Our French Life

A Year in Normandy


Blimey that could be a best seller couldn’t it? Oh wait, it’s already been done with a Year in Provence or something like that. God darn it!

So, I’ve been a bit busy of late working on some wonderful Normandy businesses’ social media accounts. However, sometimes that means my own writing and social media takes a back seat. Just over a week ago marked our one year anniversary in France. It has gone quick and at the same time feels like we’ve been here forever. Does that make sense? I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to reflect on our catapultization. This is a newly made up word derived from ‘catapult’ and bunging ‘ization’ on the end, to conjure up the image of being launched, into French life. You’re welcome. 

I have written a lot about all the necessary processes we have been through. I’ll soon be adding ‘getting your car onto French plates’ and all that this entails. It isn’t major but I think a handy step-by-step guide and certainly what not to do when it comes to obtaining a Certificate of Conformity would be well received. Incidentally, I now have French plates – tah dah! Although, no sooner do I have them I can’t drive my car. The brake pads need to be replaced. I figured this out when I could hear a rather disconcerting grinding noise every time I applied them. Initially I thought I could ignore it – brakes are for wimps right? Turns out they’re quite important and I have had to stop using the car. Back in the garage Thursday so I am.

The local garage is a place I frequent a lot. I’m pretty sure we’ll be doing bisous soon and I’ve already given them Easter eggs and cake for helping us out so many times. The dog even greets me with his “back again with your crappy Volvo” wagging tail.

So without further ado I will tell you about:-

The Best Things About Living In France

It works. Say what? Yes, you have to fill in multiple tax forms, you have to pay cotisations (bit like the National Insurance Premiums but are 22% not the approx 6% you pay) and you do need to send copies of things i.e your birth certificate the one with your parents professions. I have never,  for 44 years of my living being on UK soil, had to produce this but yarp they wanted it. Cue Mother Dearest sending me the original.

I know everyone thinks it’s very bureaucratic and maybe it is – I know from experience that a friend who came from Eastern Europe was set up within 5 weeks of arriving in the UK.  But this makes sense, the sooner you have your National Insurance number the sooner you can be charged tax.

So yes, things do take time but I’m still convinced it’s because everything is so new, so different and in a foreign language. It’s just a process. Acceptance is key to living in France. Just go with the flow. You will not change the paperwork process of a nation. Ever.

Most things are done online like the rest of the planet. You are given user names and passwords to access your account just like you would in the UK.  When you are set up – you’re done. Granted I still have a few more things to sort out but I’m 80% there and it feels good. Oh lordy! I will do a celebratory rain dance around my French reg car clutching my carte vital and my family allowance when I’m done I can tell you.

And when I say it works – I mean the services that you are paying for. Our bins get collected without fail every week, the recycling is emptied and no one fly tips around it, I can go to the local tip with no queuing, my kids could get the school bus (albeit I have to drive half the way) for approx 100 euros a year, there is a football pitch, tennis court, table tennis club and other social activities all at our disposal. Further afield my sons are in a cycling club. The fees are nominal as are most sports clubs.

lego builder

Then you have the men that work on the communes. I sometimes feel like I’m in Legoland as they merrily go about their business in their work vans. Maybe they sing “everything is awesome” like The Lego Movie or rather “tout est génial”.

The devil makes work for idle hands as they say – well I’m not seeing idle and I am sure that’s why there is a low-level of serious crime.  They are busy the French – granted they stop for lunch for  2 hours (needs must) but things happen.

They all seem to take pride in their work, digging out the flower beds and doing essential maintenance around town. I value them and I’m pretty confident so do the general public. I appreciate that I am in rural village life and this is probably a world way from the inner city but I live here.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the healthcare. It really is second to none. I’m not into NHS bashing I can get an appointment with my French doctor with the same ease I could with the UK doctor. There isn’t a receptionist at the French doctor’s so I have to make appointments by phone and I would like another repeat prescription. In the UK, I could just pop a note into the doctors – I suspect I will have to pop into the doctors for this and at a cost of 25 euros which will be refunded. But in terms of being cared for and really being checked, I have no complaints. In fact, sometimes I am stunned into their efficiency.

The beautiful countryside. In the beginning, I genuinely felt I was in some Enid Blyton book – lashings of ginger beer and all that. I still have those moments. The other day we took off to the beach and I stupidly thought, just like Enid would, that I could throw a few things into my wicker basket – a couple of towels and be done with it. Turns out you can’t be all Enid with 3 kids in tow when you forget the extra towells, the extra snacks, the costumes as turns out they wanted to swim in the freezing water, the drinks…….

Me and Master Normandy having an Enid Bylton moment

The French people – by and large they’re lovely. I can count on one hand where I’ve had a grumpy type. That’s the same the world over. I could go on and on but I need to get onto the..

The Worst Things About Living In France

This is a toughy as there’s nothing I absolutely loathe or really yearn for. But in my true, tell it how it is writing style, here goes:-

The length of time it will take me to learn the language. This is immensely frustrating – as we have been somewhat busy and I have had quite a few lessons but I do need to speak more to locals. I am on it and have joined a group where you go to French people’s houses. I need lots more general chit-chat.

I’m pretty okay in most situations. I understand pretty good but it’s those having a chat with people (and I do so love to talk!) which can be frustrating. This can make you withdraw into your shell a little but you have to prise yourself back out.  Having said that, I am able to say “where’s the fire?” and used it today when an old dear got the nark because she couldn’t cut across me in the supermarket. I am slowly beginning to get my one liners out.

Comfort Zones. There are no comfort zones. I don’t even know where mine is anymore. There’s always some trite inspirational quote floating around facebook these days and some I’m like yeah that sounds good, others I just think oh just do one! Yes we all grow but sometimes you just want to curl up in front of BBC Iplayer, imagining that you’ve just ordered a chinese from No 1 Chinese in Croydon and they’ll take over an hour even though it’s only a few doors down. Yes I miss sticky honey ribs and our fish n chips tea time special.  I would always get these little fish bites and chips for £2.50 if I couldn’t be bothered to cook or we’d had a mad type of day. There are no real take-aways here unless you’re big into Pizza. The French love a pizza. It’s their sole take-away and it’s not up for discussion.

It is a bit like the Wild West out here. I will dedicate a post on this entirely but yarp a lot of Brits do whatever they please. I don’t really care if you’ve been on Brit plates for 10 years but many do care and are merrily having a pop on forums etc. They like to tell you how successful they are  – I mean seriously they’ve all got “stacks of work” and in the same breath will tell you how difficult it is to find work out here. They ask you how good your French is as if you are allowed in if it’s passible. In the same breath (if they’ve come up for air) and not waiting to hear your answer, they’ll promptly tell you there’s is rubbish. It’s so hard and did I tell you how many acres I’ve got as you couldn’t buy this in the UK. Like most things, there are absolutely gems of people from my home country but I’m going to plump for fifty-fifty on that score.

Now that I’ve gone off into one – I’d also say (not the French) those pesky “ex-pats” are a bit guarded. They’ve got their cliques and if your names not down you’re not coming in. But get this – I have no wish to be in any clique, so please get over youselves. Like how up yourself can you be that you decide not to invite newcomers to anything just incase they get the wrong idea that you are now friends?!  These people know it all and they’re going to tell you.

I’d even go so far as to say one particular couple went out of their way to make us not welcome. What is with that?! Would you do that in the UK? I have good *friends in the UK, I’m comfortable with what we’re doing and I don’t feel the need to be liked by anyone. Gotta say this is more for the over 50s and by the way I’m an awesome friend you’d be lucky to have me #justsayin.

*I miss them and chatting to them more frequently but the ones that matter I make sure I find the time to check in.

I put on a stone – initially I lost weight. Then I tried out all the variety of cakes, discovered almond crossiants and the best baker in town. That and driving a lot, sorting out admin stuff and generally not taking care of myself meant that whoopsie everything is a bit tight. I’m on it like a boss. I went swimming today, have been walking loads and the bike has been out a fair bit. You have been warned.

Finally, and I’m sure there are lots more on both fronts – the toilet habits of a nation. They don’t care. Just whip it out – ladies squat down in full view of passers-by. Seriously, I don’t need to see you having a wee – especially the ladies. Go behind a bush if you can’t walk 2 minutes to the toilet that is clearly in front of you!

So there you have it. A year in Normandy!

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Until next time….












3 thoughts on “A Year in Normandy”

  1. Ah you’re a gem. This really made me laugh a lot. “I will do a celebratory rain dance around my French reg car clutching my carte vital and my family allowance when I’m done I can tell you.” You’d better post a video of that one! Just curious – how is the dog poo in your rural town? Cos as well as the ‘you can just watch me do a wee’ weirdness (tho very very helpful when you live above the treeline in a very closed ski resort with no open public loos and like a long run, I can tell you – though I do look for a dip, or a rock, or something) the dogs in our town poo everywhere. Yuk.


    1. Thank you!! Re the dog poo to be honest there is very little on the pavements etc – less so than in the UK for sure but we are surrounded by countryside and walks so maybe it’s all in the woods!


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