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Warning for those who want to move to France....


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Well, this is my last missive. I’m outta here next Wednesday

after 6 years in France.

Not going back to Blighty or even to Spain

but, strangely, to Northern

Ireland
. It’s going to be a great place to

live in the next few years.

But any newcomers/aspirants to living in France might do worse than note (or

ignore) my own hard-earned experiences.

 

  • Consider

    seriously your own needs and requirements. If you regard moving to France as a way of resolving unsuccessful UK business,

    financial or personal relationships, you are doomed to failure. A failure

    in the UK (or anywhere

    else) definitely means a failure in France.
  • Secondly,

    forget the oft quoted “you must learn French asap”.  Yes, it’s useful but it’s not the key to

    living in France.

    You’ll never get your French up enough to talk fluently and eloquently as

    you would (hopefully) in your own native language, unless you marry a

    French person or have a viable business in France. You will need a raison

    d’etre for living in France.

    Fishing, golf, wine-making, or something else, that keeps you

    intellectually and physically challenged
  • Thirdly,

    the French are not very interesting. In fact they are quite miserable. You

    will find loads of French ‘professional’ French folk who will lament the

    dearth of work-ethic, etc. amongst their compatriots – but who will be as

    incompetent and idle as your worst English slackers.
  • You

    can wax lyrical about the French countryside, cassoulet, quaint local

    customs (eg. force feeding geese to make make foie gras) and dubious (but

    cheap) wine but after a couple of weeks you’ll be yearning for a Tesco and

    decent vegetables (cabbage and potatoes, mostly). And remember you can get

    as much as you want of the French countryside by going on holiday, rather than

    living there.
  • It

    ain’t cheaper than the UK

    in the long run. Housing is cheap but cost of purchase, maintenance, insurance,

    heating oil, electricity, taxes habitation and foncieres is way high. And if

    you earn decent money they’ll take it away in tax.
  • And

    finally take, with a pinch of salt, those stories of idyllic bucolia that

    the us Brits are so keen to promulgate. Sometimes folk can over-egg their

    puddings.

 

Having said all that, I’ll still have a holiday bolt-hole in

France

and still love to bits my seven French friends

 

 

 

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Smudger,

There's a great deal of truth in what you say about France and aspects of life here which people, especially (but not exclusively) those who are not planning on a simple retirement move, would do very well to consider, .

I know and love N. Ireland and would have loved to have moved there, but OH won the day with that particular discussion. Things were not looking quite as good as they are now, and I backed down pretty quickly.

I hope things work out very well for you.

 

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Consider seriously your own needs and requirements. - Agree

You will need a raison d’etre for living in France. Agree but my reason for living in France is living in France. The language helps, I can joke in French and you miss a huge amount without it. Bed is not the only way being stuck with no TV and having to both work and socialise in French helps.

Thirdly, the French are not very interesting. Depends who you meet and where. Know a chaterlain who is great fun, speaks the Queen’s English immaculately and won’t use it in France.  Ex neighbour spent the second World War off Scotland in a Free French Corvette. Local garage owner definitely has and need a work ethic.

I could not get enough of the French countryside before I retired. About once a month I have an attack of ready meal. Otherwise we eat with the seasons and eat fresh, well and mostly at home.

Local rates versus UK depend on where you left in the UK. Agree on tax.

I am happy and content here whereas I would not be in the UK. I might go somewhere else but I am not going back.

Agree with your analysis on NI.
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Smudger has given it six years here, a great deal longer than a lot of other folks have managed, most of the people I have seen go back over the years havn't got past three years here and they all had one thing in common, they kept going back every few months for visits and apart from the cost aspect they all missed their families more and more and the previous social lives they had which did not exist here. A lot come because its the trend, some for experience and some because stupidly they think its utopia compared to the UK - just look below the rose tinted surface and read the papers and see french TV for the crimes,racial problems and social deprivation.
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[quote user="smudger"]

  • ...

  • 2. Secondly,

    forget the oft quoted “you must learn French asap”.  Yes, it’s useful but it’s not the key to

    living in France.

    You’ll never get your French up enough to talk fluently and eloquently as

    you would (hopefully) in your own native language, unless you marry a

    French person or have a viable business in France ...
  • 3. Thirdly,

    the French are not very interesting. ....

  • ...
  • ...
  • ...

 [/quote]

Smudger has already made his or her choice, so I guess we are

writing for those who come after.  Or for ourselves.  I think he has

written well and has seen some things I have seen too.  I only have

comments on his second and third points.  The others just don't tap into

my own experience.  Or I think he is wrong.

I think being able to speak French fluently and comfortably, in various

settings, and in various registers is utterly crucial to me (and maybe to

others).  I will probably end up leaving France because I just can't get

it together to learn enough French.  Maybe if my French partner would

allow me to speak French at home (my French hurts my French partner's ears) ...

maybe if I worked here ... maybe if I studied harder ... maybe if my kids went

to school here ... maybe I would be able to speak better French.  But I

can't, and for me, this is the most important contribution to a successful

settlement in France.  So I think that Smudger is dead wrong, and if I knew

anything about how he lives, I bet I could say why.  If you have the kind

of life where French people as a “background” to your life and not an intimate

part of it, then I can understand why language skill is not important.  I

should add that I can easily hold my own in a dinner party, in a cafe, I can

read anything, understand a lecture or a TV programme entirely, as well as

watch dubbed movies (that was hardest to suffer through).  But that is not

the same thing as being comfortable and fluent in French.

Secondly,

where I live, in France Profonde, but in a town of 6,500, and in my

neighbourhood, I find the French people to be utterly unfriendly.  Not

superficially unfriendly, when I go to the market or a public event there are

many people I talk to and sit with and so forth.  I also have two major

groups of French people I hang with, but its not the same.  I would say

that if I left this town and the surroundings, there would be maybe two or

three French people that I would miss in any way at all.  Five

years!  They are, here in my town, so wrapped up in childhood buddies and

family that there really is no room for anyone else.  No deep room,

especially for someone whose French is not really good.  On the other

hand, I hang with a number of English speakers in Montpellier, and there is no

problem at all.  I have made lifetime pals there in only two years. 

I would miss them.  Somehow, the French people around here are closed off,

not interested in, and even wary of foreigners.  This is not so true in

the small villages and hamlets around here, just in our town.  This is

well-known to all local people, although we didn’t know it when we moved

here.  There are simply too many locals in our town, and they keep to

themselves.  We picked the wrong place.  We should have been in the

countryside or in the big city.  In Montpellier or in the small hamlets,

more people are incomers and they are more open and friendly.  Also more

interesting.  Those who live nearby, but not in town, are more often

bi-cultural couples, who by definition are more open to foreigners.  I

doubt if I shall ever be big mates with any pure French couple, or French

person who does not have any foreign linguistic or cultural experience  As

I get to know people in our town, as my French has got better, I realise I just

don't find them very interesting.  Like Smudger, although maybe for

different reasons.  By the way, since I am stuck here, I hope I am wrong

about the previous understanding.

Just my additions to a very intelligent little evaluation of Smudger's. 

Good luck to him.
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[quote user="TreizeVents"][Secondly, where I live, in France Profonde, but in a town of 6,500, and in my neighbourhood, I find the French people to be utterly unfriendly.  Not superficially unfriendly, when I go to the market or a public event there are many people I talk to and sit with and so forth.  I also have two major groups of French people I hang with, but its not the same.  I would say that if I left this town and the surroundings, there would be maybe two or three French people that I would miss in any way at all.  Five years!  They are, here in my town, so wrapped up in childhood buddies and family that there really is no room for anyone else.  [/quote]

I too have recently been considering this aspect of my life in France.   Many French people have told me that superficial friendliness is typical of the South, and people will be all over you at first, but just out of nosiness (or curiosity, that sounds less harsh!).   Once they know what they want to know, you won't see them again.

I did have problems in believing that at first, but as time has gone on I find that it has a certain amount of truth.   Those who seemed to think that contact with an English speaker would somehow magically make their children fully bilingual in minutes, for example, they were probably the first to go! [:)]  

As for making friends.   Well, I've been saddened by this too, and started to wonder what I was doing wrong.   Then I looked back at all the things I'd done in France, and it occurred to me that "meeting people" or "making friends" is clearly just not an aim in itself for French people.   I have done a pile of classes and courses here, and while people may well be perfectly sociable for that hour, when it's finished it's finished.   They're there to do that activity, it's all very functional, and after that it's as-you-were.   I have plenty of material things to show from my various classes, but nothing to do with humans.

It could of course just be a regional thing, like so much in France.  But oh boy, do I find the southern English open and friendly and receptive after living in the south of France!  [:)]   The things that others complain about in England - shop assistants talking on the phone, whatever, that's just absolutely normal for me in France! 

Anyway, to end on a high note [;-)] after all that, I think I might actually have made a new friend.  You know who you are!  [:-))]

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[quote user="TreizeVents"]      I doubt if I shall ever be big mates with ......... French person who does not have any foreign linguistic or cultural experience  .[/quote]

I've noticed this too. I have friends who have never even left the region, but the people I feel closer to are generally those who have lived abroad or speak another language fluently. (usually both)  But i expect I would be the same now if I lived in the UK.

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But this superficial unfriendliness is not just a French characteristic.  It's probably more to do with small town mentalities.   I know many English people who have had the exact same problem when moving to Ireland.  No problem chatting to people in the pub or finding people to have a night out with, but you can find it very difficult as a "blow-in" to really make friends with the Irish, unless you have an "in", like an Irish partner.   You often need a personal connection - even in Dublin, which can be an amazingly cliquish city, even if you're from there.  And this in a country that speaks the same language.  

In our village in France, some of the friendliest people are those who have moved from other regions of France, and they complain about the coldness of the locals. I'm sure those from our village would say the exact same if the shoe was on the other foot...

 

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They all seem reasonable points, which have been made plenty of times before.

I would agree that they are not peculiar to France. To move to (or leave) somewhere you need positive reasons (e.g you like France) rather than negative ones (you don't like bureaucrats, high charges, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair or whatever). Problems you have in one place have a nasty habit of surfacing in other places too.

 

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[quote user="Will"]

Problems you have in one place have a nasty habit of surfacing in other places too.

[/quote]

Possibly/probably because "you" (no, not you Will) are the problem ? Just because others succeed or fail with a new life in France, Ireland, Manchester etc is no indicator as to how I might or might not get on .

I suspect that many expats are seduced by the tranquil French life that they see on their holidays without really appreciating the difficulties of leaving a city, town or even large village in England for an introspective possibly incestuous hamlet up a hill in the middle of nowhere. Any minor difficulty with a neighbour is magnified by differences in culture and language and as for bureaucracy .... not even the French understand let alone justify some of the things.

All the "beware of" points made in this thread have been made on many previous occasions on this forum and doubtless will again but may help to clear the rose tinted specs that most of us have but tend to deny.

John

not

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Adverse reactions to the original post suggest insecurity in those it has upset. It contains some useful warnings to anyone moving anywhere. We are all different but in many ways we are all the same - Dick will no doubt have an apt quote.

If the post helps people to avoid having unrealistic expectations and to look into things they may otherwise have overlooked, then it is useful. But beyond that, each should make his own informed choice based on his own research and on what is really important to him and his family. (Before anyone starts, for "him" read "him/her".)

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[quote user="Alan Zoff"]

Adverse reactions to the original post suggest insecurity in those it has upset.

[/quote]

Of course it does Alan..........................................................................

Keep taking those tablets.....................................................................[:)][:)]

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I too have recently been considering this aspect of my life in France.   Many French people have told me that superficial friendliness is typical of the South, and people will be all over you at first, but just out of nosiness (or curiosity, that sounds less harsh!).   Once they know what they want to know, you won't see them again.

 

My english sister in law who lives in Canada complains about exactly the same thing, that all friendships with Canadiens are superficial and a friend of mine (also english) says exactly the same thing about the Americans. 

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