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One year on….Reflection

On March 6th 2023 we left the UK for our new life in France. Any anniversary gives you a chance to reflect and we are no different. We have spent the last few weeks, amidst the rain and the winter jobs considering what we have achieved, what we have learned and what we think about our new way of life.

The first step on our journey to France was our visa applications which were submitted in January and then followed up with an appointment in London at the end of the month. By early February we had had our passports returned with our visas inside and a letter approving our long stay visas in France. With a completion date on the house set for the start of March we finally were able to set the date for moving out here.

We were both a bit overwhelmed on moving day, wondering what we had let ourselves in for, how it would work out and whether we would want to turn round and come back again! But here we are at the end of our first year loving our new life and appreciating having been able to take this giant leap.

The main challenges have been the bureaucracy, everything seems to take so long to sort out so patience is key. It is sometimes hard to believe how different the bureaucracy is here, with every document needing signing in duplicate and rendez-vous required for things like insurance etc, patience is definitely a good attribute to have. Our favourite saying has become TIF – this is France, and we now accept that things will happen in time and let the cogs turn as they will.

Language has also been difficult, particularly for Nigel who has just about managed to learn a new word every two weeks or so. He can order a beer and visit the boulangerie so that is the important things sorted out! Jo learned French at school and it is coming back to her and lots of new words have been added, including words for chainsaw, different fish species and items needed from the DIY shop! As a part of the business visa Jo has had to pass a French test to a certain level and there was some anxiety regarding whether the right level would be reached. If not she would have had to have so many obligatory hours of French lessons. We were expecting that at the beginning of our first year but it was only carried out at the beginning of February so we have had a long wait, but thankfully she passed it and only had the 4 mandatory integration days to complete. With those finished this week it is a relief that our visas have been renewed and we live to see another year!

We have learned a lot this year, skills we never thought we would need, such as using a chainsaw, driving a tractor, learning about lake management, tree management and the perfect environment for keeping carp. We now know the DDT requirements and will hopefully get both lakes signed off in the next 6 months. The compliance work has taken far longer than we were expecting, thinking it would all be done by Christmas, but the weather put a stop to that and as we write this we are still waiting for Kingfisher to be netted. We keep saying that next year will be easier…..

Nigel is loving the boilie making, tweaking the recipes and getting the pop-ups etc just as he likes them. Jo has learned how to build a website and is getting there with making reels for social media (although her daughter says she must try harder!). We have grown our followers from scratch and now are over 700 followers on Facebook and over 500 on Instagram….not bad for a first year without too much marketing investment.

We are both loving the peace and quiet and the sound of bird song, rather than traffic. Knowing that if Google Maps says a journey is going to take you 30 minutes it more than likely will do. We appreciate the lack of commercialism and are now very good at fixing things or making something out of what we have rather than needing to go out and buy things all the time. We are enjoying a slower pace of life.

So what do we miss from the UK? Definitely not the M25 or the new towns that are being built all over. We miss our family and friends and have loved having people come to stay with us. Nigel misses the Oliver Twist (his local) and playing golf with his mates. Jo misses having a windowsill to grow things on. But it is not often that we say ‘why have we done this’ anymore and we have met some great people who have really supported us over the last year and have some lovely new neighbours. Carolyn, Dawn, Yvonne, Stuart, Michelle, Robin, Brenda, Gary, Angelique, Grant, Robin, Paul, Nicki, Tony, Helen to name just a few of those people who have been a great help to us and helped us settle in and enjoy our new French life.

So the next year is about embedding ourselves further, welcoming new and returning guests and seeing what else we can do to improve our lovely little patch of paradise in the French countryside

More to follow about our first year and what we have achieved but until then à bientôt…..

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