Taking advice – A cautionary tale for newcomers to France.

Dordogne resident Jane Hunt has heard it all! She says that when you move to France you will probably find yourself in receipt of plenty of well-meant advice from fellow immigrants.

She says that some of it may help you; some of it may not. Read on and be warned!

I moved to France in 2010 because I love it! I spent many holidays here as a child, worked in the Vendée for four months as a young adult and spent part of my degree course at the University of Nancy.

In 2009, my husband and I decided to search for a house in earnest. I thoroughly researched the French property purchase process and hence only 8 weeks after viewing it, we owned our own little plot of Dordogneshire (a name jovially bestowed upon La Dordogne due to the high number of British immigrants resident therein).

I was prepared for France; the glorious weather, the friendly people, the slower pace of life, even its bureaucracy.

What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the abundance of advice (plenty of it unsolicited) from fellow British immigrants and not all of it being either useful or helpful.

I give you an example:

Back in 2010, I made a post on a Brits-in-France forum, asking for advice about car registration, a process that I found to be complicated and frustrating.

I was a little perplexed to receive this reply from someone called Mavis:

Never forget, you’re not here to jolly-jolly with house guests and recreate yourselves a couple of social classes above yourselves for the benefit of hangers-on. Your aim is to integrate with your local French as soon as possible and the more involved you get with “Angleterre sur Dronne” the harder it’ll be to build a life that will endure the passing years.

I never did receive my answer about car registration but Mavis had, by the sounds of it, lived here for years and had a point to get across. In any case, would I really have benefitted from advice from someone whose knowledge may have been gained years ago? After all, administrative procedures in France, just as anywhere else, do change. Perhaps I would have been better off asking an expert.

There was one piece of bad advice that really got me into hot water:

I know everybody considers his or her own circumstances to be unique, but ours really have been at times. At one point, my French-resident British husband was working for a London based company who were contracted by an oriental company and he was carrying out a project for them in the Middle East. Guess how complicated it was to complete that year’s tax return? Having taken instruction from a non-qualified person about how to complete the return, we were horrified (and a little scared, if I’m honest) to be stung a few years later with a large tax bill accompanied by a fine and interest! Should have gone to an accountant!

I do admit that we were naïve. Hopefully you’d be more careful about whose advice you follow. What I’ve learnt from these seven years is to do your research, make sure you learn good French and if in doubt about anything, ask a local French person or a professional.

Jane Hunt. 

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