|It has been 13 years since Vanessa moved from the UK to France, where she lives with her husband and works as a freelance writer. Find out about her expat life in France, her plans to see more of the country, and why she recommends you learn to speak the language if you are planning on moving to France.
-Where were you born?
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
-How long have you been living in France?13 years
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in France?
1997 - having reached a crossroads in my career, I felt there was more to life than four office walls. My husband had already lived in France for four years and we usually holidayed here, enjoying la vie française. He was self-employed as a consultant, which he could do from anywhere, and I decided to do the same.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
-How do you make your living in France? Do you have any type of income generated?
Freelance writer. I write research reports, annual reports, brochures, etc., for UK corporate clients and am moving into magazine articles and features as well. I also teach English as a sideline.
We were lucky to have another British expat help us to set up our company, especially as our French wasn't brilliant at the time. He had lived in France for 20 years and knew the ropes. There seemed to be a lot of paperwork (all in French) and lots of rules and regulations to follow. I'd advise anyone planning to set up a business to get help and not try to do it alone, unless your French is very good and you know the system already.
-Do you speak French and do you think it's important to speak the local language?Yes. I think it's essential to speak French if you want to integrate. It also makes it easier to deal with the legendary bureaucracy.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?No, I visit the UK regularly on business; it's 1.5 hours away by air.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
If I can ever afford to retire I will travel more and see more of France, especially. France is great for walking and, of course, food and drink.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We own our house. Real estate prices have fallen in recent years in the countryside but have remained stable in booming cities like Toulouse, with a likely tendency upwards in 2010.
-What is the cost of living there?In the countryside it's cheaper than in big cities anywhere, but watch out for currency fluctuations if you come from outside the Eurozone.
-What do you think about the locals?
Friendly and helpful especially if you make the effort to speak French.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in France?
Positive: health system, countryside, culture.
Negative: bureaucracy, government interventionism, winters are colder than anyone lets on before you move here.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in France?
Learn French, don't come if you don't have a regular income or aren't sure of getting one, don't discard your winter clothes!
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about France?
My own blog about French life, A writer's lot in France, which gives the lowdown on what it's really like to live in rural France:
I also find the following useful: