Why Move to France?
Why Move To France?
Having holidayed regularly in the Vendée region of France, Pays De La Loire for the past decade, visiting my mother, who made the jump over here 10 years ago, we had no idea we were going to fall quite so deeply in love with the place!
With such beautiful sites, the ever changing landscapes, the climate, the food, culture and slower pace of life, it is hard not to let it get under your skin - and once it is, it cannot be extracted!
At first, I believed it was a personal love affair and that my partner, Scott was not quite so swept away as I was, but how I was wrong!
With both our birthdays being in July, it has always been the perfect place to come and holiday in each year and celebrate together, along with my family on my mother's side, with whom I have grown up holidaying in France every year since I can remember - grandparents, parents, siblings, aunties, uncles and cousins all together for two weeks of fun and relaxation together - a very special time which we all look forward to and intend to continue for generations to come.
Growing up with my family, we visited various regions of France, mostly in the southern region and sometimes heading further north to La Rochelle, of which I have very fond memories and is now just an hour's drive from where we live.
Since my mother moved to France, we have based our family summer holidays with her in the Vendée, also spending Christmas together there every other year.
With each and every visit, I found myself feeling more and more connected with the area and more and more emotional when it was time to go home and face reality. Not that reality was ever a bad thing for either of us - we are both very blessed to have been raised by such amazing, loving and supporting families, the majority of whom were all based closely to us where we lived in England and we regularly saw (something which is now making following the "dream" through to completion more difficult, a head VS heart issue which I will expand on later).
Although not hugely well off in UK, we were comfortable and always got by. We had a good social life with friends around us and would regularly enjoy evenings out. Music is also a huge part of us and we would regularly go to concerts, gigs and music festivals when we could. Being an hour away by train to London was extremely helpful for this!
Where I personally lacked in fulfilment was my working life. I am a creative person who has always wanted to have a career where I can really express myself artistically, progress in, truly enjoy and gain happiness and satisfaction from. I have always known that this would probably mean creating my own business and working for myself, as what I was searching for didn't really exist in the job market without having been to university and gained various degrees, which I had not.
With work life being the bigger percentage over social life, it has always been extremely important to me to find my perfect role, where I can be totally happy and feel complete as a person. Unfortunately, through experience I found that unless I wanted to start from the very bottom - high pressured and targeted office work was where I had to be if I was to earn a good wage and live comfortably.
At least I enjoyed the sociable side of work and met some amazing, life long friends during my office career.
Scott has always been a glass half full type of person, who doesn't tend to want for more, as long as we are happy as a family. He has been travelling and enjoys an adventure. Tne thing that would get him down in UK was the climate. We are both people who benefit hugely from a hotter climate, both mentally and physically. He had always told me of his dream to move abroad to a hotter country and with his father living in Spain and having travelled Australia, I had always thought that one of these would one day be his country of choice to live.
Although happy in his work with regular clients, it was beginning to become slightly mundane with similar jobs in similar houses being a continuous thing and not much variation. Also being of a creative mind, he wasn't feeling that his creativeness was being utilised enough, even with the odd CAD design work which would come in.
We were lucky to own the two bedroom property which we lived in and was the first property development project I got involved in, thanks to some inheritance money which was left to me by my granddad and a clever thinking mother, who is an experienced property developer and wanted to help me get a foothold on the property ladder.
Being on the main drag into the town centre, it was great for convenience. We had a lovely garden, which was great to spend time in during the very short few months which is the English summer - you never knew you were near to town - it was lovely.
The reminder came at the weekends when arguments, shouting and fights would regularly occur in the early hours when the pubs and clubs were closed and people who had had a few too many were en route back home. With our bedroom being ground floor, it was not ideal, but we became used to it and managed to deal with it.
It wasn't until our daughter, Summer came along that this really became a problem for us. Her bedroom was also situated on the ground floor and feeling very protective over her, we would worry about her being disturbed or scared and the things she might hear.
We were also fast beginning to outgrow our home and with Summer constantly gaining more and more gifts, toys and clothes, we were seriously lacking on storage! Knowing that in the not too distant future we would like to add another little member to complete the family, we needed to start our search for a larger house with at lest 3 bedrooms. With the budget we had, the search was not proving to be easy, especially as we were hoping to find something in the countryside. With both of us being country bumkins at heart, growing up in the countryside was of great value to us and which we both feel we benefitted from, so has always been something we wish to offer to our children.
Property in rural Berkshire/Hampshire is not cheap and renovation projects are hard to come by. With family being hugely important to us, we wanted to find somewhere where we could maintain a good contact with the family and live comfortably, but to tick all the boxes of our search criteria was proviing near on impossible.
Then, one day completely out of the blue, returning home after a drink (or 2!) at the pub with his best friend and best man at our wedding who was about to move to Australia with his family, Scott announced in a slightly slurred fashion that we were moving to France! On discussing Dan's plans and reasons for moving to Australia, what he wanted to offer his children and comparing it to the French dream we had often talked about (but which I had not believed would ever really happen), something Dan had said had made an impact on Scott, and that was it, his mind was set!
This came as a real shock to me, as although we had often talked about it, I did not think it was something which would ever even be in reach for us, let alone actually happen! Then, suddenly, we were talking about how we could make it work and business ideas, which would affect the type of property we would need to search for and it all started to become very exciting.
At the time, I was in the throws of planning our wedding, which was stressful enough without having to think of the possibility of moving abroad! But, what was the harm in just having a quick look at what France had to offer?? Just to see the sort of prices things were going for and the type of thing that was available??? We knew the ingrediants of what we needed to look for and that we wanted it to be within 40 minutes from my mother's house in France and considering we had about 5 different business plans including the need for at least 2 houses to renovate, lots of land and a large Vendéen barn, the chances of there being something available which met all our criteria was next to nothing. So, a quick search online and there it was...the house of our dreams staring right back at us looking all romantic with its beautiful stone exterior lit up in a peachy glow ( the photograph obviously taken by a very clever estate agent at sunset!). At exactly 39 minutes from my mother's house and meeting all criteria and more, it was a little hard to believe!
Then followed numerous comparison searches, sat in front of the computer until early hours drawing up a 16 page shortlist detailing lots of beautiful houses, but nothing quite so perfect for what we were looking for as this one. And to top it all off, even with it's epically sized Vendéen barn, 2 bed stone longère with attic for converting to bedrooms, not to mention lots of land and various other outbuildings, it was more affordable than our 2 bed house in Hampshire!
It was a difficult decision to make and was not one we made lightly. Pros and cons list after pros and cons list was made. The main issue was not wanting to leave family. We are extremely close to our families - not just our parents and siblings to which we hold hugely strong bonds with, but aunties, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces and grandparents - all of whom play a very big part in our lives and we hold very dear. Our families are immensely important to us and have always been an enormous part of our lives. We want so much for Summer to grow up feeling the inclusion, love and support from her family the way we always have and continue to learn and benefit from them and feel that special and unique closeness that only family can give throught her life. With that, we also want our family to know and feel their importance to us always and in turn we know that we will always need their love and support too.
After long discussion, we realised that it really is not as far as it seems. The flight is just 1.5 hours, our families could visit as often as they liked (as we would them), Summer would have a better quality of life with more space and freedom and would gain a second language (which we would also do our very best to gain also), possibly opening up more opportunities for her in the future. We would gain more time with eachother and with Summer, we could work together as our own bosses and build our dream together, learn new skills, eat our own organically grown food, learn and be part of a different culture...the list was endless! We would be benefitting as a family from all these, along with the rest of the bits I had already mentoned above that we adore about France. How often does a chance like this arise in one lifetime, if ever? We knew if we didn't do it then, we would still want to do it later on in life, which would most probably mean at the age of retirement once our children were fully independent and as they would have their own lives in England by then, they wouldn't be joining us on our adventure and the other benefits we could offer them from an upbringing in France would no loger be available to them.
The list of positives was just too vast to be ignored! With me being in my late 20's and Scott in his 30's, we were very aware of how lucky we were to even have the choice. We had a good knowledge of the Vendée region. We knew that it is more of a holiday area which comes to life more in the summer season and even then isn't the most lively of places, which I remember was a worry to my mother when she learnt that we wanted to make the move as she thought we would miss the night life. This was not an off-putting factor to us as we knew we could top up on nights out when we visited the UK and that during the summer there are various local events and music festivals which go on, so it was not a problem. We were aware that we were the minority and that in the Vendée, the Ex-pat (an expression I tend not to use) community generally tend to be of an older generation, having raised their families in UK and moved abroad to retire. We didn't see any reason why we should wait and wanted to offer Summer all the benefits of living in France at the age she was (the ripe old age of 2!) so that she would mould and adapt easily and without even noticing, sharing the experience together and embracing it as a family.
It would be our big adventure and as long as we could keep a good regular contact with the rest of our family who we value so much, there was not much we could think of that was reason enough to stay. After all, my mother had lived in France for the past 10 years and regularly made visits - she had demonstrated how achievable it was to have the best of both worlds and maintain the family contact - she was doing it and so could we! There were also the summer holidays where the family would continue to visit so we were sure to have the quality time we needed with them. It would be difficult to see everyone as regularly as we would like, especially with us having 4 sets of family between us, but with alternate Christmasses in England/France and people welcome to visit in between, it was a total deal maker - we were moving to France!
My mother was a little shocked to learn of our plans and was very political about making sure we thought we were doing the right thing. When we confirmed we absolutely were sure that this is what we wanted, she agreed to go and have a look at the house for us, along with her partner, Simon. They viewed another 3 properties which we had shortlisted as comparisons. With the feedback for our preferred property being 95% good, it was enough for us and all of a sudden we found ourselves on a plane to France just 2 months before our wedding to view the property and meet with a recommended mortgage advisor at the estate agents who were selling the house and, lucky for us, knew my mum and Simon well as they had purchased their house from him back when they made the move!