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Monday, August 19, 2013

Upping Sticks is a Brave Move

It is so interesting to meet other English speaking people who have homes in this part of France. We have friends in town who have opted to commit themselves to France and have made the big decision to live a French life. Others, like us, have a 'maison secondaire' and I think for many of us we live a French 'fantasy' life.

Part of my wish not to live permanently in France is, I suspect, because I have already moved countries once and I don't feel like going through the trauma of re-establishing roots again. I also have, over the years, developed a commitment to my adopted country and realize that re-establishing yourself in a new country is a long time coming! One of the difficulties for us, however, is that our chosen French getaway -- is not convenient for visiting more than once a year -- being 900 miles from Southport. Once upon a time, we had a second car, but that has still not been repaired. The nearest airport we can access is 100 miles away and it's complicated to get from there to our little house. The Man is not one for renting a car!

It intrigues me how many people choose to live here and never really learn to speak French. There are French people in the area that can speak some English, but by and large this is not an area where you can depend on people being able to speak English -- even limited English. But there is quite a reasonable English community in these parts and they rely very much on each other for friendship and often for work when they are renovating their houses. Friends of our have a most beautiful house that they have done a beautiful job renovating -- almost all the materials for the kitchen, the bathroom and utility room came from the UK. The main reason being that it so much cheaper. Other friends of our, however, bought the materials for their home in France -- but had a great deal of the work done by an English carpenter.

All of us ex-pats have English television! Some things are just not for giving up!

29 comments:

  1. So you're staying put and having the best of both worlds? ... good luck with the choices though - Hilary

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    1. Yeah...I like it that way, too!!!

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  2. My head boggles at the thought of all the languages required.

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    1. Only three for me -- French, English, and American ;-)

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  3. French is not an easy language to pick up as an adult. I tried once long ago and gave up after a few months. :-)

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    1. The pronunciation is the bug-bear for most adults. Fortunately, for me, I started young enough and found it interesting enough at the time to retain some memory of what I was taught!

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  4. The last time I was in France I turned on the TV at 8:00 on a weeknight and saw that Zorro was playing, the Disney TV show from the Fifties. This didn't give me good thoughts about French TV programing.

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    1. French television is very good for learning to understand spoken French. As to the television programming -- it's definitely not as good as English television -- though having said that lately I would suggest British television is not as good as it used to be...

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    1. Absolutely! And available to all who have a satellite television!

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  6. We're surrounded by British expats here in southern Normandy, Broad and many of the same thoughts have crossed my mind when talking to those I meet. I can't imagine moving permanently in later life to a country where you don't speak the language, even badly, yet I meet people who have done exactly that.

    As for our renovation, as it was done on a shoestring the kitchen is B & Q's cheapest range (installed by us) but the bathroom fittings were bought in the sales in France at very reasonable prices and are of excellent quality. We don't have TV here at all, but if we did we'd do what a French-resident friend does and just have French TV. Because of this her French-language skills are probably the best of all the expats I know.

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    1. French plumbing is such that it requires French bathroom fittings! As the Man is constantly being reminded as he curses our wonky toilet flushing system!!!

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  7. you are right, it does take a while, sometimes a long while, to fully commit to a new country. Too bad that your French home is so far away. A weekend retreat or at least, say something just a couple of hundred miles away would have been more ideal. But at least once you go, you stay awhile and really get to enjoy it.

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    1. It is frustrating to us that only 30 miles away is a brand new airport -- Souillac/Brive -- but so far there are only flights from London -- which does not work for us. We live in hope. The first year it opened there were flights from Manchester, which were discontinued the following year. :-(

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  8. We don't have TV here either, but if we did, then it would only be French TV. As for speaking the language, well, I don't do that very well, mostly because my head is too full of other stuff so find it difficult to remember the words, but I do try, and will keep on trying. My husband is bilingual already, so his head copes with absorbing a foreign language quite easily, so I rely on him. I shall learn French! ..... one day!

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    1. You are so amazing with what you have done, Vera. Good luck with the language, though.

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  9. That 900 miles is a long haul for a holiday. Even in a land where an excursion of several hundred miles is considered a short trip, 900 miles will take a day or two. Still, I'm glad you like your «maison française».

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    desert.epiphanies@sasktel.net
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

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    1. And the older we get the longer that 900 miles seems!!! XO

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  10. Always difficult to adjust to a new culture, new language. Yet, with time and energy, one can have the best of both places, a sunny place for those winter blues, and a home base for everything thing else. You and your husband did so much work at the new place that it is a shame not to enjoy it more often.

    Where abouts is it, and have you considered leasing it out as a vacation home when you are not there?

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    1. But at least when we are able to get here we do get to stay a while! We are indeed lucky to be able to have the best of both worlds...

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  11. I can never imagine myself moving permanently to a new place where my native tongue isn't spoken. I have little facility with languages, other than my own. I've barely passed school courses in Spanish, have flunked those I took in Latin and French. I have a great respect for those who move somewhere and learn another language.

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    1. I would find it difficult to live somewhere permanently where another language was spoken. Whenever we return to England, there is a certain sense of relief to understand all that is said around me -- and when I go back to the States it is a different kind of feeling -- but one of returning to a familiar place of nurture. But it's funny how often upon returning to France I almost speak French when I have to ask for something in a shop, for example!

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  12. Ha ha yes we could not do with out our English TV but we do go to French from time to time. I have "up-sticks" so many times that I never want to do it again. UK to Rhodesia, then to South Africa, then to Bothuthatswana, back to South Africa, then return to the UK 50 years after originally living there, and now to France!! During that time there was also about 16 house moves!! My French is pretty hopeless when it comes to conversation but I can generally make myself understood. Starting a new language after you turn 60 is not so easy! Bonne journée, Diane

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    1. Can't help but thing that exercising those 'little grey cells' is going to be very good for you, Diane! As for 16 house moves -- that would have sent me off the deep end!

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  13. I recognise all you are saying. I know we want our French home to be just one of the 2 places we live. We did not think we could leave family ties behind. We want to be grandparents that the children see very regularly, and not just somewhere nice to visit once or twice a year. However, it is hard. It is not so easy to be part of 2 communities. Flitting between them means you are never around for long enough to be accepted as a real part of either community. So, staying put in one place for a prolonged period seems to be the answer for us at the moment. My health problems caused a glitch in our plans, but from here on, we have decided to spend 6 months based in France and 6 months based in England. The 6 months in France will include most of the summer, so kids can visit then. It doesn't mean we wont have "holidays/vacations" away from base, but home will be UK for November to May, and France from May to November.....or at least that is the plan at the moment ! Jx

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    1. Good luck with your plan, Janice -- it sounds like a good one to me -- and I think you two properties are even further apart than ours!

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  14. Dear Broad, I traveled to England twice and to France, Holland, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland once. Just short visits. No living there and establishing some roots or learning French. I was in Greece for three weeks and I would love to return there and live for a few months each year.

    But I do believe that I'd need to learn Greek because so much of what and who a people are is found in their language. And most of us think in our birth language. And so for myself, I'd want to learn the language of the land in which I chose to make new friends.

    But I say this as someone who has not experienced renting a house or building a house and living for some time away from here in the States. I'd like the experience I think but I don't see it in the cards for me. I'm just glad that you so enjoy your stay in France. Peace.

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  15. Greek is a challenging language -- and then there is a different alphabet to contend with -- I haven't been to Greece -- yet -- but it's definitely on my 'most wanted' list!

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  16. We haven't decided what the future will bring for us.
    We think we will downsize at in the UK as we don't think our pensions (when we retire!) will run to the upkeep of two large houses and give us enough to do the travelling around the world that we would like to do.
    Like Janice we would like to spend a lengthy amount of time in each place.
    Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live is a must along with the internet.

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!