The heady dream of living in France. People move to France for many different reasons, not least for a change of lifestyle. But what about the real differences of life here? Some of them may well surprise you…
Your move to France is an exciting time, but unless you’re seriously laid back, it’s not without its challenges. It’s during the move that often the excitement of finally having made that change is dampened slightly by the realisation of how different things are here. The best advice I can give you, and the trick to navigating life in France, is to forget all about how everything worked in the country you’ve come from. Simply embrace how things work in your new found home.
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For most who move to France, the aim and result is lifestyle change. From the type of property you can afford, to the way that dreams and aspirations seem to flow from the minute you arrive, it’s fair to say that even those of us who have been here for a while feel an element of always being on holiday.
You’ll find that there’s a total sense of community and a focus on the important things in life such as taking your time, enjoying the company of friends and family and the ceremony over food. These are the things a lot of us not only hoped for, but totally found. Whilst you’re settling in, you may be impatient to get things done. But, take your lead from the locals and make the most of it. Take your time, get to know people in your community as well as your surroundings.
Take your time, get to know people in your community as well as your surroundings.
The art of patience
France is a country that likes to savour the good moments and doesn’t like to rush at all. If you only thought of Spain as “manana”, you may reassess. You might have a list of things to do that’s a mile long, as well as the required energy to get them done quickly. But, if you don’t leave your impatience at the door, you’ll go mad very quickly!
Upon your move to France, you’ll have lots of things that you both want and need to do, from administrative responsibilities, to renovations, to shopping. I’m afraid all of these things are going to take time, probably more time than you ever bargained for. The answer is to simply give in to it, as anything else is complete folly and all will get done in the end.
One thing to keep in mind is that everything stops for lunch. Don’t even bother trying to get hold of anyone between 12.30pm and 2.30pm. You may be in a rush, but to the French, the importance and ceremony of lunch is not only totally ingrained in them, it’s paramount for their mood and humour. So, to try and mess with it is ill-advised. At first, this may seem bizarre to those of us who still have to work and used to have to shove a plastic sandwich down our throats on the walk back to the office. But believe me, you will start to appreciate and join in very quickly.
You’ll get your head around the concept of lunch and a lack of rushing around, and soon you’ll stop putting time limits on how quickly things get done. It’s then surprising how things that would have previously stressed you out just don’t any longer! And let’s face it, that’s probably one of the big reasons you moved here. And even better – if you start joining in with Gaelic shrugging then you’ll know you’ve well and truly conquered it!
This new attitude will also prepare you for shopping. You may think a shop is empty due to a lack of cars in the car park, but if the assistant is having a conversation with a colleague or a phone call, you’ll simply have to wait until they’re done. Nothing you can do will change it!
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The speed of the changing countryside
Days here disappear as if in a kind of time vortex. The weather here, whilst certainly sunnier than the UK (occasional rain followed by sun and blue skies), lends itself perfectly to growth spurts of vegetation, the like of which you’ve probably never experienced. If like many of us, you’ve bought a house with land, you will quickly get used to manual labour. Sometimes it honestly never seems to stop. But as well as keeping you in fine form and getting you outside, your senses will be dazzled by just how quickly the things around you change.
Your garden (and the flowers and spoils it provides) can literally change by the day. There’s always something new to see and be in awe of. The changing landscape is something I will never get tired of. From fields of blood red poppies at the end of spring to acres and acres of sunflowers in July, it makes driving in the countryside practically an art exhibition. But do keep your eyes ahead for the French driving down the middle of the road to avoid wildlife, be it deer or wild boar.
Whilst a lot is said about driving habits of the French, it really depends what you’re used to. If you’ve come from a large town, the sheer pleasure of being able to drive for miles and seeing only a handful of cars is not to be sniffed at. A traffic jam in rural France is a tractor holding up 2 cars! And I can’t tell you what difference this makes to your well-being. In big towns obviously pollution, traffic jams and road rage still exist. But if you’re lucky enough to avoid all of that, driving actually becomes a pleasure and something to enjoy, rather than a constant gauntlet to run.
Once you’ve completed your move to France, look at that little piece of heaven that you’ve found for yourself.
So once you’ve completed your move to France, look at that little piece of heaven that you’ve found for yourself. Congratulate yourself on your ability to have adapted to the change that you have experienced, on everything you achieve as you achieve it and do not forget the whole point of why you moved here originally. You may even find that your new, relaxed way of life changes your whole outlook as a person. And last but certainly not least, don’t forget to enjoy every single minute of it!