June 15, 2013

The Cost of Living in France - Normandy Edition

Moules de Barfleur

Since moving to Normandy in December 2011, I've had a dozen or so readers ask if we've found the cost of living in the north of France to be more or less expensive than in the south of France. Here's what I've learned over the last eighteen months.

Everyone already knows that moving is expensive. In France, rental properties often come with only the key and the kitchen sink. You're lucky if they leave you with some light bulbs still in the sockets. We were prepared to either rent a truck and move furniture and appliances from our house in the south up to Normandy, or start over and buy everything new/used. Either way it was going to cost a bundle.

We decided to take our time and explore the area a bit before signing a lease on anything, so we spent our first month renting a gîte. Our days were spent driving around and getting to know which towns and villages we liked, and which ones we didn't.
The rest of our time was spent sitting in a café that offered free wi-fi, scouring the local real estate websites. We learned the hard way that the promise of wi-fi at a vacation rental can be, well, misleading.

Fromages Normands

les Halles

One day I signed on to leboncoin.fr and saw a little cottage with red shutters and teal green trim and I just knew. That was going to be our home.
We arranged to see it that week and loved it from the moment we walked into the garden. And the best part was that it was rented almost fully furnished! No need to rent a truck and schlep furniture across the country or shell out thousands to buy a new fridge, oven, bed, couch, etc. The deposit, agent's fees and all the other costs associated with renting a new place had already drained most of our savings account and left us feeling a bit shellshocked by the time we settled in.

But we've slowly recovered.

Pays d'Auge


Our current situation is this: here in Normandy we pay rent, taxes, electricity, water and renters insurance in addition to paying taxes, electricity, water and homeowners insurance on the house in the south, until it sells. Fingers crossed that will happen sooner rather than later!

So we're spending more every month than we did before. However, I'm earning more money than I did in the south, so after the initial moving costs and the fact that we didn't have to pay rent or a mortgage before moving, our monthly expenses are pretty much the same.

*Rent 700 € 
*Heating Fuel (to fill up the tank twice in the winter) 100 €
EDF (electricity) 55 € 
Phones and Internet 55 €
Heath Insurance Top Up (to cover the 30% that isn't covered by the state) 80 € 
Car and Home Insurances 70 €
Taxes (habitation and foncières and TV) 70 €
Water 30 €
Fuel (to fill up the car twice) 130 € 
Groceries (approx.) 500 €

Total 1790 €

Eating out and wine are the two things that we have found to be slightly more expensive in Normandy. Groceries, water, fuel and everything else seem to be about the same.
One thing that is definitely cheaper - a round trip train ticket to Paris!


Today the exchange rate is 1€ = $1.33.

When I wrote my first cost of living post in 2008, we were spending 800 € a month and the exchange rate was 1€ = $1.48.
Two years later I updated our situation. In 2010 we were spending 880 € a month and the exchange rate was 1€ = $1.24.
In the summer of 2011 I wrote my third post on the subject. At that time we were spending 1005 € a month and the exchange rate was 1€ = $1.44.

*Costs in Normandy that we didn't have in the Languedoc

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