When would-be expatriates start looking for advice about relocating to France, they’re often told the hardest part of the transition is simply understanding the French themselves. Unlike many cultures, the French work, for instance, simply to pay for บาคาร่า the good things in life. In his popular book Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French, Stephen Clarke provides a wryly witty guide to some of the eccentricities of life in France that is a must for anyone thinking of living abroad. (Also, look at online resources like expat-blog.com and angloinfo.com.)
Expats-in-the-making will find, however, that choosing to live in the south of France, on the French Riviera or Côte d’Azur, offers numerous extra advantages. The region is, essentially, the cross-roads to everywhere. Long a destination for the wealthy and famous, half the world’s leisure yacht fleet is docked there every summer and events like the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix draw visitors from around the world.
To say that the locals are used to foreigners is an understatement. Life on the French Riviera is cosmopolitan and brimming with cultural opportunities in museums, galleries, and theatres as well as through an active calender of events, concerts, and festivals. At lively weekly markets, in the designer shops that line the Croisette in Cannes, in the casinos of Monaco, or the vineyards of the Côtes de Provence, locals, expats, and visitors on holidays meet and mingle with ease.
To some extent, this multiculturalism eases the obvious language barrier, allowing expats in the region to get by with an acceptable mixture of French and English. (Particular care should be taken, however, about subtle mispronunciations in French that can radically alter the meaning of a word or phrase.) However, when initially purchasing or renting property, it’s best to work with a real estate professional who understands both the market and the legalities involved.
Most agencies also have resources and connections to help new residents negotiate formalities like opening a bank account, and they will be knowledgeable about the implications of specific locations. Procedural requirements, like the need to register at the local city hall within three months of arrival or the advisability of seeking a residence permit (permis de séjour) can be learned from any of the numerous “how to” books available for future expatriates, but it’s also nice to have an “insider” to answer questions and give advice.
The important thing to remember is that in making the move to the south of France, you are seeking a significantly different quality of life anchored by three distinct advantages: a warmer climate, cleaner air, and a less stressful daily pace. Everything else, like figuring out when to use the local slot in the mailbox and when to put your letter in Autres Desinations (anything that isn’t local, from the neighbouring province to far-flung Dubai) is just part of the grand adventure of relocating to the clear light and beautiful climate of the Côte d’Azur.