Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 4 weeks ago

Pays de La Loire

  • Online Shopping & Services

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    It has never been easier to shop from the comfort of your own home so whether it is a winter coat for the kids or a designer outfit for Mum, we have listed your favourite recommendations for online deliveries to France at the click of a mouse! In our online service section you will find educational services, therapists, delivery services and more. Please help us continue to grow this popular section by sending us your suggestions.

    *Online Services*
    Educational services, therapists and delivery services

    *Online shopping for Kids*
    Clothes, shoes and accessories
    Fun stuff and useful stuff

    *Online shopping for Mum*
    Shoes, clothes, accessories, beauty products, books and leather bags

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  • Moving to France

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    France has long been a popular destination for immigrants from all around the world and is today one of Europe’s most multicultural nations. It is estimated that around 11.1 per cent of France’s 65.35 million residents were born abroad, with the majority hailing from North Africa and a sizable number coming from other European Union (EU) countries. However, whereas once expats flocked to France for work, especially in the aftermath of the two World Wars in which France suffered heavy casualties and needed to bring in outside labour to help rebuild the country, an increasing number of today’s modern-day immigrants are more likely to be moving to France to take advantage of the country’s famed relaxed way of life.

    From the rolling green fields of rural France to the laid-back café culture, which adorns many of the country’s major towns and cities, the French, it is fair to say, tend to move at a pace to suit themselves.  This is what many people tend to find so appealing about the country, especially those who are fed up with the hustle and bustle of their own home countries and the ‘live to work’ attitude that is becoming increasingly common in so many western nations. That said, the pace of life in France is also something that will probably take a bit of getting used to. Don’t expect to get anything done in a hurry – no matter how important it may be, and remember that the more rural the area, the slower you can expect the pace of life to be. Great in some respects, hugely frustrating in others.

    However, in spite of this more relaxed attitude that the French, on the whole, tend to possess towards life (and work in particular) France nevertheless possesses one of the world’s key economies. Not only is it a member of the G8 – the group comprising the world’s leading industrialised countries – but the country’s economy also ranks as the EU’s second-largest in terms of Gross Domestic Product and, along with Germany, is the home to the most Fortune 500 companies in Europe. (32 companies, of which 23 are based in the country’s capital, Paris.)

    Paris is by far the country’s main expat hub. Around 40 per cent of the country’s immigrant population reside in the Greater Paris region (known as Île-de-France) and figures from the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies estimate that almost one in five of Paris’ residents are immigrants. While one of the main reasons for Paris’ popularity is down to simple economic facts, namely, that this is where a majority of the country’s job opportunities are to be found – especially for non-EU migrants whose residence status is likely to be tied to them having a job – the capital’s well-deserved reputation as a cultural hot-spot is also a major draw, particularly for international business people or well-off singletons. The capital also receives its fair share of temporary overseas residents, especially international students. A 2012 report ranked Paris as the best city in the world in which to study, despite the fact the city’s universities do not provide graduates with as good job prospects as leading universities in other countries.

    However, as the largest country in Western Europe there is far more to France than just Paris. The South of France is famed for its warm year-round climate and fantastic beaches, the central regions are known for their rural countryside and world-renown vineyards, there are top-quality ski resorts located in the Alps or Pyrenees mountain ranges... The list goes on and on. The upshot is that if having a well-paid job is not so important to you, then look outside the capital and you will find a diverse country with plenty to offer its expats.

    You will also find the cost of living and property values to be far lower outside of Paris – although wages will also be significantly reduced as well. Although the overall cost of living in France is fairly low, a 2012 Expat Payments Index survey revealed that four in ten expats based in France said that their living costs had risen by over 10 per cent in just one year.

    However, as stated earlier, your reason for moving to France is unlikely to be to find your fortune – even if you’re moving to Paris. Over the past 20 or so years, more and more immigrants have been moving to France for the lifestyle benefits associated with the country and this has led to many retirees and young families alike moving into more regional areas of the country in search of the ‘real’ France. Areas like the Dordogne and Provence in the South of France are hugely popular among retirees – especially those from EU countries – with the warm year-round climates, tranquil surroundings and laid-back lifestyles associated with both of these regions often viewed as the ideal conditions in which to spend their twilight years. That the French healthcare system is regarded by the World Health Organisation to provide some of the best healthcare in the world is another key draw – for the elderly, in particular.

    Many families are also drawn to life in central and southern regions of France. Visit small villages and towns close to sizable cities such as Biarritz, Dijon and Bordeaux and you will often find pockets of expat families with young children living there, looking to take advantage of France’s more rural way of life, while at the same time being close enough to a major centre that they can earn a living.   

    One thing that is vital to bear in mind when considering moving to France is that without at least a basic grasp of the French language you will almost certainly struggle to settle and fully integrate into the local community, while you will find it nigh-on impossible to find employment, especially outside of Paris or other major cities such as Marseille, Lyon or Toulouse. While English is spoken in many parts of France – even in some really rural areas – you may find that some French people will be unwilling to engage in conversation with you unless you make at least some effort to converse with them in their own tongue first (even if it’s to ask them if they speak English). For families moving with school-age children who don’t speak French, this could also be an important issue. Some schools offer what is known as the Françáis Langue Étrangère(French as a foreign language) option, but mostly this will only be available in big cities or areas that have substantial expat populations. If moving to a rural or regional area, you may need to employ a private tutor to help them, but don’t enrol them into a school and expect them to pick up the language – they will be lost! On the whole, though, the French education system is of a fairly high-standard. The most recent Human Development Index education report ranked France’s system 20th out of 187 countries.

    Providing, then, that you take the time to learn the language, there’s no reason why you won’t find much to like about life in France. After all, there’s a good reason why year after year it remains the most visited country in the world by foreign residents: 82 million people simply can’t be wrong!

    This article first appeared in Emigrate 2 Europe. Click here to see the original article.

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  • Interviews

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    If you are thinking of relocating to Spain or are interested in family life in another region then look no further than this interview section where we have spoken to numerous mums in Catalunya, Madrid, the Costa Blanca, Andalucia & the Balearics. They share with us relocation & birth stories, schooling and the general ups & downs of life with kids in their region.

    Also in this section, we have also spoken to a number of childhood experts in Spain on the likes of Reflexology, Hypnotherapy, natural birth, general pediatrics as well as Speech & Occupational Therapy.

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  • Schools

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    One of the most problematic issues facing international families when relocating to France is where to educate our children. Whether to follow the French system or whether to opt for one of the numerous international schools is hotly debated amongst Expats. Whatever your choice, the following sections aim to give an insight into the options available to parents here in France. We also offer you in an insight into homeschooling. an increasingly popular choice among expat families, as well as some options for children with special needs developmental issues.

    The French educational system is divided into four main different stages.

    Pre-primary Education (L´Ecole Maternelle)
    Age 3 -  La Classe des Petits
    Age 4 - La classe des Moyens
    Age 5 - La classe des Grands

    Primary Education (Enseignement Primaire);
    Age 6 - Le CP (Cours Primaire)
    Age 7 - Le CE1 (Cours Elémentaire Première Année)
    Age 8 - Le CP2 (Cours Elémentaire Deuxième Année)
    Age 9 - Le CM1 (Cours Moyen Première Année)
    Age 10 - Le CM2 (Cours Moyen Deuxième Année)

    Secondary Education (Enseignement Secondaire);
    Age 11 -  La Sixième 6e
    Age 12 - La Cinqième 5e
    Age 13 -  La Quatriéme 4e
    Age 14-  La Troisième 3e

    Higher Education (Enseignement Supérieur(Le Lycee).
    Age 15 - Seconde
    Age 16 - La Première
    Age 17 - La Terminale

    Primary and secondary education are predominantly public (private schools also exist, in particular a strong nationwide network of primary and secondary Catholic education). Education has both public and private elements. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Frances education as the 25th best in the world, being neither significantly higher nor lower than the OECD average.

    Schooling in France is mandatory as of age 6, the first year of primary school. Many parents start sending their children earlier though, around age 3 as nursery classes (maternelle) are usually affiliated to a boroughs primary school. Some even start earlier at age 2 in pré-maternelle classes, which are essentially daycare centres. The last year of maternelle is an important step in the educational process as it is the year in which pupils are introduced to reading.

    After nursery, the young students move on to primary school. It is in the first year (cours préparatoire) that they will learn to write and develop their reading skills. Much akin to other educational systems, French primary school students usually have a single teacher (or perhaps two) who teaches the complete curriculum, such as French, mathematics, science and humanities to name a few.

    Religious instruction is not supplied by public schools. Laïcité (secularism) is one of the main precepts of the French republic. Pupils therefore have civics courses to teach them about la République, its function, its organisation, and its famous motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity).

    In a March 2004 ruling, the French government banned all "conspicuous religious symbols" from schools and other public institutions with the intent of preventing proselytisation and to foster a sense of tolerance among ethnic groups. Some religious and libertarian groups showed their opposition, saying the law hindered the freedom of religion as protected by the French constitution.

    The Brevet des collèges is the first official diploma a pupil has to sit. It is not required in order to enter lycée. Until 2006 the school marks for the whole of the third (4ème) and final year (3ème) were taken into account for a percentage of the mark. The rest of the mark consisted of the final exam, the brevet. Pupils were only tested on French, Mathematics and History/Geography/Citizenship for the exam.

    The baccalauréat (also known as bac) is the end-of-lycée diploma students sit for in order to enter university, a classe préparatoire, or professional life. It is generally taken at 18 if the pupil has not repeated a class during secondary school. The term baccalauréat refers to the diploma and the examinations themselves.

    **We are currently developing this section. Please send us your children`s experiences of education in France and let us know if you would like to recommend any particular school or nursery**
     

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  • Women in Business

    After having children, many women opt to start their own businesses, so they can not only be in control of their hours but hopefully also their destiny! Below are some enterprising mums who have chosen to go it alone. Please do let us know if we haven´t mentioned your business. We try our hardest to support our Mums in Business and you can too by looking at the list below and if you need a product or service listed then get in contact with that mum!

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  • Alsace

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    Although the fourth-smallest of the 26 regions of France in land area, Alsace is the sixth-most densely populated. Located in the East of France, its capital Strasbourg is politically one of the most important regions in the European Union. A bicultural and bilingual region, unsurprisingly this area is home to many Expats from around the world.

    We have been asking mums in Alsace about their experiences with kids in all sorts of areas including education & services, activities & day-trips, where they shop, where they eat as well as their favourite beaches, parks & play-areas.

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  • The French Riviera

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    The French Riviera or Côte dAzur is the area of coastline from the Italian border to Saint Tropez. It includes Frances fifth largest city, Nice which has a population of around 360 thousand, many of whom are from the International Community. The main industries of the Cote dAzur are technology and tourism (around four million people visit Nice every year). The most recent census puts the foreign community at nearly 200 thousand people although the number of non-french nationals is thought to be much higher. The French Riviera surrounds the principality of Monaco with a total population of over two million. It also contains the seaside resorts of Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Cannes, Fréjus, Sainte Maxime and Saint-Tropez, The area houses one of the worlds leading science parks, the technopole at Sophia-Antipolis (north of Antibes) and a research and technology centre at the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. Nice also has a well respected International School.
    We have been talking to parents from the International Community bin different parts of the French Riviera about their experiences with kids in all sorts of areas including education & services, activities & day-trips, where they shop, where they eat as well as their favourite beaches, parks & play-areas. We hope you find it useful! 

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  • Paris

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    Paris, one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe, has been ranked among the three most important and influential cities in the world according to the Financial Times (´09,´10). Paris is today one of the worlds leading business and cultural centres as well as one of the most popular tourist destinations. The French capital has become home for thousands of expatriates - many of them native English speakers from Britain, Ireland, Australia or the United States.

    Many families choose to live in the centre of the City whilst others choose surrounding suburbs such as Versailles, Conflans and Saint Germain en Laye. In recent years, there has been steady growth in the suburbs, which are connected to the city by excellent rail and bus systems as well as by increasingly overcrowded highways.The public schools in Paris can be very good. For those who wish to retain ties to their native cultures or study in their native language, there are excellent international schools teaching in Engish, German and French.

    We have been asking mums in Paris and the surrounding areas about their experiences with kids in all sorts of areas including education & services, activities & day-trips, where they shop, where they eat as well as their favourite beaches, parks & play-areas. We hope you find it useful!

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  • Toulouse

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    Toulouse, the fifth largest metropolitan area in France, is in southwest France on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. In the past 20 years, Toulouse has become a center of aviation and spaceflight. More than 35,000 citizens work in the civil aviation or space industries; Airbus / EADS is the largest employer in the region.

    We have been asking mums in Toulouse and the surrounding areas about their experiences with kids in all sorts of areas including education & services, activities & day-trips, where they shop, where they eat as well as their favourite beaches, parks & play-areas. We hope you find it useful!

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  • Rennes & Surrounds

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    The capital of Brittany, Rennes, in the North Western region of France is a historical city located inland 35 miles from the Port of St Malo and just next door to the mythical Forêt de Brocéliande, which is steeped in mythical legends and Celtic influences.
    The city is an intriguing mixture of old architecture, customs and traditions, along with a vibrant culture of arts, music and lively festivals. Rennes was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1720, but the medieval quarter survived. With the contrasts of the old cities timber-framed houses and cobbled streets and the modern shopping centres; there are a multitude of shops, restaurants, bars, museums, art galleries and theatre venues -enough to keep any busy mum happy.

    Culture
    Both a university and an industrial city, Rennes is home to 60,000 students, which gives it a vibrant night life. For culture vultures, the Opera and the Théâtre National offer events all year round, while music and art festivals celebrate Breton culture. On Saturdays the Place des Lices gets buzzing with one of France’s largest street markets.
    The Musée de Beaux-Arts hosts impressionist paintings, while the Musée de Bretagne provides an insight into Rennes’ and Brittany’s history. The Espace des sciences next door boasts a planetarium and themed exhibitions.
    A relaxing place to explore is the Parc Thabor, 10 hectares of plant life in the city centre.
    Rennes invests heavily in arts and culture and a number of its festivals such as the music festival Les Transmusicales, les Tombées de la Nuit and Mythos (see below) are well known throughout France. Rennes was one of the first towns in France to have its own television channel TV Rennes, created in 1987. In Rennes is the only Institut Franco-Américain in France.

    Festivals
    Les Tombées de la Nuit
    Now held in July and December, this festival celebrates Breton culture with music, film, theatre, art and poetry. This festival is renowned for its excellent family orientated programme. Visit LesTombeesdelaNuit.com for this year’s program.
    Les Transmusicales
    Alongside the main concerts of French and international bands, there is a fringe festival called Les Bars en Trans, which takes place in small, intimate venues, usually bars clustered around the Place St Anne in the centre of the city. Since last year they have extended their programme to include daytime concerts and special activities geared towards children and families. Held on the first week of December, the programme for the festival can be viewed about three months in advance at www.lestrans.com.
    Mythos
    This spring festival, which takes place in April, celebrates the art of the written and spoken word. Performances are scheduled in the afternoon, early evening and at night. The programme with a list of participating artists is at www.festival-mythos.com.

    Transport
    The Gare de Rennes is now two hour and twenty minutes by TGV high speed train from Paris. This will be reduced to one hour and 30 minutes from 2014, after extension of the High Speed Rail Line. Rennes is also an important train station for regional transport in Bretagne.
    The city is served by a network of buses and an expanding metro system. Free bikes can be borrowed to navigate the city. There are plenty of cycle routes, including a scenic lane by the canal.
    Rennes is also served by a small airport, Rennes-St. Jacques Airport, located 7.2 kilometres from the centre to the south-west. Flybe and Aerlingus provide access to a number of UK airports, whilst Air France provides flights from other major cities in France.

    Surrounding area
    Rennes is located in the French department of ´Ille et Villane´ (along with the coastal resort of St Malo), the other regions is Brittany are as follows:
    Finistère – The true Breton speaking region of Brittany. Including the coastal cities of Brest and Quimper.
    Côtes dArmor – An area with lots of lovely coastal resorts, the medieval city of Dinan and the expat favourite area surrounding St Brieuc.
    Morbihan - Major cities include Vannes and Lorient.

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  • Poitou-Charentes

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    La Vienne is the largest department of the Poitou-Charentes but is characterised by a population average. It offers beautiful natural scenery combined with many historic buildings and areas. The area is popular among the British, many of whom arrive there because of the similarity in landscape to that of the south west of England and the attractive house prices. The department’s motto is “Tomorrow belongs to you” and the average annual temperature is around 12 degrees centrigrade, offering an oceanic climate with milder winters and cooler summers than other parts of France, those who live there will tell you that it is a truly beautiful place to live and make the most of your life!

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  • Languedoc-Rousillon

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    As the 8th largest city in France, Montpellier is unsurprisingly home to many Expat families who enjoy a mild Mediterranean climate and proximity to the French coastline. Montpellier is home to a historical centre well known for its charm and beauty as well as to many museums, theatres, shops and attractions for all ages.

    We have been asking mums in Montpellier about their experiences with kids in all sorts of areas including education & services, activities & day-trips, where they shop, where they eat as well as their favourite beaches, parks & play-areas. We hope you find it useful! If you have any recommendations for this area of France we would love to hear from you.

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  • Dordogne

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    The Dordogne lies in South-West France between the Loire valley and the Pyrénées and is named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it. Dordogne has become one of the favourite destinations of British immigration to France over the years and is home to many Expat families. Known as one of the most picturesque areas of France, this region boasts plenty of medieval towns, prehistoric caves and charming French chateaux.

    We have been asking mums in the Dordogne about their experiences with kids in all sorts of areas including education & services, activities & day-trips, where they shop, where they eat as well as their favourite beaches, parks & play-areas. We hope you find it useful! If you have any recommendations for this area of France we would love to hear from you.
     

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  • Holidays

    France is a hugely popular destination for families, whether it be camping, skiing, an activity break or a quiet few days in a Gite.We are relying on your recommendations to help us develop this key section to our website, so do tell us if you have been on a holiday with the kids which you would like to share with others.Thank you!

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  • Healthcare

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    The, highly acclaimed, French healthcare system, ranked first in the world by the WHO in 2000, is mainly financed by the government through the national health insurance system (Sécurité sociale). The entire population must pay compulsory health insurance, based on income and this entitles you to consult any medical practicioner/specialist in France. The patient must pay for their visit but the Sécurité sociale reimburses the majority of the payment. To receive a full reimbursement you must register yourself with your local GP (members of the same family may choose different GPS but parents must sign a declaration for children under 16). If you are registered to the Sécurité sociale you will receive a green card (carte vitale), which you must take to each appointment and present when buying prescription medicines.

    If you/your partner works for a French company then your employer will apply for a social security number and your contributions will automatically be deducted from your salary.

    If you/your partner are self-employed, you will have to individually register for a social security number and your contributions will be calculated dependent on income and business activity.

    *Coming Soon*

    Birth, Pregnancy, Infertility and Adoption
    Birth stories in France; Home birth in France; Getting Pregnant in France, IVF in France; egg donation in France; Adoption in France

    Children`s Health
    Childrens healthcare in France; Vaccinations for children in France; Paediatricians in France; Childhood allergies in France; Chiropractic for children in France

    Womens health
    Cervical smear tests in France; Breast cancer in France: Mammographies in France

    Your recommendations
    Conventional Medicines for children in France; alternative medicine for children in France; Homeopathic remedies for children in France

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  • Pays de La Loire

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    La Mayenne is a province in the North West of France and is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution in 1790. It is part of the Loire Valley and is surrounded by the departments of Manche, Orne, Sarthe, Maine-et-Loire, and Ille-et-Vilaine.The inhabitants of the department are called Mayennais and the river of the same name dissects the department from north to south . Crossing through the rolling green countryside from top to bottom will take you from the likes of Breton crêpes and Norman cider to the beautiful chateux of the Loire valley and wine country. In recent years the department hasbecome inreasingly popular among the British given its proximity to the French ferry ports of Calais and Boulougne. Some have bought affordable second homes in the region whilst others have chosen to settle for good.
    To find your way around this section please use the left-hand navigation bar.

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