Nightmare but we are 'Surviving France'

Why did you move to France?

We are often asked this as are all ex-pats. Well we used to say ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ now it’s just 'we didn’t know what it was like!'

This is the story of why we moved to France and what followed. If you read this please do not tell us what we should have done. Hindsight is brilliant and we have spent years reflecting over the situation.

It’s been a complete nightmare and it still continues today. I suppose we are survivors of France with a smile on our faces!!

The beginning.

Turn the clocks back to July 2000. Yes, it’s been that long. Hubby Ian and I decided to have a weekend away in France. Left our youngest kids with the grandparents and flew to Carcassonne and drove to the Haute Vienne region. We’d seen some fishing lakes advertised by a woman that introduced English to French estate agents so we decided to have a look - no more than this.

Well you can guessed what happened. The first lake was tiny but eventually we were shown a property with a lake in beautiful surroundings.

We fell in love and I can still picture us outside the estate agents comtemplating it’s purchase. ’ Did we really want to change our way of life? We couldn’t afford it as a holiday home - why not move. Ian was stuck in his job, working all hours .

This was our way out.

At that time the exchange rate was such that we could live mortgage free and have money in the bank. Ian could probably find some work , I could see about teaching English and our 2 youngest ( 3 & 7) would soon learn French and be bi lingual. Leave it any later and there maybe problems. The elder 2 were already leading their own lives. An ideal dream.

We agreed to buy the property and flew home. It was only the next week I wondered what we had done. Our life was to change.

Once back in Norfolk we set about closing the Post Office and village store that was part of our home and converted it into a dining room. Before you all shout about the decline of village stores. I had run this for 16 years, it was in a tiny hamlet with about 20 houses, opposite the shop was a field of cows. Over the years we had reduced the area of the business premises by two thirds and it was really just a large pantry attached to our kitchen. It was totally subsidised by Ian’s work but we never had the heart to be the one’s to shut the shop.

It took 2 years to get things sorted.

We finally decided to make the move at the end of 2002.

Picture the scene. Late afternoon at the end of December , cold and raining , Landy with a full trailer , 2 kids and dog we left Norfolk to drive to Dover and on to a new life.

It rained continuously until we neared Limoges then the sun appeared!.

The property is near St. Junien and we spent the next 2 days and the New Year settling in.

Things went well over the next few months, the children started their new schools, we joined the French health system, we applied for our carte de sejours (needed then) etc etc

Life was looking really good, after all, we had had 2 years of preparation.

The nightmare then started. We had not seen it coming.

The revelation:-

We had bought a small ‘maison d’habitation’ with lake. All along we had the intention of extending the property. In the July 2002, before we moved we went to the mairies and with an interpreter saw the planning department. They looked at their maps and said all seemed ok and all was needed was the application for a permit de construire, which we duly took away.

In April 2003 following our enquiries to extend the small maison d’habitation we were told we had to make a RDV to see the mairie. This we did.

The day of the meeting we arrived at mairies full of expectation. We were shown in and were told that we would never get planning permission as our ‘maison d’habitation’ was in fact an

abri de jardin.

Not only this we could not live there anymore and if we didn’t move in a month social services would take the children. - We now know things don’t happen that fast in France but we were panicked, rocked to the core and floundering in a strange country.

Well, we stood outside the Mairie. What did we do?


Things just got worse.

Read part I and II -

Please Do let us know how things are now.

Oooh yes… part 2 please.

Please let us know!

lol @ Alison, I think someone has been watching a little too much Harry Potter! lol x :slight_smile:

I cant wait for the book!

We need part 2!

Yes please part 2, I really want to hear that all eventually went well in the end.


Why did I move to France? I came to shack up with my French boyfriend/husband/ex-h I’d met the previous year.

Oh come on…please put us out of our misery…

Part 2 please!!

May we have part 2 Please & Please God all is turning better for you x

Part 2 now please! :slight_smile:

Ohhhhh I was just getting settled down to read this :frowning: When will part 2 be up?
What a nightmare for you :frowning:

As you say - with hindsight we all know what we should have done (I’ve plenty of examples of that myself!) … I am eager to read Part 2 as well!!

OMG. I can`t wait for part 2. How can it get much worse?

ooh - I like Sandy’s idea of a collective SFN book…!

Glad it wasn’t only us who had the nightmare awakening. Ours was mainly by way of the weather - cold winters, what are they? Having arrived in January 2006 in the middle of the (then) coldest winter in memory. But also the exchange rate dropping until our pensions were a mere shadow of their former selves. Our gite started off well but then it dropped off and we were not making anything at all on it.

Still, better now - sold the big house and bought a small one. Now have money again so we can leave the house occasionally instead of being practically imprisoned.

When’s the book being published?? What a nightmare.

Absoltely right Catherine. Part 2 now please!!