Expat Advice: Retiring in
Aude & Herault Departments, France
A couple from the UK who retired in France enjoy the cultural activities of nearby Carcassonne and Narbonne, being close to the coast and the beautiful vineyards that surround them. They confess to be having a tougher learning French than if they were younger, but know they will persevere.
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Aude & Herault Departments
Why did you choose to retire abroad?
More relaxed lifestyle, better weather, less expensive property prices, beautiful countryside and lots of places to visit.
Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?
fully retired since late 2010
Why did you choose the country you retired to?
France has easy access to the UK by train, autoroute/ferry, and air - relatively quick and easy to return if any family emergency, and likewise, easy for visitors to come to us. There is so much more 'space' in France. Having lived in the USA for a number of years we got used to lots of countryside and found we missed this on our return to the UK.
Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?
Yes, USA - first Michigan and then Florida
How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?
How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?
What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?
The language and the paperwork.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?
The relaxed lifestyle, friendliness of the locals, having lots of places to visit in a beautiful and varied part of the country, with easy access back to the UK and to other EU countries if we wish. Although health has been an issue since we arrived, the medical treatment has been first class. We enjoy a quiet lifestyle, but there is plenty to do to tempt us out all year round.
What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?
If I had not been working full time up until my 65th birthday, I would have started to make a real effort to learn French sooner. While it is relatively easy to learn being surrounded by it, it is rather like being a child again, and learning initially, only those things you need to know and use every day. It is difficult to have a spontaneous conversation with any French people as our vocabulary is so limited.
What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)
There are lots of cultural activities in our region as we are close to both Carcassonne and Narbonne, not too far from the coast with beautiful vineyards for miles around. Lots of easy walks and the Canal du Midi to walk along. Idylic on a fine spring or summer day, and not that bad in winter either if well wrapped up against the cold. It does get cold her in the South of France in the winter which many people do not count on. We did our research and knew we could have temperatures of -15C at times between November and March. However, it is usually a fairly dry if cold winter.
What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)
As amember of the EU there were no restrictions on moving here but we had to ensure we brought all our documentations with us, (authorised copies of birth, marriage, divorce, christneing certificates etc.) and anything else that could be needed.
Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)
We had bought our home in 2004 and spent all our holidays (winter and Summer) at the house making a few changes and keeping the garden in check. Like any purchase in a foreign country there are different rules and regulations so it is as well to ensure you have a reliable agent and notaire to guide the process. If French is not your first language, or you are not fluent,or your notaire is not bi-lingual, then it is a requirement to have an authorised translator at the signings.
Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?
The exchange rate fluctuations make budgeting a little chaotic at times, but on the whole we have not had any financial worries so far. Having said that, we did ensure we were mortgage-free and had a bit of savings in the bank before moving to cope with any unexpected emergencies. Day to day living can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you make it. If you keep going out for coffees, drinks, or meals, then your budget will rocket fast.
What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?
Having done a sensible budgetary forecast; ensuring that you keep within your spending limits and continue putting money into savings. If you use savings for a big project or emergency, be sure to replace them so that your capital does not diminish as the exchange rates go up and down, it is essential to keep a buffer in case you need longer term financing for possible future health-related care.
How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?
That all depends on the size of the accommodation, and the lifestyle of the people concerned. Many people seen on the Homes in the Sun programmes buy old, 3 storey properties out in the sticks (beautiful views but not very sensible as you get older). Stay realistic about where you will be in 5 and 10yrs. time. If you are 60 now, then stairs will be a little more difficult in 10yrs. Easy access to daily shopping and living facilities shoul be the top prioriry. If possible, have all you need within walking distance - walking is good for you and makes more sense than getting the car out to get a loaf of bread or pop to the post office for 1 letter.
Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)
Our GP is absolutely wonderful. the best doctor we have ever had and we had some good ones back in the UK. The specialists we have had to see in the last 3 yrs have also all be excellent and the notion of a waiting list is virtually unheard of. If you need physiotherapy, then an appointment is usually avavailable within a couple of days, rather than weeks.
Retiring in France? Choosing an expat health insurance
provider is an important decision. Take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA
. Sponsored by CIGNA.
Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)
No, fortunately there is not. However, when the fair or circus is in town/the villages round and about then it is wise to be more careful when in the garden and to make sure all windows and doors are locked.
Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?
There us a bus that goes into Carcassonne twice a day. There is also a train service from Lezignan to Narbonne BUT, I would suggest that a car is essential when you are in a small village as ours. In a big city, that may be different.
Is there high-speed internet access where you live?
There is internet access but it is not as high as we would like but we get by.
Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?
We have had to accept that despite wanting to assimilate into the French community, this is difficult because of our limited language skills. We go to lessons 2xpw. but it is taking a long time to improve. At 69 & 74 we are unable to learn as quickly or retain information as easily as people much younger. However, there is an expat community which we dip into now and again, and may have to dip into more if we wish to socialise more. Until our French language skills have increased greatly, we will be limited to fairly stilted conversations with our French neighbours and other villagers. But, we will persevere.
More Expat Advice about Retiring in France