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Old Port Area of Marseille, France

Retire in France

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: What is it like to retire in France? Retirees share their experiences living in France.

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What is it like to retire in France?

"Their is lots of cultural attractions, recreation and nightlife. I do not know many other expat retirees but that is because I choose to join groups of mostly locals such as a local running club and a local club of bolles (bocci). I enjoy these more then the expat groups since I enjoy learning more from the locals," added another person in Marseille.

"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," remarked another retiree in Aude and Herault Departments.

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What advice do overseas retirees have for others considering retiring abroad?

"Keep an open mind. Most of the people who did not enjoy France came here wanting it to be like their home country. You need to adapt to your new home, not have them change to accommodate you. The French are also very warm and friendly. More so if you go out of your way to try to speak to them in French. That effort normally rewards you with them helping in English," said another retiree in Marseille.

"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," commented one retiree living in Aude and Herault Departments, France.

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What are the most challenging aspects of retiring in France?

"Keeping in touch with friends and family due to the time zone differences. But social media helps greatly with that as long as you plant out your common times. The cost has not been cheap, it could be cheaper in many other countries and I will likely end up in a cheaper place to fully retire later but for now I am enjoying my time here," remarked another retiree in Marseille.

"First, the language. Second,the paperwork and rules. Meeting my neighbors was the easiest. I now know more people here than I did in either of my US homes," said a retiree who moved to Pezenas, France.

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What are the most rewarding aspects of retiring in France?

"The life experience. I have learned so much from experiencing different cultures, different ways of life and different points of views. We don't have to agree with everything but just learning about it and seeing it through the eyes of another person helps us understand and be more open to differences of opinions. The food has been great most everywhere I go, I try to eat locally as much as possible and experience local cuisine everywhere I go. Having learned more (basic) languages has been great too. You get a additional boost of confidence when you can make your basic needs understood in countries where the language is different from your first language. Growth as an individual," said a retiree who moved to Marseille, France.

"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," said another retiree in Aude and Herault Departments.

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What are healthcare services like in France?

We asked retirees if they have access to good medical care in France. They wrote:

"Yes, France has great medical facilities. They also do not turn away foreigners in need. Do make sure your insurance is up-to-date anyway though," said a retiree who moved to Marseille, France.

"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," said another retiree in Aude and Herault Departments.

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How do I meet people in France?

When we asked people living in France about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"I have been nicely surprised on how big the community of expats is in France. We are lucky to have: meetup.com/cities/fr/lyon/ - smaller groups of expats who organizes meetings close to their interests onlylyon.com - very useful for info and events happening in Lyon internations.org/start, which actively organizes events for expats," explained one retiree living in Lyon.

"- join the English Club, or if there is none, create one (the city hall will advertise it and provide a room to meet). I joined one and it's been great; half the people are native English speakers--so you feel at home--half are French--so you branch out and make friends with French people. Many French people are eager to join to practice and improve their English. The club organises activities, visits to restaurants, castles, etc. People in it are well travelled and cosmoplitan, many have lived in foreign countries before," said another retiree in living in Moulins, France.

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What is life like in France?

When we asked people living in France what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Work, socializing, sports, festivals & community celebrations in centre-ville. Lots of opportunities to be active with a climbing gym, sports halls, dance classes, martial arts clubs, etc," said another retiree in living in Epinal, France.

"J'adore Lyon! It's an amazing place! Not only because of the history and landscape, but I especially love it because of the people. They are very authentic French! They love their city, they love their food, they enjoy life and they appreciate good quality of life. What I noticed is that they are very family oriented, they spend time together and do many activities, they care about the city and they appreciate it. They are very welcoming and helpful....and they will help you learn French as English is not popular here as in Paris ;-)," explained a retiree in Lyon.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

What do I need to know before retiring in France?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to France, they said:

"Check out nancy.OnVaSortir.com to find out about events that are planned by locals (and therefore not promoted by any public methods), and follow the city on Facebook to get updates about festivals and other happenings around town," commented one retiree living in Epinal, France.

"Well, firstly - great to hear that there is nothing to wait for. Just start learning some French...take few documents with yourself as France seems to like red tape very much and you need papers for everything! Take some birth certificates for sure. Don't worry about the accommodation because here in Lyon you will get many estate agencies to help you out and they speak English! And mostly...read some blogs, forums, expats websites which will provide you with the up to date info," explained one retiree living in Lyon.

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What type of recreational activities are there in France?

"There are several youth and culture centers (MJCs: Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture) that offer classes and social opportunities on topics like guitar, dance, English, pottery, martial arts, etc. There is also an Olympic pool, great hiking in nearby La Bresse, and several very nice parks within the city (the city rose garden, the park that houses the castle on top of the hill)," explained one member in Epinal.

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Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in France?

"In the downtown area there's a MonoPrix and a Intermarche, and a bit further but still within town is a large E. LeClerq with plenty of selection, There's also a covered marketplace open on Sundays in town, where all the locals prefer to buy fresh cheese, fish, meat, produce, etc. And of course there are plenty of boulangeries for fresh bread and pastries," said another retiree in living in Epinal, France.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Old Port Area of Marseille, France

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