Living France - - LIFESTYLE -

For Mandy, liv­ing in France has been a long-held dream. “I stud­ied French at univer­sity and, as part of the course, spent two years liv­ing near Paris,” she says. “I loved the coun­try and longed to live here.”

Mandy fi­nally got her wish in 2006, when she, to­gether with her hus­band Si­mon, 46, and daugh­ter Amy, now 16, de­cided to make the move across the Chan­nel. “We were go­ing to move on re­tire­ment,” she ex­plains, “but sud­denly thought, why wait?”

The fam­ily were wel­comed into the com­mu­nity with open arms, and, af­ter a pe­riod of set­tling in, joined their lo­cal events com­mit­tee ( comité des fêtes) where they were able to socialise and make friends. “Join­ing the com­mit­tee was great,” says Mandy. “We made lots of really good friends.”

While Mandy was al­ready flu­ent, she no­ticed that her hus­band Si­mon’s lim­ited French im­proved by mix­ing with lo­cals. “Si­mon’s French has really im­proved as a re­sult of spend­ing so much time with our French friends,” she says. “If you spend an evening or a week­end sur­rounded by French peo­ple, you’re forced to use the lan­guage and you soon im­prove.”

Nine years on, Mandy – a for­mer bilin­gual PA – runs a lan­guage as­sis­tance com­pany, Tour­nesol Lan­guage Ser­vices, help­ing non-speak­ers with ev­ery­thing from phone calls to prob­lem-solv­ing, and, de­spite hav­ing no in­ter­est in pol­i­tics, has be­come a mem­ber of the lo­cal coun­cil.

Mandy’s po­si­tion on the coun­cil cer­tainly wasn’t a planned move. In fact, her first re­ac­tion when she was ap­proached by the mayor was to refuse. “I was wor­ried about the time com­mit­ment in­volved,” she says. “How­ever, he came back sev­eral times and asked so nicely, I didn’t like to say no!” she ad­mits. “We know him really well from be­ing on the events com­mit­tee, and he knows I par­tic­i­pate and get stuck in, so was really keen to get me on board.”

One of the rea­sons for the mayor’s ea­ger­ness to re­cruit Mandy was his de­sire to have a Bri­tish rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the list. “There are lots of Bri­tish fam­i­lies liv­ing lo­cally,” ex­plains Mandy, “and he wanted them to have a voice on the coun­cil. He also needed more fe­male coun­cil­lors, so I ticked two boxes for him. No won­der he was so keen to have me on board!”

Hav­ing been se­lected by the mayor, Mandy was added to the list of can­di­dates, but didn’t need to cam­paign for her place. “I was given the im­pres­sion that if the mayor ap­proved of me be­ing on the list, then so would the vot­ers!” she re­veals. “Some­how I ended up with plenty of votes – more than some of the French can­di­dates!”

The meet­ings, held on a monthly ba­sis, have been a real eye-opener for Mandy.

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