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Moving to France – How NOT to do it.

Moving to France – How NOT to do it.

| On 05, Jan 2008

Moving in

Our moving in date of the 30th of June was now fast approaching, but our furniture was only able to stay in the village store until the end of May, so we had a mad panic trying to find somewhere else to store it. We had been for social drinks with the couple we were buying the house from a few times, so finally decided to ask them if they could help us. Thankfully, they were quite happy to have our furniture stored in the garages until we moved in, so we transported everything down the mountain on a small hired van. It took several trips and the help of two very pleasant French handymen – Remy and Jean-Marc – who have helped us out now on several occasions.

We finally moved in on the 30th of June, leaving my Mum and Harry back at the villa for another month, the hottest of the year – with temperatures topping the high 30’s daily – so we could move furniture in properly and start work on their apartment. Unfortunately my brother was unable to return and help us, as he had started a new job in the UK.

We decided to totally renovate the ground pa large bedroom with en-suite toilet, a large bathroom with a wet room shower and corner bath and an American-style great room with an open plan kitchen, dining room and sitting room, plus a separate laundry room. They would also have direct access to the front and back of the property.

The remaining space on the ground floor would be converted into a rear entrance hall and an en-suite bedroom which could be used by my older children or any friends and relations when visiting, without taking up space in the four B&B rooms. Ultimately the house would go from having four bedrooms two bathrooms and two kitchens to having no fewer than eight bedrooms and eight bath/shower rooms and three kitchens.

In August my kids came over from the UK to spend the summer holidays with us and – six weeks late – a team of French builders started work on my parent’s apartment. So my poor long suffering parents were confined to what would eventually be their bedroom for three and a half months, until the work was completed. Luckily they had a patio door from their bedroom into the garden, and we put in satellite TV, so it was at least bearable for them. In the meantime, Craig and I worked every day on the four guest bedrooms upstairs, learning new skills as they were required.

Craig tiled over 150 square meters of floor, we put in bathrooms, built new walls, new doorways and decorated, which meant that we couldn’t spend as much time with the kids as we had at Easter, but we did something every Wednesday and Sunday with them and the rest of the time they went out with their grandma, played in the garden or swam in the pool.

Lake

We went to the beautiful Lake Salagou or the Beach and went swimming in the Mediterranean every Sunday in the summer. In the autumn we walked our dogs in the forests of American live oak, sweet chestnut, cherry and mimosa, situated directly behind our house, collected mushrooms, and wonderful fat chestnuts which we roasted on our huge open fire.

By November 2006 my Parents apartment was finally finished and at last they could finally move in; it had cost over 40,000€ (£27,600), to do the conversion.

My mum was now having daily help with Harry from local community nurses, as his condition had degenerated too much for her to cope with his care on her own. Luckily this is paid for by the French Social Security system. We all have the essential Carte Vitale (green card), which entitles us to medical treatment in France. We still have to contribute to medical costs, but most is covered by the state. Harry had 100% cover, as he suffered from a long term incurable disease that requires a large amount of medical treatment. The hospitals here are wonderful; the treatment is very fast and second to none.

Because my husband and I are still of working age, we have to contribute to the French social security system to be entitled to cover by the Carte Vitale; it’s expensive so you will need a good income if you are still working age.

At Christmas, Craig, Alex and I went back to the UK to be with friends and family especially my two older children. We had a lovely time, but found that we hadn’t missed anything about living in the UK at all, except them of course and cheddar cheese! In fact we couldn’t wait to get home to France, the drive back taking us through central France and the closer we got to home the more spectacular the scenery became, taking us over mountains of up to 1700 metres.

Website

When I asked the web site designers who built the website for the hotel if they could change it for our little B&B, they quoted me £1,600, I just couldn’t justify this, but one of our new friends, Iain, built websites in his spare time and offered to change ours for just a couple of bottles of wine – what a star! Take a look at www.lepoutoudorb.com .

Another summer has now passed and what fun we had. The kids love coming over and spending time playing in the sun. We have no money left at all, as it was well over a year since we had any regular income. The B&B is fun, but it isn’t enough to live on. Craig got a job working for one of the largest estate agencies in Europe. Their offices are based in Montpellier, and because it is a 1hr 45 minute drive away they said it was too far and so he lost the job. We felt this was grossly unfair, as he worked his socks off, but in the first three months of employment here they can get rid of you for any reason they like. He is now looking for something else. He would go self employed; only we don’t have enough money for him to do this, as he would be taxed from day one before he earns a penny. But we have to trust in fate and know that something else will come along.

To survive in France you really need to be a jack of all trades and a little bit entrepreneurial, it’s not easy to find your niche here, but everyone is so helpful. Taxation is high, especially social security payments and you will need to employ a good accountant as tax evasion detection is really hotting up. You can realistically estimate to pay about half of your hard earned cash to the state, so don’t think you will get rich here.

But the quality of life more than makes up for it.

Friends

I recently went out for a girls night out to Pezenas with a group of friends, we all had a fantastic three course meal in a totally packed little bistro, drank six carafes of wine and had coffee and it cost us just 23€ a head, that’s around £16!

Very sadly Harry died recently. We miss him terribly, but he had suffered the most awful illness, and he really wanted to die, so it was a blessed release for him. My mum is still coming to terms with his death as she was his life and he was hers, she cared for him 24 hours a day 7 days a week for seven years, so now he has gone it has left a huge void in her life. But she doesn’t want to go back to the UK; despite everything we have been through we are all really very happy here.

{mosbanner right}Making a sustainable living is our biggest challenge, but we hope that our businesses will grow year on year and we will be able to diversify and run short courses and dabble in other fun things that we simply didn’t have the time for in the UK. We have many many friends from a mixture of Nationalities, French, English, Belgium, American and Canadian. Alex has British and French friends, although he is the only British child in his school. He loves riding his bike and plays golf at the local golf club. He still misses his brother and sister and his friends from the UK, but as time passes I know that things will continue to get better and better for him.

I chat to my big children by video link on the internet all the time – they often ask for help with their French homework! They are both doing very well at school in the UK. We are lucky that their school is the best in the whole of Devon and supports them with their mum living abroad.

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