People say that retirement is when you stop living at work and start working on living. And where better to do that than France? Its residents certainly know a bit about the good life. After all, the world’s oldest person, Jeanne Calment – who lived to be 122 years and 164 days old – was French.
If you’ve already retired in your home country and you’re looking to change your residence to France, you’ll need to apply to the French pension authority. They’ll speak to the authorities in your home country and get the necessary information. It takes a bit of time, so you should start the process six months before you plan to move. You’ll also need to supply bank details and ID.
If you’ve not retired yet, there are a few things to keep in mind. EU citizens can apply for a pension from each country where they have a demonstrable working history – but the retirement age varies:
Say you’re a 65-year-old British citizen who’s worked in France and Greece. You want to retire and get pensions from all your employers while living in France. When you turn 65, you can only apply to the UK government for your pension – because according to the other two countries’ laws, you’re still of working age.
French retirement sounds idyllic, but it comes with a few responsibilities, too. The biggest ones are your health status and how you pay taxes. Becoming a permanent resident of France means you become a taxpayer in the country. You’ll pay income tax on any type or amount of income, and the ‘tax of wealth’ (ISF: impot sur la fortune) on anything above €1.3 million in total assets.
The health programme Assurance Maladie in France is one of Europe’s best. It covers up to 80% of medical costs (serious illnesses, including those due to old age, are fully covered). But the system requires everyone in the country to have a Carte Vitale, which has their name and 13-digit Social Security number (‘numéro de Sécurité Sociale’).
Although France isn’t the cheapest place, it’s still possible to find a mix of thrift and comfort. Here are our top five recommendations.
This region includes the Western Mediterranean coast of France and stretches to the Spanish border on the south-west. The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine producer in France, with three times more acres of vineyards than Bordeaux. TAnd there’s a range of choices for relocation: on the coastline, inland on farmland or in wooden houses in the valley of the Pyrenees. The climate’s mild and you get great views and beaches – at a much cheaper price than Saint-Tropez, Cannes or Nice, over on the east side of the province.
Dordogne, a region in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, is one of France’s largest provinces. It’s equidistant from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and Spain to Germany. Which means it's not really close to anything! That said, it offers a serene life and stunning views of the Dordogne river. The population is about 400,000, including 10,000 Brits – and the British expat community is still increasing in the area. The village Eymet has about 200 UK families, resulting in it being dubbed ‘Dordogneshire.’
A small town in the Occitanie region with a population of around 10,000, Pézenas has one of the country’s finest historical and cultural heritages. Surrounded by several mansions built between the 16th and 18th centuries, Pézenas is also famous for being the City of Art and History. Every year in June, the festival of Pézenas Sous le Regard de Molière lights up the paved stone streets. Pézenas is about 90 minutes away from the ski slopes and 30 minutes from the beach.
Neighbouring Germany has a big influence on Alsace’s culture. Over the years, it’s created a unique blend of cuisine, art and language. The region’s most characteristic dish is the German-influenced Choucroute, made from sour cabbage, sausages and other salted meats. Like many French regions, there’s a lot of wine produced here. Despite being the smallest region in mainland France, around 1,000,000 people live in Alsace – mainly in the city of Strasbourg, which is also the official seat of the European Parliament.
Pays de la Loire is a region in Brittany, North-West on France. Nantes, its main city, has a population of about 900,000 people. The region’s one of the richest in France and holds the crown for sustainable development – with wine, cider and cheese (especially Saint-Paulin) all famous products of the region. Lots of the area is rural and scattered with small villages, but there are TGV trains at almost every point and Paris is only two hours away. Like Dordogne, there’s a big British expat community.
The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing (September 2019). It could change depending on the outcome of Brexit.
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