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Is Bartering Alive and Flourishing


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This is my first time posting so please forgive me if I've put it in the wrong forum.

After years of dreaming and planning we are finally hoping to make the move next year based in part on Maylin Tan & Keith Bishop-Bourne's inspired idea of living in a yurt whilst doing up a derelict property. (France mag August edition).  We are going to unashamedly pinch their idea and this will then allow us to do up the property (once we've found it) at our leisure yet still be able to live in comfort (never fancied a caravan!).  The intention is to live a very simple self sustaining lifestyle. There are a couple of things I'm curious about and I'm hoping someone may be able to help:

Is bartering still alive and well in France.  We intend to make our money go a very long way but I am fortunate in having a husband who is multi talented and can turn his hand to loads of different things. We are in our forties but during his working life he's been an electrician, gas fitter, plumber, HVAC engingeer, car mechanic/electrics, HGV fitter and at the moment is an IT Consultant and that doesn't include all the hobbies (DIY, gardening, and so on) - told you he was multi talented. So we are  hoping to trade off his skills against things he can't do or more likely items we require but don't want to pay money for.  In the UK it seems that for everything you want or need money has to change hands so do we have our heads in the clouds thinking that we may be able to barter and hang on to our cash. (Oh he also worked as a cable car engineer but that's another story!)

Also (and I have read several threads on this but not really found the answer I was looking for), if we take any surplus produce (fruit, veg, eggs etc) to market and set up behind a few crates and one of those 1960's folding picnic chairs will we require a licence and if so what would the estimated cost of said licence be and can anyone give me any idea of what, if anything, we would need to pay for the pitch.  It's not unusual to visit rural markets and find the odd farmer's wife sitting selling her produce and I can't believe she would make much profit on a few boxes of beans or peaches.

Hope you managed to reach the end of this novel before falling asleep - many thanks!

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Hi Val

I don't think France is the place to come to with those dreams in mind! You cannot work or sell in France in the manner you describe. You have to pay your taxes.

It sounds like your husband has got plenty of skills and if they are transferable, he would do well to register as a self employed whatever or get a job. Similarly, I believe that to sell any produce at market, you have to be registered too, I appreciate what you are saying about the farmers wife selling things but her husband is almost certainly registered and paying his dues to the French government.

You could try small holding perhaps?

Unless you have got tons of money, don't be seduced into buying a massive wreck.  A rule of thumb from a lady on this forum that runs her own building business is that to get a place habitable it costs about 10 times the cost of the wreck and I can well believe it!


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Hi Viv

I obviously realise that we will need to pay taxes and have every intention of doing so.  I run a small craft supplies business which I intend to leave in the capable hands of my daughter. I will be taking some revenue from that on an ongoing basis and will need to pop back to the UK several times a year in order to attend shows.  Although I haven't got my head totally around the tax situation I am aware that I will need to declare my earnings both in the UK and France.  I am not trying to dodge my responsibilites just trying to eke out our income in the most sensible and economic way possible and we just wondered if we would be able to sell any excess produce to generate a few extra cents.

The reason I ask about bartering is that we watched a programme on TV last night 'No Going Back' and although the family concered were living in Spain they were bartering skills with their neighbours so we just wondered if similar experiences existed in France.

And as for doing up a wreck.  We are aware of the cost implications but view it as a long term project.  We are definitely not in any hurry.  Looking at the articicle in French Mag, Maylin Tan & Keith Bishop-Bourne have already been at the project for 3 years and only recently started work on their derilict buildings - that suits me!

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Please don't think I was insinuating that you were tax dodgers, that really wasn't my intention. I'm sure bartering does go on, the chap next to me gets his field mowed and ploughed and the farmer gets the hay. I just don't think it works on the scale that you might need to survive. As far as I am aware doing any sort of diy'ing for other people can be fraught with legal dangers.

But there are more knowledgeable people than me here!

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 I could be wrong but I seem to remember from previous posts that the authorities (the taxman) considers bartering in the way you describe, as income and wants a cut.

It may well go on, in a small way but look at some of the things you have listed

>he's been an electrician, gas fitter, plumber, HVAC engingeer, car mechanic/electrics, HGV fitter and at the moment is an IT Consultant<

Some are to do with building trades which require insurance, gas fitting qualifications, as far as I know are not transferable and there probably other things on the list that he would be unwise to tackle. There are issues about what would happen should he have an accident carrying out these jobs as well as the ever present danger that a legitimate worker will simply 'dob him in'

I'm sure it goes on but I think you are kidding yourselves if you think it can be a major factor in your new lifestyle.

As the other poster suggest, with all those skills perhaps he could find a job or set up a small company etc....

Sorry, I know it seems harsh..........of course others may know or think differently.

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I think that Viv is right. Batering for goods is something that is

quite common - hay for eggs, fruit for jam, that kind of thing.

However, as soon as one starts doing something that would require

registration at a Chambre des Metiers then it can start to be a prolem.

Consider things that you can do that would not require registration -

IT skills can be bartered for example, tools can be lent in return for

services, firewood is always an exchangable commodity.

As regards tax. Technically, goods and services received in barter are

regarded as taxable. It was this that was the great threat to the "time

bank" in the UK I think. That said, on a small scale it is unlikely to

be an issue. I have been told (unofficially I should stress so do not

take my word for this) that the impôts here regard activity with a

liability of less than €300 as being "negligible" and therefore

(effectively) exempt. Mind you, I wouldn't use that as a defence

myself. For casual exchanges between friends and neighbours, this

should be sufficient. It would be well worth your while, I think,

checking with your local mob and seeing what their attitude is.

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OK, I’ll just stick to hay and eggs so thanks for that Jon as it was the kind of answer I was looking for.


 I think I went into too much information on my husband’s skills.  It is not our intention for him to work at all, his initial main occupation will be renovating the property (aided and abetted by me) and my UK business will provide our income.  When renovations are complete we have several (legitimate) ideas of ways to generate an income, not least using his IT skills.  It is most definitely not our intention to go touting his skills in order to produce an illegal income.


If helping a neighbour with his DIY work in exchange for him reciprocating in some way is going to be akin to walking in a minefield then we will avoid it.  But it does seem a shame that we are unable to help each other without it becoming an issue.


Just to clarify – we wouldn’t do anything illegal, or potentially dangerous, we wouldn’t want to annoy any legitimate worker or the Taxman nor would we be silly enough to rely on bartering as a major factor in our new lifestyle.  We do actually respect the law, both in the UK and France, no matter how beaureacratic or silly it may appear sometimes.


Our intention is to live a very simple, self sufficient life.  We intend to grow our own food, use renewable energy and live a green, stress free lifestyle as is possible in a country we fell in love with in 1992.


We are not rich by any means but we will have enough to live the aforementioned simple lifestyle.  The original questions were put as mere ponderings, just small ways of potentially easing the cash flow.

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We have only lived here a few months, so i hope everyone will forgive my intrusion here, as i fully accept that i dont know much about living here yet.

I appreciate what you are asking, and the other posts are I am sure correct in what they say.   However, from the perspective of a new-comer i would say, yes there is a level of  bartering going on (i wouldnt even call it bartering really to be honest, more good-will amongst neighbours if you like).   I am sure that if you came to france and developed your life here a lot of both of your skills would be appreciated by your neighbours and you would receive compensation (for want of a better word) with the willing loan of their own skills.   So, in some ways what you are asking may well be possible, in an informal way.    However, in order to really keep this situation as one of good-will and assistance, which would presumably not incur a tax liability, you would also have to (I suggest) be here for quite some time before you were likely to build up your relationship with locals/neighbours before even a limited example of what you are considering may occur. 

As i said we have been here for 4 months, and i would say out of 6 neighbours, know 1 well, 1 passably well (chat about gardens and local things), 2 to say hello and pass odd comment with, and 2 who have just about brought themselves to nod at us in last few weeks !    It does take time to build up relationships.

Hope it works out for you and you make right decisions for you about coming here or not anyway.



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Thank you.  You've hit the nail on the head.  I fully appreciate it will take time, it was only watching the 'No Going Back' programme on TV last night that made me wonder if skills could be exchanged for mutual benefit so thought I'd ask the question.

We will definitely be doing the move.  We've put it off for too long now and a spate of ill health for both of us has made us realise that there is never going to be the right time and to just take the bull by the horns and go for it.

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I really don't wish to put a damper on your potential move to France, but you really do need to be clear about how it works here. A few eggs and a couple of jars of jam, fine, probably, but once you move beyond that you are in serious danger of falling foul of the authorities.

It isn't the "tax" as such, it's the social charges, health, URSSAF and pensions, this is what they really want here, and all activities with financial gain, or considered to be a form of financial gain will be scrutinised. It would be illegal to conduct any activity that requires qualifications or registration, that includes gardening and any form of building / decorating work without the specific Siret number.

Of course it goes on to some extent between French locals, but all it takes is one person, perhaps who doesn't like "incomers" to pick up the phone to the authorities and give your car number or other details.

I've seen it all, including people having their houses taken away before being deported, just be very careful.


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If it were me, I would plan that anything I could get for legal bartering is a bonus but not count on it as a means of support. I think you rely very heavily on bartering for income / getting things done, your dream will be shattered very quickly.

And as Chris says, the locals don't miss much and it only takes one.....[Www]

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But none of this stops you from informally helping your neighbours and friends and vice versa, i.e. lending a hand or giving them a pot of jam or some surplus fruit and veg.  It's if you start touting for business or agreeing to do jobs or give your produce in return for other goods or services that you are likely to land in hot water.  France has more than a few 'whistleblowers' and anonymous letters to the authorities about possible dodgy dealings are commonplace.

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[quote user="chris pp"]

I really don't wish to put a damper on your

potential move to France, but you really do need to be clear about how

it works here. A few eggs and a couple of jars of jam, fine, probably,

but once you move beyond that you are in serious danger of falling foul

of the authorities.

It isn't the "tax" as such, it's the social charges, health, URSSAF

and pensions, this is what they really want here, and all activities

with financial gain, or considered to be a form of financial gain

will be scrutinised. It would be illegal to conduct any activity that

requires qualifications or registration, that includes gardening and

any form of building / decorating work without the specific Siret


Of course it goes on to some extent between French locals, but all

it takes is one person, perhaps who doesn't like "incomers" to pick up

the phone to the authorities and give your car number or other details.

I've seen it all, including people having their houses taken away before being deported, just be very careful.



Quite. The €300 figure I have came from a friend who bartered hay (for

his horses) against some IT work the field owner wanted. My chum was

working as a financial adviser in France at the time and asked our

local impôts for guidence - amongst other things he thought it would be

useful to know in his line line of work.

The verbal response he got was that the impôts would

ignore "socially normal" barter (i.e. that which might be expected

reasonably between friends and neighbours) provided that the value of

the goods / services involved was "nominial". Pressed for a figure they

suggested that a liability of not more than €300 would probably be

ignored. What was made clear was clear was that activity levels that

could be equated with earning a living would be valued accordingly.

While I was living in the Netherlands, an official working for the

immigration in Rotterdam was discovered to have been helping young

ladies of foreign extraction with their visa applications in return for

sexual favours. In addition to being sacked, the value of the services

had received were totted up and he was presented with a tax bill. This

is, I think, called throwing the book at someone.

Me, I'll stick to the occaisonal "fruit for jam" trade. I think that counts as socially normal.

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Hi all,

I'd just like to add my halfpenny worth as well.....

I know of a chap who, a few years ago, was "helping" to roof a house, fell and broke his knee and had to be taken to hospital by car ( a very painfull process) and lie as to what actually happened. The problem was that he was not actually insured to do this work, so there could have been problems with who paid for his healthcare.

Also, worst case scenario.....hubby does some electrical work for someone and after he's finished there is a major incident involving the wiring at the property. Who is the owner (and his insurance company) going to hold responsible?

This is all aside from the old favourite here in my part of the world....you do  this for me and the next time I'm over I'll do that for you, only the next time I'll be too busy......etc.

My experience in France has been:  trust yourselves and very few others 'cos lots of others have their own interests at heart, not yours.

Cynical, yes but indepent and owing nothing to anyone!!!!

Good luck,


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Sorry to be a bit dense but what is a yurt? (yogurt/ yaht!) Just to put my spin on life here. It is not like the UK for living off the land and minding your own business and selling surplus skills or produce, I cringe when I watch River Cottage thingy as it appears to have no special kitchens and no licences, permits or siret numbers, no gendarmes to check on whos working with him. There is no fall back on the state should you not have sufficent money to feed your self or family or need medical attention the doctors money must always be paid out first before you can get it reimbursed my point being you 've got to have it in the first place. You will need to pay for your health contributions whether you are working for yourselves in a business or deemed to be early retired, you sound to be quite young ( Forties!) what will you do to contribute to your state pension and or provide for your retirement, as you won't get much if anything from the UK and you will need to get in the system here somehow, the best thing is to get a real job ( not easy!). The formentioned old lady at the market is proberbly a Farmer as in registered farmer and is allowed to sell surplus veg, fruit etc, farmers get alot of scope when it comes to topping up a meagre living ie; chambre d'hote, Ferme Auberg, selling produce etc, they don't have to full fill the same restuarant criteria to be able to serve food to people not staying with them. The key to this is having enough hectares, but being careful not to have too much as this I believe this causes more financial problems. Make sure if you are doing IT that where you intend to live has ADSL or broadband connections as a friend of ours who is an IT consultant has found it is not coming to his hamlet for an eternity and it is nigh impossible for him to conduct his full potential with out it. There are taxes on renovated properties when you have finished that are one off payments that spring out of nowhere and bring an out of season colour to your complection as panick sets in

Bartering does exsist, when you have built up relationships, safe trusting relationships, this can take time, how can you judge what your nieghbours will be like when you are buying your property, if you are rural there may not be that many people in the immediate area that can or will exchange skills, how long then will it take to build up relationships at monsuir brico whatsit if you dont get the chances to make these bonded relationships.

My advise is (contrary to the tone of this reply!) come, always try to live your dreams, but face and nail down the scary stuff  so that your dream does'nt go seriously wrong. Remember everything takes alot longer than you can anticipate not because of the french way of things but nine times out of ten its us that has to go round the houses to find the solutions. You need to have more money than you can dream of to support yourself until you reach the easier bits as a lot of people on this forum will tell you in the early days it is pay out, pay out pay out. I speak not as the wholyer than thou but as we have faced most of the issues that are on this forum ( save divorce and murder, working on it though!)have found ways round problems, changed our original intentions and learnt by our errors in alot of cases as I'm sure you will too and thats part of the challange. Good luck kind regards



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Sorry just re read my war and peace, and have learnt I need to go back to school to refresh both my grammer and spelling  (I can spell monsieur really!)  sorry folks, I think I've just fallen foul of wanting to give someone all the advice and lessons that I learnt in one swoop and so have bored everyone else to tears


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Hi Lilly

We obviously realise that it's all going to take time to build up relationships.  The intention is to live rurallly and I believe that it's therefore very important to try and build those relationships with your neighbours.  You never know what situations may arise when you need a friend close at hand.  We don't intend to rely on bartering, I was just curious Miss - honest!

We also realise we will have to contribute to the health system and make provision for pensions etc but as I mentioned in one of my previous posts I run a small web based craft supplies business here in the UK which my daughter will take over when we finally do leave.  I doubt it will ever make me rich but it does quite nicely and hopefully will continue to grow.

We have a couple of other ideas which we believe will bring in revenue but I'm not going into that now.  We are also very flexible and are quite prepared to change our original intentions if necessary  the only thing that is set in stone is that we will live a very simple life.  The stresses of UK living have taken their toll and before they get out of hand we are going to jump ship!

Your friend in IT, has he thought about satellite internet.  I actually found a link on this site for a company that charges £50 a month for it (installation costs were about £1000 I think) and I believe that you would also be able to use a phone through it.  Unfortunately can't remember who it is was but you should be able to find it.  This is my hubby's plan and over the last couple of years he's been keeping an eye on the people who provide satellite internet and their prices are really dropping - which can only be good news.

We haven't been put off by the negative comments, we appreciate all the pitfalls (well perhaps not all), we are not afraid of hard work and we are definitely going to go for it.  You only live once and when something happens to bring you mortality to the fore it definitely makes you put things in perspective and to go and follow your dreams not matter what!


PS. Please try harder with the grammer or I will have to set you some lines!!!

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Hi Lilly

Forgot to tell you what a YURT is - sorry.

It's a traditional Mongolian structure.  It's circular in design, the walls are made from a wooden framework and the roof is made from wooden poles.  Once the basic structure is erected it is covered in thick wool padding and then on top of that a canvas cover is fitted.  It has windows and a proper wooden door and although is basically a glorified tent it is very robust, very insulated and very comfortable.  (Mongolian winters can be very harsh).  Once erected they will last for years.  They can be fitted with a wooden floor and heated with a wood burning stove. Some of the ones we have found on the internet are really snazzy with complete kitchens, bathrooms, proper bedrooms etc and really fired our imagination.  According to the article in France Mag because they are not classed as permanent structures they don't require planning permission, but this is obviously something we would discuss with our local Mairie once we have found our property.  We anticipate it being far more comfortable than a mobile home would be.

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As has been said, bartering will work if and when you make new friends and manage to build up the necessary  kind of rapport and trust.

Living the simple life is a great idea and can work BUT look on the dark side and try to imagine just how you would cope if one or other of you should suddenly become ill (e.g. serious or long term illness) and therefore not able to do the DIY work or grow the fruit and veg. Hopefully this would never happen but it could.

The "bartering" in the Spanish, Place in the Sun program may look good and exciting on T.V. but be very wary of wearing those rose tinted specs.

I know you can't live life waiting for disasters to arrive but it helps to be prepared.

Bon courage

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