France enjoys one of the world’s best qualities of life, whether it’s in terms of the pace of life, of healthcare, education or, of course, cuisine. It’s no wonder that it’s such a popular place for British expats to move to. But, although the stereotype might be of a retired couple in the Dordogne, more than one in ten UK residents in France is under 15. So, what is life like for families who make the crossing across the Channel?
High quality of life
According to a study conducted by the OECD, the vast majority of French children and teenagers describe themselves as happy with their life. It’s no wonder when you consider the quality of life that you can enjoy in France – especially for expats. In many areas popular among those moving from overseas, such as the Charente, property prices are low, so you can buy yourself a beautiful home with plenty of space.
With much better weather – at least in the south of France – and a slower rhythm of life, it’s much more likely that your children will be out and about, perhaps enjoying the sort of childhood that you remember yourself. Plus, in France, many places are closed on Sundays, making it a real ‘family day’ (although you do need to plan ahead to avoid the last-minute dash to the shops!).
Strong education system
France’s education system is renowned for its quality and strict standards. Many expats remark that, while schools may seem a little less equipped with the latest interactive technology, the teachers are well trained and there is a definite element of rigour.
Education in France is split into the following divisions:
- Nursery school (école maternelle, 3-5 years)
- Primary school (école primaire, 6-10 years)
- Middle school (collège, 11-14 years)
- High school (lycée, 15-18 years)
Once they reach lycée, the system is quite different to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you’re from Scotland, you’ll be more familiar with the focus on breadth rather than depth. This ensures that students don’t feel forced into a choice too early.
The exam they sit at 18 is the famous baccalauréat, or French baccalaureate. There isn’t free choice of subjects like for A-levels. Instead, students select a number of different ‘streams’ – usually the literature stream, economic and social stream, or science stream.
French education is extremely centralised, so there is no selection of exam boards. All students will sit the same exams at the same time in a week in June – a feat of organisation. One excellent aspect is that some subjects, like French literature, the visual arts and law have an oral exam in addition to the written one. This can provide excellent practice for university.
Some parents do note that French school is much less focused on extra-curriculars than most Anglophone countries’ schools. Instead, you’ll need to find these in the wider community. Children will also be delighted to know that they won’t need to wear a uniform! Conversely, the wearing of religious symbols is generally prohibited.
Of course, an immense benefit of growing up in France is that your children will become bilingual. They’ll probably outpace you within a year! French is one of the most spoken languages in the world, so the future opportunities that it will open to your offspring are not to be sniffed at.
You may worry about the impact on their English. Fortunately, the stereotype of expat children speaking a stilted English went out the window in the 90s. The prevalence of English media and the ease of accessing it through the internet makes it much easier for ‘third culture kids’ to maintain a connection to their native language. It is recommended to encourage them to also read in English and, if possible, write as well, to keep up their formal language too.
If you would like further advice on the buying process in France, download your free France Buying Guide
Why not split the cost and double the fun of owning a holiday in France by buying with family or friends? Read our guide to Buying Abroad with Family
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