Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The 5 best things about living in France

I'm often asked about our life over here and how it differs from our experiences in the UK.

My stock reply is that it isn't necessarily better it's just different and that those differences happen to suit our personal circumstances. Listing five that I like is pretty arbitrary and a straw poll of one person should probably be taken with a pinch of salt.

Of course, this list is also based upon our life in rural Charente and our personal experiences out here since 2003. If you're an expat reading this in central Paris then you may well see things differently!

1. The education system - let's kick off with a controversial one as the French system has taken a bit of a kicking in the press recently. We have found the teachers to be experienced and caring and we like the fact that they are sometimes quite strict. Classrooms are disciplined with polite pupils. They are also well funded and even in our rural village the teachers use "state of the art" kit. We have regular meetings to discuss how the girls are progressing and can check their regular test results (and attendance record) on a secure online site. Oh and the lunches are excellent.

2. The role of the "family" - this plays a huge part in life over here and we love it. Family life is cherished and you can really sense how close knit the community is. Maybe the school hours have something to do with it as we see plenty of grand-parents looking after the youngsters while the parents are still at work and then everyone sitting down to eat together. I can't name a single one of our French friends who allow the kids to eat in front of the TV.

3. The lack of importance given to "stuff" - I know, it sounds weird doesn't it. When we were living & working in London we had a simply huge joint income. We didn't save we just bought "stuff". My friends come to visit from the UK and they come armed with Blackberries, i-pad's, i-pod's, laptops and all kind of apps and gadgets. Sure it means that they are in constant communication and can download the latest episode of X Factor, Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing but come on.....the endless pursuit of "stuff" hasn't really caught on here yet and I hope it never does.

4. The climate - again, if you're up in Brittany you might beg to differ but it makes a big difference to our life here. On average we get around 2,400 hours of sunshine a year and it helps bring a smile to our face. Put simply I'd rather be on a bike ride with the girls in the sunshine than in the rain.

5. Property prices - they are affordable and relatively stable. Sure you are never going to get the potential for short term gains that you can get in the UK but if you look at what you actually get for your money it's hard to beat. The average price of an "old" house in and around Cognac is currently €136,700 and, in general, I think they are simply amazing value for money compared to other parts of Europe.

So there we go. Of course, it would also be easy to create a list of the worst things about living here (red tape, lots of strikes etc) but for the Downie family they really do pale into insignificance against the positives.



Andy said...

I reckon you have got that just about right Graham. I could add a few more too!

Boyd Butler said...

And the food is simply better.
Boyd from http://www.SolicitorsInBournemouth.com

Caroline Lakey said...

For those with younger children, I'd have to add cheap, high-quality childcare - I was horrified to hear what my cousin pays for childcare in the UK.

Charente Gems said...

and dont forget the Health Service Graham .. I often tell the story about when I had diffculty breathing, lung pains etc among other symptoms . My usual "medcin" in Angouleme was away .. and a locum examined me and gave me some antibiotics. a week later I was still no better and on walking back into my Doctors at 10am on monday morning was seen in ten minutes ( Yes, without an appointment !) My Doctor took one look at me, suspected it could possibly be pleurisy, made two phonecalls and said "go immediately to this clinic down the road, they will take some blood tests and get the results delivered back to me. Wait by the phone at 2pm, with a case packed, and if things are not good I will have arranged for you to go straight into hospital. On the dot at 2pm he rang me at home, Fortunately the tests had rulled out Pleurisy, and he said he had a prescription that would clear the indentified infection waiting at the surgey for my wife to pick up later that afternoon. ... with quality of service like that is it any wonder that 35% of Brits would like to come and live in France !!

Chris said...

Your top 5 are spot on. In Northern Ireland we actually have a fantastic education system, regularly beating the rest of the UK on GCSE and A level results. Stuff not being as important is also pretty pleasing to hear, there isn't really that much stuff that is of any importance.