Print Posted By Lost in France on 9 May 2008 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Living and Working in Perpignan

Suzanne moved to France 8 years ago and now lives in the Languedoc region close to the Spanish border, she now runs her own business helping others to find and purchase property in the South of France.

PerpignanWhat made you move to France?
My name is Suzanne O'Reilly and 8 years ago I was very happily employed by the Amir of Qatar and flying around the world as a flight attendant, literally living the life of O'Reilly. We stayed in first class hotels with the Royal family, ate in the finest restaurants and visited the most exotic of locations. My life changed completely the day I fell off my rollerblades on the prom in Nice and broke my wrist!

Being unable to fly, I was duly fired from my good job (there are no unions in the middle east!) so I scuttled back home to "mammy" to recuperate.

"Mammy" had a few bob saved and wanted to buy a little pad in the South of France. With nothing else to do, I accompanied her on her journey to Perpignan in her quest to purchase a property. We were like two headless chickens, driving from one end of the department to the other, nobody spoke French and the immobilier service was, on the whole, appalling.

We came away empty handed, exhausted and disappointed after a weeks house hunting.

Being already fluent in French, I spotted a niche in the market and moved down, opened, helping Irish and English people purchase property in this beautiful part of France.

Whereabouts in France do you live?
I live in Perpignan, the Roussillon region which is a 30 minute drive from the Spanish border, on the Mediterranean side. It really is a wonderful place to live with the best climate in France. The sea is a 10 minute drive from my house and I can be at the ski slopes in 1 hour in the winter. The area is covered in vineyards - there is so much to do and see here and the people are exceptionally friendly - proud of their Catalan heritage and roots.

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
I have an 8 month old son who gets on splendidly with his nou nou. My sister, and business partner, Karen, also lives here and she has two kids. Her 3 year old is in maternelle here and speaks better French than Karen and I!

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips If you are doing business here, get a good accountant and remember to budget for the CRIPPLING social charges!!!!Close quote

What is your age?
I'm in my early thirties.

Where were you born?
I was born in Limerick, Ireland, but left the old sod over 15 years ago to au pair in France and haven't lived back there since.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
I co-direct and have just launched The French tour co. There is a lot of bureaucracy involved in running a business in France but once you are up and running for a few years, it does get easier!

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
To be honest, my property purchases have been excellent. We bought at a very good time and have seen the value of our properties triple over the past few years.

Your best tip for people considering moving to France?
My advice to anyone moving here would be to be able to converse in French before you move here. Or partake in an intensive language course once you get here ( the uni of Perpignan runs a very good one).

If you are doing business here, get a good accountant and remember to budget for the CRIPPLING social charges!!!!

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
Having fluent French made it a lot easier for me to integrate. My advice is to bring a bottle of whiskey for your neighbours and to be as friendly as possible.

Make an effort to speak French even if you only have a few words and SMILE! People will really appreciate the effort if you try and speak the language.

What's the best thing about living in France?
The food, the wine, the weather.

And the worst?
The bureaucracy, the taxes.

What do you think?

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