End of the Affair? Britons Quit France for the Home Life
Terry Kirand Rebekah Curtis, The Independent (London, England)
When Steve Howe moved to the south of France in 2000, he thought he had found the good life. He had a bright business idea and his future, he believed, was in the Riviera sun.
After five years, disillusioned with both the aggressive approach of the French tax authorities and the slow pace of doing business, he returned to Britain and now runs his company from Bristol.
He is just one of an increasing number of British people from the many thou-sands who have moved across the Channel in recent years - often beguiled by television programmes - but are now returning, having found the lifestyle did not live up to expectations.
Mr Howe, 36, said: "I just found it easier to run things from here, although ironically, we are serving the south of France and I still fly there about once a month. Here, I have been able to expand my company from two freelance to 10 full time. We pay reasonable taxes, but the wages are higher." He now publishes two business directories, one aimed at English speakers in the Riviera and another for the Mediterranean yachting world.
Mr Howe was on an extended holiday from his job in advertising sales when he ended up in Antibes. He said: "I'd had this idea for a Yellow Pages-style business directory and thought that was where I was destined to be for a while. I found a great place to stay, moved all my stuff over and was en-joying living in Antibes, which is a party town.'
But he found the tax authorities and bureaucracy difficult. "The time spent preparing papers, accounts, paying accountants, lawyers, not to mention the worry, is horrendous," he said. "How can a business run with the tax man constantly breathing down your neck?" Other problems stemmed from French attitudes: "Everything shuts for two hours at lunchtime and if you ask for something to be done - like business cards or an internet connection - it can take ages."
Mr Howe learnt French and said it was necessary to do so. "But even though I speak fluent French, I had and have no real French friends," he said.
Although the number of people moving to France remains high, the amount returning has dramatically increased over the past couple of years. …