©Jacqueline Davis, Ma Maison Parfaite

Working as a property finder my clients often ask how easy it is to settle in. My first experience of moving to France was quite different to that of my clients moving here today.

I first crossed the channel in the mid 1970’s in an era when the internet didn’t exist. It took several weeks before my family received that all important letter to reassure them I had arrived. Hard to imagine now, but not many households had the luxury of a telephone.

Technology has progressed in the last 4 decades at an incredible pace. From letters taking several weeks I can now watch my daughter trying on a dress she has just bought in Oxford. I am virtually there with her in all senses. Whilst I still miss going into town to browse for books I am able to buy all the latest titles online. I’m still not converted to electronic reading devices, although many expats are. I go back to the UK several times a year thanks to having cheap flights from two airports within an hour.

Many clients have remained good friends so I am able to compare their first years here to my own. Young families have had the advantage of meeting other parents and socialising at school events but with our sunny microclimate many clients include the newly retired. With plenty of leisure time they have each found different ways to make new friends and improve their language skills. Bob took the initiative of contacting a French teacher who was advertising to teach toddlers and asked if she could teach Grandfathers as well! Learning the language is important so that you can talk with your neighbours and make new friends.

Lynn’s story – An American experience

If there is one client who is an excellent example of integration it’s Lynn. Housebound after an injury and recently widowed, Lynn read an article that I had written; 3 weeks later she viewed our short-listed houses including a mystery property. I don’t know who was the most shocked, Lynn, the agent or myself, when she announced that she would be buying 2 of the 5 houses she had seen that day (yes, including the mystery house).

Despite being well and truly American, Lynn can be likened to an English rose. She found her roots in the spring and has certainly blossomed. French bureaucracy welcomed her with cars bearing odd number plates being banned from leaving the capital. I collected her from the train station at 11pm and looked after her 8-week-old puppy overnight whilst we put her up in a local hotel.

That puppy has been an icebreaker in so many conversations with her French neighbours. Her US friends and grandsons have provided a constant stream of visitors wanting to use our beaches and, once again, free video internet calls have been invaluable for both business and personal contact.

Lynn loves her new life, particularly visiting the local markets to buy a different French cheese each week to go with a bottle of our local wine and a fresh baguette from the baker next door. She’s done photography courses and enjoyed classical music nearby. Walking, creative and Anglo French groups are all excellent ways to meet new friends.

Settling into French life is much easier than you think. Using a property finder will not only get you the best property at the lowest price but will also give you practical support and guidance when you first arrive and may need help with the language.

If you are thinking of crossing the channel to live here let Lynn be your inspiration. Unlike the bumpy wagon ride her ancestors had to the Wild West, Lynn’s journey and integration have been as smooth and fast as the plane and TGV that brought her to the sunny Vendée coast.

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