Live your best life in France: Relocation and Business Services

March 7, 2024 | Blog, Home & Relocation, My Story

Relocation & Business Expert Tracy Leonetti has lived in the beautiful South of France for over 30 years. In 2012, she founded Leonetti Business Services (LBS), offering paperwork and relocation support for expats in France. LBS helps people overcome the challenges of bureaucracy to follow their dreams of living their best French life. 

Here Tracy shares with us her experience of moving to France, getting set up abroad and what motivated her to start her own business helping others do the same. 


Living Your Best Life in France

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where are you originally from?

I grew up in the early 1970’s in Yorkshire, England as the middle child of 3 girls. Times were tough, money was difficult to come by and my parents worked hard to provide for us.

 

Living in Yorkshire Tracy Leonetti

 

Did you always dream of living in France? What first inspired you to consider a move?

My dream of moving to a foreign country began at the ripe old age of 8. I spent most of my early years daydreaming about where I wanted to live one day and France was often at the top of my list. 

As I got older my daydreaming transformed into a vision and I travelled extensively looking for my dream home. It was not until I arrived on the Côte d’Azur in 1992 that I really started to settle down.

My childhood years taught me that no matter what baggage you have, no matter where you come from and no matter what you have endured, that your destiny and decisions lie firmly in your own hands. You can have or do whatever you desire, you just need to believe it is possible to make it happen. My life so far has taught me that it can be a bit of a roller coaster and that sometimes you just need to jump on and enjoy the ride!!

 

relocating to France

How did your relocation to France come about? What drew you to this region in particular?

I had travelled quite extensively for 3 years, living my dream when an old boyfriend came to visit me in Bermuda.

He was based in France at the time and asked if I wanted to join him. Ever the adventurer, I said yes and my life in France began shortly afterwards. At least that’s the short version of the story – you’d need to have a coffee with me to hear the longer one!

How would you describe your experience of moving to France? Were there any unexpected challenges or pitfalls?

To be honest, it was a huge challenge. Having lived in a few countries, I thought moving just across the Channel would be easy. How wrong I was! I underestimated the amount of time everything would take and there was a never-ending stream of paperwork to complete.

Of course, 30 years ago, there was no internet, no email exchanges and nothing was online. They lost my paperwork many times and requested the same documents over and over again. It took me 2 years to get into the healthcare system and access the CAF (Caisse des Allocations Familiales) for my daughter. My French was limited at the time which didn’t help, but my determination was stronger!

Did you speak the language when you arrived?

I only had school-level French which wasn’t great! I certainly was not equipped for the bureaucracy, which of course was all in French. I quickly had to motivate myself to learn the language and found lots of tips and tricks to be able to practise without having to pay for lessons, which I could not afford.

I did an exchange programme in a private school, working in their office in exchange for free lessons. I spoke regularly with elderly people at local cafés and met up with French people who wanted to learn English, so we could help each other. Learning French is the only way to truly integrate into the country.  Don’t go for perfection, just try and communicate.

 

Moving to France

 

How long would you say it took you to feel “settled”? Was there any particular thing or milestone that made you feel truly at home in France?

Living on the Cote d’Azur was a huge pleasure, with its beaches, mountains and forests. I loved just enjoying a coffee on the seafront and still do now. The small things in life are the best and everything was close by to enjoy. However, to be honest, it took me a while to settle into France and feel really at home. I think I felt more ‘at home’ once I had mastered the language which took around 2 years.

What motivated you to set up your own business?

I worked in a corporate job for 20 years in sales, marketing and event management, but felt a little bit like a square peg in a round hole. I needed something more fulfilling and wanted to be closer to my customers.

I left my job and took 6 months off to think about my future and decided that the French bureaucracy was still a nightmare. Nothing has changed in 20 years to help people integrate. It shouldn’t be difficult to move to this amazing country, and yet it is. So I started planning the business and in 2012 I went live – helping people overcome their paperwork problems when moving, living and creating a business in France.

Tell us more about LBS – what kinds of services do you offer?

We offer a wide range of services from visas & immigration, healthcare and carte vitale applications through to driving licence exchanges, car registrations and business creation and management. Our mission is to enhance the speed at which people integrate into France.  We adapt to each client’s needs and budget.

We also have different year-long offerings to help people with moving to France (Prestige package), living in France (Living package) and running businesses (Entrepreneur package).

 

LBS Paperwork specialists in France

 

What does ‘Living your best life’ mean to you? Can it be defined?

Living your Best Life with Serenity is the real meaning behind LBS! It is my daily mantra. Working with French bureaucracy can be hard, each day we deal with visas, immigration, dealing with the prefecture and the CPAM. The rules change regularly and we need to always be on the lookout for those changes.

So for me, each day we (the team) must find pockets of joy in everything we do.  

Living your Best Life is about finding the good amongst the bad and the pleasure in the challenge.  It’s about being thankful and it’s about enjoying your time now and being grateful for those special moments that you share each day with your family, friends and team.   

My LBS team work relentlessly with me to help our clients live their best lives in France. Every one of them are gems. Their experience, their energy, their determination and we all share the same value system which starts with authenticity.

What does a typical day look like for you and your team?

In the name of living my best life, my day starts with a coffee in the village or on my terrace whilst I prepare my day ahead with a list of actions and what I would like to achieve for the day, which includes my actions too. The team has the same approach to their day – prepare it and then live it.

If I have any client meetings, they will typically start at 11 am and in between I will work on processes, content, marketing and feedback on client files. We have a team meeting every Monday to go through client files and share any feedback.

 

French Paperwork nightmares

 

Is French bureaucracy truly as complex and tricky as they say?

I’d like to say that it isn’t, but it truly is. When I started this business in 2012, the aim was to help streamline the processes for our clients.  As time has moved forward, the simplification of the systems promised by the government has not happened. Yes, most have gone online but that does not make them easy! As an example, setting up a small business nowadays has become more complex than ever.

The problem is often a lack of response from the government organisations so you are continually chasing them.  Even in 2024, they still ask for the same documents over and over again, possibly because they have lost the files.

In addition, they are almost impossible to ‘see’ nowadays. Whilst the internet has allowed processes to go online, it has taken away the ‘human’ aspect of the processes.  If you have an issue with your paperwork, it is very hard to get the URSSAF or the CAF to see you physically.  

Getting an appointment with the prefecture is very complicated and takes time.  Many of the organisations have huge backlogs and do not respond to any emails. In addition, many of their websites are in French and don’t cater to an international audience.  So, yes, it’s still very tricky but that is why we are here, to take away that frustration from our clients.

Where are the majority of your clients from?

Before Brexit, our main client base internationally was American. Since Brexit, this has changed and we have a huge British clientele.  I am glad to say that we still have our Americans and a few Canadians.

What is your favourite thing about the work that you do?

All the people that I meet either via a Residency & Relocation planning meeting or at one of the property shows or webinars that I attend regularly all have a dream, they want to move to France.  

The fact that I am part of that journey and can help them make it happen is a huge source of joy for me. I am part of their journey towards living their dream life in France and that is just amazing. I don’t get out of bed in the morning to work on paperwork, I get out of bed in the morning intending to help someone else move to France and live their best life.

 

Live your best life in the French Riviera

 

What have been the biggest changes you’ve witnessed since Brexit?

The increase of course in our British clients and their need for support with visas to move to France. I also see that those who wish to buy properties in France now only want to do so once they are sure that their path to a visa is secure.  I do lots of consultations with clients before they move to France and before they buy, to reassure them, answer their key questions and give them clarity on their next steps. It’s very important to plan for this.

It has been a real challenge from a paperwork perspective as it has become increasingly difficult to get appointments at the TLS centres in the UK. We also have to keep on top of all the changes and updates on behalf of our clients. 

There are also different ongoing problems with the WARP cards as the prefectures continue to catch up with the laws that were agreed on.

Do you think that Brexit has deterred British people from moving to France?

No – in fact Brexit seems to have increased people’s determination to move to France, no matter what it takes. In the beginning, there was a pause, while people wondered how this would affect them.  Now it seems that the British are as hopeful as ever to move to France, at least those that I speak with regularly. They have their dream and they are working towards it, one step at a time.

 

life on the French Riviera

 

How would you describe life on the French Riviera? What is your favourite thing about it?

Life in the South of France can be busy! There is always something to do and to see, with many different exhibitions and shows. We are just finishing Carnival time and the Fête du Citron in Menton. There are so many amazing villages to visit and we all know that the microclimate is what attracts many people to this area.

However for me, my favourite things from over 30 years ago when I came to France are still the same.  Taking a gentle walk in the early morning along the seafront in Golfe Juan, having a coffee in the village in St Cezaire, a walk on the ramparts in Antibes and lunch with friends or family.  Little pockets of pleasure; that is living my best life in France.

Life on the French Riviera

What advice would you share for someone who is dreaming of a life abroad but feels intimidated or isn’t sure where to start?

If it’s something you have been dreaming about, then make it happen! It will take time, energy and resources but it will be worth it. Don’t give up on your dream just because it’s harder. You just need the right advice from the right people.

You must get clarity on your questions and the online forums can be a source of information but also a source of bad information and stress. Please avoid taking advice from friends and family, who mean well but don’t necessarily have all the latest up-to-date information.

Feel free to reach out to us at LBS if you feel you would like a helping hand to live your best life in France.  We would love to be part of your journey.

 

Live your best life in France

Find out more about Leonetti Business Services and the different packages they offer. To enquire about working with Tracy and her team contact tracy@lbsinfrance.com.


A Moving to France Glossary:

 

TLS Centres

TLScontact is the company that runs Visa Application Centres in the Uk. They are a person’s first port of call when applying for a visa to move to France.

Prefecture

France is divided into different departments and each department has a prefecture. Part of the Ministry of the Interior, each prefecture is responsible for the administration of ID cards, driving licenses, visas and permits and more.

CAF

The Caisse des Allocations Familiales is one of the main branches of the French social security system, responsible for distributing financial aid and allowances for individuals and families such as child benefit allowance etc.

URSSAF

URSSAF (or “Unions de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales”) is the institution responsible for collecting social security contributions from companies and self-employed individuals.

CPAM

The Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) is the French national insurance fun, which reimburses the cost of healthcare.

Carte Vitale

The Carte Vitale is a health insurance card that gives an individual access to France’s national health care system.

WARP Cards

The Withdrawal Agreement Residence Permit is a Brexit-related card available to British citizens who were residents of France before 1st January 2021. It was created as part of the Brexit Withdrawal agreement to maintain British residents’ rights to live and work in France.

 


Read more recommendations and advice on moving to France

Contact Details:

+33 6 59 04 01 51
tracy@lbsinfrance.com
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