It’s Bastille Day, and I’ve been finishing reading the latest issue of a French lifestyle magazine…
A while back I won a subscription to French Entrée magazine.
It’s a photo-filled mag brimming with advice on buying French property, snippets about towns and festivals, and features about British ex-pats delighting in their Gallic way of life.
I like France, but I also like living in Britain. Does crossing the channel to experience la vie Française full time appeal to me? Yes – but then again, if I really wanted to do it, somehow I would have done it by now: I’ve been intrigued by all things French for some years.
While not wanting to ruffle anyone’s feathers, might I suggest that most migrants have come from the less salubrious areas of the UK, or respectably dull suburbs, and had less to lose by moving to France (assuming they had the financial means) than those lucky enough to live in characterful houses in atmospheric English villages or quiet attractive countryside.
Many are enthused by the idea of a new life abroad, but an equal number must doubt whether they are clued-up and robust enough to cope with the upheaval of the move. It’s no wonder that that most Brits setting up homes and businesses in France have spouses or partners to give them emotional or practical support. A notable exception is Michael Wright, the Telegraph columnist who seemed to manage the London to rural Limousin transfer on his own (though he does now have a wife to keep him company).
With a partner as confidence boosting back-up, you can push down a few of the barriers that otherwise prevent arrivistes from getting to know their French neighbours. Villages in France can be insular, and family life essentially a private affair. I noticed on my Burgundy travels, when walking through small towns on weekend afternoons, how quiet the streets were. Whatever families were up to, it was hidden from sight behind high garden walls.
However, I’m assured that once your neighbours get to know you, they will prove good friends. Then you’ve really made your French Entrée.