We will be newbies in a few months' time - we have made the decision - we are not coming to live in France for the 'dream' - been there, done that in Spain for the last 8 years ....... but we would like to hear some comments from people who live here - the ups - the downs - any regrets - the positives. We would be interested in your views.
We moved to France in 1997 and in June 2003 my husband decided a move to Spain would be a great idea. Not so ! It was the most miserable time I have ever experienced in my life ! I hated it,!, Its bureaucratic system,its rude arrogant people who made it clear you were not wanted its dirt & heat !! Everything! Its medical system is to say the least poor and if you don't speak the language even worse !
I left Spain 6-12-2006 and could tell you the time the aircraft passed over the so called wonderful Mar Menor, the happiest moment I could remember since the day I arrived there! 2 months holiday and reality kicked in. The only honest professional person I met was a legal assessoria, still a friend today.
France again 7-12-2006 and we have never looked back! Yes, it has a laborious bureaucratic system, but its nothing like Spain. French bureaucrats can be very rude indeed!! But you learn to give as good as you get, a little more politely. It does help to learn the language but it isn't a barrier if its poor, the French appreciate you try and are willing to help and most of all are honest!! We are fortunate to have lived in one village and 2 communes over the years and have English and French friends dotted throughout all three places in different regions. We have just one British couple who we befriended many years ago in the first village we lived in. We still live within commuting distance as we get older, and although our husbands are now in poor health, we are close and I cannot imagine not sharing my problems with her, that is a forever friendship all the rest have gone back to UK or had holiday homes in France only.
I cannot speak for others, but if you love a simple life and don't want to run off to UK to see friends and want to enjoy a much more frugal way of life (It is expensive now in France) prefer to grow your own veg , will eat rabbit, as well as chicken and occasional wild boar, if of course you like meat! If you enjoy cooking, its much cheaper to change to the good old days of baking your bread,cakes etc. Collecting wild blackberries and making sloe wine or gin, its fun and its a contented way of life.
It is a different way of life to the UK, and the French are early to bed and early to rise in the morning! We are still very British in our own way regarding this, and rise later and go to bed much later too!Our lovely French neighbours are not "popper inners for a cup of tea!!" They do call in on average once or twice a month, always wave or greet us warmly when we meet. They will stop and natter even if you dont understand all they chat about!!Share your excess of salad, veg etc with them and they will share theirs with you. They will also if approached as new comers help you find people to resolve plumbing issues etc, there is always someone they know. It isnt always necessary to join a British group, although there are very decent people out there, sadly there are also those not so desirable and you will hear this as a new comer or even if you have been here for years! The only difference really is that you grow wiser and can identify things that are not quite right, its an experience..
Join your commune activities, just a couple in the summer and Xmas time, you dont need to be present at everything! Spring and Summer is a wonderful time enjoyed by all, but once winter is in you will see less of your French neighbours, particularly if in a small commune, it will be only when bread or little vans arrive in the commune, loud hooting, will alert you to their arrival and everyone meets, greets and vanishes into the warm. Winter can be a very lonely time, if you don't like your own company and it will not change regarding French culture, but an excellent time to do the many jobs in the house you can ignore the rest of the year .
You will have gathered by now I love France! Its the life that suits me , its not isolated, its not stress free either at times, but there is for me a peace, and quality I could never really explain, as every day is different and contented.We will never leave France it is our home and we have happiness. It is achievable, it wont happen over night by you will know in your heart after you first really cold winter if its truly for you.
Thank you Saffie for taking the time to reply to me - I expected a lot of moaning and groaning (similar to what I would expect here in Spain) - but you have reassured me that the quiet life we now seek is out there- the simple life is very appealing to us and we are more than willing to exchange the late nights and stress of the music scene and entertainment we have been involved in for a more gentle pace of life, although very willing to join in local events and be part of a commune. Fortunately my French isn't too bad - just rusty.... never did manage to hold much of a conversation in Spanish - probably because even in the quiet backwater of Murcia we live on an urbanisation heavily populated with Brits and people speaking English everywhere we go. Bureaucracy - well we are used to that in Spain - always seem to be paying out for something but not getting much back in return. From what you have said I think la vie en France is going to suit us just fine.
Been here 18 years and, most of the time 'regrete rien'. My only advice would be to give a great deal of thought over where you decide to settle. We have lived in 4 different locations; a hamlet, very small town, rural isolation and, now, a larger town. If you are on the mature end of the age spectrum I'd strongly recommend town living; Somewhere that has a regular market and where you can walk to a variety of shops and restaurants, maybe has a cinema and some kind of cultural identity. Too many newbies make the mistake of opting for the rural idyll and living to regret it after a couple of years. Having to constantly rely on driving somewhere for even the smallest items has become an expensive chunk of people's budget. Hope this helps;
I would second what maison writes: town living, unless you are not social in any way.
France is nice. While that might not seem very descriptive, it sums up how I feel about it. It's not exciting, or stunning, or exotic, or ... whatever. It's okay, it's fine. It's pretty safe (I have never felt under threat), the people are friendly enough, I could wish for more vegetarian fare so that those of us who don't do meat at every meal could enjoy the restaurant life, but we are fine cooking for ourselves. It's not a hardship to not go to restaurants. I also sometimes wish they didn't roll up the sidewalks at 8pm, but they do and that's okay too.
I have been frustrated with things not working well, but have also been delighted and surprised with other things working very well. I would say that's about what I'd say about my home country, too.
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