Thursday, 25 February 2010

Recipes for the Carnaval celebrations

Carnaval celebrations started on Tuesday 16th (Mardi-gras) this year. Rich foods are usually eaten as a tradition. See my other post here.

Here is the recipe and a photo of the Bugnes I made last week:

Bugnes moëlleuses. They - according to my English friends - test like doughnuts! It is a Lyonnaise recipe.

Ingredients for about 50 Bugnes

- 400 g of flour

- 3 eggs
- 1 sachet backing powder
- 60 g of butter
- 25 cl of milk
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 or 2 tablespoons of orange water (fleur d'oranger)
- oil for frying
- icing sugar for the decoration

How to prepare the Bugnes:

Mix flour, backing powder, sugar, eggs and orange water with a wooden spoon.

In the meantime melt butter with milk.

Add the butter mixture to the other ingredients with the wooden spoon then by hand. Add flour if needed (I must say I had to add a lot of flour to get a nice dough). It is ready when it is not sticky anymore.

Sprinkle the work top with floor and roll the dough with a rolling pin. The thickness of the Bugnes should be about 5 mm. The proper Bugnes are diamond shaped with the hole in the middle but you can do any shapes you want!

How to cook the bugnes:

Fry the Bugnes in hot oil until they are brown. Put them on kitchen paper so it absorbs most of the fat.

Sprinkle them with icing sugar before serving. They are delicious warm!

You can also cover them with home-made jam or lemon curd! It is Mardi-Gras (Fat Tuesday) after all so enjoy it!

How to build a boule pitch

We run a gîte (self-catering accommodation) near Dinan in Brittany. See our web site here.

Our guests have access to our boule pitch and they all seem to enjoy the game very much. Often guests go home and decide to build a pitch. Here are the instructions we give them:

Choose a flat area 3 to 4 meters (9 to 13 feet) wide and about 12 meters (39 feet) long. Dig a big hole 12m x 3m x 50cm deep. It should take about 2 days with a spade or half a day with a digger! Line the hole with plastic; pierce it with a garden fork for drainage or use landscape fabric. Half fill the hole with pea gravel, 3 – 4 tons should be enough. Level it off. Then fill the rest with, 2 – 3 tons of coarse sand. Use a heavy roller to flatten and compact it. Then your boule pitch is ready for action!! Invite friends and show them how to play!

As you can see from the photo we have nice neigbours who saw poor Chris digging with his spade. They came back with their tractor to help! How kind!

To find out how to play boules see this link here.

Why not set up an association in France to share your hobby?

If you have a hobby or a particular interest which you would like to share with other people or if you just want to make friends in your locality why not start an association?

June and Philip set up their association in France in 2009 and here is what they think:

"We started our association because although there are dance classes in our area they take place in the evening and in the dark winter months we did not want to venture out so we decided to start a class during the afternoon.

Here is the procedure we had to follow to set up our association in Brittany:

We contacted our local sous-préfecture and they supplied us with the forms and an information booklet which explained in details all the various aspects of an association, e.g. finance, insurance, advertising and the rules governing an association in France. Although our French is good we had to ask Rachel Gallard for assistance with the paperwork as all the forms are in French! Red tape is well known in France even for setting up an association!

An association must be non-profit making and requires at least two people to implement it. The association must have a title and this has to be decided upon immediately as it is required on the application form. Be careful what name you choose as it could be rejected if another association has the same or similar name.

After submitting your application you will be invoiced for approximately 40 euros. This is for your association to be included in the government’s official weekly paper “Journal Officiel”. You will be sent a copy.

When we first thought of starting an association it appeared rather daunting but in the end it proved to be very easy. It is also a great way to integrate in France".

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Heating system in France for renovation or new build

In France the new way of heating a house, especially for new builds, is an aerothermal system (aérothermie).

An external unit (see photo on the right) extracts the heat from the air and is linked to an internal circuit. Most of new builds have underfloor heating on the ground floor and radiators upstairs.

This system can also provide you with hot water (see photo on the left) and if you live in South of France, where summers are hot, it can be used for cooling or air conditioning. It is optional though.

If you are renovating a house in France and don't know what heating system to choose, look into it as it is very energy efficient. It doesn't take a lot of room and can replace your old oil or gas boiler.

If your main country of residence is France, you might be able to get some money back from the government, check with your local tax office (centre des impôts). It is called 'crédit d'impôts'.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Playing boules in France

Playing boules is fun. It is played anywhere in France. Most villages have a ‘boule pitch’ where people meet up and play. If you can’t find a boule pitch in your area, you can play anywhere (ie in a lane or drive-way) but it is best to find a flat area! Bumps and holes could make it more challenging!

To play boules you will need to find at least 1 friend! You can play one-on-one or in teams of 2 or 3.

You can have for example 3 teams of 2 people. Once you have sorted out the teams take 2 metal ‘boules’ each.

One person will throw the ‘but’ (jack) also called ‘cochonnet’ and each of you have to aim at it. The nearest to the ‘but’ will get a point and the game is over when a team has 13 points.

My advice: make sure you have a tape measure with you in case you are unsure what boule is the closest. It will avoid arguments! We have a telescopic pen measurer which is more precise!

When we decided to buy our house in Brittany I made sure we had an area for our future boule pitch. See photos. We share this pitch with the guests who stay in our gite (self-catering accommodation). We often play boules with them in the summer and they often enjoy it so much that they buy some boules to take back home with them!

We even have some Irish guests who asked us details about building a boule pitch!

Boules can be purchased from any sports shops in France. In the summer you can even find them in supermarkets in Brittany.

Have a go during your next holiday in France!

To find out how to build a boule pitch see this link here.

Combourg, Brittany France

Places to visit whilst holidaying in East Brittany......

Combourg is a pretty lakeside village dominated by the boyhood home of Romantic writer Viscount René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848), the thick-walled, four-tower Château de Combourg. The Chateau was built in the 14th and 15th century.

You can combine a visit to the castle with a visit to the local market on a Monday.

Fort La Latte in Brittany, France

Places to visit whilst holidaying in Brittany....

If you are renting a gite in Brittany you have to visit Fort La Latte!

This fortified castle is located on the coast not far from Cap Fréhel, West of St Malo. The XIVth century defense system is still in place: towers, drawbridges and dungeon. A few famous movies were shot there so you might recognize it!

For more information, visit this site here.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Mardi-Gras and Carnaval in France

Mardi-gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” also known as Shrove Tuesday in England. It refers to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts on Ash Wednesday.

Rich and fatty foods include gauffres (waffles) and crêpes (pancakes). Brittany being famous for pancakes, you must eat pancakes for Mardi-gras! Both eaten with some nice home-made jam of course! See my future posts about how to make jam.

Where I come from – Lyon – we make Bugnes. See this link for recipes here.

Well-known practices associated with Mardi-gras are wearing masks and costumes, dancing, parades, etc.

In France most villages organise a Carnaval for children. Often a music band takes part in the celebrations making it more joyful. Everyone then join the parade which always ends up in the village hall (salle des fêtes) where the entertainment keeps children amused for a couple of hours!

The risks of undeclared employment in France

If you employ staff without declaring them you take a lot of risks!

By employing staff I mean 2 different things. You run your own business in France ie a restaurant or you need a tradesman to do some work at your property in France.

If you get caught by URSSAF, you could face 2 types of sanctions:

- Penal sanctions:

  • Up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of €45 000 for a private individual
  • A fine of €225 000 and dissolution and closure of the business for a company

- Administrative sanctions:

  • Back payment of contributions and taxes plus penalty charges.
  • Standard liability equivalent to at least 6 months of guaranteed minimum wage
  • Cancellation of previous tax rebates and exoneration.

So if you need to employ an artisan in France, see my post here.

Employing a registered builder in France

If you wish to employ an artisan to do some work in your cottage in France, here is a list of documents you need to ask him/her before signing a 'devis' (estimate).

  • an extract from the Register of Commerce (extrait d'inscription au registre du commerce et des sociétés),
  • a certificate of registration in the Register of Craft Trades (carte justifiant l'inscription au Répertoire des Métiers),
  • a company document (estimate, publicity) stating the company name, address and registration number.
The artisan should be able to supply you with the above documents without hesitation. If he/she finds excuses, you will know the person is not insured or registered. Find another tradesman! It will save you trouble and money!

Read my post about employing someone in the Black in France here.

What are the C.S.G. and the C.R.D.S. in France?

My clients often ask me:

What are the C.S.G. and the C.R.D.S.? Do we have to pay them?

The Contribution Sociale Généralisée and the Contribution pour le Remboursement de la Dette Sociale are taxes usually withheld from the income received by individuals considered as domiciled in France for income tax purpose.

You have to pay those taxes on bank interests, pensions, salaries, etc.

How to cancel a house insurance in France

If you wish to cancel your house insurance in France because you want to change insurance companies here is the procedure:

In France, under insurance procedure, there are strict guidelines to follow to enable cancellation of insurance policies. If these are not adhered to, the result is invariably that you are tied with the same company for the following year.

To cancel a private policy at renewal, there are two windows of opportunity to avoid being tied in.

1. By registered letter 2 months or more prior to the renewal date to your Insurer, Agent or Broker requesting cancellation from the end of the term.

2. Or if this is missed, under the Loi Chatel, again by registered letter, within 20 days of the postmark on the envelope delivering the renewal, requesting cancellation from the end of the term.

Advice from Nick Chubb, Asttral Insurance Brokers, France

Renovation or New Build in France?

Renovating property in France generally turns out to be much more expensive than anticipated.

Older properties frequently have limited protection against damp, poorly installed electrical and water systems, and inefficient waste disposal. Building regulations may require that these items are bought up to modern standards, involving more expense. In addition a renovation project may require building permits and the delays in administration will add a cost in time and money to the original budget.

The price quoted for French new build property is "ready to move into", which is a substantial benefit to the purchaser who knows from the beginning the total cost of the purchase.

The first choice for French buyers are new properties. These are usually sold quickly because of the financial and lifestyle benefits of buying new build in France.

For more information please visit this web site.

Obtaining a mortgage from a French bank

If you are thinking about buying a house in France or having a house built in France, why not borrow money from a French bank?

There are a number of reasons why it might be worth considering obtaining your mortgage from a French bank:

Interest rates in France tend to be lower than the UK, so you may save a considerable sum of money over the full term of the borrowing.

If you plan to live or retire in France, your finances may be easier to manage if based locally.

A number of French banks will be keen to offer you a mortgage (subject to their terms and conditions).

For more information please visit this web site.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Grow your own veggies Part 1

Once you have moved to France and renovated your house you might find you have plenty of free time and more importantly less money than when you came over!
Let’s face it, spare cash at the moment is nowhere to be seen! So here is my way of saving money….

I grow my own organic fruit and vegetables. I am not a very knowledgeable gardener. I just enjoy picking my own produces knowing they are safe to eat as nothing has been sprayed on them!

Today was the first day of gardening for the 2010 crop!

As you can see from the photo I grow vegetables from seeds. If you are thinking of growing your own vegetables for this first time, here are my tricks to save money:

Don’t go to the garden center as you could easily get carried away! Recycle!

Start by going to a local market around 1pm (more or less at closing time). Look for the fishmongers and take the polystyrene boxes that he/she is throwing away. Watch it! They will smell so make sure you have some bin bags to put them in otherwise the boot of your car will stick for a long time!

Hose them down once you get home and the smell will disappear. You have done the worse bit!

Get a bag of compost (terreau) from any French supermarket or garden center. It will be cheaper from a supermarket. Fill the boxes with some compost and lay some seeds on the compost. Cover slightly with compost (the layer of compost should only be as thin as the seeds). I collect the wooden sticks from ice creams. They make great free tags! Write on them what you are growing. I then put my boxes on the floor near a radiator and wait until something start growing! As simple as that!

I will take some photos in a few weeks and keep you updated!

See Part 2 here.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Dinan - a lovely medieval French town in Brittany

I discover Dinan when I lived in Jersey. I came to Brittany for a weekend and just fell in love with this medieval walled town.

I now live 10 minutes away and even after 7 years it is always a great pleasure to walk around the walls. Here is a description of this beautiful town.....

Dinan is famous for its cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings. A very steep cobbled street filled with local craft workshops takes you to the old port area.

Dinan has over 50 bars, restaurants and crêperies. There are plenty of small boutiques and shops. The market is on Thursday morning where you will find some fresh local produces (fruit, vegetables, fish, sea food, cheeses but also cloths).

There is a flea market in July and August Wednesday afternoon.

Dinan holds a medieval festival every other year, the “Fête des Remparts”. The town is then transformed with medieval decoration and many locals dress up in medieval costumes. The next Fête des Remparts is in 2010 so plan your visit ahead!

Markets in Brittany - France

If you are living or on holiday in France, I advise you to visit local markets.

Local markets are indeed great places to buy fresh local produces direct from growers. Produces are fresh and the quality is usually very high. In the summer, as markets get crowded by the number of locals and tourists, it is advisable to explore them early!

Each town or village holds its own unique type of market on a specific day each week.

Markets around Dinan:

Combourg = Mondays
Dinan = Thursdays
Dol and Dinard= Saturdays
Cancale = Sundays

Rennes market is the second biggest market in France. It is held Saturdays. You will find local producers selling fruit and vegetables, meat straight from the butchers, home-made jams, cakes, flowers and plants!

Well worth a visit!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Air-tight test on new build in France

For the past twelve months I have been helping an English couple with building their new house in Brittany, France.

Introduction, liaising with the builder, site meetings, etc until today, the final day! Indeed the very last test was done this morning to find out who energy-efficient the house really is. The test - see photo - showed how air-tight the house is. It measures the uncontrolled air leakage.

The diagnostic tool is called a "blower door". A fan blows air out of the house to create a slight pressure difference between inside and outside. This pressure difference forces air through all holes and penetrations in the exterior envelope.

By simultaneously measuring the air flow through the fan and its effect on the air pressure in the house, the blower door system measures the air tightness of the entire building envelope. The tighter the building (e.g. fewer holes), the less air you need from the blower door fan to create a change in house pressure.

The result was exceeding expectations. In order to say the house is meeting the BBC (Batiment Basse Consommation) criteria the result of the test had to be less or equal to 0,6 m3/h.m2. It was 0.53.

On the ground floor we could not feel any infiltration through the front door or the windows. We could see the difference between air-tight sockets on the ground floor and 'normal' sockets on the first floor. The infiltration was greater upstairs. The TV sockets were the worse, real 'hair-dryers'!

The house is tightly sealed. Fresh air will only come through some vents and will circulate constantly thanks to the VMC (ventilation Méanique Controlée). This will prevent the air to become humid and stale.

The fact the house is air-tight will save the owners energy but will also provide a healthier environment. No more sneezing, coughing and head-ache during the winter months.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Firewood, the cheapest way to heat your house in France

Today we had a delivery of logs from our neighbour. We do have central heating but the price of oil being high (not far from 80 cent/litre) we are using our log burner to heat up our cottage in France. When ordering logs in Brittany you will be asked how many ‘cordes’ you require.

A ‘corde’ is about 3 cubic meters. In other areas French people call it a ‘stère’. It is 1 cubic meter of wood.

If you have just moved to France and don’t know where to get firewood from, start with visiting your local mairie and ask for some “Bois de chauffage”. You might also see some adverts in the free newspapers or look at some adverts in the local shops. Most French supermarkets and shop
s have a notice board and anyone can put an advert there for free.

Depending on the quality of wood (oak, chestnut, etc) and the size the price can vary between 200 and 250 euros. It is best to order it in the summer so it is dry when you need it!

Stacking wood is also a great way to keep warm. It took the 2 of us 1 ½ hours to stack one corde!

That is my exercise for the day!

Visit to the doctors in France

Once you have registered with a French doctor (see my post about “Déclaration de choix du médecin traitanthere) if you are unwell just call the doctor to arrange an appointment.

Here is what you need to say: “Je voudrais prendre rendez-vous, s’il vous plait”.

You should be able to see the doctor within 48 hours unless it is urgent he/she will be able to see you on the same day. Most doctors don’t have any flashy offices or receptionist. They take their own appointments (or their wives take the phone calls from home) so the first time you are visiting the doctor’s you might find it strange that no-one is there to greet you. Just wait in the waiting room (salle d’attente) until it is your turn. Some French doctors have open surgery so no appointment is needed. Just come when they are open!

At the end of the consultation, you will need to show your Carte Vitale and pay 22 euros. Most doctors take cheques or cash but they don’t take bank cards I guess to save on bank fees. Within a coupe of days 70% of the 22 euros will be reimbursed into your bank account from the French Social Security and if you have a top up insurance (Mutuelle) the 30% left will be covered.

Emergency phone numbers in France

Here are some important phone numbers for the emergency services in France. They are free of charge if you are calling from any landline or public telephones

15 : Ambulance (SAMU)
17: Police
18: Fire Brigade / Accident (Pompier)

If you are calling from a mobile phone, dial 112 and ask for the above (fire brigade, police or Ambulance).

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

French Health Service - Is it really that good?!

I have asked Bram, one of my clients, to tell us what he thought about the French Health System. Here is his answer:

So; after a holiday here in 'Romantic Brittany' you've fallen in love with its lovely coast, with the green countryside behind it, and with its peaceful, relaxed market towns peopled with friendly and welcoming folks. The routine reaction for those of us who remember the UK of fifty years ago is to wonder where and why we Brits lost the unfailing politeness and consideration which is our daily experience here.

If you are retired or about to retire you may have decided that Brittany is the ideal place for doing so - the perfect environment, as a visiting friend suggested, for people who wish to live to be a hundred and fifteen - and if you're a family man capable of making a living here you may well think Brittany, with its splendid school system and ordered society, is a perfect place in which to bring up your young family. Among the Brits who live here few would challenge these views.

From your friends, though, you will have heard only discouragement. Moving into a new society across what the French call La Manche (The Sleeve) and what we Brits have always thought of as our very own channel fills them with horror. Every argument, reasonable and otherwise, is advanced to deter you. Finally, when every other has failed to shake your optimistic self-confidence, will come the ultimate one; you'll have to come home in the end, they say, for the National Health Service.

It's useless to tell them that France has what is acknowledged to be the finest health system in Europe. They won't believe that, since every British schoolboy knows that the French are incompetent at everything! Didn't we win at Waterloo and Trafalgar? Still, one's health is important, and a look at the French system may be useful. After house-purchase the gaining of admission to the health system is usually one's next encounter with the famous French bureaucracy. That bureaucracy is often disparaged in the UK. It really does work, however.
On entry one is given the Carte Vitale, a piece of green plastic card which can be read by every doctor, surgeon, pharmacist, etc in France. It is of the greatest service in the case of sudden illness or accident.

The carte vitale is required at each visit to the doctor or pharmacist, when it is computer-updated. It is also the means of obtaining, automatically, the rebate of funds paid to these people.
A rebate? The system is not, then, absolutely free? Indeed not; each time one visits the doctor he expects the sum of twenty-two Euros. This may seem a lot, but most of it is returned to one's bank in a matter of days. What of the small remainder? For the native French the problem is solved, almost universally, by insuring. This is cheap; all the cheaper for being begun early, of course, but anyway cheaper than the amount you and I have been paying weekly from our earnings to the NHS. Additionally, if one's problem is potentially life-threatening, as in the case of cardiac or vascular disease, treatment is entirely free; any sums paid are immediately returned by the system.

How is the service itself? Really splendid I'd say, and that's experience speaking. There is no shortage here of English-speaking doctors, and my doctor (doctors here are given time not only to examine patients thoroughly but to get to know them and their problems) spotted my own dodgy ticker before I realised the problem for myself. I was referred to a Cardiologist within hours and I was in hospital within an hour of that examination. Waiting-lists seem to be nonexistent, and hospitals here are a revelation of cleanliness, efficiency and privacy, two patients to a room being the general rule. An arterial bypass can never be a pleasure, but I found nothing to complain about there.

Still, for the aging - and many, perhaps most, Brits here are pensioners - the financial aspect of the health service does need some thought. Pensioners find that the cost of insuring the relatively small portion of the payments they make to the doctor, the specialist or the pharmacist is high. Often they don't insure; they gamble on the fact that the small residue of the sum they will occasionally pay will be less than the insurance premium. That usually proves to be true; but for the younger members of the family insurance is best. For them it's not prohibitively expensive. It's the French way and it works.

For the aging some extra services are offered, among them a free complete health check each year. I went through this interesting mill recently. It meant a whole day at a clinic in Rennes where we queued (in comfort, with a buffet service!) to be examined by a number of specialist doctors. Each part of the anatomy, from eyes and teeth to prostate, was carefully examined and subsequently a rendezvous (the odd name, Brits will think, given by the French to any appointment) offered where I discussed every aspect of what had been discovered with the leading doctor involved. A report was sent to my own doctor and, as always in the French way, also to me with recommendations for treatment including in my case a scan. In my case this found nothing disturbing. All this I found reassuring.

I need hardly say that the need to 'go home' to the NHS is not something I reckon with.

From Margaret and Bram, 35, Brittany France

Monday, 8 February 2010

Carte Vitale – French health insurance card

Once you have applied and received your Carte Vitale from CPAM (French Social Security) you might wonder how they allocated your social security number.

If you wonder how to obtain a Carte Vitale from the French health system, see my post dated 01.02.2010 - Registering with the French Health System (CPAM, RAM, Mutuelle Action, etc).

The Carte Vitale has 15 digits.
The first one is either 1 for male or 2 for female. Then xx is your year of birth, xx your month of birth, xx is the department where you were born (or 99 is you were born outside France), xxx is the code of the city where you were born, xxx is the number according to the month and the commune where you were born, and the last tow xx are allocated by the social security for control purpose.

La Chandeleur – Pancake day in France!

Pancakeday in France was Tuesday 2nd February this year. You know when it is coming as all the supermarkets in France start selling pancake pans and all the ingredients to make the pancakes (crêpes) about 2 weeks prior to La Chandeleur ! On Pancake Day some shops make “crêpes” for their customers! Even our local DIY shop in Evran! I must say if you don’t eat crêpes in Brittany, where else would you eat some?! Brittany is famous for their “crêpes” and “galettes” (savory pancakes made with buckwheat flour).

I make my pancake mix without measuring using fresh milk (very creamy!) from the farm down the road and the free range eggs from our little chickens. As it is cold at the moment our chickens don’t produce many eggs but luckily my friend Debbie share her surplus of eggs with me! Her chickens are a lot more productive than ours. She hasn’t told me yet her secret for her productivity!

Here is a recipe for the pancake mix:

• 250 g de farine (flour)
• 3 oeufs (eggs)
• 1/2 paquet de levure (half packet of backing powder)
• 1 pincée de sel (pinch of salt)
• 1/2 litre de lait (1/2 litre of milk)
• 3 cuillères à soupe d'eau (3 spoons of water)

I like pancakes with home-made jam (loganberry jam is my favorite) or chocolate spread (I guess you know which one I mean!). Looking at a British calendar Shrove Tuesday is next week and as my partner Chris is British I will have to make some more next week! Any excuse to eat pancakes….

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Education in France

During the last 6 years of helping Brits relocating to Brittany (France), I have assisted several families with finding a suitable school for their children. Visiting primary schools, colleges, lycées, getting all the necessary paperwork together and filling many forms, liaising with teachers, helping with homework, etc.
Before moving to France it is important for English children to learn – at least – some basic French.

I met Caprice in June when she moved to France with her parents. After visiting 3 schools she picked one in Dinan in Brittany and here is what she thinks, 7 months later:

Hello my name is Caprice and I have been living in France for 7 months. I live in a beautiful old city called Dinan in Brittany. I have been going to school for 5 months and I feel like I’m at home. I’m comforted by my friend’s and even in lesson’s if you don’t understand they will help you out when you need it the most. The education is important but you will pick to up so quick because of your relaxation. The people over here are so different because to show your friends you respect them you:
Girls: kiss your friends on the cheek
Boys: shake hands to your friends

You don’t do this the first time you meet someone.
The best thing to do is get into a holiday group before because you pick up most of the language with friends by having fun and enjoying or explaining yourself.

The differences between French and English schools are:
1. In France I don’t have to wear a uniform
2. The school hours are longer (8:00am-4:30pm)
3. I get Wednesdays off ( or half a Wednesday)
4. I also get help with homework after school activities
And 5. I eat at the canteen and the menu changes every week!

I love it!

Caprice (11 years old)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Registering with the French Health System (CPAM, RAM, Mutuelle Action, etc)

I always advise my British clients to contact the NHS (Tel. 01912 181 999 - overseas) before relocating to France in order to apply for the necessary documents to get into the French Health Service. You need to apply for a S1. This document can take a while to come through so it is best to apply for them just before moving to France.

Once it is in your possession, visit your local CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie). Your local mairie will be able to give you the address of the local branch. As the French love their paperwork, always carry with you for the 6 months following your move to France your passport, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and a proof of address (phone, EDF or water bill) with you The CPAM office will also need your bank details. It is called a RIB (Relevé d’identité bancaire). Your French bank will supply you with several RIB when you open a French bank account but if you require more just ask your bank, they will print some more for you. You can also find one in your cheque book.

Once you are registered it will take a while for you to receive your Carte Vitale but in the meantime you will get a proof of your registration called “attestation”. Carry this paperwork with you all the time. I always advise my British clients to copy it and keep a copy in their hand bag, wallets and glove box of the car. Emergencies can happen anytime! The doctor, dentist, chemist and any other practitioners and healthcare specialists will ask for the attestation. Once you’ve received your Carte Vitale keep the attestation in your file. It will be handy to have if you lose your Carte Vitale.

You will then have to register with a doctor (médecin traitant). You are free to choose the one you want and can change anytime. You will have to send a new “Déclaration de choix du médecin traitant” each time you decide to change. Those forms can be picked up from the CPAM or you ill find one online by visiting

For the expats arriving in France and who are not officially retired or employed in France they will have to take up private health insurance until they reach retirement age or have lived in France for 5 years. Many insurance companies offer private insurance. Shop around and budget for it now as it can be pricy!
If you are self-employed, you won’t have to register with CPAM. Where you register to pay your health and social charges will depend on what professional activity you have. This information will be given to you on registering your business.

It sounds rather complicated – I know. When I first moved back to France (I lived in Jersey in the Channel Islands for 8 years) I was facing the same procedure as any expats. If you are employed in France and become self-employed (or vice versa) make sure you contact the new social security.

Don’t assume because you are paying social charges (charges sociales) that you are covered!

Don’t assume the ‘old’ social security will inform the ‘new’ one about you!
When I set up my business I had 2 Cartes Vitales, one from CPAM and one from Mutelle Action both showing that I and my partner were insured in France. However following an emergency at the hospital I was facing a 125 euros bill that none of the social securities wanted to reimburse! I had to write to both and explain the situation. I did get my money back but I couldn’t understand how suddenly they didn’t know although I had 2 valid Cartes Vitales!

Registering can be long but it is worth it. Remember: the French healthcare service is one of the best in the world, offering a wide choice of general practitioners and healthcare specialists!

If you need any assistance with registering with the French Health System, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will pleased to help.

Please drop me a line if you find this post useful.