Documentary about Expatriates in France


Earlier this year I made a documentary film about expats in France. Take a look by following the link below - I'd love to hear some thoughts on it!

Les Etrangers from Naomi Vowles on Vimeo.

Having worked in a number of french and English schools it was my view of what i've seen here - in the UK I played rugby, football and tennis for my school, we had games right through my schooling as did the kids in the school where I thaught and it was full on sport - you had to have a shower afterwards etc. Here in france games/sport is far more lightweight and almost nobody has a shower afterwards!!! yes there are a million and one clubs in France and it's far more organised in the UK... because in the UK kids do sport at school and play for their school if they're good. Helen, this is my view from what I've seen first hand and obviouslt only in the areas of France and the UK where I've taught - things may be different at different schools ;-)

Locally the only activities for children are sports (rugby, football, judo, VTT) and music lessons. The sport is all run by volunteers. To reply to Andrew I think there is much more sport in french schools compared to UK secondary schools, and correct me if I'm wrong but it continues into Lycée for all pupils - unheard of at home.

I was chatting to a lady running a stall for the Téléthon who was telling me that thanks to the Téléthon much progress had been made in Aids and cancer treatment. She was surprised that the UK has such a huge charity culture (children in need/red nose day, christmas cards, charity shops) and equally surprised to hear that cancer research, Help the aged etc was a big business. I told her of my surprise to see that there was no charity support or sponsorship involved in our annual 100km run. (The prize seems to be a shake of the hand, a blaring brass band and a slap up meal for those capable to eat it at the end - (not even a shiny heat blanket!)

Hi everyone,

I'm strongly considering expanding on the original film to make perhaps a longer-length documentary or a short series of films encompassing different aspects of expat life. With this in mind, I'll be in need of people willing to dicuss their experience of living as a foreigner in France. If anyone is interested then please send me a message or e-mail me at

I look forward to hearing from you.



Because it's a lot easier to say no, especially if you don't know the answer than try to explain !

Hi everyone,

It's so wonderful to hear so many people offering different perspectives and viewpoints on this film. It certainly meant a lot to me to make it, and it's nice to see it resonate with so many people. I had an interview with ExpatRadio earlier this week, to talk about the motivations for the film, you can take a listen here:

Interesting little film. Two intriguing , likeable and different characters .Because of its strong basic premiss it lends itself to being expanded into something even more adventurous.

Why do I keep on getting the cheesy idea that Mandy and Jim should eventually meet?

and here's a link to the mairie's website with a whole host of associations - plenty requiring volunteers:

Hope that helps ;-)


That's the one and they've got the taba-presse in the Intermarché (the other one's on the way into town. We pass we're you live when we go down to see them - we're in the aveyron like the rest of the family.

Very odd - what did you ask them? you're not a million miles away from me and I've got family just north of Carcassonne, they've got the Balladin hotel there and a couple of tabac-presse. Brother in law's a pompier volontaire - good example! My OH is on the comité des parents d'élèves - another one, and I've turned down two swimming and cycling with the kids because I'm not free when they need me... Every village has a comité des fêtes for example... I'm puzzled !

Sport doesn't exist in schools in France - it's all done out of school in clubs - there are thousands of them and that's where you get involved, for the record I've been asked to volkunteer to take the kids to the local pool, mates in our cycling club take kids on a wednesday and saturday... it exists but it's very different. croix rouge, emmaus... just look on your mairie's list of associations - you'll be amazed... and that's where it's different too - has to be an association selon le loi 1905 (or is it 1906 - can't remember!)

Some very good comments Kenneth, and being "fully integrated" as part of a french family I can confirm that it changes everything, but can be heavy going at times - I have no expat contact apart from this site! The French way of life can be very insular and family orientated and at tmes it's difficult to take! I can understand why a lot of others don't integrate or give up as they don't ever get past the "family" hurdle, people can be very suspicious and often ask why/what do they want?

But the film was brilliant - just needs a follow up done on other very different expats and their lives.

Hello Naomi

Who could fail to be impressed by the beauty of this film? Albert Camus would surely have approved of your title too. Not only were Jim and Mandy outsiders to the local community in this delightful area of southern France but they were also outsiders to the existing Expat community.

For me, Andy Bull’s comments about the French being private people were spot on and Mandy nearly had it right about the food. The French regard the rituals and traditions concerning food as extremely important but they place far more importance on family. Anglo-Saxon type socialising, including informal coffee mornings at neighbours, dinner parties across the road or drinks in a buzzing "centre of community' public house, hardly exists at all in this part of France. For this reason, Expats sometimes need to stick together in order to recreate a culture so absolutely foreign to the French. Unfortunately the Expat is unlikely to be fully integrated unless he becomes part of a French family.

If you could make a film in Champagne Ardennes, you would find completely different stories to tell. In this area there are four British families who have completely different views on integration and they have no Expat community to fall back on. They all work in the area but none of them are truly integrated.

I really enjoyed this and I felt it was very well made. Everyone's life here is so different to the next. I agree wholeheartedly with Emily's comments.

Our life in France is totally different as my husband works. We also live in the Limousin, a much poorer area with more rain (although this year was a drought).

The cotisations make it extremely difficult to make more than a basic living and about 70% of our clients are now French. We fall under the umbrella of integration, although I would call it more acceptance.

My husband currently has a stagiaire working with him and we are involved with all the local activities and I am on the Comite des Fetes.

I prefer to avoid places that have a high percentage of ex pats, purely because I don't feel comfortable with it. I enjoy the company of the French and came here because I enjoy the rural lifestyle. An English pub is not the place for me in France.

I would like to become a French citizen because this feels more like home, despite being a Brit, I have never really felt like one. Our friends and neighbours in the commune have been more than helpful and tolerate my bad French. They have supported and helped us so much.

We may struggle to survive but this is home and where I want to stay for the rest of my life.

Glad to hear so many different viewpoints on the film. Seems everyone has a different perspective on relocating, just like Jim and Mandy. Of course Amy feel free to post it etc.

Mandy hit the nail on the head - This feels like home.

Integrating... good one Amy and there was a very good thread "what type of expat are you" from the expat bubble group - 0 integration and everything has to be done like at home to the "gone native" fully integrated group. Everyone's looking for something different here in France so there's no right or wrong way of doing things! Integration for my, and in my case, means I live and work in France, my OH is French and doesn't speak English, kids are born here BUT have dual nationality because I'm English but I'm having ajob getting them to speak any English! This site is my only, but valuable, contact with the expat world otherwise all family and friends here in France are French. Despite this "integration" I'll always be a foreigner because I'm English, even if I eventually apply for naturalisation I'd still really be English... In short everyone has a different take on it!

Good stuff....nice to have two stories in parallel.

Zero 7 works well but I doubt you have the right to use it.

Well edited and the filming captures the spirit.

Emily's comment is true and these two are not really integrating, but the French can be very private people. They socialise in cafes all the time but the house is a no go area for most. Without the language they'll not get far.

The French are not all about work, but they have high taxes etc.. so have to work hard to get by. They don't have the national work ethic of the Germans, just want to feather their nest and appearances count!

I expect the land was sold cheap without a construction permit so at least Jim has somewhere nice to park up and watch the river flow by. Fair play and probably a good long term investment.

Anyway, an entertaining short film. Bravo

Hi Emily,

I agree there are a lot of questions around this idea of integrating. I have a lot of trouble with it myself. What does it actually mean? And how do you do it? And why would you want to, anyway? I see a lot of people ('expats') who usually fall into one of two camps: some cling to the expat community (for many reasons I am sure we can all think of) and some stay away from the English-speakers and try very hard to integrate into the 'French way of life'. I guess I see problems with both ways and try to find some middle-ground. Mainly, I realize I will never be, or feel, French - and I don't care! In fact, I never felt American, either. I don't really have a 'patriotic' side of my personality, and I guess a lot of people do. I think this probably helps me live in different places. It's human nature to want to belong to a group (we are social animals), but I think as an introvert, it's easier for me to accept that I will never be part of this larger group called French society - I will always be an outsider. That's okay because I try to focus in being part of small groups - trying to make (and keep up with) real friends. Maybe it's harder for people who are very extroverted and social? It's a bit ironic, but I spend a lot more time socializing here than I did in Chicago! But it's sometimes nice, like when I was in university and had more time to spend with friends. Okay, I'll stop going on....would be interested in anyone's thoughts on this topic! And bonne chance to everyone with 'integrating'!


Hello Naomi,

I just watched your film and liked it a lot. I liked the way it showed two people, a man and a woman, and the way they lived in France. The shots of details were especially interesting. It didn't glorify living in France, but showed two true stories and the main thing you get out if it is that people can simplify their lives, no matter where they go (though good weather helps, like he said!).

Thanks for making it. Do you mind if I post it on our English-speaking associations Facebook page?