What do you wish someone had told you about France before you moved here?


We all love aspects of France, and find other aspects different. Some of us would never dream of going back to the UK, but others have to stay in France for family reasons. Most of us liked or loved France before coming here, but some of us found that things were not as we thought they would be. Maybe it's because we didn't know the real France, we only knew how France looked through our British (or Irish, or American, NZ, Australian) eyes.

So, if someone had sat you down before you came here and told you what France was really like for someone of your own nationality, what would you have expected them to say? What are the differences between your own country and France that cause difficulties?

If someone had told you that you would experience difficulties in France, would you have believed them?

What differences hit you the hardest when you first came here, and did you find a way round them?



Hi Emily

Thanks for answering - my intent on describing my situation has more to do with the outrage that many Americans and Britons experience when faced with this reality in France - The 'Code Napoléon'. All my efforts of keeping the 'famillie recomposée ' closely-knit served little in the end, but then again they say money is the root to all evil.

In a country known for 'la famille' it is amazing that a law like this one tears families apart - you only need to look at castles or mere houses in ruins due to "l'indivision'. I'm learning a thing or two and putting together a file for the documentary so the 'Code Napoléon' can be seen in light of 2012.

Thanks for any input by other members



Hi Emily- as you say that your step dughter is pleasant and you can't imagine what might happen if your husband passed away - I'd like to share what is happening to me at this moment.

I raised my husband's son, Vincent. He was 9 when I met him, his mother had been living in Martinique since he was 3 yrs old. She passed away when he was 20 of a drug overdose.

I treated him like a son, married his father under la loi de 'la communauté" and had 2 wonderful children and a great life. I have always worked in addition to raising our children. After 31 years, my husband unexpectedly passed away Dec 21,2010 of a heart attack.

I have now learned that the house I renovated with my husband, in which his son never lived, is only partially mine. Every 10 years my Us & Fruits decreases by 10%. So the day my children will need to sell to pay for my hospice, Vincent will walk away with a pocket full of money and my children will spend their inheritance taking care of my old age needs.

I need to add that Vincent drove the family business into bankruptcy making us lose all our savings. He connived his father for 41 years and today has the same 'rights' as our two children of 23 & 24 who never had the slightest financial boost from their father and me. They are still living at home whereas Vincent, who has always spent more than he earned, has always come begging for money, and my husband helpd him out...non-stop.

So what would I have liked to have known before marrying and being a French resident? That no matter how much you work, the surviving spouse is considerd as someone who has depleted the children's inheritance. That I should have recorded every penny we ever gave to Vincent, but out of not wanting to rock the boat - we gave, and gave.

I will fight this in court and spend all that I have to find justice. I am also looking for people who have experienced the Code Napoléon so they can join me as we file an investigation on how this code is not aligned with the 'familles recomposés' of today and that the notaries are not all as honest as one would assume them to be!

If you know of anyone having gone through what I am going through or wanting to influence a change in this absurd law, pls pass on my email: mrabotin@gmail.com



Hi Donna, we went to

Greta Albi
10, rue de la République
81012 ALBI Cedex 9
Tel : 05 63 48 13 60
Fax : 05 63 48 13 66
Website : http://www.greta-tarn.ac-toulouse.fr/

the person you need to contact is:

"Edith Tourneur" when we went they had a European fund, and as we were retired we had half our fees paid. It can be pretty expensive, and I'm not too sure about the fund now. We paid our fees every 3 months, at that time they were about €350. They have beginners, intermediate and advanced classes. But you should contact Edith Tourneur and she will give you all the info you need.

Yes Jennie, I think that is why it is so hard for my husband and I, we are from the Northern Ireland, and the people are just so different. I just find it so hard here nobody seems to let themselves go. I am just not used to being so formal and indifferent, I just want to be myself.

Yes we definitely agree on this one Evelyne ;-)

try the CCI in Albi Donna

a lot of truth in what you say jennie but attitudes and friendliness vary a lot from area to area too ;-)

Hi Joyce, where did you go in Albi. Live about an hour from there and looking for some formal trianing. We live in a very rural area and are learning online. My husband is making great progress as he frequently interacts with the local community; however I am having more challenges as I work for an American company and speak Englist all day for my work. My company will pay for language training, but I have been unable to find a school that will bill the government to use our avaiable training fund. Private tutors do not want the hassle.

The worst aspect for me was the indifferent attitude shown by most fonctionaires and sales staff in the large supermarkets and DIY shops. Nothing friendly at all, most unhelpful and sometimes downright ignorant treating the client as if they are a nuisance. No after sales service at all and don't try taking an item back for exchange or God forbid, a refund. I speak, read, write and understand French like a native so arguing my point was never a problem, The rascist aspect against foreigners(from the U.K.) leaves much to be desired as this is always an undercurrent, us and them.

As with everything, there is the odd exception but usually only found in those who have worked outside France and then returned.

My solution after 14 years, I sold up and moved to Ireland. Any regrets, definately none, The welcome I received here has been amazing,Completely the opposite to France, would I go back, never, not even for a holiday.

Sounds like we agree on that, Andrew. It's a personal matter not a national trait.

Try to meet people that are more chilled out, it might become contagious! I suppose at the moment he's stressed out by having a new wife and 2 babies within a short amount of time. Again, he might feel pressured to make sure he provides for his family: a suitable house, providing for their future and so on.

Well, I can't say I have the same experience as you. My French family certainly values free time. Holidays, visits and just enjoying long lunches is a top priority! That's what my husband loved about France when he first came to visit my family, sipping wine and talking about philosophy for hours and hours. He never had that experience in England where it was all about rush rush money money spend spend.

Just think, we live in a country with a 35h week, so French employees have a lot of free time. However, many self-employed (and cadres) have a different attitude to work, they have no fixed hours so they might overwork because they feel they have to or because their work is their passion.

I don't think it's a national characteristic, just a personal one that transcends frontiers.

They are all the product of our childhood, I think you become free when you acknowledge your own hang-ups. Some of the obligations are imposed by the outside (what the state decides) but others are imposed by yourself and what you believe is expected of you.

Emily, your last paragraph is 100% your husband and not because he's French. Things vary around the country and from person to person. There are plenty of freeloaders who spend there whole life bumbing around, especially here in the south, it's known for that, but there are also others like your husband who spend all their time trying to do what's right and what other people/society expect them to do. And on what to do about that... really sorry but I haven't got the answer for you, he should chill out with age ;-)

Hi Emily

Of course, a surgeon has to spend money for show. Just like in England, people spend lots of money on cars to show their neighbours their worth ... but eat baked bean on toast every day!

What makes sense to him, might not make sense to another. When we lived in England, we had a big salary, a big house, a big car but always in debt! Here, we earn a minimum, even got the RSA last year but feel free, we don't have to show because we no longer care about this.

As for rich and poor in French, I agree it's motto "égalité" is only valid for each strata of the society ie égalité amongst poor, égalité amongst middle class ....


Yes Wendy we do have satellite internet now and telephone, it is not too bad as long as the weather isn't too bad then we lose the signal. My daughter got it fixed up for us, before she moved back to UK.

Emily I assure you that in a year or two (it took me a few years even having studied french, a maîtrise at a french uni etc.) you'll wonder what all the fuss was about and just accept everything as normal. You'll look back at the UK as a foreign land and laugh, yes laugh at it all. Everything falls into place with time and you'll end up wearing black day in day out!!!

Plus belle la vie... been there and was hooked for months but that was years ago when it was believable. It's changed so much now that it's just ridiculous, but excellent for learning everyday french.

Yep, My chinese students come with 500+ hours of French before starting Uni here, we then see them through a 6 month intensive course before they go on to a DUT but those who don't mix with the French students simply don't progress - they have up to 8 hours of lectures a day in French, 12 hours a week of French with me alone, but then spend the rest of their time in their group talking in chinese... Clubs and associations are the way forward, ask at your mairie for a list of the clubs and associations in your village (you can't be too far from my inlaws (near sauveterre de rouergue) and my OH went to school in Naucelle)

Bonne chance, ce n'est jamais trop tard !!!

Yes the further you advance the less encouragement you get, that's very true and a fact of life. Once you're fluent and have been here a few years people can't understand when you're having an off day or are simply too tired at the end of a long meal! Languages are hard, that's why people don't like learning them and that's why As at A level are rare (blow my own trumpet as I got A in Italian and French BUT I was a mature student doing evening classes and was super motivated which makes a difference). I now teach french here in France at Uni to foreign students but I'm not a native speaker so do still make mistakes, and would be a fool if I didn't admit that, and have far more pressure now to speak "better than the locals" than I ever did early on. I correct my OH and she always asks me to proofread any letters or documents she writes and even though she is degree educated she makes all the classic mistakes the french make when conjugating verbs etc. as for my French nièces - their texto style emails have more errors in them than an O level french student. It's a very very long road to travel but it's well worth it! It's not for everyone I know and accept that but bon courage for those who want to have a go and don't be put off by the lack of support once you get going, be thankful for the corrections too ;-)