Archive for the ‘Buying a house in France’ Category

buying a house in France: part 26: Education in France

First day at schoolSchooling in France starts from age 2 or 3 (depending on the local area) with education being compulsory from age 6 to 16.

Schools generally run Monday to Friday but on Wednesday some close or only operate in the morning and in some areas schools operate on Saturday morning. The hours are generally 9am to noon, 2pm to 5pm at all ages although the 2 and 3 year olds often only go in the mornings.

There is no “supply teacher” arrangement in France so if a teacher is off sick you will frequently get a phone call to come and collect your children.

From age 2 or 3 up to 6 you can enrol your children in nursery school (ecole maternelle) although this is not compulsory. This is more of a schooling environment than the equivalent in the UK and aims to prepare the children for entry to the next level of schooling.

For enrollment you will need to bring along ID for the child (passport or full birth certificate is equivalent to the “livret de famille” that they will ask for), proof of address (sometimes), proof that the child is insured (about EUR 10 per year) and, if the school is not in your commun, a letter from the mayor. In some cases you may be asked for proof of vaccinations. Even if your children speak no French you should have no difficulty in enrolling them in the local school at this level.

The age used is based on the calendar year so in the year in which your child is 6 they start primary school (ecole primaire) in September. The documentation required is as for the nursery school and if you want to go to a school outside your area then you’ll need a letter from your mayor too. There is usually no difficulty in getting non-French speaking children into primary school.

The secondary and high schools (college and lycee) are not tied to the local comun and operate over a wider region. Consequently you don’t need a letter from the mayor if you are going to a school out of your area. Other documentation remains the same with the additional requirement of a report from the primary school or alternatively your child will have to sit a test (UK school reports usually aren’t accepted).

For the college (age 11 to 16) you may be limited to the college in your local area as others can sometimes refuse to accept non-French speakers. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t have a problem if your child has previously attended primary school in France (ie they can speak French).

At age 17 pupils enter the lycee. These come in three varieties: general, management and technical which roughly correspond to UK high schools, business schools and technical colleges. This is the point at which children need to choose subjects though pupils in the French system study a much wider of subjects than they would at A level in the UK. As at entry to college, a report from the previous French school will help.

If your child does not speak French at this point, you may find that they need to attend a different school. What happens seems to vary widely across France with most areas accepting non-French speaking children at both college and lycee level whilst others refuse to do so at lycee level (see our post here).

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Buying a house in france: part 25: Is your driving license legal when you’re living abroad?

You may have seen some debate about whether a UK driving license remains legal when you’re actually living overseas.

Mine recently came up for renewal and I thought I’d have to change it for a French one. However, when I read the small print as to how they decide if you’re UK resident or not it turns out that, according to their own definition, I am actually legally UK resident despite having lived in France for three years!

That’s one of the odd things about living here. Even after living here for three years, it is still easier for me to prove that I live in the UK than that I live in France.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The disappearing chambres d’hotes (B&Bs) in France

typical chambres dhotesEvery year I send an e-mail to all the B&B and self-catering properties listed on the Our Inns websites telling the people what we’ve done with the sites during the year and the kind of improvements that we’re planning for the coming year.

Each year, I get a trickle of returned e-mails representing those properties that have been sold within the previous year. This year has been particularly sad in that almost 10% of the original people listed on the site have dropped out of the market and aren’t traceable. Now, if we charged for a listing we’d expect to have people drop out each year but the free listings that we provide just keep going.

Why do they give up on B&B (and, so far, it’s been exclusively the B&B properties)?

Well, many people come to France with rose coloured glasses courtesy of the many “moving to France” series that you get these days. In those, there are never any insurmountable problems but in real-life there are problems that you just don’t want to deal with day in day out. For instance, whilst none of the people on those series speak French (with the notable exception of Patrick & Collette of Chaos in the Castle fame), you DO need to speak French to run a B&B here (but not if you’re running a gite).

For others, it’s their first experience of dealing with paying guests on a regular basis and it’s just not their thing. Again, with rose-tinted glasses it might seem an idyillic lifestyle but in reality it’s pretty hard work.

Then there’s those that have never run a business before let alone one in France and don’t appreciate how much money is required to get a place fully operational. Others haven’t considered pricing. For instance, we’ve just heard of one more upcoming dropout who are packing it in because they were constantly full and it was just too much work yet they’re in a property which they could easily have charged almost twice as much and still been full but been able to employ someone.

Finally, some people who think they’re really committed francophiles, find that they just can’t stick life in France. Yes, it can seem the perfect lifestyle whilst on holiday but that very laid-back aspect of it which seems initially very appealing can become an annoyance when you want to get things done.

So, every year whilst we get a flow of new properties coming onto the sites we know that we’ll also see a trickle of the existing properties departing.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Buying a house in france: part 24: Proving your address in the UK

If you’re moving to live in France, you might think that it would be impossible to prove that you still live in the UK but in fact it’s both possible and useful to be able to do it.

If you live in the UK, there’s generally no problem proving where you live so long as you’ve been there for a year or two. You’ll have electric bills, tax demands, bank statements and the like to do that. If you’ve moving abroad or have moved it’s a different matter though.

Even if you have kept your house in the UK, chances are that you have tenants in it and therefore it can be impractical to use that address and if you’ve sold up then, of course, you definitely can’t use it.

Although you may be living in France, there are times when you’ll find it useful to “prove” that you are actually in the UK. For example, Sky won’t let you keep a UK TV service unless they have a UK address for you and you won’t be able to renew a UK driving license without a UK address either.

The simplest thing to do is to move one or two credit card or bank account addresses to the UK address of a friend or family member before you leave the country. Doing this has the effect of moving your credit history to the new address as it looks like a normal house move to the credit card people. Whilst you’re doing this, it’s worthwhile to set up a UK local rate number for yourself and quote that to the credit card companies; these are free and excellent for friends & family too.

The only downside of this is that if you’re using one of the credit cards with a UK address on it then after a while you’ll generally find the card blocked or services limited as it can look like your card has been stolen. To avoid this, it’s best to limit use of such cards or restrict using them to times when you are in the UK or perhaps for Internet purchases. The advantages far outweigh any minor inconvenience on this front.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Buying a house in France: part 23: French documentation: ID card, Livre de Famille and proof of address

British Passport It sometimes seems that every aspect of French life needs to be documented and, for the most part, by documentation that doesn’t exist outside France.

When you move to France, you will continually be asked for your ID card which isn’t issued (yet) by the UK and quite often for your Carte de Séjour (residence permit) which, if you’re European, you’ve not been required to have for several years now. In the absence of those, your passport will obviously suffice and sometimes even a driving license.

The Livre de Famille or family book is given to those who marry in France and contains, in effect, the birth certificates of the couple and any children that they have along with the marriage certificate. Almost every contact you have with French officialdom asks you for this mainly because the French don’t issue birth certificates and the documentation that they issue instead is only valid for three months. In practice your own passport and the birth certificates of the children are the equivalent. Since the French documents expire, many people will assume that your documents do too and keep them as is the practice with the French documents; if you point out that they are certificates they’ll usually photocopy them instead.

Proof of address is obviously difficult to provide when you first move to France and in some circumstances later on too. To get around this, the French authorities will normally let you produce an “attestation” that states you live at your current address. The “attestation” is effectively a letter (in French) saying that you live there. Even the French recognise that it’s not always possible to prove that!

One oddity is that the French will often ask for the amount of income that you had in France before you came here. Now, for the majority of people the answer to this will obviously be “nothing” but that doesn’t stop the French using that information and paying you assorted social security benefits on the basis that since you didn’t earn anything in France, then clearly you didn’t earn anything elsewhere. Yes, I know that’s crazy, but they definitely pay out money on that basis. What I’m wondering is what they’ll do when we leave France as they can hardly charge us tax, social security and health insurance if we’re not here, although you never know with the French.

This is part of our series on buying a house in France.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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