|Living France Life in Charente South West France|
Life and Living in South West FranceYou decided to come to France and as you sipped your French red wine with friends in the courtyard of your French gite, relaxing in the warm night air. In the distance, sounds of the night market as it winds down are replaced by music from the free street concert. You have sunbathed in 40 degrees temperatures, swum endlessly in the pool, indulged in gourmet restaurant food and drunk quality French wines and cognacs which cost practically nothing. This is the life. You don't speak French but after all this is Europe.....everyone will speak English! But what will you think when it rains in November? There will be frost in January, gales at 100km per hour. You will need to cut firewood for that pretty fireplace you admired in August. There will be smoke and ash if you are going to be warm. The restaurant you loved in summer may close suddenly one afternoon in October and re-open at Easter. Shutters will close by 4.0 p.m. in the afternoon and streets will be deserted. The French Christmas lasts just one day and French families spend it at home. You are unlikely to get an invitation to join them or find a restaurant open. Your French neighbours in rural parts will be hunters. How will you feel when a pheasant, one hour dead, arrives as a gift on your doorstep? Baked beans will cost a pound a tin and if you want English sausages, bacon or cheddar cheese you must be prepared to travel.
Your English number plates will be illegal after three months. It is possible you will actually have to have a car with the steering on the left! Your neighbours will speak French. Of course summer will approach again but this time you won't be on holiday. In fact between entertaining all your guests you will probably get no rest at all. Just how many more times will you have to visit that beautiful French medieval town?And do you know where you keep your birth, marriage, divorce, death certificate? Bureaucracy and form filling here are overwhelming but normal.
So why do we stay, you ask, those many ex-pats who have settled in France permanently?
We stay because we have accepted we are living in a different country. It is not going to be 'Utopia' but we have found plenty to like. Even in winter there are 'blue sky' days. We have become experimental with our food and choose to try delicious, seasonal products and recipes. Perhaps a thick, warming cassoulet in winter with beans and sausage and pork or maybe duck or oysters as a mid-week tea. We've learned some French....or tried too! There are groups, or one to one lessons, and even organisations like the 'Reseau de Exchange de Savoir' which offers to teach you free of charge if you offer a skill in return. We have French friends and spend many winter evenings over long meals practicing our language skills with hilarious results. Remember you can never 'be' hot
( je suis chaude.....a prostitute!) just as our French friend practicing English may not really want to find a
'bonk' ( banque) today!There are clubs for every sport, for handicrafts, for dancing, the over 60's, and weight-watching. There is an English church which meets regularly within driving distance of most Charente & Charente Maritime homes. There is a Mother's Union and a Ladies group like W.I. Why do we stay in France? We stay because we have found a way of life where quality still counts. We don't have to upgrade our car every year or put in the latest home improvements. Time spent with friends and families is more important. There is still respect in the streets. Strangers say 'hello' when they pass you. Young people go out with their parents for the evening. A bag left behind accidentally will probably not be stolen.
We have found a relaxed way of life from which we find contentment. It has been worth making the many changes and accepting the many differences in our cultures. We have learned to love life here. And that decision you made on that balmy, August night....... it can still be the best decision you have ever made!
You can find more articles from expats living in France at ARTICLES ON FRANCE
|Living France and Life in South Charente South West France|
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