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The joys of living in an ‘expat no-go zone’

British expats in France tell us the benefits of living in some of the country's "expat no-go zones", areas where the expats are few but the quality of life competes with even the most popular regions.

The joys of living in an 'expat no-go zone'
Verdun, Lorraine, a huge region in north-eastern France with few expats. Photo: Antonio Ponte/Flickr
Late last month, we took a look at where exactly all the Brits live in France.
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the stats from France’s National Statistics Agency INSEE showed of the almost 160,000 Brits in France, most congregated in places like Paris, Poitou-Charentes and Brittany while almost ignoring other areas completely (see the map below for exact details).
 
But the Brits living in those areas, which we dubbed the "expat no-go zones" of France, have contacted us to tell us why they love their corner of the country. 
 
 
(NB: The number for Poitou Charentes should read 16,300)
(The map above shows exactly how many Brits live in each region)
 
Rebecca Pintre – Location, location, location
 
Rebecca Pintre says she is delighted to be among the 850 Brits living in Lorraine, where she's just a five hours' drive from Calais and thirty minutes from Luxembourg airport.
 
"Lorraine is big. I am in the corner which borders Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium. We came here from Paris for one reason: Luxembourg. We joined the army of cross border workers – over 100,000 of us cross into Luxembourg every weekday morning, and back again in the evening," she tells The Local.
 

(The town of Nancy, in Lorraine, south of Pictre's home. Photo: MorBCN/Flickr)
 
"The houses here are rented at approximately half the price they are in Luxembourg, so we chose to live in France. We are at the heart of Europe – Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, the Black Forest, Alsace, all within a three-hour drive. We live in a very rural, quiet village with all the advantages of a capital city just 20 minutes’ away (ahem, outside of rush hour!)
 
"The local history is fascinating, and the architecture, food, and the local dialect (le Platt) is influenced by the neighbouring countries. We also have good wine. And lastly, the best fish and chips I have ever had on the continent was just 5km from my home, over the border in Luxembourg. Not the same, of course, but is it ever?"
 
Lesley Polley – Why return home?
 
Facebook follower Lesley Polley is among the 2,300 living in Burgundy and she says it has been a "fabulous experience" so far. 
 
"We are Brits living in Burgundy," she says. "And we absolutely love it."
 
"We've been here nearly nine years and despite being of a 'mature' age I found work teaching at the university in Dijon almost from the beginning – even though I wasn't a teacher in England. My husband is kept extremely busy cooking for the guests at our Bed and Breakfast – La Bagnosienne. I'm also on the municipal council. Any support we have had comes mostly from our super French neighbours and we have no intention at this time of returning to the UK. 
 

(The courtyard of Polley's Bed and Breakfast. Photo: La Bagnoisiene)
 
Pat Green – Escaping the Brits
 
Pat Green in Haute Cote d'Or, Burgundy, says she chose the area because "we didn't want to be surrounded by Brits". 
 
"We had plenty of support from the French when we arrived and I was voted on to the municipal council within the first six months. We do also have British friends and enjoy the variety," she adds. 
 

(The Dijon prefecture. Photo: Christophe.Finot/WikiCommons)
 
Tracy Thurling – Who needs other expats?
 
Tracy Thurling in Burgundy says she also loves living in an area that's not "overrun by expats".
 
"I count myself as an immigrant, not an expat, as I chose to live here. Our children were born when we lived in Chamonix where one in five of the residents at the time were non-French. It made it tough for them to learn French. Here in a Catholic school of 1,300 children, there is only one other English-speaking family.
 
"We enjoy the French lifestyle and culture precisely because it is very different and not British whereas in somewhere like Chamonix, it was perfectly possible to live a totally British lifestyle. This lack of French language and culture (along with inflated property prices) led to a great deal of resentment from the local people as all Brits got lumped together while here in Burgundy we are still novel enough for people to chat to us to find out why we came here. 
 
There are plenty of English-speaking people in the season as Beaune is a popular tourist destination (indeed I work in tourism offering tours at Burgundy By Request) but out of season we turn our heads and stare when we hear someone speaking English. I love it – I have no intention of ever going to live in the UK again."
 

(Stunning Beaune. Photo: Mkfsca/Flickr)

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PROPERTY

New French State aid to help older people make home improvements

A new accessibility scheme recently announced by the French government gives grants for home improvements such as installing a stair lift or widening a doorframe to allow wheelchair access - here is how you could benefit.

New French State aid to help older people make home improvements

According to a recent survey in France, the vast majority of retired people expressed a desire to stay in their homes long-term, rather than entering a care facility.

While there are several schemes by the French government to provide assistance for renovating homes in order to make them more accessible for elderly people, the newly announced “MaPrimeAdapt” seeks to streamline the process.

When was it announced?

MaPrimeAdapt was part of President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election campaign, with plans for it first announced by the president last November.

Most recently, the government aid was earmarked to receive funding in the upcoming 2023 budget, which also hopes to increase the number of nursing home employees, as well as boost public funding for care centres.

The budget is set to allocate €35 million to the National Housing Agency (ANAH) in 2023. In response, the ministry of housing said to Capital France that one of their top priorities is “a single aid for the adaptation of housing to ageing” that would replace several existing government subsidies.

What is the goal of Ma Prime Adapt?

Similar to Ma Prime Renov, this programme hopes to provide additional funding for home refurbishment.

But while Ma Prime Renov focuses on environmentally friendly home adaptations, Ma Prime Adapt aims to make it simpler for older people or those with disabilities to refurbish their homes in order to maintain their autonomy and avoid falls.  

The French government also aims to reduce the number of fatal or disabling falls of people aged 65 by at least 20 percent by 2024, and by 2032, the goal is for at least 680,000 homes to be adapted, particularly those of low-income older people.

Who can benefit?

According to reporting by Le Monde, this aid is not solely reserved for people who already have decreased mobility. 

Instead, it is intended for older people generally. When applying, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that they are an independent retiree and need (this could be based on income, age, health, etc) to adapt their housing in order to make it more accessible.

The amount of assistance offered will be means-tested based on financial status.

What types of work would qualify?

Some examples of work that might qualify for assistance might be:

  • adapting the bathroom (for example, adding grab bars or enlarging the door)
  • replacing the bathtub with a shower
  • installing a bathtub with a door
  • installing a stair lift
  • adding access ramps to the home

The benefit is not limited to those options – any project that aims to increase home accessibility for a senior could qualify, as long as it is not simply aesthetic-focused.

Can it be combined with Ma Prime Renov?

They have different criteria, but Ma Prime Renov and Ma Prime Adapt can be combined in order to provide maximum support to elderly people wishing to adapt and stay in their homes.

How can I apply?

In order to apply, you will be required to meet the conditions stated above, in addition to being able to demonstrate that the housing in question is at least 15 years old and that the amount of work being done would cost at least €1,500.

Keep in mind that the renovation will need to be carried out by a recognised building company or contractor – specifically one with the label “RGE.”

You will be able  toapply for the Ma Prime Adapt aid via France’s National Housing Agency (ANAH). A dedicated website will be created to facilitate the process, with a launch date TBC. 

On the site, you will submit an application form that includes the estimates of the work planned. According to Le Monde, €5,600 will be the maximum amount of aid to be offered, and the cost of work will be capped at €8,000. However, this information has not yet been published by the National Housing Agency. 

What have the other available schemes been?

Currently, retirees in France can apply for the “Habiter facile” scheme from the ANAH (Agence Nationale de l’Habitat), which also helps to finance work that promotes the ability of elderly people to remain in their homes.

“Bien vieillir chez soi” is a similar aid scheme which is offered by the CNAV (social security).

The elderly and disabled can also benefit from tax credits on accessibility or home adaptation work. 

These will likely be replaced by Ma Prime Adapt, which will combine all benefits into one package.

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