The digital revolution may have transformed Nadia Jordan’s life in rural France, but she hasn’t lost sight of the traditional values which first drew her here…
Much as I welcome the huge advances in modern technology that allow me to work in a beautiful, rural part of France and yet still be connected to the rest of the world, I do also appreciate a more modest, technology-free way of life that for many is only a distant memory. Here in the Pyrénées that life is still very much in evidence.
The fast pace of modern, digital life appears to be spurring more and more people to think of moving to France, attracted by a lifestyle where the simpler things still matter and 21st-century pressures are kept firmly in their place.
I am by no means suggesting that everything in rural France is perfect. We all know that everywhere has its drawbacks. I am certainly sometimes guilty of getting the balance wrong and working too many hours at the expense of family time and then beating myself up about it, just like everyone else. Living here, however, has taught me that there is a lot to be said for a more traditional, low-tech way of life, despite how incongruous it might seem in this ‘go-faster’ world.
I am not alone in this. Most expatriates I meet here, whatever their nationality, have moved to this part of France in search of a better quality of life. This means different things to different people, of course, but the general gist seems to be: a life with fewer pressures – whether those be time, financial, internet or job-induced pressures. And while some people simply swap one stress for another, much of the time, living here manages to reinforce what is and what is not important.
The key, I think, is to combine the traditional with the modern: to work with new technologies but not become a slave to them. It is rare here to see someone using a mobile phone while they are sitting in a café, which is – as it always has been – considered a place to socialise, chat and watch the world go by; not somewhere to scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed.
I am aware of the irony that those pressures many of us have been trying to escape by moving to France stem from the same technology that allows us to live wherever we choose. While we have seen a move towards greater urbanisation worldwide, the internet has given many of us the opportunity to live somewhere we love, rather than simply where our job happens to be. Hence, there are nowadays many international companies run from kitchen tables in crumbling stone houses across France, thanks to excellent broadband access in even the most remote areas.
The strong traditions in France, however, facilitate a life apart from technology and the web, which means that it is still possible to feel both connected but also grounded. This, I guess, is exactly the life-balance most of us are seeking.
Nadia has been living in the Ariège, Southwest France, with her husband and four children since 2003. She runs property search agency www.foothillsoffrance.com