My top 5 things to do in France vs my top 5 realities of living in France

I know that my Instagram feed is often full of the usual things that one might expect to be doing when living in France, but today I’m thinking of my own personal top five:

My top 5 things to do in France

1 Eating bread and bread-based foods (seriously, carbs are life)
2 Speaking French (yes, bread even comes before this, I am addicted)
3 Drinking lovely wine for a euro
4 Eating all the flipping cheese in my department
5 Beautiful French architecture

In my old UK-resident-francophile-from-afar life these were truly the ways that I thought that life in France would be. That I’d be wandering through flower-lined streets of typically French houses with gorgeous shutters and lavender everywhere. And to a degree I am. It’s a joy.

Bread and cheese are an integral part of our French experience

Five realities of living in rural France for the uninitiated

1 Winter is COLD. The days may be sunny, even warm, but if there aren’t any clouds you best have some wood for a fire that night.
2 Admin is a full-time job, particularly in these interesting times of Brexit. Have lots of printer ink.
3 Food is not cheap. Eating fresh and seasonally will be the most frugal way to go. Or grow vegetables, as I am planning to do.
4 Housing is cheap, but purchasing a home here is different, bien sûr! In my opinion its more organised and formal, but you’ll pay for that.
5 It would be really easy to live here and almost not speak a word of French, but for me, that would negate any reason to live here whatsoever.

Top 5 things to do in France vs Top 5 realities of living in France
Living in the gorgeous surroundings of the French countryside is a joy

What are your values?

I often get asked things like “how much does it cost to run a two-bed house in France?” or “Can you help me to decide if this house is right for me?”. Both questions that tap into both my frugal and opinionated self. But I have to take a step back from that and remind those people that living here, in whatever way you choose to live, is a deeply personal experience.

Things still cost money here. Sometimes a lot, sometimes less. It depends enormously upon our living habits and how we make ourselves happy. For me, I am (clearly) pretty happy as long as there is bread, wine and cheese. I also need some nature and see wildlife, a garden to grow things and the opportunity to speak to French people.

And while I LOVE our French home and everything that we are doing to renovate it, it is not the most important thing to me. Spending time with my partner, lovely people in the village, making friends, learning how to be in a new culture and integrating as much as I possibly can are my priorities. If that means the kitchen isn’t painted until next year I can live with that (update, it IS painted now!).

Graham with his latest gardening kit

I suppose what I’m saying is, if you want to move to France, I would examine what it is that you value. If you need to be in a place where you have all the amenities available to you at all times, then rural France is not for you. If you can’t cope with the idea that shops close for lunch, or that you have very little power when it comes to bureaucracy (cue gallic shrug) then this isn’t the place.

But if you are willing to learn, integrate and try, if you can be okay with accepting that things won’t always be quick or perfect or cheap then it may well be. It’s a risk. But for me, accepting some risk is part of living a full life.

We enjoy some beautiful sunsets here in Haute Vienne

As always, if anyone wants to ask questions you are so welcome, I love interacting with you all – but it’s just that the big questions can only be answered by you. And that’s how it should be.

Bon courage.

Laura x


  1. Jilli
    April 5, 2019 / 8:08 pm

    How true! I seem to live on bread and cheese especially as I’m here on my own at the moment! Though unfortunately as I’m 10km from St Emilion wine isn’t particularly cheap, mainly because it’s lively to drink wine that you know where it is grown and it’s a friend that has produced it

    • frugalenfrance
      April 12, 2019 / 6:29 pm

      Oh, that sounds fantastic! I’ll admit we are drinking rather anonymous (though cheap) wine at the moment. I think now that we understand the lay of the land a little more we are looking to buy more local things, for example, today we went to our village’s food market (literally four stalls, but they’re great!) and bought some goats cheese with our village’s details on the front, and I think we have identified the farm they come from up the road. So we’ll try and keep on with that, its very rewarding 🙂

  2. April 5, 2019 / 9:17 pm

    Sounds like you are going to be ok here. Some big lessons learned already. You mention eating seasonally. So true here. No good heading to the shops with the latest recipe from your fave UK magazine…you won’t find the ingredients. But you will learn to enjoy the rhythm of fruit and veg arriving at its ‘proper’ time and using local recipes gleaned from new french friends. You’ll find you adapt to a different rhythm too and wonder why you ever felt the need to run around in ever decreasing circles. Big delusion amongst UK visitors that everything here is cheap, it ain’t! Ok, the wine is but everything else comes as an unpleasant surprise. Plus time has not a lot of meaning. You get used to waiting for stuff to get done and stop losing sleep over it. Make a cup of decent coffee and tuck into a pain au raisin…life is good!

    • frugalenfrance
      April 12, 2019 / 6:26 pm

      Thank you! Yes we are starting to understand more about what is seasonal here, mostly by watching the shelves in supermarkets and keeping an eye on the price. I agree also about the different rhythm of life, I feel as though I have thrown aside a whole rulebook about how fast I was supposed to live and now neither my partner nor I can imagine going back to our old weekly routines.

      Yes, our wine bill may have gone down, but the rest of the food bill more than accomodates that decrease! Oh well, can’t have it all! 🙂

  3. Kameela
    April 24, 2020 / 10:54 pm

    Laura you have the right attitude to be in this beautiful country. I am from the UK but not born there. I love the UK but fell in love with France 44 years ago on my first visit. Subsequently my husband also fell in love and we are still in love . We bought our house 21 years ago as a holiday home toing and froing constantly and moved permanently 2 years ago when we retired. We are fully integrated dans la campagne. Speak the language and enjoy all that’s on offer. I met an English couple recently and I was asked a strange question. “Did I know many English people? I don’t because firstly we live on the edge of a village and there are hardly any other English only French . Should the question not have been “do you know many French people? She said she struggled with the language after many years and still is finding it difficult. It pays to put in the effort.We also had certain requirements when we bought like a sound roof running water (We have a well!) electricity as we did not want to spend our entire time covered in dust and grime doing it up. Like you we wanted to enjoy ourselves socialise and boy have we over the years. We still have a bit of renovation to do in the stables but we took early retirement so are watching our pennies. When we first bought the pound was so strong against the Franc .we were at a great advantage. Now everything except wine and some cheese is affordable so we have had to adjust. We grow our own vegetables have an orchard make our cider and Apple brandy and lots of other alcoholic beverages .😁 We have chickens for eggs and lots of space to enjoy nature. In this current climate living frugally will be catching on. A simple life is a joyful life😍

    • April 25, 2020 / 9:14 am

      Thanks so much Kameela! I think much of it has been through having so much support and guidance from people like yourself! It has certainly made the transition easier 🙂 And yes, our choice of houses sounds very similar to us in terms of how habitable they were when we moved in! I think the core of frugality is not spending the least possible (though sometimes that’s what we do!) but spending wisely. Living on little but having a great standard of living is my goal, and while I might have spreadsheets to track my spending – which I was ribbed for on social media – it allows us to live in the way that we like best, so it’s a price worth paying. You orchard sounds fabulous, the idea of apple brandy makes me want to plant more trees! Hopefully, we will have our chickens too soon and can join you in further self-sufficiency. Bon-weekend! 🙂

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