Help please - the realities of living in France

(anon54681821) #90

my son and daughter are both British and often people think my son is actually french and my daughter but not as much and they have only been here 5 years.

My wife also is french and speaks English pretty fluently although like many language changes gets the odd word mixed up or says the wrong context of a word.

Also know quite a few folks who’s language is English who speak very fluent french.

(Dagmara Kosko) #91

Hi Paul, and hello everybody. I’m not an English native person, however, one year ago I was looking for any information about living in France (as you right now) and I came across this forum.

I have lived in Ireland and after 6 rainy years, we have decided to move to a much sunnier place. My husband is French so - was pretty obvious that we are going to settle in France. However, I said to him: I’m OK but only for a SUNNY & DRY place.
Surprise, Surprise - we have moved to… French Alpes, very close to Grenoble in Gresivaudan valley. Funny fact: Grenoble have more sunnier days per year than in Toulouse!
(Last summer began in April with 27 degrees and stayed until October ).

I would like to encourage you to read/check this particular region of France (Rhône-Alpes).
For example, you can ski all year long (but during summer only until noon) and ski season starts in October and haven’t finished yet! Place where I live has no snow so is easy to maintain daily duties/tasks, but if you drive not more than 30min higher- you get plenty of snow. And tourist.
In Alpes is wise to buy small apt which you could rent during ski season. Check prices in small town Val Thorens -this is a very popular ski resort for an English speakers.
( And literally, everybody there speaks English! -the waiter does not even bother to take order from you in french, even if you didn’t say a single word and he can’t guess your nationality).

Gites in such places like Val Thorens or Chamonix is a good idea. In popular places, people came during winter for skiing and in summer season to hike & climb or ride a horse. (So you might have guests all year.)

**There is also an option for being a " le gardien de refuge", - however for this you need to win the contest (refuge belongs to local area) and you need to speak good French. **
** If you are gardien, you receive 1 450 € or 1 600 € brut per month (for a person with no experience and I agree this is not much but is better than nothing.) and you are responsible to look after the place for a hikers from April until September who need a place to sleep and eat. **

I personally believe that if you move more towards south (sorry guys from Normandy /Brittany) then you have more chances in tourism.
We are thinking about buying small apt. in Nice and put it fully on AirBnB.
When we traveled around France I noticed that the cheapest gites/BnB were in Brittany. I paid 26 euro for a room with breakfast included. (and was plenty free places in July. ). Compare this with Nice, where was extremely difficult to book a place in May. We have paid 65 euro by night (no breakfast) and it was one of the cheapest options and was far away from tourist places (we needed a car). Everything closer to the coast was very very expensive. (they were places 100euros by night)
So why not to go for it? Why rural place? Be sure you will be able to live it.
For me, the regions of Rhone -Alpes, Provence or even Corse offers more options in tourism.

And boost you French- I speak Polish, English and even German - and what? -nobody cares!
Check Alliance Francaise (it is in the UK as well) or at least Babbel if do not have much time.
I also strongly advised to go for an intensive course while you are in France ( Alliance Francaise for example (20 h per week, 4h/day). Yes, it’s expensive- 800euros, but after 3 months you feel that you are much more confident.
Also, do not install UK tv when you came here- is better for you to catch french language faster- watch movies with French subtitles,(all smart TVs have those option) even if you know the movie -watch it again in French and with french subs.

Best of luck!

(Richard Perou) #92

I must avoid the phrase “n** p******” but reference to a dictionary
clarifies my observation. Although we coped with school French things would have been simpler, our circle of friends wider (although Dutch would also have helped) if we had used the facilities that are available on the web.

No, I will never speak like a local, (who will drop into incomprehensable dialect), I will not be writing a novel, but most peeople understand me.

The thought of trying to run a business without fluent French is frightening, and besides which it is impolite not to speak the language.

(Barbara Deane) #93

Moving on …and in.
The first thing we did was to find an accountant who would put us on the right footing?Our first
account was not suitable and the third and current accountant is a large co and with very reasonable fees;

Then we introduced ourselves to the Marie and registered our project.
I think that this is the best way.
Insurance is very important and do include the legal cover…it may be of
assistance and is not exspensive. Make sure you get Public liability on the
property and to understand what you are covered for.
Loss of earnings is a separate story and would be exspensive.
Gite or B and B …do realise that you may need to heat the property at
some point and keep that cost in your mind.
Other costs are laundry, purchasing and refreshing new linen and bedding
which needs to be of decent quality.
People come on holiday to sleep sweetly with nice pillows etc.
The cost of energy…windows and paintwork, garden and pool needs to be taken
care of. The place needs to be perfect at all times during the season.
Before you attempt to open make sure you know how to take care of the pool.
May I suggest that you do not open in a hurry and find that some things just are not
You are never forgiven if the hot water runs out or if the pool is dirty.
I could go on…but I will not.
Doing it right is very positive.

(Shân Williams) #94

I agree ,excellent post.

(Wendy Cooper Wolfe) #95

Thank you for the realistic viewpoint, whilst we are still in the process of buying we hope to be in the Aquitane by early summer. Having spent many years visiting, in spring and autumn (plus March 2017) to experience the weather we have come to realise that what we might have wanted 15 years ago would not be practical now. Since retiring we have become used to being together 24/7 (yes it takes getting used to, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone at the same time as a stressful move) and now we are keen for the learning curve and hope that new experiences and having to tackle the difficulties will keep our brains and bodies active!
I would definitely say learn French though - I couldnt have managed at the bank/immobilier/mairie/notaire etc. without it.

(Barbara Deane) #96

Where abouts in Aquitane have you decided to move to?

(Karen DebaxLatour) #97

I’ve been living in France for nearly 2 years, we are in a little village in SW France. I love so much about living here, the weather, the local village life. Running gîtes is hard work if you have Uk guests. French people however expect to bring their own bedding and clean the place before they go!

(David and Trish Chaldecott) #98

My first piece of advice is Don’t believe anything you read in the Daily Mail!!!
Second piece of advice is learn to speak French. How do you expect to be able to understand your interactions with workmen, utilities companies, the local Mayor and the French taxation system if you don’t, and is it fair on the local French community to adapt to your lack of language?
Other than that, why not take an extended holiday and rent somewhere for 3 months or so, making sure that it covers a couple of seasons (not just the summer) and see how you like it?

(Geof Cox) #99

Sorry to come so late to this thread (and apologies if somebody else has already said this - I haven’t read everything) - but just wanted to add that we bought our house and gites as an existing business - complete with guests in situ, registrations, agent, websites, etc. There are a number of advantages - but most important you can look at bookings, reviews, etc, over past years and get a pretty good idea about future income.

(Graham Roberts) #100

Great to hear your story Monica…very balanced and sound in argument. My wife & I are Aussies who have lived in the Dordogne/Gironde border for the last 5 years. I honestly believe that Aussies & Kiwis take a very different approach than the usual UK “expats” (no offence intended) but we seem to appreciate the benefits that we may derive in France. Hard work…yes but not impossible…we get on well with the locals and the mayor etc, but you have to be prepared to make an effort. We looked at a property on the river at Jarnac as well as a townhouse before we settled on Port Sainte Foy and have no regrets.

I would love to know if & when you set up your Chambre D’hote as we would be more than interested in a visit for a week-end or maybe even a few days. Please let us know by PM if you proceed

(Joan Cane) #101

Hi Paul just a quick post . We no longer live in France but lived there for approx 11 years. We had two different addresses in the Dordogne and each address had one gite . Our French was non existent when we arrived but we did have lessons. We really had no problem in letting the gites in the summer - always to British but I think we were lucky in that the gites were in a nice picturesque place - both times surrounded by vineyards . Also we were lucky In that generally we forged a good relationship with our customers and some returned year after year. We did have to do other work to supplement our income, my husband did painting and decorating and we both did gardening. It was not an easy life but it was a really enjoyable time. Good luck.

(Barbara Deane) #102

Port Sainte just 14km from our place and had thought of buying a property in the Town.
It was a lovely looking place which belonged to the artist Norman Hutchinson. I believe it
was eventually sold to a couple who are in the film buisness in Paris. Normans life was
extremely colourful but the yearly taxes were unrealistic in my eyes. So we walked
away from our weekend tea shop idea and found our place here in Gensac.

(Gordon Barnes) #103

Paul, we moved to France in 2004 and have not regretted the decision =- receiving a culture shock each time we go back to UK for family visits.

We ran a gite business in the Dordogne for 7 years - successfully - despite being discouraged from entering a crowded market place.
There are several reasons why our business was successful:

We were in an area where tourists were well catered for with restaurants, tourist attractions for families and less than half an hour from an airport served by Ryanair (Bergerac) which has routes to many parts of UK.
We had a good web site
We targeted a particular sector of the market which contributed to the majority of our client base - in our case keen cyclists and classic car owners (my two main hobbies/interests). So you need to consider what you can offer to make you stand out from the rest!
We kept the gites and the whole property in immaculate condition which means you are working 24/7 even working hard in the off season. We were rarely able to take holidays ourselves and definitely not in the season.

Sadly the family who bought our successful business got the impression it was going to be easy - the business is now for sale again having been allowed to deteriorate despite spending money on heating the pool and carrying out refreshment of the furniture & decorations in the gites.

Before we moved to France we did evening classes at our local Adult Education college in UK and then took French lessons when we arrived for three years. The benefit of being able to communicate with our French friends and neighbours cannot be underestimated - not to mention the need to understand the documents you receive from the various utility suppliers/ health service and tax authorities!
There are people making a living out of helping expats settle in - but that is of course an additional cost which could be avoided by doing your homework & learning French - which others have said is a necessity.

In order to enjoy the fruits of our labours I continue to work as a Chartered Surveyor and my wife is using her knowledge of the local market by selling property - it also keeps our brains alive as we move past normal UK retirement age!

So - be prepared to work hard and experience the frustrations of French bureaucracy whilst enjoying the better weather (not this winter!), wonderful food, cheap wine, better health service (not free though!) quieter roads, lack of vandalism and road rage and in general friendly locals.

Good luck!

(Graham Roberts) #104

Hi Barbara

We know Gensac well as we spent a month there renting when we were doing
our final research. Made an offer on a townhouse there and the one in Port
Sainte Foy, but settled on the latter as it was closer to more commercial
facilities etc. Still go to Gensac regularly and always take our visitors
there because it is such a beautiful village. We know of another Australian
couple who have purchased a property there recently.



(Barbara Deane) #105

Morning…yes I talk with the Australian lady at St Foy.
We are I km outside the village.

(Wendy Cooper Wolfe) #106

Hello, I am superstitious about being too specific in telling people before it all happens, but (if everything goes to plan) we are going to be on the edge of a village in the Dordogne , hoping to be able to integrate with the village activities and use local tradespeople and shops.

(Barbara Deane) #107

Oh that’s fine. Good luck.

(Wendy Cooper Wolfe) #108

Thank you, currently frustrated at waiting for one of the vendors to reply to the Notaire before the compromis can be completed!

best wishes


(Barbara Deane) #109

would be funny if it was my village!!!