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Gill: Blog-Sur-Aude

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in France makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to France, etc.

Hi, my name is Gill. The year I turned fifty, my partner Trevor and I went house hunting in the Aude valley and bought a part-medieval house to restore and renovate in a tiny village in the Languedoc region of southern France. More recently we bought a seaside apartment on the Mediterranean coast as an investment and rent this out to guests. We are building a guest room at the village house and will offer this and the seaside apartment as “two center” coast and country holiday accommodation.

Due to work commitments in the UK and a tiny budget for this project, it has taken us a long time relocate to France and establishes sufficient income to keep us in wine, logs and seafood!

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I found that writing a diary about our big French adventure helped me cope with the roller coaster ride this journey has taken us on, and in 2012 my son suggested I start a blog to share our story.

I write about our personal experiences of renovation and restoring an old property and share tips on such subjects as planning permission, registering your car in France, Languedocien culture, food, wine, local festivals, history, culture and places of interest, investment property and holiday home rental tips, learning French, settling in and getting to know the neighbors, bank accounts, tax & self-employment in France etc.

I also post interior design and decoration tips, and showcase my lifelong collection of antique and vintage textiles, furniture and other decorative pieces.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Always live in the ugliest house on the street.

Tell us about the ways your new life in France differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

For us, moving to a tiny semi-rural village in France from the industrial Midlands in the UK is the biggest change. I am not used to complete silence!

I am adapting very well, having moved around and travelled a great deal when I was younger. My partner is finding it a little tougher, but he does love it!

Life here is quieter, the pace is slower, and our priorities have changed. French culture and values are very different to ours; in many ways their focus on family, friends, food (of course!) and their pride in & active contribution to both their local community and their country is in stark contrast to life in Britain today.

It feels like a re-discovery of the old- fashioned values of my childhood and a happier healthier way to live, and with more sunshine and a rich and diverse landscape as a bonus!

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in France? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

Our move to France has been a gradual process, so we have eased ourselves in gently. I do believe that preparation is the key, along with an open mind and a genuine passion for and interest in your new country of choice! We have committed to learning the language properly and invested our time in this as without the key of communication, integration is impossible.

We would have liked a bigger budget for the renovations and some more money behind us, but aside from that, our problems have related mainly to issues with language and the kind of random incidents that you just can’t predict. That said, we have no regrets, apart from not doing this a bit sooner!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

I make faux-pas all the time but I don’t worry too much and neither do our neighbors.

My most recent embarrassing experience is rolling off the dance floor having been boogying to a few Lady GaGa covers played by the band at the village festival, to find my French builder and his family politely applauding. I was mortified!

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in France?

  • LEARN THE LANGUAGE: It is the key to settling in and living the dream. Otherwise you will find yourself in an expat enclave with its associated restrictions. You will end up badgering friends who speak the lingo or having to pay a native speaker to sort out even the slightest issues or worse, relying on unsound or out of date advice from someone which may cause you big issues later! 
  • BUDGET PROPERLY: Unless you have substantial private pensions or other means, make sure that you have a sensible budget on top of the property purchase & basic moving costs as it will take at least two years to find your feet  and set up an income if you plan to work.
  • EMBRACE THE EXPERIENCE: Decide what you want from this move and put your heart and soul into it, but be open to the new and exciting possibilities which will inevitably arise if you have followed tips 1 & 2 above!

How is the expat community in France? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

There are a few fellow Brits in our area, but all have different plans and dreams so it’s good to share experiences. We have noticed that many haven’t got the language skills needed to be independent and really integrate into their communities, and a few don’t see why they should learn!

We came here for a new life, to be part of a new community and to make new friends, which we have. If we need advice, we generally ask our French friends & neighbors, after all it’s their country!

How would you summarize your expat life in France in a single, catchy sentence?

Crazy but worth it: here we love life and live every minute, like the locals!

Ruben Barbosa

"After work I enjoy meeting other Brazlian expats offline. We go for a beer together and it feels like home. Thanks InterNations."

Verona Torres

"The idea to connext expatriates in Strasbourg fits perfectly to the city. Both are truly international."

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