What to do when you move to France

Posted by Nancy on 23rd Jun 2021 in the blog in the category

With Covid-19 restrictions on travel easing up, we have heard from many of you that you are planning on making the big move to our favourite country, France. To help you, we put together a little guide so that navigating the French system can be made a little bit simpler. Have a read below and if you have any more questions, let us know in the comment section below.


Moving to France may include an interview and a medical checkup. Be aware of the visa/residency requirements. You will need to have all your paperwork ready before your arrival. France is a very bureaucratic country; knowing what to do will save you heaps of time. Upon arrival, the first thing you should do upon arrival is to register with the French authorities at the OFFI (Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration). You will also have to get a residence permit that corresponds with your visa.


After getting all your immigration items sorted, the next thing you will have to do is open a French bank account. Some banks may authorise non-French citizens to do so. BNP and Société Générale are two of the most popular banks in France. Be prepared to be asked for all your paperwork: proof of address, visa, passport, when opening a bank account. Unfortunately for our American and Canadian readers, the process is not as streamlined as it would be in your home country.


The medical system is a little complicated, but any hospital and doctor will take you onboard once you are in the system. First, you will need health insurance to access the system and register with CPAM (Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie) before using French healthcare. If you don't have state healthcare, you must acquire private health insurance. Bear in mind that it will not necessarily cover 100% of your medical costs.

Register with a dentist and doctor near you. They will be your primary healthcare providers. You can choose to ask for recommendations from neighbours, friends, and your always friendly Google. You will often have "les Maisons médicales", a cluster of several doctors and nurses. You can usually get blood tests done on the same premises, and results are generally speedy.

You must learn the French emergency numbers:

  • 15 - medical emergencies.
  • 17 - police.
  • 18 - fire brigade.
  • 115 - social crisis.
  • 119 - abused children.
  • 116000 - missing children.
  • 114 - National centre for emergency calls for users with disabilities.


It's always good to consider education (if you are moving with children) and transport when moving to a French town. Not all villages have public transportation. French people tend to own a car and use it a lot to get from A to Z (outside Paris). The country is twice as big as England, and many remote places require a vehicle. Renting might also be complicated, especially if you do not speak French. It's always better, if possible, to work with an estate agent. Your landlord will also ask you to pay for tenant insurance. If you do not, they will have grounds to evict you. Keep in mind that when you move in, the water and electricity in the flat will likely be cut off. You will need to contact the providers (EDF and GFD) to set that up for the duration of your tenancy. You will also be liable to pay the Taxe d'habitation (council tax for those coming from England). French people tend to have their names written on their letterbox; you will be responsible for changing that upon moving.

If you have a child, you will have to register with the local Mairie (town hall) and send your child to the school in your catchment area. The French system used to be very elitist, leaving no help for deprived children or those with special needs. Though things have changed, the system remains very strict, and its elitist past continues to linger. The French teaching philosophy is different from England's, where the pupil's safeguard and well-being are considered paramount. In France, they tend to put everybody in the same basket. It goes with their LALIQUE/secular philosophy.

French school levels go as follow:

  • Ecole maternelle = from 3 to 6
  • Ecole primaire
    • CP: Cours préparatoire or 11ème – age 6 to 7 years old
    • CE1: Cours élémentaire or 10ème – age 7 to 8 years old
    • CE2: Cours élémentaire or 9ème – age 8 to 9 years old
    • CM1: Cours moyen 1 or 8ème – 9 to 10 years old
    • CM2: Cours moyen 2 or 7ème – 10 to 11 years old
  • College = 11 to 15
  • Lycee = 15 to 18

The 'redoublement' is common in France, which means that your child may have to repeat the same year if their school results are not good enough. There are, of course, private schools. Some of them being Catholic. The cost is no way near as high as in England.


Understanding the tax system (which can be heavy) is very important for life in France. Note that you will become a tax resident if you intend to work and live in France for over 182 days. You will need to register at the Hotel des impôts or Mairie and contribute to France's social security.


Take evening classes when possible and mingle with the French community. French people tend to be social creatures and love an excellent aperitif (the drinks served before dinner). If you invite people for an aperitif, they will not stay for dinner (though by experience, they always do). So prepare nibbles with the drinks (apéritif dinatoire).

Find out where the athletic facilities are and other entertainment places nearby. Access programs that will help you with socialising and therefore learn French people's culture and language. You could also offer your service as an English teacher in exchange for French lessons. Listen to the French radio all the time and watch French TV with or without subtitles. Find French friends. Read the French Newspapers (Le monde, Le Figaro etc.) and learn how to write a CV in French.

Take the proper exam to reach the B1 level, which will allow you to stay in France.

  • TCF
  • DELF
  • DALF

Learn the social cues:

Always say hello when entering a boutique/shop but also the dentist and doctors waiting rooms. You must know French to find a job in France. Find out what the french holiday dates are and learn all the etiquettes.

There are many more things one must know when relocating to France. We hope our tips helped. If you have any more suggestions or questions, let us know in the comments below.

As always, à bientot, bisou bisou!

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