Expatriate’s story from Carolyn,living in the Languedoc Roussillon region in France.
If you have or intend to settle in France you will need to be able to communicate.You will have lots of questions and will need to understand the answers.
French administration is difficult and onerous; the Mairie of your commune can be very helpful in smoothing your path. In a small place make friends with the secretary who may do most of the work for you!
The best way to learn French is to “be French”. Try not to compare with how things are done in England or your own country. Remember that it was your choice to move and accept that life is different. To begin with watch French television. At first it will be hard, but the news is the same in any language. Games shows are good because the language is repetitive. If you watch regularly you will hear certain expressions repeated time and time again. Talk back and practise. Buy magazines with lots of pictures and absorb the language. Try not to translate word for word but grasp the general meaning.
On our return to work, out of the blue I had the opportunity of early retirement and grabbed the chance with both hands. Suddenly we could move and started browsing the Internet looking for properties. There were plenty of properties, but where would we settle? We checked out the climates of the various regions and decided that it would be somewhere in the South-West and this was confirmed when we were watching one of the many television programmes on buying a property abroad.
Obviously we had a very smooth passage in selling up in the UK and arriving in France, but did we perhaps make some mistakes? Within a few months – three to be exact – we knew that our ” dream house” was not for us! We had viewed the property in late afternoon and as a result we did not hear the heavy traffic which thundered along the road during the day and early morning. Time to move on and we put the house up for sale, but again we were lucky and found another house in the ideal location.
Lesson Number One before buying – do view the property at various times before coming to a decision and if you do have the time, we would advise you to rent a house for 6 months in order to look around before coming to a final decision.
We found that we settled very quickly into our new life, but we did find that we should have taken a course in French before we came out. We did find that a considerable number of shops have English speaking assistants, but also found that there is a shortage of these speakers in the public utilities. Quite a handicap when you are experiencing difficulties with supply!
Lesson Number Two – please try to have working knowledge of the French language before moving and do try to have any lessons on a one-to-one basis – it is very helpful.
Contrary to the widely held opinion amongst many English people, we have experienced nothing but kindness and politeness since moving. It is very pleasant to be able to walk without the fear of experiencing yobbish behaviour and litter strewn streets.
Our view of life in France may be coloured by being newly retired, but the meat, vegetables, fruit and, of course, the bread all taste better and much fresher than in the UK.
If you are thinking of moving to France, do not hesitate, do move! As long as you realise that you cannot create a Little England in your adopted country, then you will experience a new way of life and find that your former closest neighbours geographically can become your closest neighbours and friends in your new house, wherever you decide to live in France.
Yes, we have had some problems, but nothing that could not be resolved by our new French friends. Incidentally, we have shared evenings when we speak only in French or in English, which helps us all.
To paraphrase Edith Piaf, ” Nous ne regrettons rien!”