My family of 4 moved to France. My child started school at age 3 and gets healthy meals for lunch.

  • Phil Coley moved from the UK to France with his wife after renovating a $29K four-bedroom house.

  • Their children were born in France in 2021 and 2023.

  • Coley, 55, shared his impressions of the country. He told Business Insider there are few negatives.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Phil Coley. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My wife, Kristi, and I were inspired to move to France after watching a documentary about British people who'd relocated there.

At the time, we rented a two-bedroom home in a sought-after area with high real estate prices. We realized we couldn't afford the type of place we wanted because it would have cost around $260K.

So, in 2017, we bought a four-bedroom fixer-upper in the Midwestern region of France for $29K. Kristi, 38, lived in a tent during the start of the renovations, and I visited every two months to help. I fully transferred in 2020.

We're in a rural location close to Limoges, which has an airport. It's served by a low-cost airline, and, depending on the time of year, we can fly back to the UK for as little as $29 round trip.

Our family — we have two kids, Alicia, 3, and 18-month-old Teddy — is very happy. I enjoy advising other people who are thinking of moving here. Meanwhile, the price of our property — now that it's renovated — has increased to between $215K and $260K. We can't imagine going back to the UK.

Here are three pros and just one con about ex-pat life in France.

The French are friendly — but you need to make an effort with their language

It's important to try at least to speak some French, even if you get it wrong. In my experience, French people appreciate visitors and ex-pats who try to communicate and respect the culture.

Some ex-pats do themselves no favors by thinking, "Everyone speaks English, so why bother?"

It can be hard to understand colloquialisms and the local patois. But, if we trip up, it usually ends with a laugh.

Family comes first

The French don't live to work. They believe spending as much time as possible with family is essential.

In August, everything pretty much shuts down. Workplaces close — apart from essential services — and people go on vacation en masse.

It's usually four weeks of lovely weather, and the campgrounds, hotels, and B&Bs are often full. One of the most popular types of vacation is touring around in an RV. Practically every town and village has a motorhome stopover spot.

You stay there for free. The idea is that people will buy something from the local stores, and it will generate business.

Kids start school at 3

The education system in France is superior. There are public schools for 3-year-olds, who must be potty trained at that age. The authorities believe adamantly in early education.

Alicia goes to school between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. No academics, and formal classes don't start until the children are 7.

It's well-known that the French love their cuisine. Alicia is served a healthy, four-course lunch at school. It's far more convenient for parents, and she loves it.

There's a lot of bureaucracy

The French like everyone to have a job. It's one of the reasons that a large proportion of the population works in the public sector.

The downside is that you will never deal with one person. They'll say they must pass things on to a colleague, then another colleague, and so on.

Filling out paperwork for a driver's license or passport is laborious and involves a lot of red tape.

Personally, I've also found that some people dislike online forms and email for official applications. Sometimes, they prefer handwritten or typed paperwork you must print out before sending it.

You can wait months for an answer but keep being fobbed off. Eventually, they will say they've lost the forms. And you have to start all over again.

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