Expatriate’s story from James and Elma, living in France.
Our decision to come to live in France on our retirement was based upon our experiences of having a holiday home here for several years. Our relatively frequent visits enabled us to appreciate the gentle lifestyle of the local people, their natural friendliness and the beautiful countryside. However we quickly became aware of the primary obstacle to a fuller enjoyment of this life – the language.
Our desire to integrate into our adopted community was the key motivation to learn to speak better French, and, as soon as our French acquaintances became aware of our efforts we received great understanding and encouragement. This acted as a catalyst to our increasing participation in the day-to-day life of our village. Learning the language is not an easy task but in persisting we are slowly becoming familiar with the richness of the French cultural heritage.
Although learning to speak the language must be a primary objective and challenge for most people it is equally important to understand and register for the French health service and for personal taxation: neither of which are onerous if approached in a pragmatic way. There are other aspects of French life that need careful attention and understanding and these include respect for their social customs, doing things the French way and the bureaucracy. All of which contributes to a fascinating and full life for us and to a retirement as active, in its own way, as our previous business careers.
And as to the pitfalls! Our experience suggests that there are none of any consequence so long as one remembers that whilst living in France you will always be a visitor in someone else’s house and that the French are rarely interested in doing things in other than the French way.