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8 years ago I took early retirement (55) and started serious planning for my move to France. Gardening, walking, exploring, a little English teaching.

Unexpected challenge no. 1 - having to eat so much. Every club, association, group seems to have an end of season dinner. Why did the menu of my wife's keep-fit club include foie gras? And why for the AGM of my rugby supporters club were we expected to have a 4 course lunch followed 5 hours later by copious nibbles and a 4 course dinner? We couldn't manage our final dessert.

Unexpected challenge no. 2 - before coming to France all I taught was food hygiene, but teaching English to children at collège or lycée, students and adults came to take over my life for a while. But an unexpected challenge has appeared - teaching English to Lola - all of 4 years old. Great fun.

What unexpected challenges have you faced?
 

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I suppose really that adapting to every aspect of life in France has been a challenge, unexpected because when you first arrive you have no idea of what is in store.

But how satisfying it is when you succeed, whether it’s passing your driving test (I had never driven before and some of my lessons reminded me of Bob Newhart’s sketch), getting a job, finding somewhere to live. Especially if you are doing it on your own.

My biggest unexpected challenge professionally was having to take a competitive exam within the French civil service to get promotion: two three-hour written exams, one one-hour exam and an interview (no it wasn’t for a job as Minister, just a secretarial job!). There were 55 candidates for 7 vacant posts and I came second but this was partly because I was so convinced I didn’t have a chance that I was totally unstressed.

Now that I’m retired the challenges are fairly modest – mostly finding the willpower not to eat all of the wonderful food that is so readily available – as you say it’s sometimes very hard to refuse!
 
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