French taxes overview

As you would expect in a country with millions of bureaucrats, the French tax system is inordinately complicated and most French people don’t understand it. However, it’s essential to be aware of which taxes you should pay and when. Before you move to France, take expert advice, preferably from someone with knowledge of the tax systems in France and your home country, so that you can benefit from the advantages of tax planning. Once in France, it’s best to employ an accountant (expert-comptable) to handle your tax matters, especially if you’re self-employed. Continue reading “French taxes overview”

Banking in France

Banking in France, like many things French, is a baffling mixture of the ultra-modern and the antiquated. Online banking is widely available but most banks charge you to use a service that saves them man-hours and facilities. New cheque books are issued automatically but you’re expected to collect them from your branch and must ask for them to be posted to you. The following are some of the main characteristics of French banking. Continue reading “Banking in France”

French healthcare system

State and private health services coexist and overlap, state healthcare often being identical to private treatment. Those who qualify for state healthcare include employees, the self-employed contributing to French social security and EU pensioners who have reached retirement age in their home country, as well as the dependants of all these. If you qualify for state healthcare, you must register at your nearest social security office (caisse d’assurance maladie – listed on  and in the information pages of phone books). You must present proof of employment or self-employment in France or form E-106 or E-121, proof of residence (e.g. a property deed, rental contract or proof of registration in your commune) and your passport. After registration you’ll receive a social security card (Carte Vitale – soon to be superseded by the Carte Vitale 2), the size of a credit card, with your social security number on it. This should be presented whenever you require medical treatment, although if you forget it you can complete a form instead. Continue reading “French healthcare system”

French Emergency Services

France has extremely efficient emergency services (services d’urgence et d’assistance) and except in remote rural areas the time between an emergency call and arrival is usually brief. However, telephone operators rarely speak English, so be prepared to explain briefly in French the type of emergency and your exact location – try to give a landmark, if possible (see Emergency Phrases below). Continue reading “French Emergency Services”

Renting or buying a car in France

Hiring a car in France is expensive – at least when compared to hiring in Spain or the US – particularly for short periods, although prices have come down recently. To hire a car you must be at least 18 years old, although most companies have increased this to 21 or even 25, and most also have an upper age limit of 60 or 65. You must have held a full licence for at least a year and present your original licence (not a photocopy) – non-EU licence holders require an international driving permit – and usually personal identification as well. Payment must usually be made by credit card. Continue reading “Renting or buying a car in France”

French accommodation tips

Finding suitable accommodation is one of your first and most important tasks on arrival in France – but it isn’t always plain sailing. Property for rent isn’t hard to find in France, but your success in securing it depends on a number of factors. Some landlords refuse to let their property to tenants of certain nationalities and/or skin colours. It isn’t unheard of for a prospective tenant to arrange a meeting with a landlord by phone but to have the door shut in his face once the landlord sees that the tenant isn’t white. Continue reading “French accommodation tips”

Dealing with French bureaucracy

French bureaucracy (euphemistically called l’administration) is legendary – and most foreigners have an ‘epic’ tale to tell of their dealings with it. You should be prepared for frustration caused by time-wasting and blatant obstruction on the part of officials. Often you may wonder whether the right hand knows what any other part of the body is up to (it usually doesn’t) and you should expect to receive conflicting information from consulates, government departments, préfectures and town halls. Continue reading “Dealing with French bureaucracy”