Updated: Aug 30
Green or Grey?
During the pandemic, we all wanted to move to the country, to be away from people, free to breathe and room to roam, safely. Being isolated was certainly the best short term solution to not catching COIVD! Now that we are well into post pandemic life, the news is that there's a shift back to the villages, towns and cities.
Not much has changed post pandemic really, except that many of us can still work from home which is great. The work from home movement was a long time coming and its here to stay! Saying that, the 'go to' jobs are still rarely in the country. The choice of schools, access to public transport and shops are few in the country and now along with rising energy prices, the shortage of water is a real concern, having a large house with land is rather an expensive gamble these days. Many of those country houses with Gites, struggled to earn and pay their bills during the lockdown and so the pandemic has left its mark on rural French life.
Even without the pandemic fall out, the reality is that living in the country can be utterly idyllic or it can be jolly hard work and very isolating, something one needs to really think about when considering a move to France. Living in the town may mean many more choices, jobs, schools, medical help, mains drains, restaurants, great wifi and shops. Of course it also means community, which can often be missing when you choose a house in the middle of nowhere. It may suit who you are, but what happens when you grow old or infirm? Will it suit you to manage the land in your dotage?
France of course understands rural living, she's vast and there's plenty of countryside to go round. With that kind of population spread, France has ensured that you can drive a Sans Permis (without permit) restricted speed car well into the winter of your life, as it understands it cannot afford to provide the whole of France with public buses.
Despite the pandemic, we are in fact mostly social beings, that's the truth. France is already rather quiet during the endlessly long winter months, one has to make their own entertainment and I have personally experienced crippling loneliness and isolation in rural France.
When living in Normandy, it was normal for me to drive for over an hour to meet up with a friend and I did because I wanted to make real connections, otherwise I would have gone ever so slightly mad, no doubt. Us migrants often don't speak the language well enough to integrate deeply into real French life. I'm not saying you should learn French like a native, but learn as much as you can, otherwise it can be like being a deaf and dumb 2 years old with little understanding of what's going on and struggling to be heard. If you are going to rely on basic French and many do, do consider a move to an English speaking area.
Whatever you do, stick it out for two years before making any moves. At least then you will know you've got over the newness of it all and made a real effort to settle in.
Kids need friends too, not just at school. So unless you are willing to spend your life in the car, ferrying them to nearby friends, towns and villages, miles away, your children may also suffer isolation. Of course the countryside is a great educational tool for young children, where they can hide, play and discover nature at its best. Again, with rising fuel costs, getting your kids to and from schools and after school activities may just become too expensive? There's so much to think about, its overwhelming I know. Your French life dreams and wishes have to be tempered with reality.
We aren't tree's, we can move and thats a fact. We need to hear this sometimes. Many migrants do struggle to keep their piggy bank topped up. Work can be difficult to find especially if your French isn't A1. We often need to consider a move to where the work actually is to save money on fuel. It makes sense. In France we now have to consider the long hot summers which with global warming, are heating up at an alarming rate. The South maybe pretty and warm but long term, are you going to be able to afford the Aircon? Maybe you want to be nearer the cooler coast?
Make your comprehensive list of pro's and cons and try not to just fall for a property in any area. Consider the area as just as important and what it means for your health and wealth in the future.
I've said this before, but if you can try before you buy by renting for a while, do! Renting does give you the ability to move again if need be.