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French lifestyle tips from expat author Janine Marsh

Posted on 15 December 2018Culture

Author and Living France columnist Janine Marsh started a new life in northern France, drawn by the rural landscape and a more laid-back lifestyle. Here she shares advice on swapping the UK for France and explains why she is so drawn to her adopted country.

What is your ultimate tip for those considering purchasing a property in France?

Go for it. When I bought my house, it was I admit on a total whim. I’d only gone to France for the day to buy wine at Calais but I fell head over heels for a run-down, neglected and, frankly, unattractive farmhouse. I wouldn’t actually suggest that is a sensible way to find your dream home. I was lucky though and I adore my village, it could just as easily not have worked out. I would really recommend making a list of what’s a ‘must have’, such as transport options, walking distance to shops, fast speed internet (especially if you need it for work as many areas of France still have slow or no internet) and what you’d really like but can live without. You’ll rarely get everything you want in one place but if you tick off the essentials, you’re much more likely to settle and be happy in your choice.

What is your favourite region in France and why?

Where my home is: the Seven Valleys in Pas-de-Calais. It’s not as sunny as the South (although 2018 was an exception) and it doesn’t have the gourmet reputation of some regions. It does, however, have lush, fertile countryside, historic towns, beautiful villages and the most glorious coastline along the Opal Coast. The people are friendly and welcoming. There is a strong love of heritage and tradition inherent in daily life.

In three words, tell us what guests can expect from your talks at The France Show 2019

Laughter, honesty and the unexpected. From house hunting to making friends, the pain of administration, the joys of shopping, going to the home of a French person, gastronomy and some of the unusual quirks of life in France, a humorous take on la belle vie.

If you had to describe France in just one word, what would it be and why?

Unhurried. Coming from a life where lunch was a sandwich in one hand while typing with another, the rural French way of life was quite a shock to me at first. Banks, shops and offices that close at lunch time, for instance. Though some shops open for a few hours on a Sunday morning, most are shut. Supermarkets close at 8pm. Two-hour lunches are normal. People stop for a natter in the street, supermarket queue, wherever they are, they make time to catch up with each other to find out what’s going on in the other person’s life. It’s normal to shop at a market instead of at the supermarket, people support local producers and artisans; though it may be a little more costly, they value the work, the passion that goes into cheese, bread, vegetables, meat etc. Sitting for 30 minutes at a terraced café with a hot chocolate is not seen as a decadent waste of time but an opportunity to enjoy life and the day.

For more insights into living in France, don’t miss Janine at The France Show 2019. You can also find out more about buying property and living in France at the French Property Exhibition, which includes free expert-led seminars. Book your tickets now.

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