Print Posted By Lost in France on 18 Jul 2010 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Living in Morbihan, Brittany

Following a divorce Carole Ann left the UK and moved to an old mill in the the Morbihan area of Brittany.

MorbihanWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
I have lived in Brittany for 12 years and moved here, on my own, following a bad divorce, having already had a holiday home here since 1988.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
I live in the Morbihan area, which is about an hour from most coasts. It is marvellous in the Summer but can be grim in the winter months especially this last year because of snow and flooding. I live on an old Mill site which seems to flood every five years!

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
I don't have school age children but my daughter, aged 21 followed me over here and, having failed her A level French Literature, has gone on to speak French fluently and is expecting her first child with her French partner. My first grandchild.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips French drivers are erratic and suicidal at times as are the 'old ladies' with their supermarket trolleys Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 61.

Where were you born?
Reading, England.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
I still work on letting out my own house and 2 others for friends but am also a registered immobilier, commission only. It is tough to find work in this area and my daughter has struggled over the years and I have found it increasingly difficult to make ends meets in this recession. A state pension from England is not enough to live on and the French do not seem to top this up if there is any hardship. So I shall have to continue to work in a declining property and letting market as now.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
I bought a former Mill site which originally had 3 mills there beside a small river. I bought it in the winter time and there was no flooding. Since then I have been flooded on 3 or 4 occasions, twice quite badly. The insurance only pay out for internal damage and I get ignored as far as the commune is concerned on damage to the land and bridges.

At the moment there are trees down in the river and no-one does anything about it. Flooding is a big problem in this area and no-one seems to control the small rivers.
However I still love it here!

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
My advice is to rent here first, say for three or six months, and take in some winter period. Although warmer than England mostly a lot of the houses are not equipped so well for cold and central heating, in Brittany, is not that common. So be prepared to bring in the wood for the fire or woodburner! Also try to move somewhere where you have, however small, a support network.

If you know no-one in France then move to a village or a town where you have neighbours. If you know someone, move quite close to them so at least you can feel secure. It is imperative to try to speak the language, however badly, and to try to integrate as much as possible with the French way of life. It is simpler than in the UK but very rewarding.

Also do not listen to all the urban myths other English people tell you. Get the facts from an English Speaking newspaper or a notaire. Buying through a recommended agent or notaire is also imperative as there are good and bad everywhere.

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 am single so I joined a network of British single people and we walked, went bowling and other activities and eventually formed our own special friends who became a surrogate family or support system.

I try not to compare England with France and try to do things the French way as much as possible. It is important to accept that you are the foreigner in their country!

Do everything legally but don't go overboard. Some people register themselves in some organisations that are completely unnecessary and find themselves in financial holes because of this. Do not rush into anything - the French don't!

What's the best thing about living in France?
The best part of living in France is the wide open spaces, the lack of traffic and the lack of big brother watching you. There are hardly any speed cameras but those that are here work. Parking is mostly free or left to trust with the blue disc areas.

Eating out is a pleasure and not to be rushed, and no-one is rushing you. You can take small children or even small dogs into most restaurants and they are welcomed. Children in France rarely seem to play up.

There are no layabouts or drunks on street corners, even at Pop Festivals this is at a minimum and crowds are controlled well by local police. Most events are well attended by the locals and they make you welcome. Old and young attend festivities and concerts without embarrassment.

And the worst?
French drivers are erratic and suicidal at times as are the 'old ladies' with their supermarket trolleys.

Shop hours are getting better but DIY places closing over the lunch hour is really inconvenient.
Getting anything done quickly is impossible. You have to go with the flow, especially in July and August.

There is relatively little financial help for us Brits as we get older! I thought we were in the EU for equality?

What do you think?

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