View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.

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Studying at University in France

One of the many lovely squares in Toulouse

France is consistently ranked as one of the most popular countries in the world for students looking to study abroad and not just in Paris; numerous French cities are home to globally ranked universities, offering foreign students a high-class university experience and an excellent quality of student life.

France has a reputation for being a global leader in academia and is already the world’s top non-English speaking student destination. The French government offers scholarships to attract international students and, like most countries (apart from perhaps the UK right now), France realizes the many benefits of attracting students from abroad. Hence, Macron has made it one of his aims to find ways of increasing the numbers of foreign students. The result is that many French universities are planning to offer more courses in English with the aim to double the number of international students over the next ten years.

Student visa regulations will be simplified, international students will be offered more French classes and the number of courses taught in English, which has already increased fivefold since 2004, will be boosted further.

The main aim is to attract more students from Asia and the Gulf states but the increase in English-taught degree courses is also likely to attract more British students with fees in their hundreds rather than their thousands, even for the very best universities.

Toulouse is already in the top three university cities in France as well as being the world headquarters for aviation and spaceflight thanks to Airbus and having the largest specialist cancer hospital in Europe.Toulouse has the second largest student population in France and is an affordable city to live in plus it has all the advantages of climate and lifestyle that comes from being in South West France. Toulouse is also experiencing rapid population growth so there are plenty of work opportunities available in the city.

For more information on studying in France, take a look at: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/europe/france/guide

For any information or help on finding property in France, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

France is the most popular expat destination for the British

The latest HSBC Expat Explorer Report 2019 has just been published. It was carried out in 163 countries and shows that France has become the most popular expat destination for the British. It also shows that it was twice as popular this year as last, presumably down to the Brexit effect. The survey was undertaken in April, just after the UK was originally scheduled to have left the EU which suggests that there was an impetus to move to France before this deadline in order that the buyers could enjoy the same rights as they do as EU citizens. The fact that the deadline was extended until 31stOctober might show a further spike in British buyers and this seems to be borne about by agents in this region who have had a particularly busy six months.

This report is backed up by a recent report from the French bank, BNP Paribas,  which also showed that the the international property market in France is dominated by British buyers. They made up 27% of all non-resident international homebuyers in France last year, compared with 22% in the previous year, although the purchase price is lower than in previous years.

In the HSBC report, France was ranked the 17th best expat destination in the world while the UK came 27th. Switzerland topped the rankings, followed by Singapore and Canada.

The authors of the HSBC report said: “Although those moving to France are some of the best educated in the world, money is not their main motivation. They do not move there expecting a large salary boost, instead they take advantage of France’s location on the doorstep of some of Europe’s most famous sites. For international workers, the French working culture provides them with the work life balance to enjoy their travels.”

If you are thinking of buying a property in France in the near future, please do get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

Made in France

I recently watched a horrifying documentary on the clothes and fashion industry (The True Cost, Netflix) which should be obligatory watching for us all. Like many people in this part of France in terms of what we eat, I try to be very careful about buying locally grown, seasonal produce mainly from the local markets where we have got to know the producers and know that the amount we pay is what they get with no middle tier taking the profit or imposing restrictions on shape or size of their produce.

When it comes to what we wear however, it is true that I think less about where my clothes are made and who is making them or whether the money I spend is going directly to the producer or to a retailer or distributor. It is therefore reassuring that France and the French are way ahead of most countries on this one which probably stems from the pride and trust that most French people have in their country and their industry. There is a big emphasis here on buying goods that are made in France and there is even an national campaign called ‘Made in France’ (I don’t know why the campaign is titled in English however!) which is a merchandise mark indicating that a product is planned, manufactured and packed in France.

This very recognizable badge guarantees that the product you are buying is made, produced and sold while complying to French labour and employment laws which are very regulated in France. It means that when you buy something with this label you know that women and children have not been exploited in the production process, that they are paid a fair wage, have strict hours, a decent and safe working environment and the rights to holidays, maternity leave and sick pay.

Of course, products made here in France are therefore often more expensive to make and therefore to buy than those shipped in from other parts of the world but, if this means we all buy less and think more before we buy, it can surely only be a good thing.

Do you wish you had more time? France may have the answer

It is too easy to feel increasingly bogged down in work and day-to-day admin and weighed down by negative news and social pressures. If we are not careful, life can be a matter of looking down at our feet (and our phones) and concentrating on each difficult step and never feeling we are quite on top of everything; waiting for the big events, the weekend, the holidays rather than savouring the small, everyday pleasures, the moments that make up most of our lives.

There is, however, a potential cure and it is involves spending as much time as possible in rural France (possibly urban France too but I don’t have experience of that). Anyone who has ever been to France will know that time moves more slowly here. Why is that? Why are there always people sitting chatting on café terraces at all times of the day? How are the French seemingly quite happy to stand in a long queue in the bakery with no apparent sign of frustration? Could it be simply that the French make better use of the time they have? France operates a famously short 35 hour working week and employees have also won the ‘right to disconnect’ meaning that they no longer look at or answer emails out of office hours; a reaction against the so-called “always-on” work culture invading Europe from the States. There is undoubtedly still in France a cultural emphasis on working to live rather than the other way around.

If you prioritise work and earning money, then undoubtedly you will find yourself spending most of your time working to earn and working some more. On the other hand, if your main priority in life is to spend time with your family or to cook beautiful meals or to play the sport you love, then you will make sure that you find the time to do this. What the French seem to intuitively understand is that time is fluid and elastic and, just as Parkinson so famously worked out, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” What the French do differently is simply to make sure that it is their favourite and most pleasurable activities which are expanding to fill that time and not their work.

Hence, for example, restaurants in France are full between 12 and 2pm; the lunch break is still sacred and nearly everyone stops. The French have made food, eating and family meals a priority and allocate the time to this above everything else. In addition, because it is the eating and being with family and friends that is important, it is also rare to see people sitting in cafés and restaurants here communing with screens rather than each other. They focus on what matters and then somehow life finds balance and time just slows down.

If you would like help finding a French property with a better lifestyle and extra time attached, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com