Print Posted By Lost in France on 30 Oct 2010 in Real France - Expat Interviews

A mountaineer in Deux-Sevres

Kevin bought a holiday home in France in 1993 and then after a complete career change decided to live in France permanently where he now runs a business.

KevinWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
From the first time I ever came to France, I fell in love with the place. It was everything from the food, wine, and culture to the people and the language. I knew that one day I would come here to live.

I bought a property as a holiday home in 1993, when I changed careers from being a police officer to guiding in the mountains. It made sense to use the holiday home as my main residence. I now run a business here, Let Loose with Adventure running trekking holidays and overseas expeditions including snowshoeing holidays during the winter months.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
As a mountaineer, I couldn't live in a flatter piece of France - the Deux-Sevres, so between Poitiers and Angouleme. I work all over the world, so as long as I am near an airport, it doesn't matter. This region is spectacular with a warm climate, plenty of hours of sunshine, beautiful limestone buildings with red tiled roofs.

In the winter months, I rent a house in the Pyrenees, near to Bagneres de Luchon, which is where I run my winter snowshoeing holidays. This can be cost effective as it saves on my own winter heating bills, allows me to accommodate clients and I spend the winter playing in the snow!

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
I have a six-year old son who was born here in France. He has absorbed the language rather than learning it, and each winter he comes with me to the Pyrenees, and is schooled there. It as been easy to change schools with an 'attestation' from his school here. At first we thought it might be disruptive but he has enjoyed making new friends, and there's the benefit of skiing with the school as well as with us. This will be his third year skiing.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Don't be shy. Even if we make some cultural faux pas, it seldom really matters Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 53.

Where were you born?
London, UK.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
I work as an International Mountain Leader or Accompagnateur en Montagne, in French. I am registered here in France, and pay my cotisations, being no longer resident in the UK. I found this easy to do, even with the necessity of obtaining an equivalence for my qualifications.

It has been quite difficult in finding UK clients to come for winter holidays. Few Brits understand what snowshoeing is; I usually end up explaining it as tennis rackets on your feet. It is well-known with the French who will pop along to their Bureau de Guide and book an Accompagnateur but as a Brit, it's quite difficult to get work through this office.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
I have an old barn conversion, which has been a money pit. It has been a lot of fun and the near-finished product is very pleasing but I would hate to add up what I've spent.

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
It has to be learn the language. I found it easier when I came here to live but also when I lost the embarrassment factor. I will now speak to anyone, especially if I hear French being spoken in another country. It has made live easier and more rewarding.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
Don't be shy. Even if we make some cultural faux pas, it seldom really matters and is usually the source of a good laugh. Get chatting with people you meet, at school, in the shops. Invite neighbours round, go when invited. That social network will bring on more than friendship - we are learning to live in a foreign country.

What's the best thing about living in France?
It's relaxed, calm and easy-going attitude. I was a police officer for 25 years in Reading. I don't see much crime these days.

And the worst?
I can't think of anything.

What do you think?

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