Learning About Life as a British Expat in the Lovely French Countryside

Tonight at the Chateau La Thuiliere, dinner was served table d’hote. Which means, all of the guests assembled in a grand banquet room to dine at one big table. There was a couple from Japan, reticent and on the far end, a French couple from Toulouse making their first foray away from a young baby, a British couple who have lived in Lot-en-Garonne for nine years, and another couple, Paul and Stella, from the UK who want to move to France.

I sat at the head, and got the chance to interview all of them about the chateau and about their lives in France. Roger and Claire, the couple who moved here nine years ago, were enthusiastic about their transformed lives in the rural department where they live. They have nine hectares, which is a huge property here and he works as a wine label designer while she designs gardens. Their son is about to graduate from school, having assimilated totally into the French school system. “We did it quickly, we didn’t spend a lot of time trying to find the perfect place,” they said.

Paul and Stella, the couple from the UK, have been vacationing here in France for many years, and love it. The weather and the easy lifestyle makes them yearn to move here for good, and leave the UK’s dreary rain behind. But they have been plotting and planning for three years. “Just go for it,” said Claire, while Roger advised that their caution was well founded. Living here is easy for Brits because there are so many flights from Toulouse and Bordeaux back to England. It’s cheap and it’s quick, they said. Paul and Stella raved about how nice it is to take the train over with their car and glide right onto the French autoroute. “You have a picnic, take a little snooze, and soon you’re on the highway and here in just a few hours.”

I think tonight’s dinner might have been a tipping point for the couple. Roger and Claire seem so happy living here, speaking French, making friends with neighbors and enjoying lives as very connected expats. “The only thing that’s difficult,” said Roger, “is when you’re cross with someone. It’s hard to really find the right words to say, in French, to express yourself.” Other than that, I sure am envious of anyone who can drive to France for the weekend, as so many Brits love to do.