I discovered this article today – and thought it might interest you …

To read the original go to France Diplomatie.

“The British have been coming to France for a long time now. This transient population from across the Channel is very familiar to the French – with the holidaymakers and retirees who have set up second homes in the South West of the country. But in recent years, it has been whole families that have come to settle and work in the French countryside.

It is an accepted fact that France is one of the world’s top holiday destinations. Its climate, lifestyle, culture, architecture and tourist facilities make it a very attractive country. It is more surprising to find an influx of Europeans coming to settle here, whether in the major cities or in the countryside. A significant number of Germans, Dutch, but above all English people, are now to be found all over the country.

In fifteen years the number of British people who have their main residence in France has multiplied tenfold, from 50,000 in 1990 to 500,000 in 2006. Until the end of the 1990s, these were mostly wealthy retired people coming to spend their twilight years in the south of France. Today, ever more middle-class families are moving here with their children, mainly to Périgord, Dordogne or the Côte d’Azur.

In most cases, they sell the property they own in the United Kingdom, buy a property in France, and use the surplus to do it up or take early retirement. The South West remains their favourite place, in spite of a rise in prices which is the result of the increase in property demand that they themselves have helped create. According to José-Alain Fralon, in his book “Au secours les Anglais nous envahissent” [Help, the English are Invading Us], 1 % of the population of Dordogne, nicknamed “a little piece of England in France”, is now British.

Other regions are also home to many British people, such as Poitou-Charentes or Brittany. The growth of this craze is also aided by the cheap prices offered by certain airlines: in 2005 there were 250,000 passengers on the Bergerac-London route; 100,000 on the Poitiers-London route. As a whole, the local population casts a benevolent eye upon this major influx from abroad. Of course, the rise in property prices can put house buying out of the reach of local people, but the resurrection of abandoned rural areas or the restoration of traditional old buildings is enough to swing the balance to the positive side.

So what is it that attracts them?

The first of the many reasons that impel our neighbours to come to France is, without doubt, the much cheaper prices, especially in property. In the United Kingdom, the cost of housing rocketed a few years ago, and the trend is continuing. It is not therefore surprising to see British people arriving in France with a lot of money to spend, having sold their home in the UK for a very high price.

But all aspects of the French lifestyle are also of crucial importance. English journalist Stephen Clarke, who humorously fictionalises his own experience of life in Paris in a book called “God save la France” (originally published in English as “A Year in the Merde”), delivers us his vision of the everyday differences between England and France. He puts food at the forefront. Going back to England for his holidays, he “searches desperately for his daily baguette,” and complains of the taste, or rather the “tastelessness of the food”.

France’s public health system also seems to be much appreciated by the writer. In his book, Stephen Clarke relates, with a humour tinged with respect, his first visit to a Parisian doctor’s surgery: “there’s no need for an appointment, the doctor is young and dynamic, the medicines plentiful, and everything is reimbursed by the social security, then by the company insurance”. There are plenty of points which have convinced him to settle in France.

There is also the climate, almost heavenly for most British people, and the peaceful atmosphere of the French countryside. In fact, over 30 % of those who live in the South West of France settle outside of urban areas, and many of them provide holiday accommodation in a rural setting, offering gîtes and BB to holidaymakers. Others continue working for British companies, as a result of the possibilities of teleworking developed by the internet.

This peaceful immigration crosses another flow of migration, that of young French people who are leaving in increasing numbers to settle in London to look for work, which is better paid than in France. Even if the English are fond of making jokes about the French and vice versa, it seems that between the two peoples, it is – more than ever – a time of entente cordiale.

Written by Romain Zamora

Taken from ACTUALITE EN FRANCE Série n° 76 / 6”