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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I hope someone on here might be able to give us some advice to narrow down our currently massive search area for somewhere to live in France. My husband and I currently live in London with our two boys ages three and one. I'm Irish and my husband is French. My French is very good, although not quite fluent yet, and our three year old is bilingual. For years now we have been talking about moving back to France and we have finally decided to do so before our eldest boy would start school at six. The problem is we are both freelance and will bring our jobs with us and so with the whole of France our oyster we are struggling to narrow down our search. I'm hoping that some people on the forum might be kind enough to share their experiences.

My husband's parents live in Royan and we would ideally be within a three or four hour drive of their house. The dream would be to live in a big house with lots of land and maybe the potential to run a gite business or yurt business on the side (although we wouldn't be relying on this for our incomes) but very close to a bustling market town or large vibrant village with nice schools and preferably something of an expat community. My brother who has been living in Paris with his kids has also mentioned that we should consider looking for schools which have a good English language programme. I'm very happy for the kids to go to French schools but it would be great to have a strong English language programme taught by mother tongue speakers and while I can find all the international schools I don't know where to start looking for French schools with English language programmes. So far in the running is somewhere near Vannes, where we have spent some time and love or somewhere near Cahors in the Lot valley which we also love, but I would love to consider some other options as these just happen to be places we have visited and loved. I would ideally like to be near the sea but my husband wants heat (hence the slight hesitation over Vannes which is more than warm enough for me!).

Hopefully you will be able to tell that we simply don't know where to start narrowing things down and of course there might be lots of other things to consider that we haven't thought of. We have some time to make the decision but I would like to plan to visit some areas before we even consider looking at houses but planning those trips with two small children mean we need to be focused. If anyone on here would mind sharing their experiences of where they live and how they find it I would be so grateful. I think I am most concerned about feeling isolated and missing a bit of culture. I love the idea of a rural idyll but I need to be social as well.

Thanks so much in advance. I hope I'm not asking the impossible!
 

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Well, for starters I would just forget about trying to find French schools with "strong English language programme taught by mother tongue speakers." The French (public) schools are part of the "civil service" here and it's not easy for English native speakers to get in on that as teachers.

https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fpfis/mwikis/eurydice/index.php/France:Overview might give you a better idea about the French school system.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ah yes, thanks. Sorry I should hve chosen my language more carefully. I do mean for them to go to French 'state' school, but my brother knew of a couple of schools outside Paris in which the bi-lingual kids were separated for their English classes and either had them at the local international school or someone came in to teach them. It might just be near Paris but if it did exist elsewhere I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks so much for your reply Bev.
 

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They are trying to introduce English into the curriculum as early as possible, but mostly as a sort of "songs and games" thing. Years ago they did hire a few moms who were native speakers to run the "English time" for the kids, but when the women discovered they were being paid half what the English teachers from the lycée were being paid for the same duty, things kind of fell apart.

I don't know how they're staffing the program nowadays but there are more and more of the schools (at least here in the Paris area) offering English in the CP.

But as far as narrowing things down based on the schools, just remember that the French curriculum is very centralized so doesn't vary much from one place to the next. I've heard that the Academie (school administrative district) that serves Montpellier is probably the most popular for teachers requesting transfers, which means they pretty much have their pick of teachers in France. Worth checking into at least.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I've heard that the Academie (school administrative district) that serves Montpellier is probably the most popular for teachers requesting transfers, which means they pretty much have their pick of teachers in France. Worth checking into at least.
Cheers,
Bev
It's still extremely difficult to get a post in such an area without significant seniority, consequently many really good teachers (including of foreign languages) simply don't apply for such transfers because they have no hope - and I know of one such teacher who has around 25+ years of seniority, excellent English and Spanish, but who has now chosen to remain in Annecy until retirement rather than go through the hassle of applying for a transfer to that general area (which is her home area) only to be disappointed.
 

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You want to look at/google private catholic schools in France as many have international sections. They will though be mostly located in cities. Our school (Loire valley) has an international section (taught by English teachers) where the 'French' syllabus is taught in English. Many French children attend the class as well as international kids.

BTW, private catholic schools are not expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks so much for your replies everyone. I will definitely look into private schools and see if I can find anything. I had another hunt last night and managed to find this link http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000025687606&dateTexte=vig which seems to list the schools with sections Internationales in case anyone finds it helpful, although they all seem to be in cities which we definitely don't want after 15 years in London. Maybe I was silly to focus on education as we really are happy for the kids to go to French school (my husband loved school in France and won't hear anything negative about it although I have done a lot of reading about the differences between schools in the UK and France and find it all a bit depressing sometimes).

I do love Montpellier so maybe we should look at some towns near there although it's a little far from my OH's parents. Does anyone have any opinions on Vannes or the Lot? Thanks so much for all the advice - it's giving me lots to think about:).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks! Yes definitely don't want to be in the middle of nowhere, hence searching for a town or large village, with lots of life. We love La Rochelle to visit and go there a lot, but we are both keen hikers and hankering after some hills. Great suggestion though, thank you!

Emma
 

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Lot Valley

Hi there,

I currently live in the lot valley but further east of Cahors in a very small village on the lot river that is beyond beautiful. It is extremely vibrant and full of tourists from April to September (peak in July/August of course)...and the so calm and just as exquisite during the winter months. I also have two young children (3 and 5) and they are also bilingual. I am Canadian (anglophone) and my husband is French. We purchased our house a few years ago- a renovation project. Our situation was a little more complex (international working). However, we have finally moved here permanently (since December 2014). We also have in mind to do a business from home (for me) and my husband travels for his work and works from home as a base- so it is ideal.

Everyone has their own personal experiences, which can be conflicting. However, I think a more rural upbringing for the children (and so wonderful for the adults as well ;) ) is fantastic. I don't regret a moment...and life in the french countryside is very ideal. For my husband and I, it was time to get away from the city. The children will eventually go to school or university..or work for a while in the cities- so it is a gift to be able to give them a rural upbringing. In the countryside, they have a kind of freedom to explore and are in touch with nature in a way that you cannot receive in the city (though of course city living has it's own benefits). In short, the children will one day experience the city- but not necessarily the country. This gives them a balance of both in their life...and it is a very lovely way to be together as a family...away from the stresses of urban life. Alright, that is my own point of view having experienced both ;). So city dwellers, don't go hard on me!
 

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Hi there,

I currently live in the lot valley but further east of Cahors in a very small village on the lot river that is beyond beautiful. It is extremely vibrant and full of tourists from April to September (peak in July/August of course)...and the so calm and just as exquisite during the winter months. I also have two young children (3 and 5) and they are also bilingual. I am Canadian (anglophone) and my husband is French. We purchased our house a few years ago- a renovation project. Our situation was a little more complex (international working). However, we have finally moved here permanently (since December 2014). We also have in mind to do a business from home (for me) and my husband travels for his work and works from home as a base- so it is ideal.

Everyone has their own personal experiences, which can be conflicting. However, I think a more rural upbringing for the children (and so wonderful for the adults as well ;) ) is fantastic. I don't regret a moment...and life in the french countryside is very ideal. For my husband and I, it was time to get away from the city. The children will eventually go to school or university..or work for a while in the cities- so it is a gift to be able to give them a rural upbringing. In the countryside, they have a kind of freedom to explore and are in touch with nature in a way that you cannot receive in the city (though of course city living has it's own benefits). In short, the children will one day experience the city- but not necessarily the country. This gives them a balance of both in their life...and it is a very lovely way to be together as a family...away from the stresses of urban life. Alright, that is my own point of view having experienced both ;). So city dwellers, don't go hard on me!
A very interesting point of view which served to remind me that I lived in a small village as a child and went to a tiny village school (2 classes in the same classroom) about 15 km away. Travelled by school bus. Loved the school, which was able to give individual attention to all the students. My village, too, was full of tourists in summer and very quiet in winter. I knew all the kids in the area and was never short of someone to play/visit with. Had we stayed there, I, like lots of others, would have gone to the grammar school for the area - by school bus, of course and in fact that is where I eventually caught up with friends from my village and my village school. One of the great parts of living in that village was being able to explore the general area without supervision.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks so much for this - you have definitely described exactly the kind of life we have been dreaming of for years! I grew up on the outskirts of a small market town with a vibrant community as a kid but I looked out my window to rolling hills and was able to bike ride everywhere. I LOVED it and thank you for making it sound possible!

We had been looking around Puy L'Eveque and Prayssac but did stay in an amazing campsite to the east of Cahors with a little river beach as well a few years ago and I just love the outdoors life on offer there. We really did just fall in love with the countryside and the sheer beauty of the place. I'm so happy that it has worked out for you! Maybe if we do end up there next year I will get in touch:).

Thanks again!
 

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Thank you both for your great responses- Everhopeful and Emeire!
Good luck in your search Emeire and definitely contact me if you end up coming down here (or if you have anymore questions that I might be able to help with...).
Cheers!
 

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Just to counter the debate.

10 years ago we moved from Paris into a very rural location to renovate a farm. During that time we had two kids. We left the 'rural' location when the eldest kid was five and we now live 'semi urban'. In our new 'semi urban' location we can be in the centre of a popular city in 10 minutes but we can also be as rural as anyone in 10 minutes. We have easy access to the best schools/universities, hospitals, shops and easy access to the most popular countryside in France.

I would say that for 'quality' of living for us as parents (French and English) and of course the kids our 'urban' location is best. If we had stayed in our 'rural' location the kids would never have had life that they have now. Just in terms of after school/Wednesday activities. The choice they have is amazing. Furthermore, all their friends are nearby.

Life is cheaper in town and we are only 5 mins from a top hospital and specialists. Before it was 1.5 hr round trip. Kids and parents go to hospital a lot in France. ;)

You will never find what you experience on holiday in day to day reality France. When the novelty of living in France wears off you realise that the practicalities of life far outweigh a good view. Also, rural France is not rural UK living. It really is back to basics. The exception to this of course is where you have a large 'expat' population that have created a 'expat' bubble in a village/small town/region. If you want that type of thing fair enough the 'Lot' is the place to go.

Last point, I have never heard French parents say they want to move out of town to a rural location. Rural France is OK if you are born and bred there but on the whole does not offer a great deal apart from a nice holiday.

:)
 

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I think your point of view is very valid- but can't say I can agree with you on all your points. It sounds like you had a bad experience where you were living. Where I am located is in the heart of a small vibrant village surrounded by hills and forest with a river running through it. It is a little gem lost in the countryside but by no means lacking facilities. The quality of education here is quite excellent and the activities year round for children and even adults (from classical ballet to judo, gymnastics to horse-back riding...and not to mention theatre, music and even aerial circus). The doctors, dentist, speech therapist, massage therapist...the list goes on..is a 5 minute walk away. Sure the hospital takes a 35 minute drive to get there...but having lived in France for almost 10 years- I can't say that hospital trips are regular and require living 5 minutes away from one. Sure...there are areas and villages that are lost in the countryside with no facilities or activities- but there are plenty of beautiful vibrant villages that offer quite a lot in a very nourishing atmosphere. Just choose wisely. So I think it is not one or the other...city life, or 'semi urban' has many things to offer (of course) and some people just prefer that- but life in the countryside certainly doesn't mean there is nothing to do outside of a holiday setting!
 

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P.S. I have met many French families coming here doing exactly that- moving out of the city for a rural location. I've lived in Paris for a few years and also met quite a few who were packing up their things to move to the countryside. I think there is a trend, especially with technology evolving as it is- of people wanting to move out of the cities...(cheaper, better housing, serene etc...)
 

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P.S. I have met many French families coming here doing exactly that- moving out of the city for a rural location. I've lived in Paris for a few years and also met quite a few who were packing up their things to move to the countryside. I think there is a trend, especially with technology evolving as it is- of people wanting to move out of the cities...(cheaper, better housing, serene etc...)
You seem to have found yourself a really nice spot in France. :)

Further to your points/questions.

I think you will find due to the mass unemployment in France that people are moving to cities to find work. Those who who are lucky enough to be able to work remotely need super fast broadband which generally is none existant in rural locations.

Our location is dictated by my OH work. So we move about a bit. I personally don't care if I live rural or in town/city. However, with kids I would say (IMHO) having done both that it is better to live in town. Especially when they get to ten and over. I don't want my kids riding around the countryside at night on a scooter with all the drunks on the road. Furthermore, a lot of rural towns have CCTV to keep an eye on bored teenagers getting up to no good. Rural towns come alive at night ;)

In terms of 'did we have a bad experience' the answer to that is a big no. It was fantastic.

We have a 'maison secondaire' in the country which we could move to and start a new life. But it would be unfair on the kids.

I am just giving the OP in different perspective on rural living in France. It is not as glamorous as one would think.
 

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Well, I'm glad your experience of the country was a good one. Wonderful that you are able to keep a foot in the countryside too.
We have really super fast broadband here- especially as my husband needs it in order to do his international work. He travels regularly between here and Canada. You are absolutely right though- that it is important to make sure that it is available.

Mass unemployment may have people moving to cities...but nevertheless, there are also many moving to the countryside too. I have met four french families that have just moved here in the past year for that reason. That is quite a lot for a small town...but again it depends on where you choose.
Many reasons for it to be unsafe for children in urban centres... and in general for villages, far less than it's urban counterparts. I think we could pick out all the reasons why it can be great and awful for both ;). I guess I feel that we are doing a great service to our children living here, as well as for ourselves. Having lived with children in both- I am infinitely grateful to be here. It sounds as if we have both found something ideal that works well for our families.

I definitely agree with you that some people find the idea of living in France glamorous and have a kind of romanticized idea in their head (urban or rural) and then find out that it isn't at all what they imagined. That is why I think it is so important for people to do research (beyond the house) of what is available in each setting and find out if it really works with the kind of lifestyle that suits them.

Best of luck!
 
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