Looking for a lifestyle change or a new way of working and living? Particularly for those of us who hail from big towns and cities in the UK, living in rural France is literally a breath of fresh air!
Living in rural France for some is a dream come true for many of us. It’s true that if you have been used to a fast pace of life, it’s certainly a life change but one that many of us welcome at the right time in our lives (and not always retirement). Areas in rural France are often busier in summer months than they ever are during the winter due to tourism related activities, so if you are looking to make that leap make sure you conduct thorough investigations of the area you are looking at different times of the year. Despite this, many of us made the change and haven’t looked back so there is certainly something to be said for the laid-back lifestyle, the peace, calm and tranquility and the importance of the simple things in life within these areas.
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If like me you’ve always lived in big cities in the UK, the first thing you will notice is the attitude of the people. They’re simply not interested in what you have or what your backstory is, all they care about is whether they like you or not – what a leveller! Always make the utmost effort when living in rural France to be friendly, kind and integrate with your neighbours and people from your village and I promise you it will pay you back a million times over. Obviously though, this goes both ways. Integrating into your community is of paramount importance and ingratiating yourself on others will serve you well. For example should you need help in an emergency, your car breaks down and you can’t get to the shops, or you honestly never know when just being able to shoot the breeze with a neighbour could be just the very thing that uplifts your spirits. From neighbours that are ready to help at a moment’s notice (with no expectation of anything in return) to people gifting you fruit and veg during the summer months, living in rural France is *all* about community and looking out for each other. If you’re really lucky (like me who arrived like an alien beamed down completely on my own) you will soon find that never saying no initially to an invitation will quickly find you a close group of French friends – all important for integration as well as improving your level of language as often, unlike in the bigger towns and cities, many here do not speak English.
Within these types of rural communities, especially smaller villages and communes one person of particular importance is the mayor. Whilst mayors in larger cities may be faceless and not know all the people within their communes, this is completely the opposite in small villages. Often having lived their whole lives in their village they know everyone and everything. The mayor is the go to person for any question – you want to make changes to your house – go to the mayor, you find a hornet’s nest and don’t know who to phone – go to the mayor, you need more recycling bags – go to the mayor. They are the first point of call for any query or question and they are always willing to help, as their job dictates.
Whilst mayors in larger cities may be faceless and not know all the people within their communes, this is completely the opposite in small villages. Often having lived their whole lives in their village they know everyone and everything.
Shopping and services
Now this is an important one. Depending on the size of your village or commune there may not even be a shop within reach of your nearest bigger village or town – although several communes have places that act as the local bar, bread depository, post office and corner shop. Services such as supermarkets, garages, dentists, doctors are often far enough away to need transport (and we don’t have a local bus service) so that means your own transport.
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Whilst understandably being a source of concern for some (in particular the elderly), France is very much about looking out for people in this position. Neighbours often shop for each other and the health care services provide conveyance in the form of ambulance taxis to both doctors and hospitals if required. It is a good idea however to quickly find out where all of your essential services are based and think about how you would get there in case of an emergency as you certainly wouldn’t want to be thinking about that for the first time should an emergency present itself. Unless you’re also made of money, this forces you to learn quickly to self-organise. If you are having to drive 10-15 minutes to go shopping, why not get petrol, pay your bills, draw out cash and any other jobs at the same time?
Transport and traffic
One of my greatest loves about village life in France is the traffic, or in fact the lack thereof. If the satnav says it takes 20 minutes to get somewhere it does, no ifs, ands or buts. A world away from the gauntlet some of us used to run simply trying to travel across our towns in the UK. The biggest traffic jam I can recall recently involved a tractor at the front of a procession of 5 cars. It held us up for about 3 minutes, caused no road rage incidents and gave us all a chance to admire the scenery. I often travel around not seeing a single car and if I do the chances are that they are someone I know so we may stop and shoot the breeze. However a word of warning, in the UK I did hardly any mileage apart from weekends, using public transport to commute and using my car only at weekends. Here you would be surprised at the “kilometrage” one can rack up in the course of a week having simply forgotten to get something when shopping. There is also rarely little in the form of public transport within small communes in France although buses and trains can run from nearby towns but with alarming infrequency. For this reason the reliability of your car is an important factor as is ensuring that you have adequate insurance cover. The first year I lived here I made the mistake of taking out a policy for limited mileage (of the sort I would have in the UK) only to be penalised by going well over so this is certainly a consideration when living in rural France.
Quality of life
From the quality and the purity of the air to the ever-evolving magnificent beauty of the scenery, living in rural France really offers the opportunity to slow down, smell the roses and re-evaluate what truly matters in life. The light and sunshine seems to bring energy with it – a joie de vivre, a renewed energy to get things done, and a chance to be conscious enough to recognise opportunities to make new networks and friends. No one really seems to ask here where you came from or what you did, they simply ask who you are. If you have the breathing space, talking to people and simply taking the time to listen, can result in new friendships, professional relationships and even business opportunities.
From the quality and the purity of the air to the ever-evolving magnificent beauty of the scenery, living in rural France really offers the opportunity to slow down, smell the roses and re-evaluate what truly matters in life
The importance of looking out for others both family and friends is closely followed by the importance of the ceremony of food – never to be rushed and always to be enjoyed, more often than not with the company of many others. Food quality in France is good. You can obviously grow your own or visit the local markets as the locals do and the noticeable lack of pesticides and preservatives makes cooking with fresh ingredients a joy rather than a chore. Food is certainly not viewed as a necessity here but a pleasure. The ability to potter around one’s garden looking at everything that has changed since yesterday (and believe me in summer, it does by the minute) is something I’d never even contemplated having the time or consciousness to do previously and is both a joy and privilege – a natural mood enhancer, and a great start to any day. And there is certainly no keeping up with the Joneses – rather “chacqu’un son truc” as they say.
If you are ready to buy in France within the next year but you still have questions, don’t hesitate to call our France Property Specialist, Yasmin, on 020 7898 0549 or email France@propertyguides.com.
Finding work when living in rural France can be tough although certainly not impossible so it’s strongly suggested that if you need an income stream you think carefully about this in advance. If your language skills are good, some companies do offer employment opportunities but you would often have to travel to larger towns/cities in order to find them. Many people set up their own businesses when living here, either services to benefit others within the area or online/remote working. Luckily technology is a godsend when it comes to this. Pretty much 100% pf my work is online although I do work for other people both English and French within my local area. Obviously also many people make their living from tourism opportunities but beware of the seasonal risk of this – forewarned is always forearmed.
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