Confirming the big decision

Safe harbors, literally and figuratively. This is Le Bono in Brittany.

During the 15 months after Bill initially asked “Why don’t we move to France?” we did a lot of online research to make certain that we were headed in the right direction. Before we boarded that Paris-bound Air France flight in Atlanta with our dog Heather and almost all of our possessions in 4 suitcases and 2 backpacks we had looked at dozens of websites, blogs, surveys, and government documents to be as informed as we could. Now that we live here, one online newspaper that we look at daily is The Local that gives news and tips in English on succeeding in another country. In one helpful article they assembled a list of reasons why this land well known for bread, cheese, and wine might just be the best place in the world to retire. Since we’ve now been here for a bit over 2 years I thought it would be interesting to see if we agreed with their list.

First up was the quality of life. We couldn’t agree more and it’s probably apparent since that’s our primary answer to the question we still get about why we moved to France and specifically to Carcassonne. It’s nice to wake up every morning and be able to truthfully say to yourself, “I love living here!” The global banking firm HSBC performs an annual survey of its customers and found France 4th out of 45 countries on this point. Not for bashing purposes but for information only, the US came in at position 26.

Bakery-fresh bread daily

Quality healthcare at reasonable prices was next. An online magazine that we consulted frequently called International Living gives 88 out of 100 points to the medical system here. All residents of France must have healthcare, either private or by joining the national system for which you pay 8 percent of your household income. A visit to a family doctor or the dentist is 25 euros, most of which is reimbursed to you.

Affordable housing. If you exclude Paris, people here spend about 18 percent of their income on rent or house payments and pay off that mortgage in 19 years. In Carcassonne a 1000 square foot house (around 93 square meters) sells for approximately 150,000 dollars (about 130,000 euros). The annual property tax equals roughly 2 percent of the value of the home. Large apartments are about half the cost of single family homes.

The rest of Europe on your doorstep. Given that we were buying airplane tickets each year from Atlanta to Paris or another nearby capital city, we can verify the value of this advantage. With the train station a few minutes on foot from our front door, and even the international airport not a lot further, in two years we’ve seen parts of Portugal, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, England, and Jersey plus a whole lot more of France. Airplane tickets go on sale for as little as 10 euros each and our pass for the trains gives us half-off most fares.

Enjoying beer and pretzels in neighboring Germany

A mild climate with lots of outdoor activities. It snows once a year in Carcassonne and that typically melts the same day yet just 50 miles south the foothills of the Pyrenees begin where ski resorts abound. The Mediterranean Sea is a bit over 30 minutes away on the train while we’re 5 minutes from walking along the river or on the tow paths of the 350-year-old Canal-du-Midi. In the summer you can count on one hand how many times we use the air conditioning because it’s too hot to sleep.

Great cost of living. Having read that a couple could retire here on one monthly US Social Security check our interest was piqued. If you click on the Budget tab above you’ll see that we found that figure a bit optimistic but still achievable, yet if you are both receiving benefits then we can confirm a comfortable lifestyle on about 2000 euros per month.

The work/life balance. Although not a direct concern for us as retirees, we benefit by being able to visit with our new neighbors and friends who greatly value family time. So many people have told us that they work long enough to live comfortably and then enjoy their spare time with those around them. There is no pursuit of that last euro, just for the sake of having one more figure in your bank account.

Feeling safe. A survey from Global Age Watch revealed that two-thirds of elderly French residents feel safe walking at night in their towns. Since we have no car we spend a lot of time on foot and confidently go all over Carcassonne as we wish.

With all of that said, there’s no doubt that we made the right decision. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

10 thoughts on “Confirming the big decision

  1. As we are officially 6 months in on the same adventure, I can say honestly that not only the resources you mentioned, but you yourselves helped us immensely in our journey and choices we have made both before we arrived and since we have been here. Thank You, and we agree, The Best Decsion We Ever Made!

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  2. We have been here for 21 months, moved from AZ. We are enthralled with Occitanie region after trying the Dordogne for a year. Everything you said is so true! We still pinch ourselves everyday and love southern France. We’ve been following you since we got here Bill.

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    1. Elisabeth, if I may ask, what were your thoughts on the Dordogne, and what prompted the change?


  3. Totally agree Bob! After 5 years, we too pinch ourselves – thankfully they don’t hurt. And our property taxes went down this year. As a corollary, we’re actually pretty happy with the bureaucracy – initially, we’d heard horror stories, but in actuality, it’s not bad, and gets easier to deal with every year AND it does keep our village looking beautiful, with excellent roads, bike/walking paths – overall excellent stewards of the infrastructure with beauty in mind, as well as functionality.

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  4. Thanks again for this wonderful blog, which is just chock-full of information and encouragement! When people ask me if my husband and I really think we can move to the South of France for retirement, I confidently say YES!!

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  5. oh! and I see you follow the vicious cycle….our good friend Gerry’s blog! He’s been bugging us for a while to up sticks and move already…mostly because he wants my husband to go bike riding with him.

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  6. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, after 6 years in Charente, which we like very much, we’re seriously considering Carcassonne. Your blog has helped us, too. This is a truly lovely post and I’m delighted that you are both so happy here!

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  7. I have so enjoyed your blog! I lived and worked in France for ten years before returning to the USA
    Now with my son headed to middle school a second home is definitely in the foreseeable future – and it was while looking at Carcassonne apartments that I found your blog!!
    We are planning s trip to visit some apartments in July and wonder if you might have a real estate agent to recommend??? And: or be willing to share thoughts about particular neighborhoods ??

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  8. I’ve now been in Uzès for 8 months (yikes, where does it go), and like the other commenters, best decision ever! So happy with my life here, even as a single retiree with a dog, Uzès has been so welcoming. You helped me so much , and were so responsive when I had questions. Your blog is the first reference I give to anyone considering a move.

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