Expat Voices: Vanessa Couchman on living in Caylus
Even though Vanessa is often frustrated with French's sexist society and poor customer service, she still feels quality of life in France is much higher than back in the UK.
Name: Vanessa Couchman
City of residence: Caylus
Date of birth: 9 September 1957
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Freelance writer
Reason for moving to France: for a less stressful lifestyle
Lived in France for: 13 years
What was your first impression of France?
We already knew France well from spending holidays here. However, living here is very different from spending a few weeks on holiday. One of the most difficult things to get used to was the shops shutting for two hours over lunchtime when we were trying to get essential services connected and buy items for the house. The French spoken where we live is not the sort you learn at school, so communicating wasn’t easy to start with.
What do you think of the food?
We love French food but it’s important to know that you can eat badly at French restaurants just as you can anywhere in the world. It takes time to find out which are the good ones.
What do you think of the shopping in France?
A bit limited in rural areas. You have to go to a big town to get what you need sometimes.
What do you appreciate about living in France?
The pace of life is slower where we live, the healthcare system is excellent and housing is cheaper than in England.
What do you find most frustrating about living in France?
Poor service. The French are not generally customer service-minded and are poor at marketing, whether it is a car or a local event.
Sexism. The further south you go the worse it is – if you are a woman you are still regarded only as an adjunct of your husband.
What puzzles you about France and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
French bureaucracy is truly awful and, again, is not designed with the customer in mind.
I miss getting English newspapers on the day they are published. They are always a day old here (but you can read them on the internet).
How does the quality of life in France compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Taking everything together, it’s higher here than in England, mainly because we live in a rural area where there are fewer people, less traffic and a slower pace of life.
If you could change anything about France, what would it be?
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Learn French and don’t assume it’s hot all year round because it can be absolutely freezing in winter. Also, don’t make the move if you aren’t sure where your income will come from. Some people move to France assuming they will be able to get a job when they arrive or that they will be able to run a gite, for example, and that it will provide enough to live on and then they find that they can't. They need to make sure that they have a secure income (or a job sorted out beforehand) and that they have a margin for error to deal with fluctutations in the exchange rate if they come from outside the Eurozone - a lot of Brits got caught out by assuming that GBP 1 would always buy EUR 1.49 and then it went down almost to parity.
If you would like to share your perspective about life in France and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to editorFR@expatica.com with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire on life in France' in the subject line.
Photo credit: Lokal_Profil (France).
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