Print Posted By Lost in France on 13 Aug 2012 in Real France - Expat Interviews

A Writer in the Charente Maritime

Catherine Broughton moved to France with her family in 1989, she lives in the Charente Maritime where she now works as an author.

Charente MaritimeWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
We moved to France in 1989. Like so many people we thought that somehow life would be "better" here.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We live in the Charente Maritime close to the coast. There are a lot of things I like about France but there are a lot of things I don't like! We belong to a very large ex-pat community which, although I have always spoken fluent French, has been a life-saver for me.

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
Our three children went to school in France. In those days it was really archaic - terribly old-fashioned.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips That link to other ex-pats is absolutely VITAL... Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 60.

Where were you born?
I was born in South Africa (but I am English).

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
I am a novelist and I work from home. At first we set up a business here and I was an estate agent; we went through a complete nightmare of bureaucratic rubbish. Truly a nightmare. We retired very early and I am now a writer, which is great.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
Like so many British we bought something way too big for us. In fact it has worked out very well, but looking back on it now it was lunacy.

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Please do not think you are going to "integrate". You will integrate in many ways, of course, and you will have French friends, but you will remain British and a foreigner. That link to other ex-pats is absolutely VITAL. Other ex-pats will be a source of valuable information to help you settle in and they will also be a friendly ear in the right language when things have gone wrong.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
I did a degree in French at University, so I spoke it very well. Despite this, I found it extremely difficult to make French friends. They do not meet for coffee the way the British do, for example, and it is hard to have anything other than a casual friendship with them. During our first few years here we made a point of inviting local French people round for drinks or for a BBQ but for every 20 people we had round we would get - perhaps! - one invitation back. There is a lot I love about being in France but the things I love best are my other ex-pat friends.

What's the best thing about living in France?
Not the food!

Good well-maintained roads. Doctors who don't make you feel a nuisance. Big variety of everything in the shops.

And the worst?
The French have no lateral thinking. They are tunnel-visioned. Customer service, although hugely better than a few years ago, is still pretty poor. Catherine's latest book A Call From France is available from our bookshop

What do you think?

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