Print Posted By Lost in France on 29 Mar 2009 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Living in Normandy

Fed up with the daily commute Judy and Russ moved to the Normandy region of France in 2002 where they started off by running a gîte.

Basse NormandieWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
TOH Russ had reached a retirement point with the RAF - choice of signing up for another 11 years, or doing something different. I was fed up with the daily London commute and an unfulfilling career. So... we chose "something different" and thought we would take a year or so living in our cottage near Honfleur whilst we figured out what 'different' actually was. That was 7 years ago, and we are still living in France!

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We are in the Pays d'Auge region of eastern Calvados, in Basse Normandie. It is green, lush and valleyed. 80% of French thoroughbred (pur sang) horses are born in Normandy.

Our nearest town is Lisieux, famed for St Therese of the Roses.

It is a fab place to live; easy to integrate, not too difficult to find work (as long as you speak reasonable French), and the Normans, although reserved, are naturally curious about their Anglo Saxon neighbours. There is a phrase here, which is that, "Derriere de chaque haie, il y a un Normand qui ecoute" (Behind every hedge, there is a Norman, listening). And it's true!

We find life delightful for 95% of the time... and downright infuriating for the other 5%. As long as those proportions hold good, we'll stay put!

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
No children - so made decision to move easier, I suspect. though 'no children' removes one of the integration routes...

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips The more research you do, the greater the chance that you will stay. Close quote

What is your age?
Now in our 50s

Where were you born?
TOH - Cambridge. Me - Durham

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
Yes I do. I was lucky in that I found it fairly easy. Started with letting out our Honfleur gîte, then did some property finding work. Worked for a French estate agency for over 4 years, and am now in marketing.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
Oh in hindsight, we made loads! Letting the seller persuade us to agree a ridiculous valuation on the furniture we bought with the house.... that we then took straight to the dechetterie. That was probably the worst!

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
The more research you do, the greater the chance that you will stay.

...and learn French. Otherwise everything - even the most mundane task - becomes much more stressful than it need be. Don't get hung up on the "Say nowt in case it's wrong" way of communicating. Give it a go!

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
The first year was fabulous, but everything had a novelty value. Apart from forgetting about the 12-2 closedown for the first 6 months!! Get somewhere and the door is shut...

Realising that actually, British are rubbish at queuing. We are very good at whinging whilst queuing!

Learning to live with each other 24/7. That was a good one - oh year 2 was hard!

What's the best thing about living in France?
Quality of life. And learning to live without "stuff" - all that shopping I used to do!! I am so less materialistic than when I was in UK.

I love the everyday courtesies - the 'bonjours', the handshakes and bisous and 'merci madame'..

And the worst?
Bureaucracy. And insolent shrugging. Oh and lacking the ability to argue succinctly in a second language when you want to put someone in their place when they have insolently shrugged at you!

What do you think?

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