Print Posted By Lost in France on 10 Jul 2011 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Life in Chateauneuf la Foret

Denise and her husband live in a quiet hamlet outside of Chateauneuf la Foret in the Haute Vienne department of the Limousin.


What made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
Moving to France happened to us almost by accident after watching "A Place in the Sun". We were at a stage in our lives when we needed to think about what quality of life we may have in retirement. In the UK, we lived on a self-pick fruit farm (we were renting; our short-term let turned into 8 yrs) but knew our state pensions would not support the same level of lifestyle without government help or downsizing to a much smaller property.

Having lived with space around us for so many years, we decided this wasn't an option we could think about, so decided to see what might be elsewhere. To be honest, the options were Italy or France but, purely by chance, we saw an advert in an estate agents' window for properties abroad and they happened to be in France, in the Limousin.

We came over on a "look and see" holiday, stayed in the Auvergne but the agent was in the Limousin ( the two areas didn't look too far apart on the wrong could you be?). The idea was to have a look and, if necessary, rent a property in France and continue looking. We expected it to take about eighteen months before making our minds up. However, we saw our house at the end of the first day of viewing and that was that...nine years ago (2002).

We went back to UK, put in an offer and it was all agreed withing half an hour; we moved two months later!

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We live in a quiet hamlet of eight houses, 2kms from Chateauneuf la Foret in the Haute Vienne. Our neighbours are all French (apart from one English couple) and there is a real sense of community here.

We have been accepted from day one and are now honourary members of our closest neighbours family. He is a retired farmer (retired at the age of 70yrs old but still retains 50 sheep although the cattle have now gone) and his wife is like a sister to me. My husband always knows where to find me if I disappear - I'll be in their kitchen nattering...

Denise's home

What is your age?
I am now 65yrs old and my husband is 69 yrs old.

Where were you born?
I was born in Essex (yes, an Essex girl), my husband in Yorkshire.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Do your homework; don't just fall in love with the scenery... Close quote

We are both retired now although my husband continued his business in England for a couple of years after we made the move - he just didn't enjoy going back and forth every month to see clients as he felt his home was now here in France. In 2005 we decided to use our spare bedroom for Chambre d'hotes (B&B) and we now have people coming and going throughout the year.

We are also in the process of constructing a gite in the attached barn, almost finished but used as a second area for B&B guests until it can be let out as a separate entity. Starting up was not difficult, although we were badly advised at the start as to what to register ourselves as for tax purposes and probably paid out more than we took in the first year until we got it right (with the help of a good accountant).

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
That's a really tough question, and we are often asked if we regret anything about coming here. The honest answer is that it was the best thing we ever did.


Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Do your homework; don't just fall in love with the scenery, the space, the climate or the food.

If you have family in the UK and are close to them, ask yourself if you are ready to make a new life or will you move back in five or six years as so many do. If you keep a house in the UK as a bolt hole, in my opinion, you never really let go and end up not belonging anywhere.

If you are young and still need to work; it can be tough, especially if you do not speak the language. You will have to get yourself into the French system before you can earn a living, pay your insurances etc.

Don't forget, healthcare is not free! And above all, be prepared to embrace a totally different way of life, one which was normal about fifty years ago.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
As I have already said, we were accepted from day 1, we made every attempt to integrate, speak the language (school girl French is really not enough), this is farming country where everyone helps each other and if you are prepared to do the same you'll be fine. They are not interested in whether you are wearing the latest fashion or driving the most up to date model of car or even in you have shed loads of money in the bank; no, what is important to them is how you treat other people - respect for each other is paramount here.

What's the best thing about living in France?
The pace of life, the fact that everyone has time for each other. Everybody greets you when you meet - it may only be "bonjour monsieur/dame" in passing or a handshake, or a kiss on each cheek, children are encouraged to say hello from being babes in arms. It does make popping to shops for something quickly an impossibility but I'd rather get home a bit later with a smile on my face and a tale to tell than the rat race we had before.

And the worst?
If I had to pick something... probably paperwork, they love their paperwork! It can be daunting at first until you understand the system (s) which can be lengthy.

What do you think?

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