Take our advice
Expats who have already made the move across the Channel share their words of wisdom
47, HÉRAULT Don’t expect it to be like the movies Having dreamed of living in France for years, former marketing manager Annette decided to make the move on her own in 2008. She is now happily settled in a house close to Montpellier, with new partner Miles, 53.
I’ve always loved the sun-drenched, laid-back French culture portrayed in the movies, and have enjoyed family holidays in the country for as long as I can remember. As a fluent French speaker, when I made the move in 2008 I imagined myself living a similar life to the one I had in the UK – but speaking French, rather than English. I didn’t realise that the difference in our heritage and customs was as vast as it turned out to be.
I remember the first time I walked into the local bar, and it was as if tumbleweed had blown through! I had to rethink my place in society and the way I perceive myself. I also found it difficult to understand why everything took so long – it took me seven years to get my Carte Vitale (health card) simply because a change of address wasn’t processed properly.
It’s taken me a while to adjust, but I love life in rural France now and accept how things are. I often tell people it’s like living in the UK 40 years ago; it’s a rural environment, a slow pace of life. It’s glorious, but it takes a bit of getting used to.
Thankfully, my experience hasn’t gone to waste. I now have a job helping expats with their admin, at a company called Renestance. In that way I can make the transition easier for others.”
76, CREUSE Embrace your new life in France Having first visited France on holiday in 1967, former pharmacist Chris finally retired to Creuse in 2006, with wife Brenda, 80. Keen cyclists, the pair can often be seen negotiating country routes on their tandem bike and are fully immersed in the local community.
Moving to a whole new place can be difficult, especially in retirement. But over the past 11 years, Brenda and I have really integrated with the local community in France.
As soon as we arrived, we dived into the local social life. I became secretary of the local club ‘ de troisième âge’ for two years (as no one else wanted to do it!) and we join in with communal meals, enjoy local dances and always make sure we attend local fêtes.
Brenda goes to a French country dancing club every week, despite struggling with the language, and we enjoy a certain notoriety locally as we are both cyclists and ride our tandem every Sunday.
Sadly, not everyone seems able to integrate or to build a full life over here, which is a shame. I’d say to anyone thinking of making the move, make sure you don’t cling on to your old customs. You’ve chosen a new culture, so jump in and enjoy!”
Main image: Annette with her dog Facing page: Annette with partner Miles; the Canal du Midi Above: Brenda and Chris Radford