Print Posted By Lost in France on 31 May 2010 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Life in the South of France

Mark Binmore and his partner live in Beziers in the south of France where they run a chambre de hote called the Maison De L'Orb.

Maison De L'OrbWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
The culture and the people but mainly because life is so different from the rush hour 9 to 5 of London. We have now been based here for three years and every day is a new challenge, but so worth it.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We live in Beziers opposite Pont Vieux. Originally, the house was three apartments but it became one dwelling many years ago and was used as a safe house during the Nazi Occupation. The house faces the river, excellent location and just a ten minute walk up hill to the shops, cafes and bars and main centre of Beziers. We are also fifteen minutes from the beaches, the airport and an hour into Spain, so for us it is an ideal location. In the garden is the old lavorie, which is being transformed into a summer kitchen and bar area.

Over the last three years, we have transformed the house into a chambre de hote called Maison De L'Orb.

Do you have children?
No children but we came with three boxer dogs though sadly now only two. They adjusted straightaway more so knowing the beach is a short drive away and they love running around the hills and fields when not sunbathing. This is their retirement.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips The lifestyle here in the south is more laid back and you are accepted more by the locals and welcomed into their own family Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 39, My partner is 49.

Where were you born?
Torquay, Devon but moved and worked in London..

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
Maison De L'Orb takes up much of our time and we're lucky in that we have been busy. Last year was our first season so we had friends and family over to give them a "taster" and then ask for feedback - what was good, what we could do better etc. We launched officially last autumn, had a great Christmas and New Year season and now in full summer mode.

My partner is currently setting up a property consultancy business for people wishing to relocate to France.

I still continue to write and currently in midst of publishing two books. I am working on a history of our house and Beziers during the war.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
Despite making contacts at various exhibitions in the UK, support has been poor and what support there was tended to be expensive. There was not any transparency to rules so it was more of a case of getting on with it and learning as you go. A lot of people took our details at French exhibitions in London but then there was no follow up, kind of a waste of time really.

When we moved our main issue was with the removal company who decided to alter their price on day of removal and again while goods were in transit. It was a case of pay more or we don't deliver. We tried to complain but even their governing body was not interested but even though we did some research, we would never use or recommend this company again.

On a business side, I would say France doesn't have a service industry that is supported by a regulator. They still reply on a telephone call rather than a letter or email and even then can take months to get some form of answer.

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Do the all important research. Our main requirement when we moved was ADSL broadband and many parts of this area don't have it. Also think with your head not with your heart. Saying all that though, we arranged a long weekend visit and sourced twelve properties to look at. On the first day, our agents mentioned a property they had just taken on and worth a visit so we agreed. As soon as we opened the door I knew this was the right one. It gave us a good starting point but we still looked at the others but always came back to this one. We also have dogs so a garden was also a priority.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
We spoke French before and I guess being here makes you learn even more. I am currently at a local school studying advanced conversational French which is free and recommended by the local Marie. We got to know our neighbours straightaway and even now we hold dinner and drinks parties every week and get invited weekly to their homes.

I think the worst mistake many British folk make is believing life in France is the same. In Beziers for example its not. The lifestyle here in the south is more laid back and you are accepted more by the locals and welcomed into their own family. A physiological prospective is very important here in the south.

What's the best thing about living in France?
In Beziers it has to be the sunshine, the good food and wine, the shops and cafes and people in general.

And the worst?
Getting a response from GDF or EDF when questioning a bill. Knowing we were English didn't help but when our French neighbours assisted us we got a result, so again, one tip is be nice to the neighbours!

What do you think?

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