Print Posted By Lost in France on 28 Feb 2010 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Llamas and Carp Fishing in Limousin

Stephanie and Chris moved to France in 2006 and now live in the north-east corner of Creuse where they run a carp fishery and do llama trekking.

Walking AlpacasWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
We moved to France from Ireland in 2006. Why? It was inevitable! We'd always loved France, spending longer and longer there on holiday every year. A redundancy and two children about to reach critical stages at school made it now or never - and we went for now.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
We live in the north-east corner of Creuse, departement 23. The plan was to run a carp fishery so we needed a lake, and Creuse is where you find a lot of lakes. It was also one of the cheaper regions to buy property in, an important consideration. We hadn't been there before but had holidayed all around it at various times.

Creuse has the oldest average population and is one of the poorer regions of France. It is a very rural area, full of empty crumbling houses. My eldest son, now 18, claims it's boring and will certainly be heading off at some point, but there is a lot here. If you make the effort to integrate, you're warmly welcomed.

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
We have three children. Benjamin, 18, is in Premiere at Lycée. He was 14 when we came and started in 4eme at College. Caitlin, 15, is in Seconde at the same Lycée in Gueret as her brother. She started out in 6eme at College, aged 12, but eventually jumped a year so she caught up with her age group. Ruadhri, 8, was 5 and began in Grande Section at Maternelle. He is now in CE2 at Primary School.

The first 6 months were tough for the kids, no question, but since then they've never looked back. Both the teens got Mention Bien, the second highest grade, in the Brevets (taken at the end of 3eme at College). After a year they were fluent. Now they're French!

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Go for it, but be prepared. Allow for it to take several years to get your business up and running Close quote

What is your age?
Do you really need to know?! OK, I'm 47 and Chris is a bit older.

Where were you born?
Ipswich, Sufolk for me, and Linthwaite, Yorkshire for Chris.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
We run our own business, which mixes carp fishing with accommodation and llama trekking.

It was tough going to get registered, and frankly we got messed around and were given a lot of unhelpful advice by departments who should have known better. But along the way we did find support and encouragement.

We persevered and three years on, things are really starting to come together. We've signed up with a leading UK carp fishing holiday company (Anlging Lines_ who act as our sole agents.

Thanks to the llamas and alpacas, we've been on TV twice, the radio half a dozen times and are frequently in one of the local papers. We're well known in the area now.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
I don't think we did, but we came close. Luckily we checked to see if the lakes we wanted to buy were registered. I came over to France on a fact-finding mission just after we found Les Fragnes. It turned out they weren't, so were able to write into the acte de vente the condition that the lakes must be registered.

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Go for it, but be prepared. Allow for it to take several years to get your business up and running. And be hard-headed and determined. Entrepreneur may be a French word, but it isn't a French mindset. Rules and regulations seem to be there to make things hard, but work with them.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
Our first winter wasn't great. The kids were struggling at school, Chris was back working in Ireland, our living conditions were extremely basic, we had no central heating and it was a very cold winter. But we got through. Benj, Ruadhri and I adjusted very quickly. Caiti took a little longer, and Chris took longest as he was toing and froing to Ireland so not really able to settle in until he gave up the Irish job. Having the children meant we met lots of people quickly through school, which helped, and the local Maire was supportive.

What's the best thing about living in France?
For us the daily challenges. Life is never boring, and I mean never. Every day is different. We've never worked so hard and been so physically tired day after day, but we're really living. We have 75 acres with three lakes, woods and fields.

We have two old cottages packed with history, and an enormous barn. We could never have dreamed of having anything like that in either England or Ireland, the country we left to come here. And most importantly, the children have bright futures as bilingual European citizens in a forward-looking country at the heart of Europe.

And the worst?
Occasional disheartening misunderstandings and muddles.

What do you think?

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