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What are the downsides of living in France?

(49 Posts)
Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 13:38:44

I can find a lot of reasons to emigrate to France, but what are the negatives?

What are currently the topics of the day in France (like for example yob culture, the environment and recession seems to always be in the headlines here at the moment)?

If you've emigrated to France, how were you received by the French people? Have you ever experienced hostility just because you are British?

I'd love to hear your comments. It's about time me and my family made our minds up finally about whether we should stay or go and any feedback would seriously help with that decision.

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 13:42:43


aDad Tue 08-Jul-08 13:43:30

high taxes
fairly racist
poverty and lack of opportunity in some areas

I haven't lived in France for a while but these were always pretty evident and haven't gone away. You probably knew all these anyway!

HaventSleptForAYear Tue 08-Jul-08 13:45:52

Do you actually speak good French?

Because if you don't, it is impossible to find a job here, and even if you do, they don't readily accept foreign qualifications.

Apart from that, for SAHMs I would say it is V. difficult to meet people (no baby groups etc.) and also in general people are very family-oriented so don't seek "deep" friendships outside family.

YES to hostility for being British.

However, have lived here for 10 yrs and am v. happy wink

HaventSleptForAYear Tue 08-Jul-08 13:46:18

Oh yes, bureaucracy !

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 13:47:19

Thanks aDad,

I had heard about them, but don't really have a grasp on how they would affect us at the moment.

Tinker Tue 08-Jul-08 13:49:45

I think village life could be incredibly boring for children.

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 13:49:52

DH speaks good french; I don't speak it at all, but wouldn't be looking for a job as I can continue with the freelance work I do in the UK.

Point about the friendships is interesting as of course we wouldn't have any friends or family in the country. How have you managed?

pagwatch Tue 08-Jul-08 13:51:47

Lots and lots of French people. Everywhere.

( actually really really only joking. Love France)

Dh was offered a great job in Paris but we had to turn it down. I have really crap French and whilst I would have taken the plunge , my DS has SN and i was not able to confidently navigate his education and his diet in another language. Not without some hardship to him.

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 13:54:02

Has anyone been majorly disappointed since moving to France then?

Marina Tue 08-Jul-08 13:59:30

Spaceman, I love France and lived there for a year as a student a number of years ago and without kids.
But I think you need to think hard about going there unless you speak French yourself, or can learn fast.
You may not be working but you will be living in a community, need to shop, visit the doctor, hairdresser, dentist etc, liaise with school, tradespersons...file your paperwork with the Mairie, the list is endless.
The education system is also not without its expat critics (inflexibility and rigid curriculum) although we visited the most fantastic maternelle in a fairly deprived part of rural Northern France a couple of years ago, real Etre et Avoir stuff

HaventSleptForAYear Tue 08-Jul-08 14:00:08

I "know" quite a few people who have been majorly disappointed and moved back - but through the babycentre parents in france forum.

I work full-time and have been through the whole range of French system exams to get where I am - therefore meeting plenty of people on the way.

DH is actively involved in a lot of "charity" (Africa) work so met a lot of people (he's french).

However, I still felt lonely until recently when I met a group of German/English expats with children the same age.

We all feel the same and have found it almost impossible to find close female friendships or even casual ones.

I have a degree in French too so no language problems.

I really do think the language thing is crucial - even if you are working freelance.

ALL the expats who are happy living here are fluent so everyday life - school, healthcare, bureaucracy - is easy for them.

HaventSleptForAYear Tue 08-Jul-08 14:01:11

X-posted with Marina a bit there.

Marina if you're still reading, if you want any tips for Le Havre, ask away! Have lived in or nearby for 10 yrs now.

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 14:07:41

Hey thanks you two. That's my main fear (just feeling totally isolated). Is it that French people don't socialise much anyway outside the family, or is it because they're not interested in socialising with foreigners?

Would this be the same do you think if you lived in a smaller community? Is it likely you'll feel like an outsider for ever?

When I think how many immigrants come to the UK without a word of English, I just think that if they can do it over here (which is a pretty harsh, fast moving environment with not much time for anything) then I csn do it over there.

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 14:09:58

BTW; Le Havre is where we're looking. My granny was born there so I do have long lost family in France somewhere! Sure they'd be delighted if a non-speaking English woman turned up on their doorstep looking to rekindle lost family ties...

Marina Tue 08-Jul-08 14:12:38

Aha, te voila havent. We are only doing a stopover en route for Barneville-Carteret but as Le Vent de L'Ouest doesn't do proper dinner, any tips for a nice family meal out in central Le Havre? My two are fully French cuisine-enabled although a bit nesh about Livarot and the like.
envy. I was up the road in Caen and many's the time I caught a Bus Vert over the Pont de Tancarville to get the night ferry to Portsmouth. Love Normandy, can't wait to be back
(sorry for hijack spaceman blush)

Marina Tue 08-Jul-08 14:14:04

Well, scratch the bit about hostility to the Brits, unless it has changed hugely in the past 20 years. I found the Normans to be very welcoming to the English and lovely people all round. Nice clear French too!

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 14:15:08

Hey hijacker! I was hoping for a bit more more MORE about the ups and downs of French life. angry

HaventSleptForAYear Tue 08-Jul-08 14:17:05

spaceman - yes of course it CAN be done but ask any of those immigrants how easy it is and you'll have your answer grin

I don't think the size of a place makes much difference, if anything, there's more scope in a bigger place.

I now live in a smaller village, have done for 4 years, and despite going to the local gym club, shopping every day in the village shops, I am only starting to meet people now that my eldest DS is in school (still no dinner invites though).

I think it's fine if you're not expecting a busy social life (lots of tales of successful expats living it up in the middle of nowhere) but if you want a comparable life to the UK but without the bad bits, I think you will be disappointed.

Of course I can introduce you to lots of people in Le Havre wink

HaventSleptForAYear Tue 08-Jul-08 14:20:01

marina - will have a think about restaurants - haven't braved that many with my two but the Salvatore (italian) is v. nice and friendly.

Course that proves my point about the French NOT being that welcoming doesn't it?

Do you want FRENCH?

There's a whole area called the "quartier St François" across the basin(water) from the Casino - you could just stroll around there and take your pick - there aren't actually v. many restaurants near where you are staying which is quite annoying.

Have you got a map?

Marina Tue 08-Jul-08 14:20:49

Looks like you have just encountered an "up", though spaceman - a local Brit with really good knowledge.
I think Normandy is a good bet. Good infrastructure, reasonably close to UK (although AFAIK no budget flights from either Caen-Carpiquet or Rouen to the UK), two major university cities = greater diversity and tolerance of minorities

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 14:22:17

Thanks so much Haventslept! Your input is really appreciated. TBH I'm quite content to have very little social life. Those days are long gone.

I'd help myself if I get the french books out tho.

Spaceman Tue 08-Jul-08 14:24:03

Marina: Normandy is top of the list - it's reassuring to hear you've had a good experience there. Thanks for you help too.

I'll leave you both to your restaurant search. wink

HaventSleptForAYear Tue 08-Jul-08 14:26:10

marina your best bet would be to walk down to the beach from where you are staying.

There are loads of restaurants down there actually on the sea-front.

It's a lot pricier than it used to be (and avoid "Les Galets" like the plague) but the kids can play on the grassy bits or you can eat a take-away ice-cream down on the shingle.

V. different to Carteret (might bump into you there - although I usually hide when I hear English spoken, not sure why!) but v. nice.

Marina Tue 08-Jul-08 14:27:52

Yes, have Plan-Guide Blay although it's a bit old
It is interesting what you say about socialising.
I had a good time as a young free and single student and made several local friends while there - fellow students and people in my Residence
Through doing some p/t au pairing for a local posh family I also made some town, not gown friends. The family went out of their way to include me in group social activities, even weekends away (hah, I did do babysitting though).
I am guessing it must be down to how people fall back on family connections once they have children of their own. Either that or I was in the clutches of some atypically sociable Normans.

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