Retired in France -Things ain’t what they used to be?…. by Avril Charlton


By Avril Charlton

There are many here that say France is no longer as cheap as it used to be… perhaps that’s true, however….

Car insurance tends to be cheaper here, there’s no car tax and a Controle Technique will last you two years!  Car parts though, no matter if your car is French or not, are expensive. To that end my Garagiste will usually tell me to get parts sent over from the UK for him to fit.

If you’re renovating your property, there seems to be no price regularity in France so shops tend to charge what they like and the difference between them can be incredible.  Plasterboard, is an essential material and is produced just down the road from me here in France.  It’s then exported to the UK, where believe it or not it is cheaper to buy there than to purchase here in its country of origin.  Go figure.

Healthcare is a two edged sword.  In the UK you pay directly from your salary, almost automatically, for the NHS.   When it comes to receiving treatment though, you could end up waiting months to get an appointment with a specialist.  Here, your carte vitale, which as a retiree depending on which Department you’re in seems means you can either get it for nothing as per EU regulations, or you can be charged as per French regulations, will cover you up to 70%.  You can then take top-up insurance to cover the other 30% which on average is about 40€ per month.

A little research has indicated that the cost of grocery shopping in France is around 17% higher than that of the UK.  For a small fee there are many businesses now that will transport your goods, fresh or frozen from your supermarket of choice to your parking area in a village near you.  My mother remarked recently that she never thought she would be bringing over groceries from the UK to France, having always done it the other way around in the past.  Now however, she and many others like her are shopping at their favourite UK supermarkets – online.

The savings are significant and it doesn’t stop there.  The other day I met a French couple who were purchasing their dog food from the United States and it was still cheaper than buying it here.

‘Service Public des Assainissements Non-Colectifs’ or SPANC as it’s most commonly known, have recently introduced a new charge.  For a small fee they will inspect your septic tank and declare it ‘au norm’ or not.  The inspection is likely to cost around 80€.  If it does not conform to the current standards you will be required to update it which could then cost you a minimum of 6,000€.   Ouch!

The UK Winter Fuel Allowance is a bone of contention.  The UK government had always allowed a winter fuel allowance to pensioners in the UK and it stretched to those who had retired overseas also.  The UK government have apparently changed their minds and now have they say, made a study of the weather patterns of various countries where their citizens now reside.  France is deemed a sufficiently warm enough country to cease all winter fuel payments.  Italy however is not and so those who reside there, will continue to receive it.  Two years ago the temperatures here in warm south-west France reached minus 18 degrees.

So, it may be more expensive to shop here than in the UK, there may be more places to socialise in the UK than in France and I know they definitely don’t all close at 8.30pm like they do here.  But would I change?  Would I move?  As I sit here looking out of the window I can hear the cockerels and the doves; no traffic save for the odd tractor….  No, I think not.

By Avril Charlton

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