Why France?

I am often asked that question. Henry and I have spent countless holidays in France over the last 20 years. Like many, we loved the lifestyle, the culture, learning the language, and of course the wine! At some point, there was a subtle shift in thinking, and we began to talk about “living the dream”. It was a topic that often came up, usually after a few glasses of wine. Peter Mayle has a lot to answer for, and I think it was watching the TV version of “A year in Provence” one evening that tipped me over the edge. Henry sort of got swept along in my headlong rush to get to Provence. Some weeks later, we left Dublin for a week’s French language tuition in Aix-en-Provence, a holiday we repeated twice more. That last trip, we stayed for a month in a little apartment and at that point, both of us were agreed – we want to live in France – and left for Dublin on a high, determined to be back. My balloon was burst when I realised the cost of renting/buying property in Provence.

Our next trip was not to Provence, but to the Languedoc in October 2010, where we spent a magical week on a narrow-boat on the Canal due Midi. Slowly but surely, the Languedoc weaved its charm on us, and Provence and the “search for the Holy Mayle” began to fade. We wandered up and down the Canal between Ventenac and the edge of Beziers. Not very adventurous of us, but the strikes all around France at that time meant that some of the locks might not be open. We bumped off the banks a few times, and rear-ended a bridge (don’t ask!), tasted wine in the chateau at Ventenac, walked through Argeliers, and sat up on deck most evenings for aperos, enjoying the peace and the stunning views.

Back in Dublin in November, and back to work. I was now on a short week, due to the economic crisis in Ireland. Four days a week turned into two days, and in January, full redundancy. After many years working as a Legal Executive for a law firm, I was going to join the ranks of the unemployed. Well, that did it! I was not ready to sit around and do nothing. I started researching, looking for somewhere in or near beautiful Carcassonne. At some point in my frantic “Googling”, I came across several websites and forums (should that be fora?) for ex-pats. I joined one, which was to become my “virtual” home from then on, a place where I could go each evening, chat to others who had, or were about to, make that move to France.

Welsh! mine get patois from their mamie et papi! Yes I'm stuffing their heads with as much as possible knowing that it's all being stocked but at times it's good to have some encouragement from others further down the line (even if it was one of the modules of the maîtrise I did!) Yes the Aveyron is SW France but we're turned towards the Med, If things come off we'll be between you and the M et Mme SFN, OH has some distant relatives who left the Aveyron for the Lot et Garonne too, Agen if I'm not mistaken ...

never too young is the really learned people's advice. oral language can precede literate by quite a few years. bear in mind our older is down syndrome, in clis and probably about cp level but now getting there, certainly lives between languages comfortably.three is a brilliant age for language, but the youngest got welsh at that age (really useful!!)

ok, sw france is not so bad - after all we also have the higginsons in this neck of the woods -

As for which parrt of France, it may be that we end up nearer you Brian than Ron (our original goal and where I've got the boat) - not our neck of the woods at all but will keep you updated if things go that way ;-)

Thanks for the encouragement Brian, you've got a good head start on us, you're more multi-lingual and kids are a bit older and more receptive but having said that my youngest (only three) asks more and more and I push him to learn and copy while his older sister (4.5) said last night "mais c'est pas grave si je suis pas trop fort en anglais...!" she has such a strong french accent and can't really grasp things the way her little brother can although the sibbling competition is making her play catch-up! Agree about Europe, the more languages you have under your belt the better your chances!

go for it with the language andrew. our younger one has now got the bug having realised how much italian she understands already and one of her best friend's mother is the local college spanish teacher. I am gradually throwing german at her now. use as young as they are to make it normal. why? well, to be perfectly honest, unless the french seriously do change (as too the english in general) by doing it the advantages speak for themself. we may not have them in our turn but we know how to give them to the next generation and the way europe is getting messier rather than tidier makes me suspect its going to be mighty valuable in time.

Well like most people it's a long story that started off with falling in love with Italy, evening classes to learn the language then taking a second language, French, both at evening class to A level then off to university as a mature student to read French and Italian. As French was my weaker language I came to France for my year abroad and taught English in Brittany for a year and did some temping too. Once the degree was finished I did my PGCE and a maîtrise français langue étrangère at the same time meaning I spent half the year in Aix-en-Provence, now there's a coincidence Sheila! I went back to the UK and taught for a year but couldn't get France out of my system and realised, following a divorce during my degree/masters, that my future was elsewhere. I thought long and hard about Italy but finally opted for france and I've been back here since 2005, now live with my french OH and we have two kids who, although they're anglo-french, are for all intents and purposes 99% French and still don't speak any English but give me time, I'm working on it but it's an uphill struggle when I'm the only anglophone the know. That is one regret: I don't get to see family very often, once every couple of years for most of them, but we've got all my in-laws around us so i don't miss family life at all. So to answer the question, it just felt right and once the language was sorted it seemed the obvious thing to do. No intention of "going back", home and family are here although due to the crisis both our jobs are on the line so we're on the move again, new project, new area (as there's nothing we're looking for near family) etc. if all goes well (compromis de vente to sign on our place next week - will be the 5th house I've sold in France now!) and career changes for both of us. As Brian said "Perfect? No" but there again better than what life would have been in the UK and as my OH doesn't really speak any English the UK would be difficult too! Given loads of money and no need to work and I'd be in another part of France but working with young kids to bring up and that part of france doesn't appeal/isn't possible. Happy to be in France... can't see myself living anywhere else and never ask myself the question to be honest, it's home, warts and all!

Strange isn't it, how do we all find ourselves here? I am a diasporic Scot who has lived in a handful of countries other than there. The last 'venture' into Wales came to an abrupt end, so we had to go. Go somewhere. My OH being Ticinese, which is to say Italian Swiss, knows prospects there are slim and places to live extortionately expensive. We chose France, starting in Bretagne but working south until we made a choice for right or wrong. I began to learn French in 1959 when I went to grammar school and was bilingual anyway, so learning lingos was a synch. My OH studied in a French speaking university seminar after learning French and German as a standard part of her Swiss education. Our children are used to changes of language, so no issue there. So why France? It could have been Portugal, where we spent a year with work, Spain where we both have the lingo too or Italy for obvious reasons. Peter Mayle almost put us off and anyway we did not have enough money for that, so it seems to have organically grown out of searching for a house. Perfect? No, because the recession made life harder than contemplated and much of the work that would be long done is still pending and then silly bugger has to break a shoulder... so here we are and for now will stay.