It’s the stuff of movies and best-selling novels – the sublime lifestyle change to take up temporary residence in a foreign country. You know the scenario: a happy couple move into a slightly rundown but ever-so-charming villa in the French countryside and spend the next six months ensconced in a world of fine wine, freshly baked bread, delectable cheeses, organic produce, the best coffee, and a village full of quirky French characters who are a source of constant entertainment and amusement.
But is there any truth to this dream, or is it purely the stuff of fiction? Does life magically improve just because you’re in a country with much better cheese?
The good news is, if a spell in the south of France is on your wish list, it certainly is doable and can be an idyllic experience, but the first thing you’ll need to do is lots and lots of research!
Here are some of the main topics you’ll need to explore:
Learning the language
Before you start searching for your dream location for an extended holiday, it’s advisable to learn how to speak French.
Although many of the businesses (such as real estate agents and administrative companies) you’ll need to deal with when arranging your stay in France offer bilingual services, it will be expected that you can make good attempt at the language if you are planning to stay for an extended period.
There are plenty of options for taking French lessons before you depart Australian soil. Try an online source such as babbel.com, a printed book with CDs like ‘French All-in-one For Dummies’ or attend courses in person at your local Alliance Francaise or adult education institution.
Have you stopped to consider some of these important factors?
Visas – for stays longer than three months, you’ll need to apply for a visa and on arrival in France, register with the ‘Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration’.
Work – as a foreign national arriving in France on a short-stay visa you’re not allowed to seek work or obtain an employment contract. People in other circumstances who are staying longer or transferring with their company may need to apply for a special visa.
Tax – it’s unavoidable, but thankfully France and Australia have a tax treaty meaning you won’t have to fork out taxes in both countries while you’re away?
Banking – setting up a bank account in France is made a little more difficult because of the fact the banks are they’re closed mid-week and on weekends, and there are lots of hoops you’ll need to jump through to get approval for your bank account such as proof that you are a permanent citizen.
Healthcare – it’s illegal to reside in France without healthcare so you’ll need to make sure you’re covered. The good news is that after three months’ permanent residency, you should be eligible for the country’s universal healthcare coverage.
Driving – if you’re planning to drive, you’ll require your Australian drivers licence as well as an International Driving Permit which you need to obtain before leaving Australia.
Insurance – there are several types of insurance and some of them you’ll be legally obliged to obtain in France so you’ll need to do your research on this one.
Setting up home – you’ll need to connect utilities, the Internet, TV and arrange a mobile phone, all things that are made a bit more difficult in another country and with another language.
For specific information about these and other questions, a handy go-to is the website for the Australian Embassy in France:
And remember to bring as many documents with you as possible – from passports to birth certificates, proof of residency, airline tickets and even marriage certificates. Too much is never enough!
Get your mindset right
If you’re undertaking this grand adventure of living abroad, be prepared for the inevitable highs and lows, because you’re not swapping everyday life for instant utopia – you’re trading one version of reality for another.
Sure, there are supposed to be 300 days of sunshine in the south of France, and who doesn’t love the combination of warmth and culture, but there are things you may not have considered.
For example, the south of France is a tourist haven, so it’s likely to be very crowded in summer and deserted in winter, with many stores and restaurants closing down over the colder months.
If you are willing to accept some bumps along the road as part of the journey, you should come out the other end much richer, and with some great stories to tell!
There’s a plethora of options when it comes to renting or buying accommodation in the south of France, with dedicated websites, plus good old Airbnb.
To rent a villa in the south of France check out:
Read all about it!
There are plenty of people who’ve tried it before, and you’ll find some positive and not-so-positive experiences and thoughts on the websites listed below:
And finally …
Take on board people’s well-meaning good advice, but don’t let negative people turn you off your dream if you’re feeling a strong sense of wanderlust.
With the right planning and a practical mindset, spending half a year in France can be an insightful and rewarding experience.