Okay so everyone loves a Top Ten don’t they? So here’s mine, on your essential checklist, when moving to France.
1. Have a Massive Clear Out of Gigantic Proportions
Obvious. You’d think. I did about 20 bags and felt pretty smug if truth be told. I started at the top of the house and worked my way down. We then hired a skip and cleared out the loft and yes you’d think that would be enough. Wrong. Do it again and then repeat this about 5 more times. Even on the moving day, Mr Normandy had to go to the tip and dump numerous items which included the kids mattresses, the microwave (what was I thinking?!), full length mirror – at one point I thought a cuddly toy and Larry Grayson would appear. Do not try this at home. We had a “well, we can always buy another when we’re there” attitude. Pretty darn blasé I would say. Yes you can but you will pay a darn site more than you will in the UK and if you want it delivered that’ll be 80 euros as standard.
Our house was like a Tardis. Bearing in mind we had been packing for a full on 3 weeks, had given away an unhealthy amount of goods – garden furniture, clothes, toys, an old telly etc we should have been all set. Nope. Never under estimate the sheer amount of stuff you have in your house. We exchanged at midday, it was a close call and the scars still run deep. And in the voice of Forrest Gump “that’s all I’ve got to say about that”
2. Get Removal Quotes Then Just Do It Yourself
We got 4 removal quotes which ranged from the cheapest (£5,000) to the most expensive (£10,000). The cheapest wanting the full balance about two weeks prior to moving. Erm not entirely comfortable with that option. This was for a 5 bed semi in South London and whilst sounds fancy pants – the bedrooms themselves were not that huge. In fact, two were very small. Yes, Mr Normandy had a garage full of tools and we did have a few ‘outbuildings’ aka a summer house, shed and another shed but a lot of that stuff was chucked in a skip. So, if you want to have an extra £10,000 cushion in your new life abroad I’d say do it yourself.
In the end we hired a 7.5 tonne truck for a week this cost £1,000 which included the insurance, documentation etc. Add extra for the ferry crossing approx £400. Mr Normandy made a trip to France before our moving date to off load all the insulation we had purchased in the UK. Ignore the self righteous on forums – if something is a third cheaper why wouldn’t you purchase it in that country? It’s basic business sense. We have bought lots of items in France, in particular, spent a pretty penny in Point P so much so Mr Normandy has literally got the t-shirt (two in fact) and is a ‘client exceptionnel’. But we’re not idiots and aren’t going to be paying over the odds for building supplies. Not now. Not never. Over the odds for household items and everything else – now that’s a different matter.
Whilst he was crossing the channel I was single handily boxing everything and lugging it to our half way point – the garage. My arms ached for weeks afterwards. When it came to the moving day that van was creaking – even with an SOS call for my parents to take a car load to store at their house but we saved a massive amount of money. We got the ferry at 10.30pm arrived in the middle of the night aka 3am in the morning. I followed in the car with the kids, guinea pig, rooftop box and bikes. We arrived at our rental and unpacked the van. Mr Normandy literally turned around, drove to the ferry port, caught the boat, handed the van back and turned back around to get the ferry back. Exhausting but all forgotten now. Well not quite as I’ve just written about it but you know.
3. E111 expiry
Make sure all your E111’s have a decent expiry by that I mean if they’re about to expire – get them renewed. If you don’t have them GET THEM! People on forums i.e people who live in France love to tell others what they should be doing. They will proclaim that they’re only for holiday’s blah blah. Ignore them. At the end of the day this is your family and you cannot do everything at once. You cannot move your entire life i.e NHS, tax, insurance etc all in one go. You might be renovating, you need to get the kids in school, lessons, etc etc there is so much to sort out.
If you think you have to do everything immediately you’ll be paying A&E a visit sooner rather than later – hooked up to the heart rate monitor. So just make sure you carry these on you at all times for any such visits. It will make you feel better as you probably won’t have your Carte Vitale the moment you set foot on French soil. If anyone has achieved this then I’d love to hear from you!
I have taken my daughter twice now (minor dog bite and thumb slammed to an inch of it’s life in the car door) and I produced her E111 (the second time they just pulled her up on the system). Did they accuse me of being a health tourist? Did they buggery. They were delighted with my basic level of French and proceeded to tell me that the old english, even after 12 years living in France, can’t speak a word. I was a novelty.
I was sent a bill to my old address a few months later for 17 euros as opposed to 100 euros. I also used it in the chemist. I’m not sure it made any difference as I have found the prescriptions relatively inexpensive. I keep the receipts for the doctors which I will talk about in another post.
Health Care is not a Golden Ticket. Willy Wonka is not required. We are fortunate enough to live in a first world country and came from a first world country. You are entitled to health care. No one owns a country the last time I checked and don’t even get me started on the likes of Amazon who base themselves in Ireland for massive tax avoidance. Oh god, did I go all political and ranty? You can take the old blog out of the girl.. So yarp, I don’t care. Next.
If you are selling your home make sure you have a re-direction with Royal Mail. This can actually be extended after the first year for another year. You an also buy an address if you prefer – simply google this or change your address to parents/family. This isn’t so you pick up the companies you haven’t notified this is smart, common sense. Guess what?You may not like France as, like everyone says, it is different living here to holidaying here. The children could be miserable and circumstances out of your control may mean you have to return. It’s only natural to have one foot in and one foot out of the country you left behind. That to me is just basic common sense. What if I had phoned up Newcastle and said we don’t need healthcare anymore, closed bank accounts, changed the car registration etc. What a palarva to sort out in the reverse. No thanks. Be smart. Be like Bill until you are happy this is the life for you.
5. Credit Cards
Like the E111 – check their expiry. If your card is about to expire then they will simply send it to your new address but you’re not there. You moved country. Whoopsie! They may well send it via the normal post channels – which I’m pretty sure one bank of mine does but if you haven’t got a re-direction in place then this isn’t finding itself into your purse anytime soon. You can sort out the change of address etc at a later stage. These days statements are all on-line – make sure yours are too. I have a great card (Halifax Clarity) which does not charge for purchases in a foreign currency and gives a great rate. You can simply transfer from your sterling account. I can never quite understand why you would want to transfer all of your UK funds to your French bank account when the rate is poor. There is no need to do this. You can do everything on line, immediately as and when you need it.
6. Open a French Bank Account
I already had a French bank account but it is relatively simple to apply for. I choose Britline as you can message in English and at the time my French wasn’t great. It’s perfect now #snigger. I didn’t feel comfortable reading official stuff in French. As time has gone on out here, I’m much more relaxed about ordering on line on French sites. I near enough have the same speed of buying power as I did in the UK ssshh don’t tell Mr Normandy. So yes, this is an online bank account, works the same why as it does in the UK. French bank accounts are a different post entirely but in short, it’s not free, you have limits to the amount you can take out and cheques are still a thing.
I believe if you are transferring more than £10k you might be hauled in for questioning about money laundering and what not. Although I’m pretty sure money launderers and drug barons the world over are slightly more sophisticated than this but who am I to argue with the French process.
7. Sort Out Your UK Bank Accounts/Credit Cards
Before we left (I had 2 credit cards) but I applied for another one with Halifax Clarity (see above). So have a shop around and collect a few back up Credit Cards if needs be. Some banks are okay with a non UK address (once you have changed) I am assuming that is if you have your accounts with them also. But ultimately this is unsecured lending and you are not living in the UK.
If you have a building society account (are there any left I wonder?) I would close it and open an interest paying current account. All our three children had building society accounts. I closed them opened Santander 123 accounts which gives them 3% interest and they get a debit card. Not only that, when they reach 17 it automatically switches to an adult account. So if they need to go back to the UK they will already have a UK bank account.
8. Sort Yourself Out!
Whilst I do say this to my kids as an alternative to pack it in. Here I mean get all those things you have been putting off done. I had never really availed of the free eye tests for kids – they never complained of not seeing properly/headaches etc but prior to the move I got all their eyes tested. They can see. Great. I sometimes wonder if the French opticians have a conspiracy going on? There seems to be an insane amount of children wearing glasses here don’t you think? I digress. So yes, we all trotted to the dentist as well minus Mr Normandy who hasn’t been for 30 years and, I quote my old dentist who moved to the Cayman Islands (another reason to leave the UK when your excellent dentist jumps ship) “at some stage his teeth will just blow up”. Kids had their check up (still no filings at 13, 11, 7 takes a bow) and mum (takes the walk of shame) had yet another filing. I also, being the sole wearer of glasses, got my eyes checked and my contact lens stash up-to-date. I had heard glasses etc are much more expensive. I’m not sure how much more they can get expensive as mine are pretty darn expensive. My eyesight is appalling and they have to shave the lens in the glasses so as not to look like I have proper bottle tops. I easily spend over £300 on a pair of glasses – they have since become scratched from sanding #sigh.
9. Sort Your Vehicles Out
My husband has a pick up truck that he had for his business. We also have a family car. These were both serviced by our very good mobile mechanic Daniel who hails from Romanian. If my French becomes as good as his English then I shall be a very happy Mrs Normandy. So yes, MOT was done to give us a full year, tax and insurance all the boring but necessary stuff.
10. Stock Up Like You Will Never See Food Stuffs Again
Now, I don’t need to eat Mr Kipling cakes – I didn’t like them in the UK so am not going to yearn for them here. But I do bake so I stocked up on sugar paste, royal icing (yes I know you can make it but who does that?! an insane person that’s who), mixed dried fruit, black treacle, golden syrup, rolled oats, currents, raisins and sultanas. We also bought a massive huge amount of squash with us – orange and blackcurrant. They don’t do squash that you dilute there. The nearest is this good awful syrup that goes furry once opened for longer than a week. So work out what you really would miss and stock pile it.
And purchase any white goods or anything you think you might get new out in France. It is cheaper in the UK so if you think it’s a good idea to throw out your microwave because you can’t fit it in the removal truck (see above). Don’t. You will regret it whilst perusing the microwaves in E.leclerc (aka micro onde) and internally screaming why god why. You can always change over the plugs. Clothes, make-up, kids clothes etc. So yes, if you think you might need it get it now.
Oh crikey that was an epic post and I still had lots to add eg get your UK wills sorted, do all the normal selling house stuff i.e meter readings, cancelling contracts and changing address. Let me know if you’d like a Top Forgotten on the Top 10 list post.
So if you can handle all of the above, you can handle anything! Go forth on your journey and don’t throw out the microwave or the fridge or the telly….