Live in France? Join us for a gentil thread(570 Posts)
So how about a lovely supportive, information sharing thread for us mumsnetters living in France?
I've been here for two years, this is my second time living here so 4 years in total.
I have my moans about France, the paperwork, the driving but other than that I love it
Alpha, I live in Brittany and know lots of French people through my work and my running club. There are les bons et les cons just like with all nationalities. It helps if you speak French to integrate. Things are done differently (like not replying to invitations to kids parties, the importance of apéros and the moaning about everything) but there aren't earth shattering differences if you live here and make an effort. I'm still a Brit, but all my friends here are French. I don't have much in common with most ex pats in the area most of whom don't work and don't have young children.
morethanclueless - Thanks for that. I agree.
Alpha - don't worry too much about what may be your friend's experience of the French. Although I agree with Bonsoir (too true!) and what others have said, I have also found people where I am to be very welcoming and friendly if you make the effort (it really helps if you speak some French and are thick skinned enough to chat without feeling too shamefaced that every phrase is riddled with errors). There are of course moments when I find their way of doing things a bit at odds with how I would operate (they tend to lax about RSVP'ing to kids' parties, for example!) and I agree that it takes a while - a long while - to get to know people. In many ways people are more reserved and far more conservative than us. I am very ordinary but over here I think we are seen as a slightly eccentric family (a bit of a British cliche). But seeing as you are looking for a lovely holiday home, I am sure the day-to-day of actually living in France may not actually both you too greatly.
Castles - yes, that is a really tough decision. If we were to stay, I must admit I would opt at some stage for an international school route (in part this is because my DH and I do not speak French fluently and I think we would find it harder and harder to support the kids as they navigate their way through the system and school becomes all the more demanding. I would obviously want to keep their English going too), Like you, I would definitely be seeking a City life, which I do miss! I think it would be Paris or Toulouse for me. Good luck with your plans. I hope the right solution presents itself in time.
Where we live there are a lot of things to do but they are distinctively rural things to do. For example, Saturday morning is marche time, DH settles himself and the DCs at a coffee shop and waits for all our friends and neighbours to walk by before gathering every food delicacy you can imagine and heading back home. We are big vide grenier addicts and can't resist a chabby chic antique bargain. Our village only has 270 people but nonetheless we have a four day long fete, with a picnic with bouncy castle for the kids, evening meal with live band, etc. There are a lot of restaurants around but bars are a bit drab.
Being French is really tough. I understand most aspects of French society around me because of my Greek heritage than my British past. Volunteering and the importance of individual liberties, hallmarks of the Anglo-Saxon approach, are replaced in France by the expectation that the state will provide and by everyone's aspiration to contribute to the common good (generally understood as becoming a public servant). Families are extremely important and friends are made only through introduction by other friends.
morethanclueless, yes if we stay we will stay in french system but probably go bilingual. There are no international schools near us. We have to decide now as my son is 13 and in 5eme (year 8 equivalent) so we have to stay in France long term or go back to english curriculum. A difficult decision when DH will be staying in France.
Alpha, I think there are big differences between rural and urban France which is why we are heading to a city Of course it's very different when you are just holidaying.
Schnapps Thank you very much. I'll look at those places you mention.
Hi ABHF, I would 2nd (3rd?) SW/les Landes - where I am (Mont de Marsan) there are some bargains to be had & certainly under £500k, but it is about 1.5hrs from airports & 1hr from beach. I would start at the coast (Lacanau/Arcachon/Mimizan/Hossegor etc) & work inland until you can afford something! Pau is lovely if you haven't been, & flights to Paris if you don't mind a stop too. Around us the market is pretty slow moving (2 houses in our road on market for more than a yr) & so open to offers you would hope..cash in while the £/€ is good too! Afraid after 18m we are guilty of a regular bit of French-bashing (though we obviously agree it doesn't apply specifically to any of the lovely people we know.. Bonne chance!
There are great places to live in France where there are international communities. But trying to be a French person is only for the very dedicated.
I must confess the people I know who are currently living in France aren't exactly selling it to me. One friend (who is Spanish but married to a Brit) who lives near Carcasonne, said it would be so much better if the people weren't so French.
Yes, Castles, I agree! In some respects I don't blame them - if someone who speaks better English than I speak French wants to use English when we chat, well I'm very happy to follow their lead! Lazy, moi?
I do think that because I can speak French, when I'm around my kids tend not to bother to listen. I'm sure they understand what's being said but they would rather look to me as their interpretor. In a year or so I suspect it will be the other way round!
Do you think you'll keep your kids in the French school system? We are here for 2 years and so we will be heading back to the UK. I am fearful that jumping back into the UK system may be tricky.
morethanclueless, we are probably staying now but moving within France. So glad your DC are settling. The first year is very hard imo and it can take 6 months to a year before they start to speak and then they're never going to speak to you in french anyway - kids are uncomplicated creatures: you speak English so why speak French?!!
I agree with whoever said that 500k won't get too much in SE (near Aix). We took 18 months to find our house and searched across most of SE/SW France (although I don't know the SW coast). We are outside Toulouse (in the countryside) and you can definitely get more for your money here. Admittedly we bought an old house that needs a lot of work, but the opportunity for modern homes are readily available too. There are lovely towns/cities in the region - Castres, Albi, Gaillac, Revel to name a few of the larger and more well-known places.
Castlesintheair - Hello! Are you staying in France at the end of the year or returning to the UK as initially planned? We are 6 months in and my kids are beginning to feel more settled - although very little evidence of any French being learnt! Or maybe they just chat behind my back!
That is so true Bonsoir.
I also swoon at some of the houses for sale in the Charente. However, there is often nothing to do in rural France except hang out with your friends from Paris who also have second homes in the vicinity.
Thank you all for being so very helpful.
We once went to stay with some good friends who lived in the loveliest house in the Charente (nr Aubeterre-sur-Dronne). They didn't like it there, and after about 18 months they returned home to England. Friend says she was seduced by the house (it was a truly beautiful house) and they lost a lot of money on it as sold up in a hurry and returned at not a good time. This is putting me off the Charente, entirely unfairly.
The Atlantic Coast of France has a lot going for it IMO.
I echo other posters: Bordeaux is a great city and the area around it has lots of great places to buy a holiday home. The TGV to Bordeaux from Paris will be functioning quite soon (2017 IIRC).
The Atlantic Coast of France
Alpha we are between Toulouse and Carcassonne, a rural area which has a lot of charms of Province but without the price tag. I think you could get what you are looking for within your price range here, although you would need to put in the tennis court yourself. You'll find that the more you head towards the sea, the climate becomes dryer, the land more arid, there are more tourists but also more excitement in terms of bars and lively towns. Towards our way things are very quiet. There are more things to do than in the isolated English countryside but nonetheless it's a lifestyle that does not suit everyone.
Alpha, sorry I can't find the link. Can't remember which estate agent it's on with but will check when back in France next week. It's out of your search area (east Loire) so not sure it's what you want. If you are interested in The Charente, I know a house for sale there in a lovely village.
riverboat1, love the sound of SW France that you describe. Pity we are stuck in the boring Centre for the time being.
Oops, I wrote that before I saw your last post, don't know how those ideas fit with your search area
In SW, maybe try around Mimizan or Biscarosse Plage in Les Landes. Both towns with bars, restaurants etc. The latter is v. touristy but in a very kitschy/retro/French seaside town way and there are tons of bars and restaurants, including many away from the tourist bustle. If your kids would be interested in surfing and the whole surf scene, the SW coast is the place to be.
AuldAlliance - Sorry, you said no hope in the SE. Yes. I get that impression. We aren't interested in skiing nor are we interested in the Med. So that should enable us to get something nice within budget, I think. I think I've now drawn a big box of a search area:
La Rochelle and a line East to Nevers then south to Perpignan, W to Biarritz then back up to La Rochelle.
I am very drawn to Pau and Orthez. We might then be able to get the 24 hour ferry from Plymouth the Santander and drive back up into France.
Auld Alliance. Lots of houses in southern France have a pool and land enough for a tennis court, if not a tennis court, and 5 bedrooms for less than €500,000.
Castlesintheair - Oooh. Can you link to the house you saw that was reduced from €350,000. Just outside a small town is perfect for us.
We don't want to be in the Cote d'Azur. And boring is good. But my older two are at university and would probably like it if we are within walking distance of a bar.
Alpha, ours might be on the market later this year but it's a very rural
boring area so probably not what you are looking for. It's also very old!
're buying houses, yes definitely make an offer. Most houses are on the market for years especially in the countryside because of the inheritance laws in France and the squabbling children (inheritants) can't agree what to do with it. You can get a lot for that money in the countryside. For example we looked at a house last week just outside a small town, that has 5 buildings, a huge garden, lake and river. It's currently on for 280,000€ reduced from 350,000 but they will probably take 200,000 as it's been on the market for more than 2 years and needs a lot of work. We are also looking in our local city and there are many 200+ m2 houses for less than your budget. But it ain't the Côte d'Azur!
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