Compass

Aux Quatre Vents
34340 Marseillan, Occitanie, France - Relax, Unwind, Enjoy!

Living in France

When living in France you will inevitably have to deal with officials. They really like their paperwork. You may have to initial every page of some legal documents. This can be quite tedious if the document is 100 pages long! As France uses Napoleonic law, it is often necessary to handwrite a paragraph, or even the whole document, in French before signing.

French Residency

To be resident in France one needs to be a French Citizen, an EU Citizen or have a suitable visa or a permanent Titre de Séjour. EU Citizens can also apply for a permanent Titre de Séjour or French Citizenship after 5 years. Unlike most EU countries, in most areas it is not necessary to register as a resident with the Mairie or police. We actually asked to register as resident at the local Mairie and were told it was not possible.

Owning a property in France and paying the associated taxe foncière and taxe d'habitation is not proof of residency. An application for a Titre de Séjour or French Citizenship requires French tax returns as proof of residency.

Should a hard Brexit occur, many expats who have lived in France for many years, may not be able to prove it!

Notaire

Notaires are legal professionals appointed by the government. Their role is to uphold French law. You have to use a Notaire to buy or sell property. Their duty is to ensure the documentation is correct and to collect taxes. Their fees are regulated. Typically a single Notaire handles both the buyer and seller side of a property sale.

If you need legal advice the first place to go is to the Notaire. We arranged appointments with a Notaire to get copies of passports certified as true, get advice on an insurance claim and to get advice on inheritence laws. All of the appointments were free of charge!

It is worth writing a French will. Inheritence laws are complex, particularly if children are involved. The most common form of French will has to be entirely hand written in French! It is best if you take it to a Notaire who will register it for €50. Our Notaire was most meticulous. He said that as it is very unlikely he will action the will before retiring, his successor must have all the facts!

Health Care

France has one of the best health care systems in the world.

The system isn't entirely free, but when completely in the system it is effectively free. Medical services have a rate set by the government. A visit to a doctor typically costs €25. Some medical professionals charge more. You pay the doctor, pharmacist, dentist etc directly. If you don't have a «Carte Vitale» you will be given a receipt in the form of a brown form called «feuilles des soins».

Obtaining a Carte Vitale can be a long process which involves providing a lot of documentation. There are a number of organisations who can issue a Carte Vitale. If you register as self employed then you will be assigned an organisation which depends on your line of business. You have to make monthly or quarterly declarations of income on which you pay social charges. CPAM is the primary health insurance fund in France which you can register with. After all of the paperwork is complete, a Carte Vitale will be issued. You need to provide bank account details for refunds.

Once in possession of a Carte Vitale you need to nominate a «Médecin Traitant» which is your primary doctor. You simply give your Carte Vitale to a doctor who will register themself on the card. You don't have to see your Médicin Traitant if he or she is part of a practice, but most do. You can also complete and send all of your «feuilles des soins» to the health fund who will issue refunds. When you pay for medical treatment or prescriptions and have a Carte Vitale, a refund will be paid into your bank account a few days later.

For most treatments, a Carte Vitale doesn't get you a 100% refund. You typically get a 70% refund. If the treatment costs more than the specified limit, the refund will be less. Dental crowns and hospital stays can incur high unrefundable charges.

Most people have top up medical insurance known as a «mutuelle». There are many options for Mutuelles and it is worth shopping around. Mutuelles have different levels depending on how comprehensive you want the cover to be. For example, you will pay a higher premium if you want a private room if you have to go into hospital. A Mutuelle typically costs between €40 and €100 per month. It is important to ensure that your Mutuelle insurance company and health fund can interoperate. Once a Mutuelle has been set up you will be sent a card (actually a paper slip) by the insurance company.

General Practitioners do not recover their fees, so you still have to pay them the €25 fee which is refunded. Other medical services such as laboratories and pharmacies claim their fees directly from the health fund and the mutuelle. You hand them your mutuelle card on the first visit after the start of cover. They will register it and you don't need to show it again until the policy is renewed. From then on you don't have to pay them anything.

Driving

Vehicles registered in France have to have a vehicle registration certificate «Certificat d'immatriculation», which is also known as a Carte Grise. Vehicles have to be inspected periodically. This is called a Contrôle Technique. The Carte Grise will specify the date the next Contrôle Technique is due. There is also a sticker on the windscreen to say that the vehicle is covered and giving the date for the next inspection. Most towns in France have a garage which is dedicated to this function. They give a quick turnaround and they will often do the inspection if you just turn up. You may have to make an appointment but it will be in a day or two. Once the inspection is complete, the Carte Grise is updated and a new windscreen sticker is fitted. You may be told to fix issues which the inspection identified. The Contrôle Technique is valid for two years. Larger vehicles have to have a pollution test after one year.

Many vehicles have had sun screens fiited to the side windows and to the top of the windscreen. Sun screens have been made illegal on the front side window and can be at most 10cm wide on the windscreen. You will be required to remove them.

Garbage Collection and Recycling

Houses and apartment blocks have separate bins for recycling and general rubbish. There are different collection days for these. There maybe more than one collection per week. You can no longer put glass in recycling bins. If you do they will not take it. Glass now needs to be taken to glass collection bins. There are also collection bins for recycling unwanted clothing.

To dispose of larger items such as furniture and garden refuse, you have to take it to the local Décheterie. This is free unless you are in a business which generates a lot of waste such as a builder or gardener. In this case the vehicle is weighed on arrival and departure and you are charged by the kilogram. At the Décheterie there are containers for different types of waste such as masonary, metal, garden refuse, wood, cardboard and burnable material. If in doubt ask a member of staff who will tell you which container to put the waste in. The Décheterie will also have bins for glass and clothing. It is a one stop shop.