It’s the question that every foreigner in France has been asked – why did you move here?
But often it doesn’t have a simple answer. Many people move for a variety of reasons and often what makes people stay is very different to what brought them here in the first place.
So we decided to ask readers of The Local about what brought them to France, what keeps them here and whether they see France as their home for the rest of their lives.
Quality of life
Number one by quite some way in the list of reasons to move was an improved quality of life, with 56 percent of people saying this was one of their principal reasons for making the move.
Overall of the readers who responded, 33 percent retired to France, 21 percent came here to work, 6 percent for study/education and 10 percent made the move to join a partner.
Don Olson, who moved from the US to Normandy, told us: “After our first month-long vacation in the spring of 2017 to Normandy, we were totally smitten. We returned for another month in December of that year to see what winter was like and look at houses. Boom! We bought a house and moved to Domfront the following July, all in a total of 15 months from first sight until arriving permanently.
“And our reasons for staying only broadened as time went by.
“We love the people, who, at every turn were friendly, helpful, patient and kind. We were very impressed with the fonctionnaires with whom, as Americans, we had a lot of interaction, and they were always professional, patient, and responsive.
“The food, of course, is awesome, and the climate, landscape, history, and culture all add to the joy of daily living. And things work – trains, good roads, public services, all of it. And we can pop in to Paris via train whenever we get the urge.
“But it is the overall sensibility, the feeling, of life in France that really captured our hearts. Relationships, whether close or more formal, matter, and they grow over time. I love that the emphasis is on people, not money. I love the formality and mutual respect of encounters with new people, but also the close camaraderie that can arise. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at home.”
Stephanie, from London, also emphasised the quality of life in France, saying simply: “I fell in love with the sports and lifestyle in the Alps.”
Andrew Hale, from Manchester, retired to France. He told us: “We had been planning the move for 14 years (since buying our second home in France) as we knew it was where we wanted to live permanently (long before Brexit raised its ugly head!)
“Now we’re here full time and we definitely see ourselves staying. We love the pace of life, the politeness, the excellent health service, the food, the wine – I could carry on listing things.”
For most respondents, the reason for moving was attractions or opportunities in France, but some also added that factors in their home countries had pushed them into making the move – particularly Brexit and the Trump presidency.
Peter Johnson, from London, said: “Brexit made us loathe Britain and Covid made us realise another life was possible and preferable. Our kids will have a better education and healthier life here.”
Reasons to stay
For many people, their reason for coming and their reason for staying was different.
In fact, a striking number of readers reported that their initial plan was for a short stay in France, but many years later they are still here, with others saying they ended up here simply by accident.
For many people their purpose changed – for example students completed their studies and found work here or second-home owners decided to make France their permanent home.
Manant, who moved to Paris from Calcutta, said: “I was young, and had no rigid plans. It was up to life to show me what it had in store for me! I’ve been here 11 years now.”
Deborah Mir, from New York, moved to Paris and now lives in Luberon, Provence. She said: “I had no idea if my relationship with a guy I met on holiday would work out, but I just knew I had to go find out.
“We married about a year after I arrived, and I discovered how great life is outside the US, and more importantly that France is a great place to raise a family. 30-plus years later, and I have no regrets.”
Tony Alcock, of Paris originally from Somerset, said: “We first came for two years, but that was 2000 and we’re still here.
“Work got extended but the main reason for staying was that the children got settled in school and no one wanted to leave.
“We’re all French nationals now and we’ve sold up in the UK. The children, now in their 20s, have jobs and are here for good, probably. We’re also in the process of moving from near Paris to Montélimar for our retirement.”
Arturr, from Puerto Rico, orginally moved to Paris to study and ended up staying, saying simply: “We fell in love with the country.”
Marta Zaraska, from Canada, said: “We moved for one year (for my husband’s MBA) and fell in love with France.
“We now have a daughter born in France, and French nationality. We have been here for 15 years.”
Not everyone intends their move to be a permanent one, but more than 80 percent of our survey respondents said they definitely planned to stay in France for the rest of their lives.
Andrew and Elaine Greener, from Whitby in the UK, said: “Staying was a really difficult decision to make, so we took a trip back to the UK. When we saw how bad the traffic was, how impatient and stressed that people seemed, it made it clear that we should remain here.
“We have made a lot of effort, paid a lot of money and made sacrifices of sorts, to be here. We have recently committed to buying our first house in France and moving out of our rented apartment.”
Samuel Rigby-Jones, from Folkestone, added: “We have no plans to return to the UK, I have a job in a French factory and my wife is coming up to retirement age.”
If you are planning on moving to France, you can find lots of practical info on everything from visas to taxes, finding somewhere to live and setting up a bank account in our Moving to France section.