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!
Local Newspaper Link to a criminal gang hiding out near The Enchanted Village of all places!
5 thoughts on “The Wild West Of Normandy”
I’ve been hoovering up your blog for days now. On the bus, whilst eating breakfast, at work, before bed. Fantastic! In fact I’m writing this with no slight hint of trepidation after reading about Brits – The Rain-on-your-parader and The Obliterator and The Smug buggerator, that you’ve come across on your travels about the forums. I’d love to warrant a name!
I must say your family does seem very capable and can do. Your never say die enthusiasm and hands on-ness, your fella’s construction prowess despite the old back issues. (When I say old back issues I’m talking of the misplaced discs rather than a June ’83 Smash Hits.) And the kids! The handwriting on that homework! 7 years old! Zut alors! The mand böggles.
I came across your writing by chance – my pathetic ‘hobby’ consists of lying in bed, looking at the Seloger app and saying “Ooh look at this one,” every 30 seconds to my wife, when the poor woman tries to read an actual book.
Anyway, great blog. Funny, warm, informative, just what the internet needs.
You can be our Social Media guru when we move to France in 10 years when the kids have flown the coop. (Yes, I’m afraid we are that awful, cowardly type: The Hesitators.)
Bon soirée from la Suéde!
Bonsoir to you JB! Well firstly when I read your comment I was had to check to see if there was another blog behind me – this was after a day of cleaning the toilets, clearing up and general living the dream type stuff so thank you for making my day. I’m chuffed to bits that 1) someone is reading 2) you are enjoying it as much as I like writing it. I often make myself laugh whilst typing so the fact that the reader does is a bonus! I might have to pinch your names above as they are quite splendid! You got me nearly all French Emotional Man (they cry at anything on the TV at any rate) at the hands on bit. I was bit like oh yeah I can do stuff apart from shifting the stone I put on (latest blog post coming up on that one) and yes Mr Normandy is amazing even if we did have a ‘heated debate’ over a shoe rack today. We rarely agree on such massive major decisions like these. I haven’t heard of the seloger app thing what is that? I should know being a social media guru and I will be happy to manage your accounts in 10 years time although my fee might go up to 55 euros then – and I don’t want none of your eggs #innit. You must certainly warrant a name…my make my dayer! And if you don’t mind I’m going to cut and paste my finest hour on the comments front on my fb page of the same name (I’m also on insta and twitter!). Thanks again off to take a bow.
Hi Normandy, is that your blog nickname or your real name (surname)? This is the first entry I read on your blog. Ehm, I’m lying, I read the one about losing friends. I like your writing style. I like how you write about issues which would have made another person emotionally charged (I usually am in my writing as a blogger myself) with such light heartedness. I’m a South African, who is contemplating moving to a foreign country, I’m thinking Germany or The Netherlands, even Austria. I’ve subscribed and I look forward to more entries.
Oh, just a little bit about me: I’m a 37-year old lady, single with no children. I’m an experienced media professional, now freelance writer and entrepreneur. I want to explore more of what life has to offer me. I feel like traveling and living in another country is the best way to do that.
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Hi I am so sorry it’s taken me this long to reply! I read it and forgot to so many apologises. This is my blog name ‘Our Normandy Life’ Thank you for your kind comments re my writing style – I like to tell it as I see it! I like the sound of all those countries although I think I’d plump for Holland. I do like the Dutch I love that they speak better English than me and are generally welcoming people and many surveys say that their children are the happiest in the world. I would say if you have an opportunity to live in another country then grab it! You are here once and with the risk of sounding like an old cliche you only regret the things you didn’t do rather than the ones you did. At times, I have had mixed emotions living here but I wouldn’t change it as I know when I’m taking my last breath (where ever that may be!) I gave it a go and experienced living in a different culture to that of my own. Good luck and do come back and tell me how you get on. Regards Natasha