of verbs French can sometimes be difficult to learn for beginners, but learning any language is a challenge well worth undertaking. If you are like me, you will want to be able to speak French as quickly as possible, so I have given you five tips that have helped me speed up my learning curve significantly.

1. Label Items – Label common items around your home with the item name written in French. I feel this is one of the easiest and most underused techniques in learning a new language. By by labeling common household items, within a few short days, you will easily learn the names of many commonly used vocabulary terms.

2. Use French Phrases – Use French phrases for normal every day conversations. Learn the most common phrases Such as “Good morning”, “Goodbye”, and “How are you”, so you can open and carry normal conversation topics. When you greet someone during the day think about how you would say the phrase in French. You can do this in many different places, but one of my favorite is the supermarket. People are warm and friendly and it is a great place to learn short and common conversation in a low pressure environment.

This will get you out in the environment learning to think in French as well. You’ll probably be surprised that by only learning a few common phrases you can soon begin to have lengthy conversations.

3. Think in French – Practice thinking about things in French. I always recommend to plan out your day in your mind but try doing it using the French language. At first this may be difficult but it will quickly become easier as you get used to it. Learning languages is all about practice, practice, and more practice. The more you practice the better and more efficient you will be at learning the language.

4. Speak Out Loud – I know this one sounds simple but speaking the words out loud is important to learn the correct pronunciation. A simple and fun way to learn pronunciation is to learn a song in French. There are many children’s songs that prove to be great tools for learning French pronunciation.

5. Listen Intently – Listen to how the French language is spoken. I always recommend learning to French radio programs and TV channels. If you don’t have access to French radio or TV, you can listen to thousands of French radio stations for free on the Internet. Or, you can purchase your favorite movie and select the French language option when viewing it.

Of course it is always good to mix and match these tips and even combined them to help you learn French quickly. It is important you make it fun to do and don’t treat it as a chore. By using these tips in conjunction with French classes you can easily pick up great new language.

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Expats guide to France

Britain’s closest continental neighbour offers world-class cuisine, a temperate climate and a vast array of outdoor pursuits

France is the no 1 tourist destination in the world, receiving 81.4 million foreign visitors in 2011, and an estimated 150,000 British people have made it their permanent home. As the UK’s closest continental neighbour, perhaps its main attraction is simply proximity. When house prices over here were soaring, part of the draw may have been the relatively affordable property on the other side of the channel.

Then again, maybe it has more to do with the warm climate, the incredible scenery, the Atlantic beaches with their crashing waves, the warm waters of the Mediterranean coast, the skiing and hiking in the Alps and the Pyrenees, and the famously fantastic cuisine. Perhaps the fact that it is just next door to the UK is merely a bonus for many thousands of British expats.

Things you need to know before you go

If you are a British citizen you do not need to have a visa to live and work in France. For stays up to three months you need a passport that will be valid for the whole length of your stay.

Many people who move to France do so in retirement, and as long as you have contributed enough qualifying years of national insurance you can claim your UK state pension in France. As France is an EEA country your pension will rise each year in line with pensions paid in the UK.

No special vaccinations are required in France, just the standard jabs you would have in the UK, such as tetanus.

Things you need to know when you get there

What airport will you arrive at? The two main Paris airports are Charles de Gaulle and Orly, both within easy reach of the city centre, but there are flights from all major UK airports going to airports across France. Train travel from the UK is quick and easy with the Eurostar to central Paris. You can take the ferry from Dover to Calais, or make a longer crossing from places such as Portsmouth and Plymouth to destinations further south such as Saint-Malo, Caen or Roscoff.

Local currency The euro. On 12 November 2012 €1 was worth 79p, and £1 was worth €1.25.

How do you spot a cab? Taxis in France tend to be people carriers or saloon cars with a taxi sign on top. In theory, the sign is lit up when the taxi is free to hire, but often the light stays lit whether there are passengers on board or not, making it a challenge to hail a cab. Calling in advance to book one is often a safer bet.

Price of a hotel room A double room in a mid-range hotel costs from about €50 (£40), or from about €80 (£64) in Paris. put the average price at £103 in the first half of 2012.

Price of a house The average two-room apartment costs €118,000 (£94,464) – €170,000 (£136,092) in the Parisian region and €109,000 (£87,259) elsewhere. A house with four rooms costs on average €170,000 (£136,092); in the Parisian region it would be €250,000 (£200,136). In other regions the average is €168,000 (£134,491). Source: FNAIM, the federation of French estate agents.

Price of a pint of milk 56p (€1.22 or 98p a litre).

What language do most people speak? The official language, and the first language for the vast majority of citizens, is French. But there are many regional languages across France including Breton, Basque, Occitan, Catalan, and, on the island of Corsica, Corse (or Corsican).

What tax will you pay? In 2012, France came joint third with Hungary on the highest tax for a single person without children – according to the OECD, income was taxed at 49.4% on average for that group. But rates of tax vary.

People are taxed as family units rather than as individuals, and tax is paid in arrears. There are various allowances for different parts of income, and a single, childless person will pay very different amounts of tax to a married person with children. Details of the thresholds are available on the Spectrum Group website.

On top of income taxes, salaried workers pay social charges on earnings, similar to national insurance contributions. Rates vary depending on your status but are about 20%-25%. Self-employed people pay about 40%. Other social charges might apply too.

How long will it take to send a letter home? With Service Prioritaire, La Poste should get your letter to the UK in two days. Service Économique should take six days.

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