Print Posted By Lost in France on 3 Jul 2011 in Real France - Expat Interviews

From Canada to Brittany

Diane moved to Brittany from Canada and lives in Poullaouen in the Finistère departement.

PoullaouenWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
I decided to buy a house in France many years ago, in the 1980s in fact. We hit a snag when the purchase had to be abandoned due to us having a serious car accident on the way home from the Languedoc, and life took a different direction.

We ended up emigrating to Canada! But Canadian life was never going to be for me, not permanently, so once the children had grown up and got their university degrees, I was free to choose again. I chose France, and more specifically Brittany, and finally bought the house I wanted, with its little bit of land and outbuildings, in 2004. We have finally managed to do enough of the renovations we needed done to be able to live here permanently and this is our first year full-time!

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
My house is in a tiny hamlet just outside Poullaouen, which itself is a small village, but is the centre of a very large and prosperous (in Breton terms) commune. I love it for the peace and quiet, the friendly but not overly present neighbours, the fresh air, the wildlife, the empty roads, the landscape and the opportunities the area presents for my artistic work.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Do your research, more than once, and then do it again... Close quote

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
My children are grown up, but I have heard many good things about children fitting in well here, as well as a few less good. I think a lot comes down to choosing the right village to live in and to the attitude of the parents towards other people. I have been told the education is better here than one might get in the UK, and certainly classes are smaller and the teaching more traditional.

What is your age?
I'm in my fifties and live here with my husband and grown up daughter.

Where were you born?
I was born in London and raised in Kent where my children were born.

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 an oil and watercolour artist and have recently begun to work from my new studio. We also run a business in the UK which my daughter mainly is responsible for, and my husband works abroad much of the time. This is the way we have decided to live in France in the way we want to, as it is extremely difficult to generate a good income from the local economy. We contribute to the economy by employing people in and around the house, and by buying exclusively local produce.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
I wouldn't have made a mistake at all if the people I bought from had been honest. I didn't realise at the time - and I should have done more research - that many English people had bought properties and were doing minimal work on them and then selling them on as fully renovated and taking huge profits. I fell foul of such a trick. Thinking I was buying a house that had had the work needed done on it, I paid the appropriate price, only to find in the next year or two that it was riddled with damp in the timbers, had rotting windows, faulty electrics, leaking pipes, rising damp - you name it, we had it. I had to strip the house out to the bare stone walls and start again from scratch. I will never forgive the cheats who did this to me - and many other people. However, I am very happy that I found the house, the location is ideal and I love living here.

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Don't trust anyone - and don't trust anyone. Especially the English. Do your research, more than once, and then do it again. Do your sums and figure out if you can really afford to live here. Don't depend on social security to support you - it doesn't lead to a happy lifestyle.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
No, I didn't find it hard, because I knew I needed to learn to speak the language in order to enjoy living here. I have revived my French - I learnt it at school - by reading, writing, listening to the TV and radio and working hard at it, and now am reasonably fluent and understand pretty much everything. This makes life much more enjoyable than it would be if I couldn't communicate. I go to art classes and can chat to the neighbours easily - this is the key thing to being properly integrated in France.

What's the best thing about living in France?
Everything is great here, in my opinion. For me, the very best thing is the French attitude to life. Here in the Breton countryside the old-fashioned values still survive, to a certain extent. People believe in family and friends, and enjoying life. They treat one another - and me - with friendliness and respect, and this is something I found very rare in England.

The second thing is the space - and the fact that although I am near to a main arterial route which makes it possible for us to travel easily I can go ages without seeing a car. The dog can run around outside without needing to worry about her.

And the worst?
Because I'm not involved with working in the country I don't have to worry about taxes and social charges, but I think that is the biggest burden for immigrants. The system is complicated and it is easy to make the wrong decision about how to run your business for example. I would advise being very careful about starting a business here.

What do you think?

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