fbpx
12   84
17   139
18   139
7   135
13   161
32   210
61   243
11   143
78   189
30   151

You ask: Could I move to France?

Ever since last week when my article was published in French Property News (the June 2019 issue if you’re interested!) documenting our motivations for and the logistics of moving to France on a budget, I have been the fortunate recipient of dozens of emails from people just like me, asking the question:

“Could I do it too? Could I move to France?”.

Of course this is totally subjective and individual to every circumstance, so I’ve been emailing back and forth with some of those who got in touch to talk about the cost of living, what it’s like to work here, what it’s like to set up a business, socialising, shopping, the house buying process – you name it! I appreciate I haven’t been here that long compared to many of those whom I meet, however the process for doing all of these things remains very fresh in my mind and I hope the information I have shared is useful – at least I know it’s up-to-date!

They described me as “young” – success! 🙂
Some familiar looking pictures here, eep!
Upset not to be included in the article, of course

The other pleasure I’ve had this week has been to start noticing the roses that came over with us from Bristol making their way out into the sun. It feels like such a long time since I last saw them in flower, and so very much has taken place since then. They’re a very welcome reminder of the rhythm of the year and how close we are getting to enjoying our first French summer.

Pink is a popular colour with guests, obviously
The climber without anything yet to climb
Brightest of all

In less fun news, after our escapades moving wood, which took over all of my previous post, I, unfortunately, have been the unwilling recipient of aoûtat bites – we must have disturbed some larvae in the woodpile when we picked up the very seasoned wood in our commune – so these tiny red spiders have very rudely been injecting me with their saliva so as to extra-digest my cells and eat me. As I say, rude.

It looks as though I have provided quite the buffet, as the left side of my waist, chest, back of my neck and stomach are pretty much covered in enormously raised red welts which have been almost unbearably itchy over the last week and a half. Last night I had to liberate a bag of frozen green beans from the freezer and use them as a cold compress to relieve the itch, nine whole days in! Anyway, if you’ve ever had this, I sympathise hugely. The only thing I can compare it to is like the intense healing stage of a tattoo – but for the fact that this has been going on for over a week, and I have no promise of a pretty image afterwards. Still, I have seen my skin turn to colours that I never imagined possible, so there’s that. Merci, France.

Bitten to pieces :s

Back to positives though, I’ve also had the pleasure of reading how our story inspired so many of you to put your houses on the market, and some have already sold! I feel like the UK property market has something to thank me for at this point 🙂 But seriously, to all those who made this brave move, I salute you. It’s not easy to take the first steps to turn a dream into a reality, but if I can do it, anyone can. One step at a time.

Standard weekend lunch al fresco
New garden chairs for doing precisely nothing

As I say to all of those who emailed me and anyone who needs advice about their move,

PLEASE DO EMAIL ME

I read and answer all emails and if I think I can give you some useful information or help, I will.

Our latest addition, this was in the garden when we arrived

Happy French househunting!

Laura x

The cost of living in France

Today is a bit of a pensive post, and that’s the sort of mood I’m in at the moment. It’s not a typical upbeat canter through a brocante so if you’re looking for that, I apologise – but today I’m going to talk about how I feel five months into living here.

Firstly, I feel very lucky to live here in France. I have realised an ambition that I held for most of my life. That’s a really great feeling – but a less great feeling is that around not having any money.

Secondly, let me be clear, I am not truly poor. I recognise that I am very privileged, I own my own home here. I have no mortgage. I have a small amount of savings in the bank. I have no debts. I work. Believe me when I say that I wasn’t always in this fortunate position.

And I would have none of those things without more than a decade of riding the ridiculous rollercoaster that was working for my old corporate employer, being sent to offices all around the UK – wherever they deemed fit – and adapting to the ever-changing landscape of the roles they put me into. And I work now, as a self-employed person, as a micro-entrepreneur. The very nature of this work is that the income is up and down.

But right now, here in France, on this grey Thursday afternoon as my partner unloads our new lawnmower from the car, I feel poor. And by poor I mean, I worry about money. I worry about it all the time, it’s probably been the most important thing in the world to me. Not because I am greedy, or need it to feel important. Quite the opposite.

Spending considerable periods of my life without enough money have created within me a sort of radar for financial struggle. It has moulded me into a person who is financially anxious. As a therapist I know how to work with anxiety, I know the tools I’ve learned as a professional and an individual to use to keep myself in a good place and to communicate honestly and openly about financial issues with my partner.

But there is still the low omnipresent hum of watching the pennies (or more accurately now, centimes). I imagine that will be there for all of my life. It’s not debilitating, it’s not sadenning, it doesn’t impact how I feel about myself (too often anyway). But it is there, and it is learned. It is a learned response to escaping poverty. Of never, ever wanting to go back there. It’s the drive for much of what I do and the way that I behave (in the wider scheme of things, i.e. it contributes to me being a driven person, solution and goal focused) and it is something that I notice doesn’t exist in other people.

If you’ve ever been poor, I mean really poor. Not just unable to book a nice holiday, but using a credit card to buy food poor, I sympathise. I’ve been there. It changes you as a person – I think it can’t help but change you. It’s the whole reason that I created Frugal France in the first place because I knew that once we moved here that money would be tight. I knew I was volunteering to be less fiscally comfortable than I had been in the UK.

So I suppose the point of this post is not to bemoan that decision but to acknowledge it. That for all of the lovely pictures that I and my peers post about our lovely lives here, the images of blossom on trees and lambs in fields, that isn’t and never could be the full story. That for many of us, money is a big thing to consider, and that living here in France is not cheap. Especially when many of us have downsized our belongings and arrive needing to buy tools, renovation materials or new cars.

So I’d love to know what your tips are for living really frugally – do let me know in the comments.

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
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


Subscribe to the Frugal France newsletterFor more information, offers and French bargains!