Adrian Leeds Nouvellettre®
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The Best Life in Europe is in France!


It was fascinating to hear more about life in the other European countries at the International Living’s (IL) Fast Track Europe Conference last weekend in the Algarve of Portugal. The countries primarily represented as potential destinations for the IL Retiree were Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and France. These European countries were basically pitted against one another in a battle to seduce the attendees. The more I heard about the other countries, the more I knew they couldn’t hold a candle to France and became completely confident we’d win them over.

And we did. But, let me give you an idea of some of the basic differences…

The different and complicated visa requirements for the other countries surprised me. As the other presenters described them, I was thinking of how simple and easy it is to get a Carte de Séjour Visiteur and that alone might make a difference to people trying to choose between the countries. I was the last of the five to make a presentation. First I chuckled, then I opened with, “I’m going to make this really easy for you!” And then I did by explaining the simple facts:

Slide from Adrian Leeds' conference presentation on French visa requirements

That got France off to a good start.

There was a panel discussion about healthcare and that was an eye-opener. While all of the EU countries believe in universal health care and do an exceedingly better job than the US of taking care of its people, the French system is by far the easiest and best. All of the other countries have both a Private and a Public health system which have different costs associated with them and different benefits. France, on the other hand, does not distinguish between private and public. When you acquire a residence visa, you can then apply to be on the French healthcare system even though you have never contributed to it. It will pay up to 70% of your healthcare costs. You can choose any doctor at any rate and reimbursement is paid at the scheduled fees. There was no doubt, after hearing all the other countries’ representatives, that healthcare in France, does in fact, rank number one. For more information, visit IL’s website.


Language is a factor for many who are trying to choose between the countries. The Portuguese largely speak English for the obvious reason that so few people speak Portuguese. Greek is likely the toughest of the languages to learn. Depending on where in Greece you choose to live, where there are English-speakers or not, that might have a large influence on how you might manage. Lots of Americans speak Spanish, so adapting to Spain could be the easiest. The Italians are so welcoming. And because they add the use of their hands to their tongues for getting understood, Italian might be less challenging…than French.

Yes, French is a tough language to learn. Fortunately, the French have been teaching their children English from a very early age and in today’s world, anyone under the age of 40 speaks a good level of English, particularly in the more international towns where English is more widely used. We’ve never found it to be a “deal breaker” as most of our clients who settle in Paris or Nice can manage very well with almost no French at all…what we call “survival French.”

Learning French through Alliance Francaise

(Special note: Don’t miss our upcoming Webinar sponsored by the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA titled “Why living in France can cost half as much!” on May 16th. See our website for more information and to register. And for practicing your French, join the Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group in Nice. See that page for more information.)

There was a session on cultural differences and what the challenges would be to overcome them. They all had similar stories that made me think that there are “European” differences, but then there are more specific challenges with each country. Let’s face it, the French are as different from the Italians as Americans are from Mexicans. I contend that the biggest hurdle of all in making the move to France is crossing the cultural divide when it comes to the French. Many books have been written on it to help you through the maze of cultural clashes.

Two that I highly recommend to get you off to a good start are Janet Hulstrand’s Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, And Make Them Love You and The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau.

Janet Hulstrand and Demystifying the French

The Bonjour Effect by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau

If you regularly read this Nouvellettre® then you know that I base every aspect of our differences on the contrast between our legal systems. With NAPOLEONIC CODE, “Everything which is not allowed is forbidden.” With ENGLISH LAW, “Everything which is not forbidden is allowed.”

In France, you are supposed to do this and you are supposed to do that and everything else is not allowed. This means that English law engenders open-minded, out-of-the-box thinking, while Napoleonic Code is about following the rules and thinking within the box. If you can think the way the French think, or understand how differently you think than they do, you can avoid making some of the biggest mistakes. And if you apply this principle to every cultural clash you have in France, it will explain everything!!

Cartoon drawing by Antonio Meza

Cartoon drawing by Antonio Meza

Doing business in any of these countries, compared to the simplicity of our US capitalist system, is a huge challenge, but if you’re retiring, why would that matter to you? Leave the struggles of business to those who need to earn a living in their country of residence. If you can work remotely, however, for US companies or clients, than there’s no challenge at all. It is allowed for you to work remotely from France as long as your company or clients are non-French entities and your earnings are reported and taxes are paid accordingly.

During one of the presentations at the conference, I rather boldly contradicted a presenter who recommended working via a US LLC, which I know for a fact is a very bad idea. The real answer is setting up a US C-Corporation from which you can operate, generate a revenue and take a salary or dividends. I’ve helped many people accomplish this with the assistance of our preferred tax advisor and know it to be simple and effective…and perfectly legal.

The bottom line was that we had dozens of people come to our table to say that in the beginning of the conference, France wasn’t even on their radar, but by the end of the three days, it was at the top. I was not surprised. As I said in the beginning, the more I heard about the other countries, the more I knew they couldn’t hold a candle to France. And we did win them over.

Adrian Leeds at the Adrian Leeds Group's table at the International Living Fast Track Europe Conference in Portugal

If you want to learn more, too, be sure to get on our consultation schedule…that’s where it all begins. Visit our site, or email us.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds in her trademark beret in PortugalAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. If you’d like to see the presentation I made at the IL Fast Track Europe Conference, click here.


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