Now, I was initially going to write this post about the British ‘ex-pats’ in Normandy and all that goes with that. However, following on from multiple tales of burglaries and the like in this region, I feel this post has a great deal of relevance and is more than just blogging fodder.
Now with all my posts I feel I need to put a disclaimer that this is meant to be a bit light-hearted (albeit true) and it is only my experience. You may have had none of what I am about to mention and great stuff if that’s the case. However, I feel I would be doing others a disservice if I did not mention the unsavoury element of living somewhere new and in particular, here in Normandy. Once again, strap in.
Firstly, it’s very easy to look at Normandy (and I would say this is true of many regions across France) and think this is a little taste of paradise. A piece of heaven. In fact the countryside, rolling hills and birds of prey swooping down whilst you are driving does, indeed, give you that impression. If heaven were a picture than this could quite possibly be it.
The towns/villages are all so lovely and kept, pride is taken in the appearance of individual houses and frontages, hardly any litter, no traffic on the roads and strangers saying “bonjour” to each other as they cross paths. Yes all very idyllic. Except no where is perfect and Normandy is no exception. Whilst there are tons of advantages of living here, there is an unsavoury side, a dark side if you like, or as I would like to call it The Wild West side!
Starting with the British “Expats” or whatever it is they want to call themselves which..actually..is an ex-pat. They’re not calling themself an immigrant anytime soon. Before I came from the future (Croydon) I was under the impression that the currency of the world was money. Yarp. If you wanted something done i.e some work on your house, a service of some kind you would pay someone with that stuff called money. In addition, if you were the one providing a service it was quite natural to expect to receive..yes you’ve guessed it…money. Nope not here.
Here people talk of paying someone in eggs, wood, walnuts, a bit of painting or worst still some goodwill. The amount of times you will see on forums – “can anyone give me a lift to a ferry port?” I’ll contribute naturally but please can you pick me up, make me a sandwich etc. I’d like to know did they actually reach into their pocket and extract a few euros or did the driver get paid in a shit load of eggs that they’ll never eat or bake their way out of?
Or “I have taken on a ridiculous money pit of a project and I’ve damaged my leg – so is there anyone willing to basically do all the work for me? In return you can help yourself to all the stuff that was left behind that I can’t sell at any self-respecting Brocante.”
NO! If you want someone to provide a service/help then you have to pay the currency of the entire world – money! And don’t do the most underhand thing of all – make out something is free but then say “oh by the way that will be 50 euros”. Yes, watch out for those salt of the earth type people, who will give the illusion that what they are doing is out of the goodness of their heart and for free.
There are many tales of this. People who do jobs for ‘friends’ who are proper tradesmen thinking they are helping people out and they’ll be a drink at the end of it aka money. But nope they’re given a wave, a thanks and a we’ll cook you dinner. However, if those same people were doing work for you well now then “that’ll be 300 euros please.” With not an ounce of shame about how their lives have descended into a moral free zone.
Someone told me a very common themed story around these ‘ere parts of the Wild West whereby someone was going on holiday. Their ‘lovely’ friend and neighbour said “don’t worry I’ll take care of your horse.” “you sure?” “yes no probs I’m going there anyway.” When the person got back they wanted 50 euros. No shame, no head hanging, no awkwardness. Nope. Bold as brass so they were.
This is, in polite terms, underhand and in Croydon terms F*&!!*” bang out-of-order and would need sorting out in a less than legal manner.
You’ve got to a be special type of calculating person to do that haven’t you? That is some serious kind of messed up.
Please do not get caught out. My motto for the Wild West of Normandy is:-
IF IN DOUBT, ASSUME THE PERSON IS ON THE MAKE.
IF IN DOUBT, ASK HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT FOR THAT?
I haven’t been immune to this and it’s not always the Brits. Within the first 6 months of being here I had 3 attempted “turned overs”. 1) the fosse inspection guy – read here 2) the first rental Brit trying to turn me over for 300 euros worth of cleaning read here and 3) someone who said there would be no deadline to moving out of their gite. “are you sure?” “yes” okay hands over rent. Week two of rental “oh can you be out the week before Xmas” because I couldn’t give a toss that you have 3 children, a husband working his nuts off to finish your property, you have no electrical supply or that you are a woman on the edge. I’ve had my money off you #british.
With all things if you are both in agreement that by doing someone’s roof or plumbing etc you will get paid in a meal then fine. But if not, see above.
Please feel free to share any of your experiences in the comments below.
Now, the other side of the Wild West of Normandy is the burglaries. No one mentions this about France and I do believe it is a problem. Even my French teacher said that in the seaside resort of Royon (west side of France) multiple hoilday homes were done by a gang located on the East side of France.
Whilst I am fairly confident I am not going to be exposed to too much violent crime here (and if I am murdered on my walk please make it known that I was pissed off about that!) there are lots of ‘petty’ crime. Although I’m not so sure being stripped of all your belongings is so petty.
Everyone here knows of someone who has been burgled. Now mostly are second homes that have been locked up and left. There are travellers that do frequent a town near us but there are also very organised gangs that turn up at country properties with removal trucks. They don’t just take the telly and computer they clean the whole place out.
However, there appears to be very little written in the local press it’s only when you talk to people they’re like oh yes there was a big spate of them etc. A house near us (now up for sale) has been burgled 5 x no less, a good friend of ours has been burguled 3 x and there are also thefts of wrought iron garden ornaments, cash on stalls at vide greniers and our own experience of our truck being stripped of its bonet etc.
If you ask the French they will tell you “oh there are lots of burglaries around here” they’re well aware of it. The farmer who delivers our wood had tractor parts stolen. These are organised gangs. And more recently in a very quiet village (let’s face it they all are) they caught a prolific gang hiding in plain site who were responsible for a local bank robbery and about 70 robberies in total from tabacs, post offices, cars etc.
Why do you think there are gates on properties, cameras and a ridiculous high proportion of barking dogs? We now have 3 security cameras, gates, no dog (yet), shutters and alarms on all our windows. I really don’t want to go down the whole house insurance route – did you know that new is not replaced for old on some policies? It’s old replaced for old!
I don’t want to tarnish your enjoyment of living here in Normandy, nor put you off if it’s your intention to move. But just give you a little head’s up, that whilst this place does look picture perfect there is crime – like most places in the world and to be aware of it.
The best advice I can give is to read your local newspaper even if it’s just liking it on facebook. Or if you are thinking of buying a holiday home ask if it’s ever been burguled. Get to know what is really going on in the local area and lock up your possessions like you would have done in the UK.
You have been reading Our Normandy Life!