Is The Grass Really Greener On The Other Side (of The Channel)?

Since the world economic crisis of 2008, there had been a quintessentially British, quiet exodus of France. However, attracted by a favourable Euro/Pound exchange rate and better quality of life, numbers of British people planning a new life in France are on the up. Is life really better for Brits in France rather than in UK?

Some figures

According to the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), in 2012, 156,432 British people were settled in France, that is 3.9% of the total population. Now, there may be more than 200,000 living in France. The first large wave of British expats arrived in the 1980s, principally in the Dordogne and the following waves settled in the Charente and Limousin regions. Most of them were retired and wanted to enjoy the quality of life in the idyllic French countryside, their interest in France quickly led to an increase in property prices.

With regards to the property market, in 2013, 6.3% of French property buyers were foreign nationals, of which Brits made up a large majority. According to an HSBC report, the number of British people thinking about buying a property abroad rose from 30% in 2006 to 38% in 2014. Furthermore, more than one million people have their UK state pension paid overseas.

According to the Office of National Statistics (the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics), in 2014, 323,000 people left the UK permanently. Estate agencies dealing with French property, such as Sextant, are very excited to serve a growing number of Britsish clients planning a new life abroad.


Why France?

The main reason why British people come to France is probably the cheaper cost of living. On average, living in the UK is 18% more expensive than in France. Furthermore, many cite the stress associated with life in England as their reason for taking the leap across the Channel. Noise, weather, pollution, public transport and cost of living represent huge stress factors which motivate them to leave. British people often appreciate the quality of life in France, especially in small villages where quietness and serenity remain the key words.

The majority of people who settle abroad are retired and within 10 years, around 12% of the British population will retire. As shown by a study dating back to 2012, around 70% of prospective overseas buyers are aged 50 or over and 59% of them have already considered retirement as the point at which they will make their overseas property purchase. France remains one of the most popular destinations; the country of wine and cheese has much to offer, especially for those who wish to mark a clear turning point after years of hard work. In December 2012, France has been officially classified as the 14th best destination to retire worldwide, and 4th top destination in Europe

For the past few months, Brexit is one of the main topics of conversation for British people, especially for those who are living in France. Indeed, the potential exit from the European Union and the repercussions this may pose. Some are (reluctantly) considering applying for French nationality if the UK leaves the EU. It’s a new page of the story, British expats are definitely not ready to leave France.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2016 at 10:05 am and is filed under French Property, Holiday Home, Living in France . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Is The Grass Really Greener On The Other Side (of The Channel)?”

  1. Mary Garland Says:

    Hi, I have just read this article entitled ‘Better in than out’. It tells us a lot about the statistics, but absolutely NOTHING about whether we should stay in or out of the EU. I think you need to address this issue and give us some plan facts as to what it will mean to UK residents who own property in France, if we were to vote ‘Out’.

  2. Catherine Ryall Says:

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for your comment, perhaps the title of this article is slightly off-point – it’s really about the history of British expats settling in France and differences today between living the UK and France. I will come up with a more appropriate title as soon as I can. As I’m sure you can understand, It is not our place to try to influence people to vote one way or another in the upcoming referendum; it is up to the British public to decide whether the pros of continued membership of the EU outweigh the cons. Furthermore, it would be almost impossible to state ‘facts’ should the UK vote ‘Out’ on 23rd June, because very little is certain and all would depend on negociations made in the two years or so following the vote. We can only speculate as we have discussed in another article: which you can find here. I hope this proves informative – well, as much as we can be about this hypothetical situation!

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