The areas of France the Brits do and don’t go

With the euro wobbling against the pound, Brits are once again lining up to buy property in France. But they are not willing to head anywhere in "La France profonde", and there remain some no-go zones for British expats.

The areas of France the Brits do and don't go
Certain parts of France are pretty much ignored by British expats. Photo: AFP

The British dream of selling up and moving to France is still very much a reality for thousands of property buyers and even more so with the current exchange rate.

But they are picky, it seems, when it comes to where in “la belle France” they want to move to.

Stats released to The Local from France’s National Statistics Agency INSEE showed that British expats, of which there are almost 160,000 in total, continue to congregate in certain parts of the country and almost ignore others completely.

According to the most recent available stats the most popular region of France for Britons is the Ile-de-France region – which includes the capital Paris – where 21,000 of them reside.

After the French capital the most popular regions for Brits are Poitou-Charentes in the west of of France where the 16,300 Britons make up 33 percent of the overall population of foreign residents there.

Next most popular is Aquitaine (16,100) in the south west, which includes the famous “Dordogneshire”, and neighbouring region Midi-Pyrénnées (15,800).

There are 13,500 Brits living in Brittany and a similar number living in Rhône Alps, in the south east which covers the country’s main ski resorts.

There are almost 12,000 Brits living in Provence, all of whom have probably read Peter Mayle's best selling book “A Year in Provence”.

But the statistics also reveal that Britons have little or no desire to move to certain parts of France, notably the north east, but also the place better known as the Island of Beauty.

The Mediterranean Island of Corsica is only home to around 200 Brits, while back on the mainland Champagne-Ardenne and Franche-Comté in the east of the country count only around 400 British residents.

And only around 850 Brits have set up home in the eastern region of Lorraine and at least one of them is quite happy to be there.

“I'm delighted to be one of the 850 Brits who live in Lorraine. It's a great area with all the variety of British weather with a few occasional extremes of heat and cold,” Rebecca Pintre told The Local.

READ ALSO: The four mistakes made by French property buyers

France-based estate agent Joanna Leggett tells The Local the reasons these regions appear to be no-go zones for Brits are simple.

“The number one factor for where Brits choose to go is the weather,” she says. “In Poitou-Charentes in the west, they get around 2,400 hours of sunshine each year, but in a region like Lorraine, the temperatures are lower and they get a lot of rain.

(The town of Nancy, in Lorraine, is beautiful – but often wet. Photo: MorBCN/Flickr)

“Places like Champagne-Ardenne are cooler and there is also not great infrastructure available in transport links to get them there,” she added.

Whereas those living in Ile-de-Ré or La Rochelle in the Poitou-Charentes region can soak up 2,400 hours of sunshine each year, those in Lorraine have to make do with 800 hours less.

In the Champagne-Ardennes region the sun shines for an average of 1,500 hours each year.

And in the regions of eastern France can suffer from long winters which may put off many Brits from setting up there.

However these regions are popular with Germans, Belgians and Swiss expats.

“Brits also tend to go to the more scenic areas. They also love the Dordogne because it looks like home,” Leggett says.

Despite Corsica having the weather and the scenery, transport between the island and Britain does not come cheap.

One area that Britons are also avoiding is Burgundy, where there are around 2,300 Brits. But given the scenery, cuisine and great wine on offer, estate agents are baffled that there are not more.

“Burgundy used to be really popular but people just don’t seem to be interested in it and I’ve no idea why. Perhaps they’ve just found other areas where the prices are better,” says Leggett.

(This map from Leggett shows where different nationalities like to buy in France)

One other reason why so many Brits end up in the same areas is the desire to be with other expats, which although many try to avoid it, does make settling in that little bit easier.

“People often say that they don’t live want to live in an area with other Brits, but actually they do.

“I say to them, do you speak French? And they’ll often say they will pick it up but they don’t realize how hard it is to learn another language, especially when you’re older.  

“When they get to their new home, they realise it’s mostly English speakers who help them out when they need it and it’s the other expats that give them support.”

However the reputation that certain areas of France are like “Little Britain” is unfair says Leggett.

“People talk about “Dordogneshire”, but it’s a huge area and there are villages where there are no Brits at all. In some of the bigger towns, around ten percent of the population is British. That’s still a small amount.

(The skies above the town of Dole, in Franche-Comté, are often dreary. Photo: Math Puente/Flickr)

While British expats avoid eastern France, the same can be said for the millions of tourists who visited France last year.

The country welcomed 84 million visitors from abroad last year who as a whole splashed out €141 billion, INSEE revealed.

While Ile-de-France topped the table second to the bottom of the table comes Champagne-Ardennes in the north east of the country, which earned €1.48 billion through tourism. In third from the bottom position was Franche-Comté, where the takings were €1.5 billion.

However bottom of the table for tourist revenue was Limousin, which has proved a popular destination for British expats.

Are you an expat living in one of the sparsely populated areas mentioned above? We'd love to talk to you. Email us at [email protected] or get in contact with us on Facebook

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Property taxes: How much will it cost to extend your French home?

Installing a swimming pool, building a garden shed, or adding a conservatory to your French home has become more expensive in 2023.

Property taxes: How much will it cost to extend your French home?

If you are planning a renovation project in 2023 you’re likely looking at rising cost for materials and labour due to inflation – but there is one other cost to consider; taxes. 

In France there is a one-off tax that has to be paid on certain building works, and the government has raised the rate for this.

The taxe d’aménagement, sometimes referred to as the garden shed tax, applies to all property development – construction, reconstruction and extension – of buildings that require planning permission or a building permit.

Garden sheds, swimming pools or extensions with a surface area of more than 5 square metres are subject to the development tax – although a 50 percent reduction is applied to the flat-rate values of certain buildings, particularly the first 100 square metres of main residences.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about installing a swimming pool at your French property

The tax is collected by local councils, who set their own percentage rates for the tax, working off the base rate set by the government.

A decree published in the Journal Officiel set the base figures for 2023 at the following rates: 

  • €1,004 per square metre in Île-de-France (up from €929 per square metre in 2022);
  • €886 per square metre outside Île-de-France (€820 per square metre in 2022).

The flat-rate values per square metre of building space, which constitute the basis for the development tax, are revised on January 1st of each year according to the latest construction cost index published by national statistics body Insee. 

Additionally, specific rates are set for:

  • €250 per square metre  for a swimming pool (up from €200 in 2022);
  • €12 per square metre of ground-fixed solar panels (up from €10 in 2022);
  • €3,000 per wind turbine more than 12 metres high;
  • €3,000 per pitch for tents, caravans and mobile leisure homes;
  • €10,000 per pitch for a holiday chalet or bungalow.

The amount of the tax is calculated according to the following formula: 

(Taxable area multiplied by the government-set base figure) multiplied by the percentage tax rate set by the local authorities. This gives the total to be paid in cents. Bills are rounded down.

So, the tax for a 30 square metre extension in an area where the combined local and departmental tax rates total 6.25 percent would be calculated like this:

30 (the size of the development) x 886 (the base tax rate outside Ile-de-France) = 26,580

6.25 (local and departmental tax) x 26,580 = 166,125 cents, more usually expressed as €1,661. 

If the total payable is less than €1,500, you will receive a bill in the six months after planning permission was granted, with details of how to pay.

Otherwise, it is paid in two instalments, 12 months and 24 months after authorisation, with a 10 percent surcharge applied in cases of late payments.

READ ALSO The hidden costs of owning property in France