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

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Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

From the tax office to the post office, internet firms and pets - who you need to tell when you move house in France

Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

Whether you’re moving down the street, to the other side of town, or to a different département, the administrative scale of the task is almost as big as the physical side – and at least as stressful, unless  – on actual moving day – you lose the kettle and can’t make a cup of tea.

The job of moving house gets more difficult the closer you get to moving day, and it’s easy to forget or put off those administrative jobs you have to do. So, here’s a list of those annoying red tape jobs you need to consider in good time. 

1. Give notice to your landlord

If you’re renting your current property, you need to give either one month or three months’ notice – depending on the type and location of the property rental –  that you’re moving out, and arrange with your landlord a suitable time to carry out an état des lieux of the property, similar to the one carried out when you moved in.

2. Schools

Parents of school-age children attending state-run schools must notify the establishment if they move out of its catchment area, and find a new school for their children within eight days of moving. 

Under certain circumstances children will be able finish the school year in the establishment they attended before the change of residence.

The first step is to contact the town hall in the town you are moving to. The full rules, including those for children in private education or who are home schooled are here.

3.Tell the taxman – and other administrative bodies

The taxman needs to know you’re moving – if only to send your next tax form to the right address. 

You can inform tax officials of the fact and date of your move online, by logging into your Personal area on the website

Here, at least, there’s some additional good news. France has set up a system in which you can tell a number of administrative offices – including the tax office, EDF, Pôle emploi, and Caf – that you’re moving house with one online form. Find it here.

4. Residence permit

Anyone living in France on a residence permit – such as Britons who have a post-Brexit Carte de séjour – needs to update the address on it.

The process can be completed online.

5. Driving licence and carte grise

Sadly, for technical reasons, declarations of change of contact details to the Vehicle Registration System with an effective date after June 30, 2022, aren’t currently included in the one form, all admin system mentioned above.

So, to change the registered address of your vehicle on its carte grise, you need to go to the ANTS website

Bizarrely, there is no rush to change the address on your driver’s license.  You can leave it until you apply for a new one (for example, if you lose it, or it expires) – and there’s no dedicated ‘change of address’ option on the driver’s licence application section of the ANTS website.

6. Utilities

You need to contact your electricity and gas supplier, as well as the water company and whoever operates your telephone, TV, internet package.

Be aware, if your current internet operator is unable to supply your new home, you can request the termination of your subscription free of charge.

Don’t forget your bank, either. 

7. New GP

You may want to change your GP – especially if you’re moving some distance. You will need to find a GP able to take on new patients, and they will be able to help with the process.

8. Don’t forget your pets

In France, carnivorous pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets, must be identifiable – usually by microchip, or tattoo – so that they can be returned to their owners if they get lost. This information is kept on a national database, which must be updated when you move house. Do that here

9. Get your mail forwarded

La Poste will forward any letters to your new address for up to 12 months. Click here for more information.

10. Help with the costs of moving

You may be eligible for some help with moving costs on the day itself. Those on lower incomes may be able to access help from the fonds de solidarité pour le logement towards the cost of hiring a removals firm, for example.

Parents with three children or more, or who are expecting a third child may be eligible for a moving allowance from CAF under certain conditions. More information is available here