Did we make the right decision?

We are often asked the same question by both English and French friends "Did we make the right decision moving to France"? only yesterday a French friend enquired "What is it you like about France"? and it is very hard to put it into words but the way we answered him was, it is like being transported back in time to when we were children (this is Rural France you understand) I am sure in the big cities it is just as chaotic here as in the UK...
It had got to the point back in the UK where it wasn't a pleasure to go into our city centre in broad daylight let alone after dark, the streets had become a minefield of beggars and drunks with even the odd drug deal happening in broad daylight, people say you must move with the times but it wasn't something we wanted to become accustomed to.
We had been coming to Northern France for holidays for many years and had fallen in love with the whole way of life, so slow and relaxed, we bought our house here in Pays de la loire in 2001 and had spent every holiday coming over and slowly turning it into a comfortable home (with the help of good friends). when we look back we realise that during those times we didn't even see much of France as it was head down and get the job done, I am pretty sure we even worked on Sundays but when you have limited time to do something it is all hands to the pumps.
There have been many times since our total move over to France 4 years ago when we have asked ourselves the same question, usually when something has gone wrong and there have been many of those, although the life here is good you will still have life's rotten eggs thrown at you as you would anywhere else, even more so when you are in another country and don't have a good command of the language, we have had our fair share of problems but we are lucky enough to have built up a very good network of friends some of whom speak French fluently and are more than happy to help out..
Both John and I are on regular medication and need to visit our Doctor every 3 months, we don't need to make an appointment ever, we just turn up at his house/surgery, admittedly we have to take our turn in the queue unless we are lucky enough to get there first but sitting in the waiting room with the wallpaper hanging off the wall listening to his piped classical music and trying to have a conversation with the others (usually french) is an adventure every time, plus we are extra lucky that Dr Fred as we call him - his name is Frederic Lerich - speaks perfect English as he lived in the UK for 7 years, this helps immensely when it comes to medical things...
When we first moved over we thought for a very long time, had we made the right decision, would we have enough money to survive but all in all we find the cost of living to be very reasonable considering our quality of life is 100% better and if we didn't have enough money to live here then we certainly wouldn't have enough back in the UK, we have integrated into our village very well and have always been made very welcome, we grow our own veg, sadly we don't have any animals as we don't have a lot of land but as we get older I wonder how we would look after animals so probably for the best. with the help of our French neighbours ( who don't speak any English) and some french lessons we are becoming more able to have a conversation and I would advise anyone thinking of moving here to try and learn the language.
It is not just one thing that brought us here but a whole load of small but equally as important things that make up our lives, I am pretty sure we have added 10 years onto our lives by doing it.

  • Did we make the right decision - most definitely

  • Do we regret anything - Yes, that we didn't do it sooner.

  • We miss our family and friends back in the UK but we are not a million miles away.

  • We are retired so don't have to find an income but if you are thinking of coming to France to work I advise you to sort work out first as it is not easy to find here.

Thank you all for your wonderful and interesting responses, it is good to get opinions from such a wide variety of thoughts on one subject.

my comment " It had got to the point back in the UK where it wasn't a pleasure to go into our city centre in broad daylight let alone after dark..." was more a feeling we had than a statement of how it maybe was, perhaps just an insecurity of getting older but we feel so safe here which is worth a million, the difference of course being here we are rural and back in England more city dwellers. we too are heading back for a family visit in a couple of weeks time and apart from seeing the family we are apprehensive. of course I will let you know

forgot to say that I understand how many feel, I have a degree in Italian too but lose the comfort zone I have here in France when I go there or need to speak italian. The brain only works in French now!

also not sure about the difference between dangerous cities in France and the UK, as others have said, there are plenty of inner city areas in France where I've felt very uneasy in braod daylight. I can remember once getting lost coming out of Marseille on my bike (pushbike) and ending up asking for directions in the quartier nord :-O

As for language skills, yes Jon you've hit the preverbial nail on the head. I did the bulk of my language learning in the UK in my early 30s, went to evening classes then uni, finished off with a maîtrise here in France. We're a french speaking family at home and at work but there are still moments when it's just not the same as my maternal language (french being the maternal languae for the rest of my family and entourage). It hits home when I'm in my shop, kids are shouting at each other, a customer's asking me something and another shouts a matey remark about the rugby whilst walking out of the door. I just concentrate on the person who's paying and ignore the others but I'm sure I could catch what all three are saying in English...! Big family meals are another one where conversations fire across each other and my FIL (aveyronnais farmer) and his age group talk in patois (occitan) or mumbled french with lovely rolled r's that it's impossible to understand everything. mais c'est comme ça, je suis chez moi et je fais avec ;-)

Belfast is not too bad these days Simon, once their not protesting about flags.

I too was intrigued by this phrase: "It had got to the point back in the UK where it wasn't a pleasure to go into our city centre in broad daylight let alone after dark..."

It could fit a number of French cities where I have lived ... and still live in.

But compare that to where I came from ... and it is charming! City life in Europe is pretty exciting wherever you are ... but it's miles better than Belfast!

I think Jon is quite right. We are not all the same, and not looking for thesame things PLUS I do think age has a lot to do with it. Some still yearn for the bright lights and activity as I did when I first bought in Paris a few thousand years ago (1989 to be precise). I did a belated two years of Bohemian art-style living there and loved every second of it, broke and all. That was the start of a lifelong love of France, although I wouldn't want to 'live' in Paris now.

Like Jon I lved and worked in many countries and cultures from the Baltics to Australia, and wouldn't have missed those experiences either, but now in my early dotage France suits me very well. Being 60% deaf as I have been for many years, I'm afraid the last time I visted a pub in the UK it was wall to wall noise from slot machines and disco crap that made even the simplest conversation with old friends unintelligible, plus two quid a pint was a bit hard on the pension, so standing my 'shout' was daunting, although I did it.

Now I am far happier to welcome friends from around the world to stay with us for a few days, knowing they won't go broke in the process and neither will I.

For those who still want the pressures and aggravation, rat-race call it what you will, well good for you, I had more than my share, and that was enough.

France suits me, and here I will fall off my twig. Those who want the cities, well that's their choice, but it surely isn't mine. I have mentioned elsewhere somewhere that in our village of some 400 souls our recent 'elders of the village' luncheon (free from the commune incidentally, and which I doubt would happen in the UK) brought forth no fewer than 160 of us +65 year olds. Many in their '80's and maybe a little slower physically, but nothing wrong with their marbles. That tells me a lot about the lifestyle.

Now even with a French wife, I do not speak French well, but my progress through the village is punctuated by 'bonjours' and even small conversations, which Inever got anywhere else in the world. And all I have to really offer is a 'smile' and it is amazing how far that travels.

Nope keep your cities, and sorry Jon, keep your 'pub banter' - a glass of wine and a lot of smiles means much more to me now.

Hundred per cent with you - it mirrors our own reasons for being here and staying although we have now notched up seven years. My OH has even beaten cancer (for the time being any way) and we have to add needing a smattering of Breton as well as French to our language skills. Of course there will always be the what if question but that would have been even more poignant if we had looked up the opportunity to settle here.

I just wondered what city in the UK you lived in

"It had got to the point back in the UK where it wasn't a pleasure to go into our city centre in broad daylight let alone after dark..."

I think the UK can vary quite considerably - I am planning to return to Cambridge with my family after an extended adventure over six years and three EU mainland countries - I havent seen a disproportionate amount of what you describe in Cambridge but "trash telly" informs me that this behaviour certainly exists in the UK although of course its hard to get the temperature of any social issue through these programmes.

I am actually quite looking forwards to going back to the UK - I learnt French but however good you get it will never be as natural as going to the pub and getting chatting with strangers whatever their regional accent - I never broke the language barrier enough to have what I would term an easy relaxed social life with the natives. We were in the South and whilst I could understand the French tourists I found the farmers pretty tough to understand.

In my experience the grass is always greener which is probably why I have lived in several different countries, France was great but I did dispair with inefficiency sometimes ( like having to go to the sign shop five times before they actually managed to remember to make up our sign ) - ok the UK is hardly Germanic interms of getting the job done on time and in the correct fashion but I did find France significantly worse in this respect.I do like efficiency and "pride in work" - I was part of the audience who inwardly groaned with the UK crane driver on the "Grand Designs - Hoff Haus episode" when the Germans who did the bulk of the work with seamless attention to detail were let down by a British crane driver who went to the wrong address so perhaps I am more fussy about this than others.

I have also lived in Italy and Denmark and again there have always been pros and cons - over time I have come around to thinking that there will always be plus points and negative points but I think what I am finally coming around to is the idea that whats really important in life is being able to communicate with people around you and as a middle ager with only modest language skills I am aware that I can study as much as I like but pleasent "pub banter" will always defeat me ( not that France has pubs as such ) and I am begining to think that simple pleasure is actually rather important. I have really enjoyed my multi-national, multi-lingual adventure but I think it can be tiring at times and the familiarity I so happily cast aside in favour of Sun and other side benefits now seems oddly attractive and comfortable. I think the main thing for expats is dont assume you will feel the same tomorrow as today and always plan your escape route, you may never need it but its a good idea to have a contingency plan.

Kind regards