Rapidly dwindling rural French population - rant

I've just returned from the annual Remembrance ceremony in our village (pop. 230 or thereabouts) It was noticeable that 50% of those attending were English (British, if you must) and that those French people who did turn up were mostly elderly. If, with the fullness of time, the French residents naturally get fewer and more English arrive (another house just sold to an English couple) then can we apply to change the village name to West Hampstead or something similar? Only joking of course.

It was interesting, however, to hear our mayor announce that this year they would play the British National Anthem after Le Marseillaise. As we stood there listening to the music I couldn't help but think to myself, 'Why are they playing this? The UK doesn't mean that much to me now. I live in France and I love it here'. I only ever go back to the UK for weddings and funerals and I can't say I've ever thought I might want to go back there to live. The English I've met here who have vowed to return to their native soil nearly always say by way of explanation, 'I'll miss the grandchildren growing up'. What? Get a life. They'll grow up will nilly and can always visit you in your dotage when they're older. What do you think?

I also was at our local service and was quite happy to wear both my Red British Poppy and also alongside it my Blue French Cornflower. Again there was a sizable contingent of Brits there and again, like yours, they did play the British National Anthem after the French Le Marseillaise. This is a remembrance service when both countries were united and to commemorate the dead from both who gave their lives so why not? Why there was such a war and what was really behind it (Somewhat dubious it must be said) has nothing to do with the fact that these people gave thier lives to protect what they saw as freedom and the preservation of 'proper' values.

Of course events on Friday have overtaken this but the principle still applies we must all stick together or we will be overwhelmed and if that means playing a couple of tunes back to back then I for one can see absolutly nothing wrong with that.

midi pyrénées stp ;-)

ps, it's a great place to live!

David, re Palliative Care in France whatever age, I’d like to remind everyone of an excellent Association (Charity) for those Not aware, which is called Cancer Support France, it was started and is run by Expats, and offers excellent information, some practical help, and advice, to English speaking clients and their families here in France. details of Departments covered are on their Website, should anyone want to look them up.

I understand and empathise Danuta, we can all Le ave our past home and countries behind us to live in another country. I dont believe though anyone can so easily discard their culture of birth and childhood though, that goes with you!

I’m not saying people cant adapt to and adopt a new one, but too many replies on here implying that we should become 110% French only, and integration means having The will, and making the effort so it wboth ways.

Is anyone saying the warmer weather, better climate, new beautiful places and cuisine to explore is NOT what brought them here, or that they have already forgotten their culture of birth?

I don’t blame anyone for liking their bacon sarnie, or baguette, mmm delicious! where would I be without my Scotts Porage Oats in winter. One of the healthiest and nutritional breakfasts you can eat!

so, I ask, why shouldn’t we enjoy the occasional taste of way back when, as well as the new experiences and foods here.

Hi Danuta

I am looking to move to France next year in the midi Pyranese area. Could you direct me to the estate agent selling your property?

Love & Light


In our village, pop.approx 590 as at beginning of year, mostly older retired, but a few younger families near me. We have a large church - the Memorial Cross is about 300 mtrs along the road in the cemetery. there were 2 of us English, and about 10 French villagers, incl the 3-4 village Commune Maire, whose office is here also, a 10 yr old boy and his dad, the rest older.

She and a few of the others had been to a neighbouring village from the same commune (same as last year, when said friend and I also went to cemetery) and attended Mass there, presumably doing the 2 mins silence at 11 am. however she didn’t arrive in our village till just before 11, and by time we all got to the Memorial, had a Roll Call of the names on the Monument, a quick prayer, then 2 minutes silence it was just 11.15 am. No music, 2 carried the requisite flags on poles. !

what was the point I asked myself if done that late. your discussion got me thinking, perhaps she has to spread herself around for the whole commune and it may be our Village Church that has the service another year. yes villages are declining, we have lost our Butchers shop already,and although fully equipped the retiring owners couldn’t sell it as a going concern. same happening here as in UK decades ago, supermarkets and shopping centres more attractive to younger generations. There are still also several v old occupied by unemployed cottages near the old station, which all need doing up by looks of them, let out by family of whichevef original deceased family member. My place is similiar.Too many faults just been papered and painted over.

I agree with your comments though, villages are dying, that’s why when a new Comite des Fetes, started this year, I volunteered! I believe it’s worth trying to keep small even larger villages alive.

Well Remi I must admit that I love French food, anyway most. However I do also like some British stuff every now and then, and I don't get to the UK sufficiently often to get my fill of certain things. British bacon is far superior to French bacon in my humble opinion, so I am one of many Brits here in Brittany who have it delivered along with cheddar cheese. I also import all my Indian ingredients from the UK as does my wife her Philippino ones as the prices and availability here in Brittany are not good. I have also imported stuffing mixes but prefer making my own. Amongst other things imported are crackers, Christmas cake, Marmite, Gentleman's Relish, Stilton, and a few other things.

Yo, respek bro.

True enough Remi but the ovearall quality of food dished up in France isn't what it was in my opinion.

"'Why are they playing this?"

Might be a signal that the British community here is strongly appreciated.

"they only eat Brit type food"

Yes, I even know a guy in Luxembourg who imported his bacon from UK ! Honestly it goes beyond my understanding, as in France the food is most often not bad at all, especially in the countryside.

Nice one Chris. It's just that I'm so content here that I cannot fathom why people would want to leave a country that, despite its faults, is a terrific place to live. And it's a great place to live long and happily too. To those who pine for returning to the UK, I say good luck, I sincerely hope you will be happy in your choice. For those who worry about getting old and ill here I say it is better to live now than in the past or the future. You are going to get ill or die here in France or in the UK. Don't spend the rest of your days wanting for something different.

As Goethe said, 'Be careful for what you wish'.

Of course! I'm getting older too and have a bad reaction to what is lovingly known as Frogbolloques!

I'm old - forgive me!

Well, Kit that was quite a rant! I don't honestly think we should ever criticise those who want to return. There are so many reasons for coming here and so many for returning. Just because you've never thought you might want to go back to live doesn't mean that others haven't. People often come to escape family or find it difficult to make friends back home. Some come hesitantly to be with a partner, to live out a dream or they may be committed francophiles and genuinely enjoy the life and culture. Some come for financial reasons and some even for the weather. The reasons are countless as much as the reasons for eventually returning. There's no right or wrong! And don't think grandchildren are queuing up to visit when they get older!

We've been here nearly 12 years, and have integrated well, but we have come to the realisation that we won't stay until old-old age. We therefore are coming to the end of plans made, to sell our large place and buy a smaller maison-secondaire, cheaply so that if necessary we can 'write it off' profit-wise. It doesn't mean we don't love it here, we do, and want to remain at least 8 months of the year for as long as we can. But like others have stated, we don't feel we fully belong, don't feel connected to french history, eg, and miss the UK milestones that we keep missing out on over the years. We haven't spent a Christmas in UK since moving, or our birthdays, or our loved-ones birthdays....as each year goes by we found we get to miss that a great deal, as well as new grandchildren.

We also feel we just wouldn't want to stay if one of us was very ill or had died. We certainly don't see ourselves in a retirement home here, despite there being very good ones hereabouts (neither do our two french elderly neighbours, so not just us!) and yet, from figures recently released, the UK is top of the league when it comes to paliative care in illness, end of life situations, with France trailing a good way behind...food for thought?

It seems rather snobbish, dare I say, to take the stance of some when it comes to what their fellow brits are doing, and the comment re: Spain.....perleese!

Our village pop 800 ish in fact has the alarmingly high number of about 140 houses owned by Brits and one Irish family. Then you add a few Parisiens. Then you add a few from other departments deciding to retire here. The population has been aging and the birth rate falling. However we do still have 60 children in the village school including five British. Of the British houses about half are lived in permanently. The new arrivals have no representation in the council. If the Brits had not arrived then many of the older houses would have fallen into disrepair and probably fallen down. Finding work is not easy unless you have French language and some sort of diploma- you even need one for domestic cleaning. My wife drives 40k there and 40k back every day, half of it at about 4 am. All ambitious young other than farmers and tradesmen go and seek work elsewhere but remain very tied to their terroir and probably retire to it. The population was 3000 before the Great War and has declined very steadily indeed. Now, thanks to the expats, it's about stable.

We have a beautiful place in the very rural Gers countryside which we run as a residential yoga centre, many many people have found it a most peaceful and supportive place to be. We love it, but after 9+ years we are going back to England, yes, I miss the grandchildren, even tho they do visit, but in my heart I just don't feel I ''belong'' here, my roots aren't here,I'm just homesick.Happily my partner feels the same, he's done with renovating and is pining for the sea, sea-fishing and familiar culture. Our lovely place is for sale. www.radhacaudet.com

700 French/Italian/etc in our village plus us 2 English. Last year we researched the men commemorated on the War Memorial - their graves were mostly on our route to the UK so we stopped off to take photos and pay our respects and found nearly all of them. This ballooned into a village project featuring all the soldiers, grandfathers and great-uncles of our friends and neighbours, and we held an expo last 11-11 and asked whether we could put a poppy wreath on the memorial as grandchildren of allied soldiers who had fought alongside the French. Tears were shed and neighbours appreciated our involvement. Bluets are hard to find here, but some were dug out mainly because we always wear our poppies and this is noticed.

We prepared a folder of information about the soldiers Mort pour la France and gave it to the village school. It will be loaned to the two children selected each year to read the list of names at the ceremony so that they appreciate the stories behind the names. Our veterans of the Algerian campaign etc. participate, the mayor reads the official address, the pompiers form a guard of honour and the school children sing the national anthem and usually another song as well. Quite a crowd of all ages watch it all and then wander to the local bar for wine and snacks.

The May ceremony includes a procession down the hill from the Church, pausing for relevant text to be read at the memorial where locals suspected of involvement with the Resistance were executed during the WW2 occupation. I think the involvement of all generations will ensure that none of this is forgotten: it is part of the history of our village and contributed to how the village and its society has turned out.

During July 2016 we will break our UK journey to visit the Somme, particularly the Crater of Lochnagar and the area of La Boiselle, where my grandfather went over the top, while most of his childhood friends fell dead around him. He spent the rest of his life wondering why he survived. For now, we will remember them.