Help please - the realities of living in France

(David Martin) #70

Surely it’s reality. That’s often very important indeed. I’ve seen several posts in the past few months where you are happy to ignore the reality of the situation. In my opinion that devalues the forum.

(Richard Perou) #71

There are three necessities to live in France.

  1. Learn to speak French fluently

  2. Learn to speak French fluently .

  3. Learn to speak French fluently.

  • Preformatted text


(Barbara Deane) #72

This has been expressed several times.
Not every one is good at learning languages…
Me included:
And there can be reasons.
So does this mean that we should not come to France?
We may have other assets which are strong for survival.

(Chris Kite) #73

I agree Barbara. Been here 3 years now and whilst my French is improving there are days when I feel like a fish out of water. I try though…
Depending on what you are expecting to do in France will determine how fluent your language skills need to be though.

(Barbara Deane) #74

I really do try.
But much of the time it is not about language but about mode of operation, complexity
and flavoured with a tinge of stubbiness.
Have you ever had to phone or go to the RSI offices in Bordeaux are? If any of you have then
you will understand. Accountants trying to get through to them is always a nightmare …French
Orange !

(anon88888878) #75

Oh no that’s so not true Richard - and frankly quite sad :-:disappointed_relieved: There are many forms of language - sometimes we get it right and sometimes we screw it up. The most important thing is to communicate - something that doesn’t reply on language ability alone. I’m lucky to be fluent in both French and English (accident of birth!!) but I’ve watched some of those around me beat themselves up and make themselves miserable because they feel their French is inadequate. This generally manifests itself in them giving up or not being confident enough to try. My top tips would be - don’t finish sentences for people and don’t correct them when they have patently been understood. It doesn’t matter if the grammar and vocab is wrong so long as there is understanding. Try less, learn more! :slight_smile:

(Barbara Deane) #76

Some of my best friends are French and some of them do not speak English.
But we talk, we see each other often and we are happy with our friendship.

(anon71231711) #77

I think I said in an earlier post that being a good communicator is as much about attitude as it is about language skills.

That said, the opposite applies too - learning the language isn’t only about surface communication, it’s also about fully understanding what’s going on around you. Translation is my trade so inevitably this is one of my hobby horses, sorry :wink: but for instance, you can run texts through google translate and translate the words, but if there is no equivalent concept in the other culture, part of the meaning is lost in translation. It’s not so much a matter of being able to cobble together a sentence in French as being able to “think French”, ie see things from the French mindset. Take something as basic as the bon pour accord that every tradesman will expect, or the état des lieux that you sign when you rent an apartment. What’s the English for bon pour accord or état des lieux? Yes there are words you can use but no exact equivalent that will carry the full significance, because the anglo saxon culture doesn’t have the exact same concepts, and there are loads of examples of that.

(Vanessa Howard) #78


We are the same as you only 55/57 and arrived last year having sold all in UK for new life here.

Firstly depending on size of house bills can be quite costly especially if you buy a large one with gites. Running gites requires further utility costs and marketing on top. In addition to bills you had in UK you have to add healthcare which isn’t free.

My French is school French and improving daily, my other half doesn’t speak just odd words. He goes shopping and gets by. But helped by the fact local diy shop speaks English.
We were aware you need at least 4 gites to make a living, otherwise two is supplementary money and we are looking at other ways to work here. To get a job needs fluency in French so most people set up a business including trades or looking after other people’s gites etc.

My suggestions would be not to assume your gites will give you enough to live off and look at UK companies promoting jobs in France. Most tend to be in large cities ie Paris, nice, Bordeaux and may be english speaking. Or perhaps you have a trade you can do here then look at where you want to do it and competition. If you only speak English you might be limited to only dealing with brits and will need to live near British communities. Also caution to buying cheap in middle of nowhere as you could have high petrol costs. We are close to an airport, train station and have easy access to shops but even we end up spending quite a bit on diesel cause quite often you cant get all you want etc.

Do know some brits that tend to socialise only with brits and they still can’t speak conversational French after many years.

Haven’t found food any cheaper than UK, some things like soap powder are very expensive and you learn to buy on promotions.

Haven’t bought any clothes as had so many over years from UK and find no-one really dresses up. Bought our French car here from a brit was very easy and cost us 3k euro for the car and 120 euros for paperwork.

If your heart is set just do more homework what do you need to live on? Some people suggest you need 20k net euros a year as a min unless you have a reasonable size house and be self sufficient cutting wood and growing your own.

All is doable, and France is a beautiful country to live in. We have found it’s far more sociable than UK, everyone tends to speak, and share great food together. It’s more laid back than UK, and apart from from when we arrive has better weather too.

To sum up, get an app and do 30 mins French each day, then work out how you are going to earn a living this will be key to enjoying a good life out here. Bon chance, you can do it!

(Norman Clark) #79

Firstly stop reading the Daily Mail which is unavowedly anti-Europe and specifically anti-French! Seriously, I m not joking.
OK the best approach is the ‘plusses and minusses’ which are fairly easy to cover;
Without Basic French France is difficult to manoeuvre, as there is a bureaucratic hurdle at almost every corner.
Plusses; most Mairies in country areas at least are far more accessible and friendly and desirous to help.

Minus; Starting any sort of Business, even at entrepreneurial level is fraught with paperwork (in French).
Plus; There are many supports to non-French speakers and the Community supports such as this one are extensive so you are ‘never alone’.
Minus: The advantages of being in the EU will be eroded by Brexit. Notably Health care. That will almost certainly change.
Plus; With a million-plus Market of expats, almost certainly there will be offers galore to cover this shortfall.
Minus: France is a big country and the regional variations are considerable.
Plus: Much more choice available on climate, scenery variants and property prices - all comparing very favourably with the UK.
Minus; You won’t find Marmite in every store!
Plus; You will find a lot more choices
Minus: If you love Indian food, then in the countryside at least you won’t find many restaurants
Plus; What’s wrong with the diversity of regional French cooking?
Minus; Best price properties are often those needing more updating (expensive)
Plus: Properties will still be better priced even updating costs included.
Minus Although cinemas do show Version Originale (eg English) most do not. Ditto TV and Radio.
Plus; You can still get your favorite programmes via localised suppliers (SKy, BBC etc)
Minus: Non
Plus: Regional options
Minus - None that I can think of.
Plus: More open, relaxed and a new culture exposure is always good. Overall the French are more culture-oriented than most other countries. People still read books here!

My contribution.

(anon54681821) #80

well said

(anon54681821) #81

most certainly it is a great way and house sitting is not taxable and basic amenities can be provided for, cannot be on the black as if that was the case France would ban the use of trustedhousesitters. Im pretty sure such a large company lookd into the legality of house sitting.

Paul i have not much to say on it, but came here several years back with just medical money being paid to me monthly and it was NHS money so not a big sum.

I did not and still dont speak much french but I understand mst of it (just a problem responding to some things) having no french wont be a massive barrier so long as you can find somone to help with all the french paperwork.

Our friends bought a running gite business last year and are loving it so far.

Just wishing you well in your venture and look forward to seeing future posts from you so we can follow your big adventure.

(Paul Turner) #82

Thanks again for the valuable responses. They really are very helpful.

Property is not a problem for us. Before our children left home we lived in a reasonable large house (5 bed) but now they have left it is far too big so we do not want a chateau or anything like that. 3 bed is fine to live in. In fact if we bought a large house with a gite we would probably live in the gite and let the house.

My biggest issue is making a living. I cannot continue my career in the UK when in France and do not have any experience in anything other than what I did in the UK which is not in any way transferable abroad. Hence, gites are the obvious option and has the obvious attractions of working from home with some freedom during the day. But making sufficient to live on is the issue.

(anon54681821) #83

sounds like you have thought it out and asking questions over jumping in feet first.

Our friends had never ran a gite but did have some experience doing b and b in bristol many years ago. (they are french so bit easier for them)

They are making a decent living but still having to supplement it with a part time job for him.

I was in nursing and never saw me transferring those skills into looking after dogs but it worked very well.

Life skills are one of the best skills we can transfer.

Look forward to reading your adventure as it progresses.

(Patrick O'brien) #84

It depends what you mean by" fluently". If you mean exactly like a french person, I have lived here 25 years and speak french “adequately”, some say quite well,but I don’t claim to be “fluent” - I have never met anyone english who speaks french “fluently” , nor have I met anyone french who speaks english “fluently” , although I know some who speak it " well".
Telling UK incomers that it is necessary to be “fluent” ,if they take you at your word , will put many under a lot of pressure, and could put them off coming altogether.

(anon71231711) #85

It’s doable, but do the sums carefully and be realistic, and that includes working out what you’d pay in social charges as well as property taxes, living expenses etc.

OK you started by asking for real life experiences so I’ll tell you mine. I did my sums but I did them wrong, or at least I didn’t have a crystal ball. I moved in 2007 intending to carry on the same activity I’d been doing successfully n the UK for over 10 years, and I though I had it all scoped. First year was just about OK though the social charges made more difference than I expected, Second year the financial crisis bit hard and three of my five main clients in the UK closed their businesses within 6 months of each other. Obviously in that economic climate there was no hope of replacing them so in desperation I switched sideways in my main activity and started building up a new clientele from scratch, the financial crisis not being not the best time to choose to do that, and for around 3 years c’était la galère as they say, I was relying on people’s kindness to give me what scraps of work they could, my savings ran out and I had to borrow money to live on and pay the taxes. Could easily have ended in misery but I got a few lucky breaks work wise, heavens be praised, and one thing led to another, and since 2014 I’ve actually been turning over more now, that I used to in the UK before I moved. Now that’s my personal experience and my situation probably has nothing in common with yours, and hopefully there isn’t going to be another banking collapse or any other kind of crunch, but having spend a couple of years staring in the face the possibility, well at the time it seemed a certainty, of ending up totally wiped out financially and left stuck with a house I couldn’t even pay the taxes on, well it’s a feeling you don’t forget in a hurry and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Well actually, I probably would. But you’re not my worst enemy :wink: so do the sums, then do them again, then add an extra layer of padding to the buffer zone.

(anon88888878) #86

Wow - in 25 years Patrick? Obviously that’s your experience so it’s completely valid however, it’s not mine. I know loads of lucky folks with (or who had) dual nationality parents and they are very comfortably bi-lingual (or even tri-lingual). We’ve got a local English born flic based just down the road - completely fluent in both French and English. Maybe because it’s always been so ‘normal’ within my family - I thought everyone knew someone fluent or bi-lingual lol ! :-:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

(David Martin) #87

I know several people who can speak French and English fluently but like Simon wrote earlier it’s often an accident of birth. The others are those who arrived as young children and went through the French school system.
I always wonder what people mean when they speak French, the best comment I read was on another forum where somebody wrote,
Does anyone know if there is anyone at … who speaks English, as although I can speak French I don’t think that my French is good enough to be understood properly.

(Paul Flinders) #88

One thing I find is that it is difficult to “get fluent” outside France, though that will vary with your natural gift for language (or in my case lack of natural gift for language).

I think that advice to rent first is good, it might seem like dead money but the costs involved with buying and selling property are quite high in France and the market slower than in the UK so you could easily loose more than that if you buy then decide it isn’t working out for you.

BTW I have certainly met French people who came to the UK as (young) adults and now speak English with barely a trace of accent and completely fluently.

I don’t think that your French needs to be indistinguishable from a native speaker, you do need to be able to get by with the basics and have a reasonable ability to read French.

I’m not there yet, especially in spoken French as I really struggle to follow natural dialogue in French and I know I need to beef up the vocab - but then ours is just a holiday home.

(David Martin) #89

A cause of friction between me and a friend was that I wanted to be able to communicate, they wanted me to speak perfect French. Two very different things.