HOPEFULLY most people won't just up sticks and head to France, instead they will undertake a little thought and reading in advance to help make a success of a move.
There are many books on moving to France, but one written recently by journalist Patricia Mansfield-Divine may prove helpful as it brings together her experience of having lived in France since 1999.
You may recognise Patricia's name from magazines about France as her work has appeared in many titles, and you will also have seen her comments across many forums and internet messageboards offering tips on French life.
So Patricia (or Trish as she is most often known) writes from real experience of making a move; offering advice on subjects such as settling in to a new area, starting a business and getting utilities connected up, she has already faced many of the challenges other newcomers have yet to tackle.
Her book Living in France - A practical guide to your new life in France, is available at a special price of £8.44 through the Harriman House website, but before you head off here is an extract that looks at finding your feet in a French village.
Assimilation and acceptance
There are thought to be about 300,000 Britons living in France on a permanent basis, with another 200,000 owning holiday homes, and they assimilate to varying degrees.
While most wish to assimilate, there is no actual need to do so unless you want to work.
To work, not only will you need to understand your new culture and environment, you will also need both the language and relevant qualifications as required by your profession.
The truth is that many Britons living in France settle for feeling accepted rather than assimilated in their new country, partly due to the language barrier and partly due to cultural differences.
For starters, if you do not learn to speak the language well, you will dramatically limit your opportunities to interact with French people who, although they may have learned English at school, are often too shy to use it.
Using French media such as television, radio and newspapers is also important if you want to understand your new environment and the kinds of cultural references French people routinely make in conversation.
If you wish to get involved with the life of your French community, having young children is by far the best entrance qualification. With children, you have a ready-made opportunity to chat to other parents at the school gates, join the various out-of-school clubs and kermesse fund-raising events and sit on the parent/teacher committee.
Without children, and in the absence of a customer-facing job, your best bets are to join local clubs and societies, volunteer your services at the mairie (the mayor's office, which may be in the town hall), or walk your dog around the place and chat to whoever stops you.
Whatever you choose, it pays to remain polite and learn at least enough French to say please and thank you properly - something which, sadly, seems beyond the ability of some British ex-pats.
Some Britons come to France in search of a quiet life, and are quite happy keeping to themselves, remaining on cordial terms with their neighbours, attending village events, but staying outside local politics, etc., and having largely English friends, or French friends who speak English relatively well.
The French are very rarely rude and disagreeable to the British in their areas, unless it is filling up with Britons who may be blamed for pushing up property prices and buying up local businesses, in which case, bad feelings sometimes arise.
For those Britons keen to join village life, however, it can come as a shock that their suggestions for change at the local comités des fêtes are sometimes met with a stonewall.
In a rural community this is usually due more to 'country ways' than to anything specifically French. When you move into a village, it pays to remember that you can't force your presence on people.
Everyone there knows everyone else, they probably all went to school together, and quite a few may be related by marriage.
A close-knit community of this kind is hard to truly penetrate other than by marrying into it, and since outside cities the French tend to socialise within the family rather than with friends, the average Briton often finds himself falling back on other Britons, or on the odd, lonely French city-dweller who's moved to the countryside (where they are generally less accepted than the British).
After three years of to-ing and fro-ing and eight years living full-time in our village, we can still only count the number of our French friends on one hand.
You can remain on good terms with your neighbours by keeping your dogs quiet and your boundaries clean. In a rural area it's a requirement to kill off plants such as dock, for instance, while everywhere your hedges and fences must be kept in good order.
Invite your neighbours over as soon as you can as they will probably expect you, as the newcomer, to make the first mover, but they will doubtless be curious to see who you are and what you're up to.
When you move to France, it's a very good idea to introduce yourself to your local mayor. Not only is it polite, mayors wield a lot of power in France, and it's wide to be on cordial terms with the person in charge of your future planning permission.
In a small village, you'll find the mayor at the mairie, probably for something like two half-days per week, and he or she is likely to be a local luminary such as a retired teacher.
In a larger town, the mairie might be in the hotel de ville (town hall) and the mayor's job is more likely to be a full-time position.
Title: Living in France
Author: Patricia Mansfield-Divine
Patricia Mansfield-Devine is a professional writer and journalist. She and her husband bought a property in France in 1996 and moved there permanently in 1999, where they now live with a menagerie of animals.