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Shopping

Shopping in France is a different experience than what you are probably used to in the UK especially in Brittany.

Apart from a few, nearly all shops are closed on a Sunday, most local shops also shut on a Monday. In addition nearly every shop closes at 12.00 for lunch and doesn't re-open until 2-2.15pm.
There is a more relaxed attitude as well so for example at a supermarket you may well find the cashier having a long chat to a customer even when there is a queue waiting. All of this can seem very frustrating at first.

This can come as a bit of a shock after getting used to supermarkets open around the clock, also the pricing structure seems to be different. In the UK we have come accustomed to continual offers "buy one get one free etc" and also expecting to be able to find any product whether it is in season or not.
Here, in Brittany the "Promotions" generally only last a few days but can be very good for example, fresh sardines in our local "Intermarche" last week were just 1.70 euros a Kilo and generally speaking, produce is a lot more locally produced and consequently seems tastier.
Buying a house

The procedure for buying a house in France is different to that in the UK and there are a number of things to bear in mind.

The sale of the house is handled by the "Notaire" who normally acts for both the buyer and seller he or she is impartial and acts as the French State's representative. The notaire will compile a report "dossier de diagnostic technique" which will cover and give details on such things as termites, electrical wiring, drainage, asbestos, energy perforamance etc but not a valuation. Remember that although they have a legal obligation to comply with the law it is not their job to offer you advice that you may be used to getting from a solicitor in the UK.
The Notaires fees including all stamp duties etc will probably be about
6%-8% of the purchase price
When buying a house from an Estate Agent ( immobilier ) it is normal in France for the buyer to pay the agents fees which should be included in the advertised price, these are normally a lot higher than the equivelent in the UK and can be around 5%-10% acording to the property.

There is no "Subject to contact" as in the UK when you make an offer in France, once it is accepted and subject to a 7 day cooling off period then both the buyer and seller are obligated to proceed with the sale/purchase. This is called a "Compromis de Vente" and is the official sale agreement a deposit of 10% is also required at this time

The next stage after all the enquiries and reports have been made by the Notaire is the signing of the deed of sale "Acte Authentique" you will need fully cleared funds deposited with the Notaire in advance of this
The Notaire will read out all the clauses to you to make sure you understand them, you may need an interpreter to attend if your French is not good enough, quite often the estate agent will do this but If one has to be provided by the Notaire a charge may be made.

Electricity

We, like the majority of people have our electricity supplied br EDF the state owed supplier. After completing the purchase of your house you may need to ask the notaire for an assetation number which you will need to supply to EDF to open an account. In France there are different fixed Monthly tariffs according to the level of supply. You can choose between 3kw and 36kw, the higher the level the higher the Monthly tariff.
3KW may well be OK for say a small one bedroomed cottage and 6kw would probably be enough for most reasonable sized houses without electric heating. We have a 9kw supply for a 5 bedroomed house with electric radiators and have found this to be adequate. The Monthly charge for our 9kw supply ( October 2012 ) is 7.87 euros plus tax.
There are a number of options available for the supply we have a
"Tariff Bleu" contract that gives us cheaper eclecticity during the night, we pay .0916 per KWH during the day and .0567 per KWH during the night both are plus taxes and suplimentary charges. ( October 2012 )
EDF, read the meter twice a year and send out bills every 2 Months, you can opt for paying a regular amount each Month in which case this is adjusted at the end of the year to the actual charges.
There is an excellent English speaking helpline
00 33 ( 0 )5 62 16 49 08 if you need to speak to them. If the meter is outside the house they will just arrive and take the reading otherwise they will make an appointment, If they make the appointment time there is no extra charge however if you want to make a specific time there is a charge of 29.11 euros
( October 2012)

One of the peculiarities of French electricity supply is that you can choose the amount of power you want to come into the property from 3 Kilowatts to 36 Kilowatts!

It may well be the case that the level of the KW supply of the previous owner is higher or lower than your own needs.

You need to establish with the owner and/or EDF the level of the supply and decide whether it will meet your requirements.

The level of supply and current tariff arrangements are stated on the back of the electricity bill, if you can get one from the current owner.

If you have few electrical items you would probably be able to manage with 3KW, but a safe bet for a modern family household would be 6KW, although you would probably need more if you have full electric central heating.

Alternatively, you may want to start on the lowest supply and, if the supply trips out when you are using different electrical appliances in the house, upgrade to a higher supply.

Television
There are very few programs in English on French TV, however pretty much all of Brittany is covered by Astra satellite.
Like the majority of UK expats I suspect, I have a satellite dish and receive the full range of programs available on "Freesat"
I already had a "Freesat" box with twin recording drives which I bought over with me and had a dish and wiring installed over here for around 200 euros.
As in the UK, a TV license is required, this covers any number of TVs in the house and will be free to those over 60 who qualify.
Top Tip.
There are a number of Internet sites that stream TV, I am not sure how legal this is or whether it will continue but at present it is quite possible to watch hundreds of channels this way.
My favorite is Filmon ( see link in right hand column ) I actually watch this on my Ipad but will work just as well on other tablets and smartphones.
Filmon Streaming Internet TV

EDF French electricity company website.
Winter Fuel Allowance

Anyone resident in France coming from the UK and over the age o 60 is entuitled to claim the UK winter fuel payment which is currently £100 for a single person and £200 for a married couple.
The ruling on this changed in June 2012 when persons who moved to France before they were 60 and unable to claim before became entitled after a European ruling.
If you do have a problem and you are not receiving your allowance the number to ring is
0044 1912187777
from 8am to 8pm weekdays, you will need to have your National Insurance number to give to them
See link under website addresses
Water

All water supplies are metered in France and read normally once a year. The cost of the water charge comprises of a standing charge which includes a sewarage charge if connected to mains drainage and a consumption charge.
An average cost per house connected to mains draiage would be around 200-300 Euros a year
There are 3 water companies in France however your water will probably be supplied by Veolia Water which incidently is the largest water supply company in the world.
Water Agency for Brittany

Veolia Water
Track your ferry Click on the map for real time ferry progress
Winter Fuel Allowance Claim form for 2012/2013 winter fuel allowance
SPANC Do you need your Fosse Septique ( septic tank ) inspected to meet French regulations?
EU Pet Passport download pet passport forms here