Print Posted By Lost in France on 3 Jul 2010 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Living and Working in South West France

Janet Langman moved to France after her husband was made redundant, she's been living in France since 2004 and now works as an Agent Commercial with her own property website.

Pyrenees AtlantiquesWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
My husband was made redundant in 2004. We had been thinking of buying a holiday home in France and when the redundancy money came through we thought 'why not?'. Our kids were 12 and 14 and if we hadn't have made the move at that stage, we may never have made it at all. We have been here six and a half years.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We live in the far South West - Pyrenees Atlantiques. It is a very vibrant area with many fetes and animations, especially during the summer. We were particularly drawn to this area by its strong regional identity, proximity to the sea and the mountains, and the possibility of popping over the border to enjoy some Spanish tapas! The countryside is like that of South West England with green rolling landscape with the additional benefit of the Pyrenees on the horizon.

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
Our two boys were probably too old to adapt easily into the French system. Our youngest has just finished his A Levels in Bordeaux International School and will be going to the UK in the Autumn. Our eldest has qualified as an electrician and is working locally. It took at least a year for them to get to grips properly with the language so my advice would be, just be patient, they will get to grips with it!

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Wind down or the bureaucracy will just wind you up Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 52.

Where were you born?
Shropshire, 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 am an Agent Commercial with my own property website and I work in collaboration with three national estate agency chains. We had a lucky break just after we moved here - an English speaking Insurance agent introduced us to the owner of Century 21 in Orthez and she took us on straight away as at that time (2004) they were overrun with English clients. We learned on the job and are still going strong today. My husband still does contract work in the UK as he has had difficulties learning the language.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
We didn't make a mistake. We saw an incredible number of houses in our first six months and rented whilst we made our choice. I still haven't seen a property that I prefer to ours...

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Learn French - if not you will just spend your time with the other ex-pats! Wind down or the bureaucracy will just wind you up. Don't expect too much of yourselves and take one day at a time. Estate agents are actually there to help you!

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 started work just two months after getting here so our learning curve was vertiginous. We have found the French people here in the South West SO warm and helpful. If in doubt, ask. Keep asking. Often the trick is to know what question to ask. The paperwork involved in setting up a business is not inconsiderable so make sure you get help from someone who knows what they are doing. If you are going to work, get some good advice from an accountant as there are many different regimes and you need to find the one that fits best for you.

What's the best thing about living in France?
We came here for the climate but we would stay for the people. When I am not here I miss seeing the Pyrenees on the horizon, the smell of coffee and bread from the boulangeries, the murmur of French voices and the cameraderie of my work colleagues. England is very exciting but I am always glad to get back.

And the worst?
I always am positive about things so don't tend to think 'worst' - the hardest perhaps is learning the language and then learning how the locals interpret it! Don't try and fight the system - it works very well and occasionally things do happen quickly, which is a real 'cadeau'.

What do you think?

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