Tanja is now writing a special report on Living In France. Those who have
comments or suggestion are encouraged to contact Tanja with your comments.
Je tíaime! - Iím on the terrace of an 18th century
apartment building hanging my washing on the line.
The November sun feels good on my skin. A bouquet of basil, thyme and sage,
emanates from the tiny herb garden Iíve managed to cultivate. A giant seagull
or mouette, whooshes past me and beckons me to take a break. As I watch
my friend glide through the air, the magnificent creature transforms into
my private tour guide, reaffirming all the reasons I decided to follow
my heart and call this place home. I take in my new surroundings. Limestone
hills and orange terracotta rooftops scattered across a Mediterranean bay.
Iím captivated by the rich history and energized by the vibe.
As I inhale
the salty sea air, my soul dances to the beat of North African drums radiating
from the distance. The aroma of Spanish paella, kebab, and spicy merguez
rises from the bustling market stalls across the street. Fresh local produce,
Tunisian leather goods, hand-made lavender soap, itís all on offer and
itís all within arms reach. I see women wrapped in traditional African
cloth, women donning the burqa, and women dressed in high heels and mini-skirts.
The world has merged into one. The mix is exotic, eclectic and uniquely
I was about
to turn 40 when I decided to bail out of Ďnormalí society. I quit my job,
sold my house, car and all of my possessions, and traded my Ďday jobí in
favor of a backpack and a one-way ticket to Who Cares. Sound familiar?
No doubt youíve read many stories like this, but in my case, I promise
itís all true! Midlife crisis? Definitely. Regrets? None.
happened next: The short version of a very long
story looks like this: I fell in love with a Frenchman (in Australia) whoíd
told me if I didnít accompany him to France, I would miss him so much Iíd
end up swimming to France (from Australia) within three weeks. I probably
donít need to tell you that his proposition sounded entirely ludicrous
and deliciously arrogant, which, off course, is why it worked. Hence, based
on the fact that Iím a hopeless romantic, and an even worse swimmer, I
was forced to succumb and book a cheap plane ticket (all within 3 weeks).
If youíre like
most people (including myself) and youíve never heard of Marseille (much
less cared about it), you need to stick around. Franceís oldest and second
biggest city is about to dust off its bad reputation, slap on a coat of
paint and shamelessly seduce anybody thatís unaware of her many charms
Marseilleís just won the trophy of becoming the European capital of culture
for 2013. As I write, I can hear the continuous hum of (not so distant)
renovations. Vacant dock buildings and warehouses are metamorphosing into
artistic spaces, theatres, galleries and live music venues (hopefully theyíll
be done by the time you get here :)
on foot, Marseille offers all sorts of investigative nooks. Perched on
a hill, one of its best-kept secrets is Cours Julien. The townís hippest
neighborhood is crammed with cafés, restaurants, avantgarde shops,
theatres and street art. Observe local artists creating one of-a-kind jewellery
and unusual pieces of clothing in funky warehouse ateliers.
Marseilleís oldest and most atmospheric quartier is still inhabited, and
well preserved. Explore rustic buildings, cobblestone
paths, original ceramics, tucked away restaurants, art exhibitions and
more hidden treasures including hand made chocolates and Savon de Marseille
olive oil soap (traditional soap making is a 600-year-old practice around
these parts). In June, the place bursts into life with a free 48-hour live
music festival known as the Fete du Panier. People spill out into the street
to soak up the music, food, and wine. If youíre a music lover like me,
youíll be interested to know that the eclectic fusion of Arab, African
and French culture is responsible for nudging Marseille to the forefront
of innovative hip-hop and world music.
speaking compared to its archrival Paris, Marseille was always the worst
house in the best street (though the two cities are entirely different
beasts) but thatís all about to change. Without a doubt, Paris has a reputation
built on romance, with its awe-inspiring architecture and fashionable Parisians.
But what about the heavily inflated prices? The pollution? And that famous
Ďlook, but donít touch what you canít afford attitudeí?
city continues to draw millions of tourists every year. Personally, I prefer
the down to earth, laid-back Mediterranean attitude and it seems Iím not
the only one. The Parisians themselves are beginning to discover the benefits
of venturing south.
Marseille is the least expensive place on the Mediterranean coast. The
weather is superb and on location alone, sheís a winner. Franceís largest
port is the doorway to North Africa. You can take an over night ferry to
Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Paris is only 3 hours by train. Spain and
Italy are right next-door. Barcelona is 4 hours by car. Italy takes 2.
Trains take a little longer but as far as Iím concerned theyíre the best
option. It means travel minus the stress and you get to kick back and check
out the incredible landscape. I bring a book, some yummy food and as little
unnecessary Ďstuffí as possible. (Freedom and minimalism at its best, but
hey, thatís another article altogether.)
Fact is, almost
every country in Europe is easily accessible from anywhere within Europe
so youíll never feel stuck. The hard part is deciding on the best place
for your base and I think I can help you with that.
Plenty of sun, mild winters
20 minutes walking distance
estate: Highly Affordable
of living: Low (regardless of what youíve heard)
Direct (until you get to know them, and then they get more direct.)
of Life: Check out the surveys. France still comes out on top and itís
easy to see why.
Town/City: Everything a city has to offer without the Ďbig city feelí (no
hideous high-rise buildings)
Architecture: Medieval and Roman
to do and see: (and all within a one hour radius)
quaint fishing villages, islands, stunning landscape
||Low cost healthcare
cost of living is generally around 30 % cheaper than Paris.
Of course it depends on how you live. We prefer a simple, low maintenance
lifestyle, however, healthy, nutritional and delicious food is important
to us. Our weekly food bill (for 2 people) is around 70 euro (without skimping
on anything). We both love to cook, which helps because eating at home
is a definite cost cutter. Shopping consists of fresh grainy bread (1-
2 euro), plenty of fruit and veggies (1-2 euro per kg as a lot of the produce
is exported from North Africa), fresh herbs 50cents, whole grains, some
lean meat, cheese and wine. Occasionally we buy organic. We get wine at
the supermarket. A bottle of organic merlot only costs 3.50 euro and thereís
no need to pay more than 5-euro tops for good quality wine.
Shopping for food has become one
of my favourite pastimes. In France itís generally done on a daily basis.
People tend to buy what they need on the day. Itís all about fresh produce
rather than processed junk. There are plenty of food markets. My favorite
is in the center of town. Itís small but you can get all you need. I usually
buy marinated olives, fresh tapanade, kesra (Algerian bread made with semolina
flour), African spices and goji berries. The Quai des Belges at the end
of the port hosts the famous fish market. Fresh seafood such as dorade
(bream) will cost you 12 euro per kilo (more in summer), mackerel 3 euro
per kilo, and red tuna 17 euro per kilo, (most of the sea creatures are
still alive and wink at you in the hope that you wonít eat them.)
Just in case you feel like sampling
the local delights and cookingís not your groove, there are plenty of places
that offer tasty, low cost deals.
|Hereís a tip from the locals:
Choose a small restaurant or better still, a cosy brasserie and steer clear
of menus. Instead, try the plat du jour or plate of the day, (lunch only).
Normally, thereís a choice of 2 or 3 dishes scribbled on the blackboards
outside, with the average price being 9 Ė 12 euro a plate. A ½ liter
or pichet of house wine costs around 5 euro. A bottle of wine will cost
you twice as much, but why pay more when the quality is good either way?
So, do yourself a favor and make like the French. Simple, non?
As far as other costs, hereís
a rough estimate of a monthly budget for 2 people:
Rent: 500 euro
Water: 15 euro
Electricity: 30 euro
Internet, TV, and phone package:
Food: 300 euro
Entertainment: 250 euro (optional)
Health Insurance: 300 euro (optional)
Total 1424 euro.
only 712 euro per person per month! Incidentally,
if you choose to buy your own home, itís even less and on that note, letís
talk real estate.
I be blunt here? If youíve ever dreamt of living in France, and you donít
want to live in the middle of nowhere where the sun never shines, (north-west
& central France) then this could very well be your last opportunity.
Iím so certain of this fact; Iím trying to convince my own mother of retiring
here. She currently lives in Australia and I know what youíre thinking,
but weíre talking about affordability and quality of life here. With that
in mind, I have to admit that France comes out on top. Now, thatís a big
statement coming from an Australian girl, but I wouldnít say it if I didnít
Thereís only one catch. If you (and
my mum) wish to claim your little piece of French paradise, you need to
do it before 2013, which is when the rest of the world will catch on. By
then itíll be too late.
Whether youíre looking for a home
or simply a good investment, hereís the scoop. Marseille is the current
hot spot and thereís never been a better time than the present.
Real estate bargains are everywhere,
especially if youíve got some imagination and arenít afraid of a little
elbow grease. Right now, there are steals to be had for less than $100
If youíre a millionaire you donít
need to know these things, but if youíre like me and always dreamt about
the possibility but never thought it achievable, then you do. Like I said,
I live a simple life, and Iím writing this for the person who values lifestyle
over anything else. Iím living proof that you can have a rich life without
the rich price tag.
Example: We live in a small 50 square
meter apartment. The building is a typical 1800ís classic ĎHaussmanní design.
Characteristically, this type of apartment has high 3.7-meter ceilings
and floor to ceiling windows and/or doors, which open onto a balcony. Most
of the time youíll also find original fireplaces and antique terracotta
Weíre on the 5th floor (and thereís
no elevator), which means coming home can sometimes feel like climbing
Mount Everest. But if youíre young and/or young at heart and that kind
of thing doesnít bother you, (letís face it, we can all do with the exercise)
then youíre in for a huge surprise. For starters, the higher the floor,
the cheaper the price. You get the best view, more light and hereís the
good partÖ You can add a mezzanine, (which is what weíre currently doing.)
If you live on the top floor youíre well within your rights to tear down
the ceiling and extend. Normally, thereís an extra 2.5 metres of space
between the ceiling and the roof, which is legally yours. If youíre a handy
person, you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. Adding an extra
10 metres of space, will cost you around 2-3000 euro but youíll be increasing
the value of your home by around 20 000 euro. If you hire someone else
to do it, itíll cost around 5000 euro plus materials.
you want to live near the center, look no further than the 1st or 2nd Arrondissement.
Weíre in la Joliette, which is 10 minutes from the centre and the port.
We have a Sea view and we can walk to the beach, hence, we donít need a
car. A small apartment is ideal if you like to travel. Just lock it and
walk away. The bigger the place, the more you need to worry about it when
youíre not there.
To give you an indication of what
youíll find. Yesterday we saw a small apartment at the port - prime location
- for 58 000 euro. Today, we stumbled on an artistís atelier - in the old
part of town - for 66 000 euro. Theyíre both in need of renovationÖbut
you get my drift.
180 000 euro will buy you a sizeable
apartment with a small garden near the Sea. Itís a mixed bag and it all
depends on your budget and what youíre looking for.
to study a range of whatís out there. Itís in French, but donít let that
deter you. Do a search on Marseille 1st or 2nd Arrondissement. À
Louer means (For Rent) and À Vendre (To Buy). Type in your price
range and voila!
Finally, if cities donít rock your
world and youíd rather explore the southern coast and country, check out
the following link. http://www.coastandcountryfrance.com/
Youíll find lots of information about the real estate legalities involved
(in English) and if you have any further enquiries, contact Maria Dailler
(Sheís an English lass married to a Frenchman and with 20 years experience
in the French real estate business, sheís as good as it gets.)
Ok, now that youíve found your very
own place in the sun, you probably want to know how you can stay. I arrived
in France without a clue in terms of how things work. My partner had even
less of an idea about the legal requirements and practicalities of staying
here on a permanent basis. (When youíre in love you donít worry about all
that boring stuff). Big mistake! Costly mistake!
Simply put, France is a red-tape
bureaucratic nightmare. Whether or not we got married in France was irrelevant.
Either way, I was required to return to Australia and apply for a long-term
one-year spousal visa. In the end it was a lot simpler for us to fly to
Australia, get married there, apply for the visa and come back. In fact
as a French citizen, all he needed to get married in Australia was a translated
birth certificate and a passport. Itís a lot more complicated for a French
person to marry in France. Yup. But thatís not where it ends. France is
the only EU country whereby marrying a French citizen does not automatically
give you any permanent rights. Iím here legally and I can work. But for
the next 5 years I am required to check in once a year and continue with
the formalities. As far as I know, after 5 years I can apply for a French
passport. Iím not complaining. I was lucky enough to kiss the kind of prince
that turns into a frog ? But for most people thatís probably not
From what I understand, here are
the ground rules for moving to France: You can
stay in France on a tourist visa for 3 Ė 12 months without any problems.
I you wish to stay longer, youíll have to apply for a one-year permit and
renew it each year until you can stay indefinitely. This can take anything
from 3 to 10 years. Bear in mind that after a year, youíll need to start
paying French taxes on worldwide income etc. Thereís a lot of information
available and everyoneís situation is unique, so it pays to do your research.
Last but not least, if you want to
eat as many croissants as you want then youíll need to have some sort of
income. Iím a classically trained actor. Thatís what I did in Australia
(when I got the work, which wasnít too often). I loved the actual work,
but hated the lifestyle. Hated what you had to do and who you had to be
to get work. Almost every day Iíd ask myself what Iíd do differently, given
the chance. The answer was this. I knew I wanted to be able work from anywhere
in the world, on my own terms. I wanted to be location independent. I wanted
to be free. But most importantly, I wanted to do something I love.
You may be lucky enough to have a
job like that already. Or a job that easily adapts itself online. My advice
is if you donít, and thatís what you envision, do what you have to do in
order to make it happen. Learn the skills. Do the course. Starting over
is never easy but itís also never too late. And dreams can come true but
you need to let yourself dream them. If I can do it, anyone can.
|See you in Marseille! -- Tanja Bulatovic
-- Writing & Photography by