Print Posted By Lost in France on 15 Nov 2011 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Living in Grasse

MamaB has been an expat nearly 20 years, she moved to France in 2010 and now lives in Grasse the perfume capital of the world.

GrasseWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
We had a dream of a home in France and sitting on our terrace sipping some local wine taking in the view and just loving life. That dream became a reality when we bought our home in 2008. We did intend on having it as a holiday home with the eventual goal of retiring there. As is often the case, life had a different plan for us and fast forwarded our move to 2010 with a few clinks thrown in.

After a second posting of 6yrs in Dubai, my husband took a new position in Africa and we decided because of the age of our children, the time was right to take up residence and start living the dream. I moved with four of our children to start our new life in the South of France on the 4th July 2010.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We live in Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, or so they tell me. Unlike it's glamorous neighbours, Grasse is a bit of a diamond in the rough. Many people I have spoken to ruled a move to Grasse out of the equation but I think it's a bit of a secret and would like to keep it that way so sshhh, don't tell anyone this but ...

Yes there are parts of Grasse that are industrious and in need of TLC but there is much more to it than meets the eye. There is a beautification process ongoing with work being carried out to provided a new bus/train terminal, buildings are being spruced up and businesses are popping up here there and everywhere.

The beauty for me about Grasse, apart from the spectacular views, is the close proximity to Cannes, Antibes, Nice and above us the easy access to the ski slopes of Grenoliers. So I feel like I'm out of the hustle and bustle of the coast but close enough to be there within 20-30mins.

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
I have five children, my eldest is now living in London. The two teens go to the International School, we decided it would be too difficult for them to change at this crucial stage of their schooling as my son was mid GCSE when we arrived.

My twins however went into the local French school. At 6.5yrs old we felt it was the perfect opportunity for them to learn the language and integrate into French society. I have to say the first year was a challenge for me as much as them, as I felt for them truly, I just had to keep reminding myself that in the long term it would all work out and I have to say now we are into the second year and they speak French very well. They don't understand 100% but they are not far off. I am so proud of them and really appreciate the patience of the school who guided them so well.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Do your homework, start big picture and then get down to the nitty gritty... Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 48.

Where were you born?
I was born in South Yorkshire.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
I have just become an ambassador for Barefoot Books, a company specialising in English books for children. I wanted something for myself which would work around the timing of my children. It is also a fantastic way to make new friends and meet people.

However the most exciting thing for me is the ability to give back through Barefoot to local charities and schools.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
I have no regrets whatsoever about buying in France and don't consider we made any mistakes. The whole process was so easy and I think that is down to the fact that I had some wonderful people around me.

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Do it!

Do your homework, start big picture and then get down to the nitty gritty. Thing about the what if's and once you have covered all your bases if it works for you just go for it.

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 have been an expat for almost 20yrs and in every country we have ever moved to, on average it has taken me 12 - 18 months to settle in. I think moving countries, friendship groups etc. is never easy but if you are open minded with a positive attitude it is a wonderful adage on your life quilt.

My first year was tougher than any I have experienced before and I put this down to the fact that during those first 12 months I had contractors in daily as we renovated our 70's stone villa, it was the first time in 18yrs of marriage that my husband and I had lived apart and I was in a new country raising 4 children, 2 of whom where in a new school system. I couldn't speak the language and didn't know a soul.

What's the best thing about living in France?
Everyday I wake up, throw open my shutters and drink in this marvelous view of Cyprus and olive trees. My life is calmer, I'm not sure how as I run round like a headless chicken most days but it is. I enjoy the seasons, the nature, the food, the wine, my attempt living the good life with my veggie patch and chickens.

And the worst?
That I still can't speak French fluently but I am trying, really hard.

What do you think?

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