Episode 36   settling in to an expat life in France.

Moving to France can be a daunting experience. In this episode re-locators and expats can get some top tips on how to make it work

  • Saving Money
  • Language tips
  • Meeting people – Join clubs and associations
  • Making friends – Volunteer at school or for charity.
  • Finding jobs
  • Buy and sell home and garden
  • Saving Money
  • Schools, kids activities and Children with special needs.
If you listen to the back catalogue of interviews with my guests I often ask the question how did they meet people here. In this episode I am sharing some top Tips of my won and also from our community here in the South of France.


Sign up for language lessons once you are here. It is so sad to see how people are isolated because they lack confidence to integrate due to language.
There are some local free or nearly free classes in most areas. Try .. make an effort your French may well be better than their English .. I do do a run through before I pick up the phone and in the early days I definitely noted down key words in French so I had something to refer back to if things got dicy!
Learn too how to say slower please “lentement”  and “doucement” literally calm down..
Even now I will sometimes say to a call centre operative that I am English .. could the speak slower .. I’m not stupid it’s just I didn’t learn this vocabulary in French at school.
It usually works.
On the plus side when I get a sales call at home or on my mobile what is it with Bougues I will never use them due to their constant spamming .. I will speak in a very heavy accent or just in English and they leave me alone quick enough.
Mr BB went to IBM to work when we arrived .. now at the time they had quite an English approach documentation had to be in English even meetings were if people on calls were ENglish but he prevailed and insisted on speaking to people in French. He went to lunch with the team and took the teasing bravely apparently many people think he is French Canadian this is in part due to our French surname which is actually from my side and the accent or mis pronunciation of words


It is easy for us to knock the French way .. compare it to the land we left behind but it’s not very fair .. after all we left our mother country for a reason and if we are honest many of us are not planning on going back for a while.
So we do need to embrace the culture and the way of life.
Sure there are issues as with anywhere and I know I have definitely been at fault for criticising and I know too I won’t entirely be able to stop.
But I am trying to start the day with some positive mantras . Looking out of the windows and watching the sunrise and being thankful that we live in such a gorgeous country, getting out and about and enjoying the local life, trying to think of 3 things each day that I love about being here ..
so on my 20 minute drive to work there are only 2 sets of traffic lights .. traffic rolls so freely outside of the rush hour ..
There is only 1 speed camera and 1 CCTV .. I don’t feel like big brother is watching me
Fresh bread is amazing
I see the most spectacular sun rises ( I actually prefer them to sunsets as I like a new dawn) I even love the exhilarating electrical light storms .. Mr BB has the ability to sleep through them but I can’t and will often be up watching them across the valley and the power of nature.
I love the Vous and the Tu the fact you can create distance or a rapprochement with someone with a tweak in person.
anyway you get the picture ? keeping all the positives at the forefront of your mind help you feel more buoyant when the going gets tough.
Another mindset tip is to get one of those old fashioned glass jars and every time something great happens note it down and pop it in the jar. My teenage daughter did this and over time her jar was full of happy memories. The idea is when you are feeling rough you can dip in and take out an idea. Love it!


Go back and listen to Eps 33 and 34 where we talk creativity. It is so powerful to see the evolution from an idea to something concrete .. this could be in a redecoration of a room, writing a blog or why not a book, joining a music class, I would even extend it to cultural outings museums, theatre ballet.
We have so much here on our doorstep – commit to doing 1 a month!


Firstly I should tell you about KidooLand and what we have going on .. for the 0-3 year olds we have mum and baby activities and Playgroups and a Kindergarten for preschoolers.
We un this all in English and it’s the perfect way to keep up your English, have a gentle integration into life here or get your child ready for passing the English part of the test for the international schools.
We are also on hand in the vacations running fun and creative holiday camps for children age 4-12 year olds  all in English. We have an exciting programme for tweens and teens to with Architecture , photography, journalism and more on the menu for AdoLand in summer 2018.
Now if a positive fun English environment isn’t for you and I know it’s not for everyone then do check out
Recre Nice – you will find all kinds ideas for outings with the kids plus lots of  Bon Plan money off offers and competitions.
Hervé works really hard at sharing the best of the best for our Riviera Kids. With 27k likes this is a very proactive place to find out more https://www.facebook.com/RecreaNice.fr/
Carnival Fete des Citrons in Menton
New Jump XL Trampoline in Cannes looks awesome
Also lots of nature ideas walks .. we did the Mimosa Trail last weekend over near Tanneron .. simply stunning views down to Cannes Mandelieu over to the snow capped mountains and of course all that yellow bloom. Soon too will the the lavender fields which I am hoping to get to this year.


I recorded a couple of episodes on schools 1-4 which are worth checking out if you have arrived to the French Riviera with children. We have a great choice of schools State and Privately funded and you will need to do lots of research to ensure you pick the one that works for you and your family. Due to moves we have had experience of 2 maternelles, 3 primary schools 2 colleges and one Lycée .. this was with 2 kids and it sounds worse than it is part of that was naturally progression through schools but it has given us a good understanding of the process, some of the differences etc.
Also through my company I have met thousands of families (over 4,500 in fact)  and while I don’t interrogate them I have over the last 11 years picked up a really good feel for what’s out there, the pros and the cons.
There are many factors that come into play from budget to location to language. The end goal is also important so which diploma should they take where will they go to university. and of course one of the huge factors is the child.
If you are here in the South of France then use the Facebook groups like Riviera Mums and Teen Riviera to ask your questions about all things kid there are an amazing amount of Mums and Dads willing to share their experience and support you.
It is a bit more challenging for special needs children and for this I would guide you to the group Special Needs in France. It is quite a challenge dealing with special needs in a foreign country. they have their own processes and ways of dealing with things and while some of it is brilliant there are also many challenges. This is the group you need to be in if you have a child with a learning difficulty or special need.


LinkedIn is a great way to get your name out into the market. I have around 30 searches done against my profile a day and I’m not even looking for a job so do make sure your profile is up to date and looking for business if you are. Knowing people in the companies is a great way to try and get an HR introduction.
Here are a couple of groups you could register with if you were looking for a job.
Online you have:
https://www.pacajob.com and  https://www.indeed.fr covering the PACA region
There are of course all the Yacht companies of boats is your biz and a stroll around the ports in Cannes, Antibes, Nice is the right thing to do if you want to get into yachting .
Antibes Yacht Crew jobs has a healthy following: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1048863655171156/about/
so they are great places to start.


Your local Mairie – town hall will probably run a welcome to the town or village. It’s their moment to showcase their wares , get to know you and for you to find out about everything going on in your area.
Do activities in French. I was able to join my husband’s CE for photography lessons all in French, I joined a hockey club, over the years I joined a dance class,a  tennis club your local Mairie will have a comprehensive list of all your local Associations who will offer all kinds of activities sports and cultural. I quite fancy Thai chi soon!
Kids can make it nice and easy .. I met friends in the ludothèque,  In fact I was the only English girl in the maternelle school so all my friends were French . I had them over for Tea and Coffee went for strolls together, made friends at swim club and I was for a while on the PTA which is a sure fire way of getting your language skills up .. lots of repetition and point repeated many times which really helps when learning language.
I think it is difficult to get accepted and integrated at times .. people are wary of strangers and down here in PACA where the internationals are quite transient people don’t want to make friends only to find you are moving away.
Animals are of course another way for you to meet other people dog walkers are generally friendly to each other and when we started dog training our puppy we used to go to a centre with lots of other locals to do a host of activities and exercises with the doggies.
The local charities are always looking for people to volunteer their time and you instantly enter a close knit community. This could be for animal refuges but also for people related charities. Down in PACA there are some very dynamic initiatives such as Mimosa Matters , Kenyan Kids both of whom have featured on earlier podcasts and Unaccompanied Minors 06, Cogs for Cancer if you have the time they definitely have the need.
There is something that is also very rewarding on being involved in such causes. Knowing that you have made a difference and you are paying back into the community is so good for the soul.


Various Facebook groups such as https://www.facebook.com/groups/antibes
Right Move equivalent is http://www.seloger.com/ also Le Bon Coin leboncoin.fr for Private and professional sales.
If you are looking to buy privately without an agent then there is the site https://www.pap.fr/


It is a false assumption that everyone who moves to France is super rich – of course there are many particularly down in areas like PACA and Bordeaux and Paris but that is not everyone’s case.
So here are some tips for saving money.

Selling household items and garden items

Le Bon Coin , Buy it Sell it and a whole host of Facebook groups.
I love buying 2nd hand vintage items .. in fact if I look around my home most of the items we have have been lovingly collected over the years in the UK and here. Very few items have been bought new including our kitchen .. not to everyone’s taste for sure but fits our Shabby Chic country lived in feel and if I’m honest with 2 teenagers and all their friends , 2 dogs , at one time 6 cats and a rabbit our home has had to take its fair share of knocks and the pristine house was never going to work for us. We’re more Enid Blyton than Harpers Bazar!
I use pinterest to collect my ideas and then keep my eyes peeled for the for sale items.
I love a bargain and hate wasting money so that is one reason but I also love the fact that we can recycle epicycle and benefit the environment .


WhatsApp for VOIP free calls to friends and family
Dentists ok this is an unusual tip but if you go regularly to the dentist for maintenance you can often to many repairs if you have say a little cavity. This works out a whole lot cheaper than a major repair which often won’t be fully reimbursed.
Check prices and get quotes in advance. We did some building work an extension to our house that then needed rendering .. 3 walls but there was a lot of window so a lot didn’t need rendering right.
One Artisan quoted us close to 10,00 euros for this work .. we did it in the end for 2k ..maybe not so high end but it does the job very well and saved us 8k.
Online shopping click and collect – I like this for 2 reasons. One is I do some upfront Meal planning and this can then go up for all the family to see what was on the agenda they can pick and choose and get started. I’ve planned in meals from home which means I’m not tripping off to wazawok every day and you can see the total in the basket . .much less likely to do impulse buys.
I’ve heard people say that they don’t trust click and collect , prefer to choose themselves but you get to check out the fruit and veg before putting it in your car even the eggs ..
For the pantry goods its perfect.
Go through your subscriptions and ensure you are making the most of them and if not cancel them!
Remember some places will tie you in , won’t allow you to cancel etc. so check out the T&Cs closely and use your phone or PC calendar to remind you to cancel ..
Get books from the library or places like Sunny Bank have an AMAZING range of books in English .
Kindle also has some amazing deals for peanuts.
Gasoil Now is a fuel price comparer check out where in your region has the cheapest fuel.
Check that your provider for electric , gas, phone, internet and more is the best deal and switch if they aren’t. https://comparateur.selectra.info/comparaison-electricite


Be prepared like any good Scout .. and yes I was a Scout actually instead of a Guide!
In France we have had some terrible floods and fires and even when it snows the roads can be closed so it is a good idea to keep some cupboard essentials tinned food, first aid and medical supplies.
Emergencies happen do you know who to phone in an emergency .. the emergency numbers. have you got your neighbours neighbours handy.
112 is the Pan european number but you should also know
15  is for the SAMU so a medical emergency. This is answered by a Doctor who would be able to give you advice on the phone on the best course of action to take, let you know where you closest out of hours doctor is and organise an ambulance.
17 is for the Police the gendarmerie
18 is for the fire brigade or pompiers .. they have paramedical crew on board so in the event of a car crash or perhaps a fall in a house where you can’t get access they would be called.
If you are not fluent French speaking .. have noted down the phone number (in French) your address and how to find you so that in a panic you have some key details to hand.


For the Brits here I found a really helpful Facebook group Applying for French nationality. As there is a huge increase in applications this group is there to support you with that list of questions.
One tip I read recently was that instead of taking the language test you can do a 1st Aid Course e.g. the PSC1 or SST (do check with your prefecture ) and as long as you pass and get the certificate this can be accepted as the required level .
Applying for French Nationality  https://www.facebook.com/groups/155831851500936
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Our sponsor –   This podcast was sponsored by KidooLand the Little English School who have just opened inscriptions for the next holidays for 4-16 year olds KidooLand nicknamed “the little English school” by our clients has a  year round premises is  set up for the little and big people. We run English activities all year round as well as holiday camps in Vallauris Sophia and Valbonne. With the Ados that we get to explore the Cote d’Azur in great depth .. Mougins, Cannes, Biot and more for cultural and really fun outings and this year we add in community awareness projects.
Riviera Firefly is your online guide to living on and visiting the French Riviera and the Côte d’Azur. We cover topics such as Education for children and adults, Places to visit, Health and lifestyle, hobbies and leisure and have lots of fun here in the Alpes Maritimes. We also talk to inspiring local entrepreneurs and small businesses about how they started their careers in France, dealing with administration and what brought them here in the first place. Topical issues such as Brexit and what this means to expats will also be covered in 2017. Our online directory and magazine can be found on www.rivierafirefly.com

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