Print Posted By Lost in France on 16 Oct 2011 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Freelance in South West France

Vanessa moved to France in 1997, she lives with her husband in the beautiful Midi-Pyrenees region where she works as a freelance writer.

vanessaWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
We moved to France in August 1997. I was reaching a crossroads in my career and decided to work freelance, as my (Swedish) husband was already doing. He had lived in Limoges for 4 years previously and was addicted to la vie Française, as I was after many holidays spent in France. We felt we could live anywhere provided there was reasonable access to an airport. We chose southwest France because we already knew it and it was cheaper than other areas.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We live in the Midi-Pyrenees region of southwest France. It's a beautiful and very varied region with lovely towns and villages and a good quality of life. It also has a well-deserved reputation for good food. It can be very hot here in summer but very cold in winter - no one tells you that before you move here! This is basically a very rural region, with little industry. The people are generally friendly and helpful, provided you speak French since none of them speaks English.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips The best way of integrating is to join in with things... Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 54.

Where were you born?
Woolwich, England.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
Yes, I work as a freelance writer, writing corporate literature for companies and organisations. I also write magazine articles about French life and about writing. My husband is a management consultant (mainly in Sweden).

We set up our own French limited company 14 years ago. It's become a lot easier but we were lucky to have the help of a Brit who had lived in France for many years and knew the ropes. He helped us with all the red tape, otherwise we would have been lost, especially as our French was much worse then.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
 On reflection, the house we bought was a bit far from the airport. This doesn't matter so much now but at the start we were both doing a lot of travelling and started to get sick of the airport run!

Vanessa's HomeYour best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Learn French. It's a real handicap if you don't speak at least some French. We see so many couples where only one of them speaks French. The other one would have a real problem if they were stuck on their own. Nowadays there are more support networks for British ex-pats than when we arrived. Even so, you will never integrate or find life easy here if you don't make the effort.

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 struggled for the first year since I had only O Level French, which simply wasn't adequate. Things started to look up when I took French lessons and now I am almost fluent.

The best way of integrating is to join in with things, like choirs or exercise classes, even if your French isn't very good to start with.

What's the best thing about living in France?
The quality of life and less stressful lifestyle.

And the worst?
Idiotic bureaucracy!

What do you think?

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