Living in France…thoughts 6 weeks on
Before deciding to move to France, my mind was full of stereotypes about what it might be like to live here. I’m sure it’s the same for most people. The French love the French. The French love baguettes. The French love garlic. The French have great wine and adore long lunches. So far so good.
Once we found our dream glampsite and area, I began researching on forums, Facebook pages and journals about what the French are really like. So my opinion changed to: The French not only love the French but actively dislike non-French residents. The French only love French cuisine and wine. The French will only speak French with you (even if they know English). The French can be unhelpful and rude to non-French people. The French love red tape and bureaucracy. The French lifestyle is slow, relaxed and nothing gets done over lunchtimes (12-2.30), Sundays, August or December.
So after 6 weeks living in the beautiful Dordogne area of France, what has been true, false or a complete surprise?
The biggest and most welcome surprise, has been how wonderfully friendly and helpful everyone is. From the schools, doctors, shop keepers, strangers, everyone has been brilliant. Not once have I felt uncomfortable or made to feel foolish. One shop keeper (who owns the most fabulous clothes store in Brantôme) went out of her way to help us find furniture. The advice and time given but expecting nothing but friendship in return was a pleasure.
This brings me onto another false expectation. Every French person has at least tried to meet me halfway with the language. My attempt at French is met with a wry smile. So between hand gestures and basic language on both parts, dealing with life in France has gone well.
Some things have been true. The French LOVE baguettes. They LOVE a long lunch – nothing opens or gets done between 12-2:30 including all shops, supermarkets, doctors, etc… We have found this a difficult adjustment, often finding ourselves in a ghost town between those hours. Same goes for Sundays, you have no choice but to spend it with your family (whether you want to or not!).
Another true stereotype is the French love French food. As a family, we love an Indian takeaway, British fish and chips, Mexican fajitas and many other different cuisines. Well that went out the shuttered window very quickly! Either you pay triple the price for anything British (cheddar is €5 for a small cube) and don’t even talk about teabags! Same for Mexican. The only item remotely Indian is Uncle Bens curry, I’ve had to get a food parcel flown in for Bombay potato mix and Mango chutney. And as for traditional fish and chips, well fair enough some things should remain on sacred land.
To summarise, you don’t need to know a lot of French to live here. However, to make friends and make life more fulfilling I am very keen to learn as much as possible. Be friendly and people will be friendly in return. Don’t go out at lunchtimes or Sundays, expect to be bloated on rich food and baguettes and take your time, there’s no rush!
Au revoir for now
The Pantry’s 🇫🇷