Most of my clients are English-speaking, but I have a smattering of French ones too, and today I’m working on Monsieur Eymard’s cottage near Bergerac, drawing up a buildable version of the extension he has sketched out for me.
I’m proud that a Frenchman in France has chosen me, an English architect, to manage a significant investment for him. I’ve been working here for 15 years so my French is pretty good, and I know my way round the French planning system and building industry, but I still never feel entirely comfortable with French clients. So much of what I do depends on having a detailed understanding of their hopes and needs, and this is underpinned by a good understanding of their expectations. In terms of their sensibility (stop me if I’m sounding pompous) the two cultures are very far apart and, while I easily pick up clues on taste and priorities for an Anglo-saxon couple, for the French it’s more difficult. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it just takes longer.
I’ve had a fair number of UK clients come to me after trying a French architect and having the same problem but worse, that the architect just doesn’t get it, and I take comfort from the fact that I’ve never had that happen to me. Yet.