Comments – 2


Please feel free to contribute yourself by emailing the author, John Bradley
JohnMartinBradley … at …

Comments from others continued …

Hello John,   I came upon your site by the eponymous Google search and it has made me laugh and cringe at the same time. I moved to Arles about seven months ago with my French wife and two children for a ‘fresh start’ and am guilty of not doing my homework. My wife had been in the UK for 20 years and wasn’t in much of a rush to go back to France. It was me who wanted to give it a go, as I can work easier via an Internet connection and have a fair amount of work. I had heard about the bureaucracy, but nothing prepared me for the amount of civil servants, quangos and abbreviated organizations I came across. My level of French would be considered by many to be fluent ,although my written French is pretty poor so I am actually able to talk to the URSAF, Pole deploy etc.  but to get an idea of who I am supposed to pay my cotisations & when, how much etc. is neigh on impossible. This and the fact that my wife is not doing great on the work front & has been contacted by a fair few companies in London for work opportunities has made us decide to return. We didn’t sell up, so it’s not such a mountain to climb to return, but I’m now in the process of what to do about TAX !!!!!!. I am going to file the obligatory self employed UK tax return and pay my tax in the UK this April and apply for a letter stating that we are returning to the UK before April 2011 to keep my tax status in the UK.
I  will of course have to file a tax return to the French state in May as well. My question is the ‘Cotisations’.  Do you know if I will have to pay these on top of my UK tax ?   I’m sure you are very busy and I have noticed at the end of your contact details  that your wife passed away five years ago, so you may be well away from all this by now, but if you could offer any advice I would be very grateful. My French Mother in Law, Wife and others are all onto my case, but as you know getting Concrete answers from French bureaucrats is mind numbing, as every other civil servant seems to either contradict the previous person or pass me onto someone else. If you could advise me in any way I would be very grateful. Author’s note: sorry not able to offer any advice that would be relevant, I have simply become a platform of people who are at the “coal-face” to have their say.

Understanding the Basic Truths
I do not want to spoil peoples dreams, but I would love the chance to reach people who, just like I did, may move heaven and earth to live in France without understanding the basic truths. Even a bad experience can be life enhancing, but I need to get off my chest this  media driven dream chasing circus that I have seen nearly destroy lives.
I think I would write a piece called “Now that you cannot sell your UK house it is the perfect time to try France”.  Why that name? Because everybody who moves voluntarily to France  should  rent out their UK property and rent in France, for a year minimum. France is beautiful, the French , for the most part, a darn sight more polite than the British, but despite our fantastic experiences in France, and our desire to be there again one day, i will not buy there or any other “foreign” country. Holiday homes for the well off? For that It is perfect, but going to live there  to chase a dream , think again.
You have a thought provoking site, which I wish I had read before we moved here.


Are there any English left? Reasons for Getting Away from the UK
Hello again,
I just read your email again and now have a little time to answer in a little more detail.
Are there any English left?
Questions we have to ask ourselves:
How many have left?
How many want to leave?
How many will have left in five years time?
Some of the reasons why I think people like myself want to move away.
It would appear that the UK the government seem to be more interested in looking after other cultures.
“No” the government say, we live in a multicultural society. REALLY!!!!!! What we actually live in, is a society where different cultures keep themselves to themselves but border each other. Take care of each other as a culture and don’t share the wealth, benefits or any sort of community spirit. (ANYTHING)
I ask you this question, do you think it is a good deal that the government is saving the tax payer £11,000 by only giving asylum seekers £4000 pounds of the tax payer’s money instead of £15,000?
This is to send them back to their own country to start up a business.
Well hold on a minute, why are they seeking asylum and will £4000 make that problem go away?
Does the tax payer want to give them anything? I THINK NOT.
However and try not to laugh as I couldn’t resist. “There a stringent measures in place to stop individual Asylum seekers coming back for more cash”
How about the family come over one at a time and collect £4000 each. Now who is LAUGHING at whom? There will be more millionaires abroad who have bankrupted our country and of course the poor people paying for them.
I think the people of the UK are just about fed up of it.
I mean we could go on and on but that is just the one point, which has come to the attention of the public thanks to the media.
Well thank you for saving me £11,000 pounds. I think I can sleep better only giving away £4000 pounds when my family cant even afford to go on holiday more than once every two years.
A few more examples:
1. Council tax. HOW MUCH to come and empty my bins once every two weeks. It’s like a third world country in my street after two weeks and I live in a nice area. Oh and they will only take away what is in the bins. This is where I have to give Paul Daniels a ring so he can magic it away for me.
2. The police will be with you in about 12 hours sir. Nice but I am being robbed now. They might have a change of heart or is it too much paper work.
3. Graffiti. Enough said. I can’t walk down to the shops with out coming back looking like a piece of art. (Just kidding)
4. Kids and Teenagers. Lovely little lot they are. Can’t spell discipline or manners let alone show any. I remember throwing stones and pinching apples and milk from door steps and that was me at my worst. Not being thirteen and shooting someone whilst on my BMX, stealing cars and smoking dope or crack. What happened to Cowboys and Indians. Playing Army with your friends or building dens. Yes they are in their teens joining gangs.
5. Gang culture. Where are the break dance crews which were way out there when I was a kid. Adventure Scouts, Army, Navy Cadets and starting a band.
5. I hold a British passport but go to Afghanistan to fight for the cause against British soldiers. When I am caught, I will tell everyone I was on holiday or visiting family. REALLY. How about you should be shot for treason not given compensation for being asked what the hell you were doing there in a WAR ZONE SHOOTING AT BRITISH SOLDIERS. (From the tax payer yet again)
6. So we have a good road system and patient, polite drivers do we. Try M25, M6. Look on the news, its called ROAD RAGE.
7. I need to go to A&E as my wife is very very ill but she can wait as they are dealing with a druggie or someone who is so fat due to laziness eating crap. Oh and the bloke who is drunk and has a broken nose from fighting his best mate.
How about opening a STUPIDOLIGY department for them and leave the genuinely ill people to get treated.
8. Prisons. HAHAHAHA, Please don’t send me somewhere where I can earn money, get three square meals a day and play on my own Play Station watch Satellite TV. (That’s if they haven’t got the latest games console in yet)
Oh no and if I get fed up with the Play Station I can play other really bad boys games like table tennis or pool. WHAT A JOKE.
Well John these are but a few reasons for wanting to get away from the UK.
I also want to experience a different culture that I haven’t experienced before. I LIKE THE WORDS CHANGE, EXPERIENCE AND ADVENTURE.
If you print this in the reasons for moving I would be more than happy although I will point out I have travelled a lot and yes, I have experienced many different cultures, countries, food and governments.
They all have there good points and bad points but lets weigh them up and see where we would rather be. ABROAD OR IN THE UK?
Well sorry for the moaning but hey, I think these are valid points.
I also think that people haven’t moved out of the UK because they don’t know any better.
Kindest regards and thank you again for your site.
My Sad Story – Paradise Can Turn Into Hell
Hi there; read your site and thought I would add my sad story
I bought a house for me and my boyfriend; it needed renovation so I stayed working while he went there and started the work.
Of course the work proved to be far more expensive than one had thought and materials including paint are horrendously expensive ! with no competition in rural areas, the b&q type stores can charge what they like and have inferior quality items as well.
Even the supermarkets are very very limited and do not include foreign ingredients and most restaurants serve only meat and chips and no vegetables at all!!!!!!!!
All in all I was then horrified when my boyfriend decided to run off with a friend and left me to sell the house which I am currently financing through mortgage; I will not get back what I had put into it and am left in a horrible traumatic situation.
It’s a total nightmare and he has just walked off into another paradise!  The life there is lovely but you have to be aware of all kinds of things; most Brits work on the black and pretend to be builders. It’s a total black economy and everyone is trying to make a buck. If a suspecting Frenchman shops you to the taxman you’re done!
The French do not include foreign cultures in their food apart from their own colonies like North Africa and Vietnam.
The euro has made things more expensive than one might imagine.
Now the market is flat and i have a house to sell I am  at a loss what to do; the agents do nothing and charge 6%!  added to that the notaires fees and other inspections. Never ending!
Trying to work things out over the phone is horrendous and all the forms are a nightmare.  Living rurally you drive a lot more to get anywhere.
Paradise can turn to hell! 


In response to all the postings I’d like to make the following (positive) comments:
I am a Brit but live in Holland with my Dutch husband; we have a  second house in the Champagne Ardennes which we are lucky to be  able to visit every month or so for the weekend.
In response to all the postings I’d like to make the following  comments:
– If you think that France is bureaucratic and xenophobic then you  should try living in Holland, especially if you are non-Dutch; the  Dutch have a reputation for tolerance but, I’ve discovered, only  towards themselves.
– Our house in France is in a very small village (one street, 160  inhabitants, including sheep) and I have to say that I have  experienced nothing but kindness and honesty from the local  people.  Perhaps it’s because I’m the only Brit in the area and  visit the house frequently (there are 5 or 6 houses in the village  owned by Dutch people who only turn up once a year and bring all  their food with them because they’re suspicious of anything non-NL)  or perhaps it’s just that I’ve found a tiny corner of France which  isn’t overrun with incomers.
-I’ve never had to pay the ‘prix Anglaise’ for anything (including  a completely new central heating system and new roof), workmen have  always turned up on time (even early on some occasions) and have  completed the job in an excellent fashion without the arguments one  would have here and in the UK.
-I can’t say that I’ve ever had a really bad meal in France whereas  in the UK and here I’ve had more than I care to remember; you just  have to change your mindset to other ways of eating and considering  food (although I do draw the line at horsemeat – as I do here
-When I bought the house I had absolutely no problems with the  Notaire who organised everything efficiently and effectively –  likewise Credit Agricole for the bank account and EDF for the  electricity,  True I’ve never tried to get a telephone or the  internet connected but I’ve been waiting for 8 weeks here in NL for  a Wi-Fi connection and I suspect that I’ll have to wait for another  6 at least.
-Supermarket shopping in our local town is not Tescos, but then  neither are the supermarkets here and I find the choice in France  so much better (although not necessarily cheaper than here).   Certainly the standards of customer care are far superior to NL and  on a par with the UK.
-I have no experience of health care in France so cannot comment
Yes, there are things in France for which I find adjustment  difficult (e.g. 2.5 hours for lunch every day when everything  stops) but, all in all, it’s a far better lifestyle than here.
At the end of the day, you have to really want to move to a country  and know what you’re getting into rather than relying on dreamlike  notions of how wonderful it could be and, if you want to really  settle in then you have to learn the language and begin to  integrate and try to understand the local customs: after all,  you’re a foreigner living in someone else’s country. I really  believe that if you understand how the language is constructed then  you’ll begin to understand how and why the people are as they are.
As an expat who’s lived in several countries other than my own I’ve  learned two lessons:
– learn to think like ‘them’ but retain your own identity
– take what you really love about the country on board and embrace  it but try and ignore what you hate/can’t accept because you’ll  never be able to change it: and why should you?  After all, it’s  not you’re country.
Good luck to anyone moving to another country
Author’s note: what a lovely and sensible post – I agree with her completely.
More at Home in Qatar than France
Found you website by accident in search of the selling procedure, and thought you may be interested in my account.
Sitting at work back in Qatar (where I feel far more at home then I ever did in France), so here is my brief account. My husband and I decided after 20 years of living and working in different countries around the world, to buy a stone house in Brittany. We had lived in many other countries-some quite restrictive but always enjoyed the experience so hey why should France be difficult. We left for France last Sept after 3 years of renovation work, but after a few months realised we could never live there as our home. Reasons:
Incredibly insular/narrow minded. We speak French quite well so it was not a communication issue. This also refers to many of the Brits we met.
Range of products from food to materials extremely limited-compare to a communist country.
Feelings of resentment (from others). Interfering Brit expats insisting you should integrate their way. We have lived in varied cultures and closely worked alongside different cultures and have always got on well. So it was annoying for people to be passing comments on whether they felt you were integrating or not because you waved to your neighbour instead of stopping and conducting a 10 min conversation.
As much as we loved our house we felt discontented, always feeling watched/judged.
As a woman I found it distinctly patriarchal-something that really surprised and depressed me.
So we returned to Qatar (with our well travelled cats), heads held high (if you don’t try something how will you ever know) got our jobs back, and feel much happier-and great to have good restaurants again (French restaurants highly over rated), great selection of wine-not only French, English cheeses, cosmopolitan environment, good standard of living. Although some might consider Middle East countries dictatorships, you have a lot more freedom than France!
We have sold the house after we had to supply endless documents to prove we had not made a profit on the house. They did not just want builder receipts, but all our bank statements from the last 4 years to avoid CGT! Now the house was sold 3 weeks ago and the notaire is still sending us on a dance as we still have not received the funds-thus the reason I was searching on the o\internet. He told us last night that they have to go to the tresorerie Vannes because the transfer is to the UK. So more hoops to jump through and estate agents who will not answer their phones. The farce continues.
Anyway, certainly put our grass is greener thoughts into perspective, and we now appreciate our life here, and will be looking for a place in the UK next year.
Quality of life is exceptional (Béarn).
Good morning
Don’t wish to become involved in the debate about which is the best place to live – I will simply give you a few of the facts I have observed after 17 years of living in the Béarn.
1 There are British immigrants in most of the villages here.
2 We are involved in local life (bénévoles at the fêtes, socialising with our fellow villagers, etc.) and have NEVER met another British person at an event.
3 When we do see British people in the supermarkets and streets here we are often ashamed by their behaviour and lack of good manners.
We ran a guest house here for (mainly British) walkers for several years and can assure you that most Brits arrive in this country with their eyes shut – the weather is the most important factor, cheap food, wine and housing come next. The Atlantic Pyrenees are among the most beautiful mountains you could wish to find and, despite what may hold true of life in French cities, the quality of life is exceptional. Why, then, do we never meet British residents on the mountain?
Our rare visits to the UK have depressed us – no point in ranting about litter, car parking, yobbery, etc., lots of people are already doing that on various websites. The only comment I would like to make is that the recent immigrants to the UK seem to us to be the ones with the better manners…

Brit emigrates (should) stay put
Congratulations for your informative, fair and balanced site. Hopefully, it will convince budding Brit emigrates to stay put and may even persuade misguided expatriates to return to green and pleasant  England. I strongly feel that France should remain free of Brits to ensure that it doesn’t get infected with all the social and cultural ills affecting the great majority of British people. I would be heartbroken to see France and its people turning into a replicate of the UK, that is to say a country full of clone towns with identikit chain retailers, populated by obese, moronic, drunken, promiscuous chavs. In my extensive travels throughout Europe, I am always saddened but unsurprised to hear from foreigners the disdain in which they hold the UK and its people. One only needs to look at the flabs of sunburnt British flesh disfiguring the Spanish Costas to sympathise with this view. One could also mention the cretinous England football team players and their grotesque partners who made a complete disgrace of themselves in Germany in the last World Cup.
To all you Brits, please stay in or return to Chavland and get out of the EU – we don’t want you.
Best regards

Weary of the terrible quality of what we laughingly call life in one of England’s grim identikit urban centres, my wife and I decided to up sticks and relocate with our two children to the sunny south of France. Having made a sizeable sum out of the London property boom we selected as our destination rural Languedoc in the SEast of the country, aka «  the poorman’s Provence ». With the Med and its beaches to the east, the Pyrenees to the south and the beautiful mountains of the unspoilt Cevennes to the west, it appeared an ideal destination.
Since my wife is French ( from Paris ) and our two children already bilingual we believed we were not quite as naive as many others making the same sort of move ; we felt we would have a better chance to fit in and integrate with the local community. It was to be a Good Life style adventure, a return to the land, with a few animals, a vegetable garden, perhaps a vine or two, an old stone farmhouse to renovate and an acre or two to cultivate.
After a year or two of searching, several flying visits and narrowly avoiding being ripped off by a couple of ex-pat estate agents, in 2004 we finally located and purchased our dream house : a magnificent, partially renovated 18th century stone mas, nestling in an exquisite little hamlet on the side of a verdant Cevennol mountain ; breathtaking views , acres of land and forest attached and served by a fresh water spring so sweet and so abundant that we seriously considered bottling and selling it ! Paradise…
Sadly, as a result of climate change and several years of drought, there was a shortage of water in the village nearby ,especially, as we later learnt, since the mayor had been handing out construction permits with suspicious frequency placing an unsustainable burden on an already overstretched local resource ( the commune’s water comes from boreholes). Within weeks of our moving in the very same mayor had authorised the drilling of a borehole on a piece of land adjacent to ours and within 24 hours our beautiful freshwater spring had dried up and with it our dreams of self sufficiency, of vegetable gardens, vines, of cultivation of any sort in fact. When we remonstrated with him he merely shrugged and smirked ‘ We must all share, ‘  he said and smirked some more. We later learnt that he, like many others in the village, was a communist and averse to the idea of  private property rights.
So began our living nightmare. Obviously we contacted lawyers who told us that the case was complicated, that proving ownership of water that runs under several  properties was extremely tricky, that we should leave it with them and that they would get back to us. They never did.
We contacted them again and again and finally after weeks of practically begging they sent a letter to the mayor asking for our spring to be returned to us. We thereby succeeded in delaying the construction of a reservoir at the borehole whilst a legal process of consultation took place ; but the mayor’s Gallic pride had been piqued. Outraged by our audacity in daring to challenge his authority  he launched a campaign of harassment, misinformation and what can only be described as hate against us. The new foreign couple were blocking the building of a pumping station that would solve the village’s water problem. We were vilified as selfish foreign capitalists. He refused to negotiate with us, refused to invite us to key meetings at the town hall when issues relating to the new borehole were being discussed. He trespassed across our land with other local ‘officials’ and ‘experts’ whenever he felt like it.
In turn the locals started to take their weekend promenades across our land ; the local hunters started shooting on our land dangerously close to the house ; our neighbours in the hamlet snubbed us, refused to speak to us and then started making bizarre complaints against us : our septic tank was smelling, our rainwater was falling onto their property and flooding it, someone was dropping dead mice down their chimneys ( I kid you not)… People who had once appeared neutral or even friendly turned their back on us and refused even to shake our hand. It was not merely bizarre and bewildering but deeply depressing and even frightening.  When we walked into the local village we would be met by tense silence and grimacing, resentful faces ; we stopped going there. We have been ostracised, excluded and even aggressively threatened and all because we have dared to defend our property and our right to irrigate our own land from our own spring. But it has been made abundantly clear to us that we are not the real proprietors here, the villagers are, we are merely tourists, passers through, second class citizens, foreigners and therefore our rights can be easily ignored.
And so…And so the dispute goes on. We are and always have been perfectly willing to share the spring with the village, all we wish is to take enough water to irrigate a couple of acres of land, but we can do nothing  until the issue has been legally settled ; our dream is in tatters, we are surrounded by hostile natives and now the bottom has fallen out of the French property market and we have little chance of selling the house for the foreseeable future. We have been battling and fighting since the moment we arrived. We are consequently very tired and very disillusioned.
I do not believe that our story is unique or even  unusual. Anecdotal evidence suggests it is the tip of a very large, ugly iceberg. Such stories do not receive widespread attention because they don’t fit into the rosy-spectacled, living-the-dream, the-grass-is-greener mythology of France that sells so many TV shows, magazines, newspapers and internet sites and sustains a vast cottage industry of ex-pats that feed off newly arrived ex-pats : estate agents, lawyers, tax experts, translators, gite owners, builders etc…
Moreover people like ourselves do not wish to spread our tales of woe because they make us look like naive and stupid dupes ; who wants to be shown up as that kind of failure ? I am sharing this with you because I’m sick and tired of the half truths and lies peddled by the above mentioned army of people living off the French ‘dream’. Because I know that if we have had problems, despite the fact that one of us is French and fluent in the language, then others will be faring even worse.
I also want my revenge on the intolerant, vindictive peasants that live in this village and have made our lives a misery simply out of jealousy and spite . They too are by no means unique ; they are present to a lesser or greater degree in every rural village in France and it is time they were exposed. Indeed it is time that the poisonous blight of intolerance, xenophobia and racism that clings to French culture like a cancer is examined publicly and named and shamed. It is no accident that the inner city ghettoes where the North and West African immigrants are herded regularly burn and explode into riots. It is no coincidence that France has the worst record of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe.  It wasn’t a mistake that in the 2002 presedential elections a neo-Nazi with a policy of forcible repatriation of immigrants was nearly voted into the Elysee. These are aspects of the same malaise. Perhaps if we expose them to the light people will hesitate to make as big a mistake as we have done and  they may well look at British society with its policy of multiculturalism , however flawed, as a haven of tolerance and decency .


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