Setting up business in France

For many Britons, France is the obvious choice to start a business, given its proximity, excellent transport links with the UK and the fact that many UK expatriates are located over the Channel, meaning a potential ready-made British market awaits. However, there are several things to bear in mind before you book your Eurostar ticket.

First of all, don’t fall for the myth that France is essentially the same kind of market as the UK. Although there are similarities, there are also major differences that could scupper a naïve entrepreneur.

Do your research into whether your business idea could work by looking on the internet to see whether such businesses already exist in France. If at all possible, speak to someone running a business in your chosen sector to find out how they managed. If there are very few such businesses around, you may have to face up to the possibility that there isn’t enough French demand to support your idea. Better you find this out before you take the plunge.

At the other end of the scale are those businesses that are proving so popular with Brits that the market is becoming saturated. Gîtes, holiday homes available for rent, are a classic example of this, now reaching the stage at which only certain French locations can support such an enterprise all year round.

Gîtes have proved so popular because many of them are exempt from French business law that requires new businesses to register with the Chamber of Commerce and pay taxes and social security contributions from the moment they are formed.

This means that anyone starting up in France would need to have significant cash set aside from the outset to cover these impositions and would also need to be confident of their business succeeding and generating revenue fairly quickly. Social security contributions can be up to €9,000 (over £6,000) a year.

The documentation required to start up depends on the business type you choose. Click here for a good overview of the forms you need to fill in.

Expat businesses must beware different social systems

Central Brittany can be a hugely attractive place for Britons to live and set up a new business, but those hoping to do so must be aware of the different social system in operation in the country, says the Association Integration Kreizh Briezh.

More and more Brits are following a growing trend in moving abroad, with France among the top destinations for people looking to live and work away from their homelands. In fact, recent figures from the Institute for Public Policy Research showed that around 200,000 Brits are now living permanently in France.

To meet the growing presence of British nationals among their community, the Association Integration Kreizh Breizh (AIKB) is a new organisation aimed at helping newcomers settle more easily. Although the region has many attractive qualities, office manager Elie Barbeau for AIKB has also warned that those people looking to start a business in the area must take the country’s own systematic differences fully into account before they begin.

‘Central Brittany is very attractive by the quality of life and… the Breton culture,’ says Ms Barbeau. Many expats try to set up their own business and the problem is that they don’t realise that the social charges are completely different to England for example.’

Nantes, Rennes and Brest are Brittany’s largest metropolitan areas, with their combined population now approaching 2 million people.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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