Take our ad­vice

Ex­pats who have al­ready made the move across the Chan­nel share their words of wis­dom

Living France - - Contents -

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

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