I RECEIVED an email recently from a single parent who is looking to head to France with two young children.
And although I sent a reply I though it would most probably be much more enlightening if I ask readers of the site for any advice, hints and tips.
One of the questions raised was how easy would it be for youngsters to pick up French, and having spoken to many families it is often the kids who take to the language quicker than their parents - and usually the younger they are the better.
I also said that I thought the biggest problem would be in finding employment, especially if setting up home in the countryside or if your language skills were not the best.
An area I couldn't help with was what to ask of a school, all I could say was that most village schools would love to receive new children as it boosted numbers, but I also stressed the value of renting a place long-term to ensure you like the area.
So over to you, what advice and tips would you pass on to someone who has two young children and is looking to start a fresh in France?
Please feel free to leave a comment below.
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Unless you already have work to go to in France or a substantial amount of money behind you and I do mean substantial the best advice I can give you is don't move to France. In the countryside single mums are still stigmatised and it will be difficult for you to become a part of the local community. This in turn will force you to rely upon the local UK ex-pat brigade which probably is not what you want. I worked and lived in France among the French for a number of years, it's not all "A PLACE IN THE SUN" wine, Sartre and sun. Think about what you are currnetly risking for a chimera, a mirage of a French life-style idyll. But if you do go? Best of luck to you.
Posted by: steve | 28 March 2007 at 08:46
Thank you, Steve, for your comments. I was surprised and have to say disappointed by some of what you said, but I do appreciate your honesty.
I wouldn't have to work at first and then later perhaps part time ( I am a qualified teacher of English Labguage and Literature- secondary school level)but what concerned me more was your commenst about single parents being stigmatised. I just wondered what it was about your experience of living there that makes you adamant it is not the best move? I am asking , as I feel the more informed I am, the better placed I am to make such a decision, which would initially be quite a change for us all. Thank you
Posted by: heidi | 28 March 2007 at 09:48
I think Steve provided a (brutally!) honest scenario of how single parents are still thought of today in the rural village life people usually imagine when thinking of moving to France. However to counter balance that opinion somewhat, I would say that views in France are also changing on this subject. I have lived in France (Paris and now Toulouse) for over 10 years and I have seen attitudes changing on the single parent 'stigma'. With any vaguely 'new' ideas (ie post war!) it does take a while for acceptance to be whole-hearted in the rural communities. However since my arrival in Toulouse, I have experience of my husband's cousin leaving her partner when their child was 2 yrs old and another English friend who left her (French) husband when her children were 4 & 2. In both cases these two women have battled through to keep the care of their children and hold down full time jobs. In bigger towns at least, I believe the French are at long last starting to give single parents the credit they deserve. If you decide to move, do it while the children are as young as possible and can adapt easier into a French school. I would also strongly advise you to consider moving to a 'cosmpolitan type' town such as Toulouse, Lyon, Bordeaux, where attitudes are likely to be more understanding and jobs more forthcoming. You can always then move further into the country if you get on OK in a bigger town first. I think it's very admirable that you are even considering this sort of move with children on your own. Bonne chance as they say!
Posted by: Jessica | 28 March 2007 at 21:48
Forgot to mention about schools etc. I have a document I could send you about what to do regarding child care & schools in France. Should I send it to you via email maybe? (I run an English speaking mother and toddler group here so this is something that comes up a lot!).
Posted by: Jessica | 28 March 2007 at 21:52
Heidi, you won't be able to teach in a public school with your UK qualifications. You may get work at a private school, but you'd have to take the French exams to teach in a state school. This is because teachers are fonctionnaires.
Also, I taught English as a Foreign Language for some years several years ago and all I ever made was pocket money. Beware!
You might try surfing the internet to see what sort of jobs are available. Forewarned is forearmed, but if you don't speak French, you'll find it very very difficult getting a proper job.
I would also suggest not moving to the middle of nowhere. Go to a town where there are lots of potential opportunities for networking and friends for your children. Don't isolate yourself or you'll go mad.
Posted by: Sarah Hague | 30 March 2007 at 08:33
Thanks to everyone for posting comments and thoughts in answer, very much appreciated. All the best, Craig
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 30 March 2007 at 10:42
Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to reply and offer advice. I wouldn't need to work, certainly not initially. When I do, I was thinking that I would be able to teach in an International school for e.g. where my degree and PGCE would qualify me ( I am basing this on ads in the TES!).
Jessica, yes I would very much appreciate any info you have on schools etc and any opinions on the French system (and how it differs from our system, certainly the preponderance of testing here from 7 !!) (my emial is [email protected])
As I say I am still undecided and the more info I gather the better. So throw any advice at me- I am appreciative!
Posted by: heidi | 30 March 2007 at 17:21
PS Jessica, where are you based?
Posted by: heidi | 30 March 2007 at 17:22
Craig has just posted an article which has a link to the website (www.mumsandtotstoulouse.fr) where you can find the info on enrolling in schools and other child care options for pre-schoolers.
I'm based in Toulouse which is a fab location for being totally French but with an international feel, mainly due to the many different nationalities working at Airbus. There is a huge International school here (originally created with lots of funding from Airbus). You'll also find a link to their website from our website.
We actually have approximately 75 members at Mums and Tots in Toulouse now which gives you an idea of how international it is! I've been running the group for three years now and the numbers keep growing.
Best of luck
Posted by: Jessica | 30 March 2007 at 19:06
Here is the piece that Jessica mentions:
All the best, Craig
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 30 March 2007 at 19:18
I just wanted to say that I have lived in very rural france for over three years as a single Mum and have never, not once, been stigmatised! Not even the slightest comment.
My girl got easily registered with local ecole maternelle at just under 3 years of age and in September starts "real school" at the age of 6. She loves it and is the only English child there (so far, but wait till next year - We're being invaded!). I would say, for a single mum or anyone else - go for it and don't look back!
France is no where near as difficult as it;s made out to be by some. In fact it is so much easier than in UK for me - I can actually afford the rent here! (about third the cost).
I am on very low income(struggling artist) but still manage - if you have something you can do either from home or employable, like teaching, then you should be fine. Go for it and good luck
Posted by: Debbie | 11 December 2007 at 23:25
Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your own experiences of being a single mum in France, it sounds as though you've made a real success of your move.
All the best, Craig
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 12 December 2007 at 09:13
I'm a single mum that moved to Paris a year and a half ago and I work full time. I have a better quality of life here than I did in Australia and have faced no stigma at all for being a single mum unlike what I had in Australia. I have no trouble working full time as the French school and daycare system is easily affordable, good quality and my little girl loves it. We moved here when she was 5 and like all moves, initially it was a bit hard finding an apartment etc, but that's normal anywhere. As a teacher having a vast amount of experience working in various British International schools around the globe, I've found that children pick up languages much faster than adults and don't really have the adjustment problems we might have. It all depends on their parents' attitude of course too. My little girl speaks 3 languages fluently, she did speak more up until we arrived in Paris, but through lack of use, has lost some. French schools do have integration programs for kids that can't speak French and it's all very easy and the children are given lots of support. Saying all this, I do live in the Paris area, one of the outer suburbs where we do have good before and after school care whereas I have heard it's a bit harder in the towns and of course the villages whereas Paris and suburbs is great for working parents. France has loads of single parents, things have changed to what they were like before (I've got French friends that were single mothers 20 years ago) and the government allowances are pretty good. It's all a matter of the lifestyle you choose. Once you know the system and what you're entitled to, it's all very easy (apart from all the paperwork) and if you have more than one kid, the allowances are more including rental allowances. We love living here and I say to any single parents thinking of moving here, go for it.
Posted by: Mirella | 27 December 2008 at 22:36
Hi Mirella, many thanks for taking the time to write about your experiences in France, I am sure other readers will find them extremely helpful.
All the best, Craig
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 28 December 2008 at 12:07
I would second what Mirella has said.
I moved here with my 2 year old over 4 years ago and never regretted a day. I came with £300 in the bank and a small van full of my stuff. Rented a little place for 280 euros a month and never looked back.
I get no benefits from UK or France, but I manage. I do work for myself doing graphics and websites, but I don't get much. It is all about the lifestyle you choose. I love it. It's not for everyone, but if you have a strong urge to move to France, my recommendation would be to find somewhere to rent before buying. It's a renters paradise here. It's easy. It's cheap and its the norm. See if you can hack it first, before a major financial committment. Or, just stay like me and continue to rent.
It's cold wet and windy here just like UK - but when the sun shines it really shines!
Good luck to all who venture forth.
PS What better gift to a child than bi-lingual talents?
PPS - So, in complete dissagreement with Steve at the top of this post....there is no stigma whatsoever (and if you are likely to find it, it would be here in the middle of rural France, it does not exist) and you don't need a substantial amount of money (although that would be very nice)...you do need however to be able to earn an income. Just use your imagination and make it happen.
Posted by: Debbie | 26 January 2009 at 21:24
Hi Debbie, many thanks for taking the time to write about moving to France as a single parent. I would heartily agree that renting first can be a real help.
All the best, Craig
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 27 January 2009 at 16:00
A question for debbie- where abouts in France do you live? I still haven't made the move yet- domestic/personal issues , unfortunately. But I am still hopeful, it's just knowing where would be the best place to be.Thanks again to al the helpful comments from people
Posted by: heidi | 20 April 2009 at 13:18
Question to Mirella,
I too am very interested in moving to France with a 9 year old and the transition into a French School for my daughter is my biggest concern. Is there any information or sites you know of where I can get advice on this?
Posted by: Claire | 21 April 2009 at 19:52
I am seriously considering moving to France in August/September 09, first with my 11 year old and my 14 year old will join us next year. I thought I'd let my 14 year old finish her last year in the UK as I feel the move would disrupt her terribly.
Currently, I work part time in the UK and for the last 2 years, have been travelling to France (Paris) every other weekend to build & establish a client base for my business (hair & beauty salon).
I must add that my business is growing successfully and I have an large client base. Although I have not set up the business officially, I am looking to do so in the next few weeks.
My daughters and I are taking French lessons in the UK which is a bit expensive, but I would like them to become bi-lingual, so its worth the money. When I am in Paris, I stay in a hotel again this is costly, so I would prefer to rent. Unfortunately, I am constantly told how difficult it is to rent an appartment because you need tons of paperwork, so I need some good advice so that I am prepared.
Debbie how did you manage to find accomodation working for yourself? Similarly to Claire, does anyone have information on transition to French school?
PS: My 11 year old didnt get any of the UK secondary schools we applied for which is why I think August/September 09 will be the best time to move.
Posted by: Makeda | 05 May 2009 at 16:24
Well this is just an update, Since my previous post, I have found an apartment to rent in the south of Paris at a very very good price. The apartment is available from August, so that fits in well with my plans. I have also found a salon to rent, but am negotiating the price, it may be simpler to work from home though. In terms of my daughters school, I have a friend who is helping with that.
I will keep you all posted with the develoments and for the record, I have more focus and drive than alot of money to do this.
Posted by: Makeda | 29 May 2009 at 11:29
I am a single (divorced) mother contemplating a move to France. I had originally planned to move to France 20 years ago however marriage and having a child put paid to those plans. Now divorced and with my daughter about to leave home to start her degree studies, I am very seriously contemplating a move for my dog and myself. I am an HR Director by profession with a degree in Business with English and a Masters. I hope to continue working in my current role on a remote basis with the odd trip back to the UK as and when business demands. I have no idea about what networks exist for people like me (if any) but would be keen to be in contact with anyone who has made the move as a single person in their 40s.
Posted by: Kate | 28 August 2009 at 16:30
I have finally made the move to Paris today. After taking a mathematics and French test back in June my 11 year old daughter will start school on Thursday, she has been accepted into the 5eme level to study intensive French for one year, After that, she is given the opportunity to remain in that particular 'college'/secondary school or change.
In all honesty, the proximity of the school to our home is extremely close so I think she will stay put.
There is lots of paperwork to complete and submit, but it is all simple enough - even with my limited French.
Unfortunately, the negotiations for a salon are still happening, but I have secured a little place for 2 days a week in the centre of Paris.
One thing I have found id that people are so willing to help and support me. Truely a blessing!
In my previous job, working for a local authority, I know a couple of directors and seniour managers who live in France, but continue to work in the UK for perhaps 2 - 3 days per week. I could put you in touch with at least on of them who may be able to give you some advice.
I'll keep in touch.
Posted by: Makeda | 01 September 2009 at 09:15
Does anyone know what benefits a single mum with 2 children under 16 would be entitled to. Obviously there is child support although I expect it would be minimal as in the UK. I am working part-time in the UK since my marriage ended (we lived in France prior to that and I am thinking of going back)and am entitled to Family Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. If I lost this I would be severely hindered financially.
Thanks to anyone who has any information/advice
Posted by: Susan | 07 September 2009 at 11:29
I'm currently thinking of moving to france for a better lifestyle. Firstly im thinking of renting for around three months. Can anyone tell me how much a 2/3 bed house would cost for around 3 months. I'm not looking for anything too expensive! Would i be able to claim any benefits whilst finding a job.
I see no one has responded to susans post above, and would be very grateful if anyone in a similar position could answer her questions, because my friend is in a similar position and would gladly recieve honest answers
Thanks for any honest replys
Posted by: Tinna | 25 January 2010 at 23:21
I am a single mother living in South Africa.
My daughter is only 1yr old,I am thinking of moving to France but since I am in South Africa is not easy to get a visa.
I had been a student in France three years ago, I came back because it was a goverment scholarship. I really need to give my child the best education and lifestyle . Is anyone out there willing to give me advice?
Posted by: Lerato | 09 February 2010 at 12:49
Hi Lerato, I'm afraid I can't write from the perspective of a parent, but if you are looking for employment things will be tough.
Much will depend upon your French language skills, although even with fluent French the unemployment rate is around the 10% mark.
Starting up your own business has become a little easier with things like auto-entrepreneur.
But you might want to plan out possible routes to ensure you don't run out of money and have to head back.
Hope this helps,
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 09 February 2010 at 15:44
I think the system for one parent families here is way more fair and radical compared to the UK. The principle is to work even a few hours a week and then you are eligible for benefits which reduce the costs of all the different taxes, cheaper electricity contracts, help with the costs of school books and stationery (no school uniforms to save up for either). As you build up contributions through working you become eligible over time for state help with periods of unemployment but they really work hard to get you back to work; but they dont then penalise you. The principal is a minimum income based on number and age of children but you do have to be in employment to be eligible. Say goodbye to Child Benefits and Tax Credits none of which are available to you once you are resident abroad. Plus hold on to all your UK bank accounts because applying for any once you dont have a UK address is impossible. Getting work in bars and restaurants is easy and a great way to learn the language. But I agree with the other posts dont expect to walk into well paid professional jobs...language and qualifications will prevent these being available to you except in some rare circumstances. We have been here 4 years in the most remote bit of rural France. The people are fantastic, many many other single mums, people from other countries a great mix and the kids speak French after about 3 months if you emmerse them in French schools....I am however, still struggling...but the natives are patient. Just do it!
Posted by: xanthe | 17 March 2010 at 13:17
Hi....my name is michelle. I am seriously considering a move to Nice France. I am now in my early 40s and fear if i don,t do it now...Well when will i? I have a 10 year old son too. I don,t speak any french at all but as soon as i arrive i will set myself into a french course. I was wondering if anybody had any advice on this move. My worries are that after selling up to set up life in France all will go horribly wrong. I,m aware that my lack of french limit me somewhat which would mean for the first year or so i wouldn,t be able to work. Some ppl have advised me to rent at first amd then maybe consider opening my own business. What would i do? I have found a school in Nice which would suit my son. I,m just worried about the risks involved. But at the same time i,m desperate for a change and fresh new beginnings. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you. Michelle.
Posted by: Michelle | 01 May 2010 at 14:45
Hi Michelle, alongside learning French I think renting before actually buying is one of the best things you can do.
As for your new business, if it involves driving to clients remember you could be doing a lot more miles than expected, and petrol prices are only going up.
And for more detail on the auto-entrepreneur system of business registration please see:
All the best,
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 03 May 2010 at 17:37
I'm like you in my 40's with a 10 year old son. I love France and don't really speak the language yet. I've taken a half way measure by I've bought a house in France in November and kept working in London and my son in London to date. I go down by Easyjet a couple of times a month and done all the setting up of house etc. In that short time I've made that many friends and my language skills have really progressed. If I were there full time I think it would be much quicker immersion - but still I'm amazed. You should just do it - there are so many positive experiences. I've been buying all sorts of bit of furniture and items on ebay for my house in France and as it turns out most of the sellers are English people who are living in France and they all seem to have a thriving business doing that - just a thought. Best of luck - just go for it! Bon courage!
Posted by: Cameron | 05 May 2010 at 22:05