Hope this finds you all well.
Before I introduce this month’s guest, I just want to send out my heartfelt gratitude to all you readers. The French Escape has been dipping in and out of Amazon’s Top 100 Kindle store for the last seven days and it’s all thanks to you. Your support, as always, is very much appreciated. So again, thank you.
Now back to our French Escape feature…
Today’s guest is Diane Antone, who runs the Women in Brittany Facebook page – a forum where women can get advice regarding life here, chat, share stories, and generally support each other.
Please join me in giving Diane a warm welcome, as she tells us about her experience of living in Brittany.
Brittany has always been a region with cheap housing in the countryside and when I began to look for somewhere to live to have space for dogs and other animals it seemed like a no brainer to buy here. In 2004 I was living in Kent, in a tiny cottage with a tiny garden in a tiny village and prices were going through the roof. No chance of affording anything bigger. It seemed everyone was selling up and moving to France, and as it turned out, that was pretty much the high point of both the big exit and rising house prices in Brittany.
I didn’t have much choice of property over here as everything seemed to be selling like hot cakes, and I settled quickly for a house which although not ideal had four bedrooms, outbuildings and a hectare of flat land for half what I sold my Kentish cottage for.
For a decade we renovated and travelled between the UK and our business there, and spent a fortune on bringing the house up to something like scratch. It was only when I finally retired two years ago that I was able to go full-time in France, and have the flowers outside the front door and the sheep in the field which I’d been dreaming of.
I suppose that’s when the real adventure began. Before long I realised the French don’t get the British at all. There are lots of things they don’t know or understand about us, and lots of misconceptions. But I think the prize goes to the chap who told me in all sincerity what a shame it was for the British because they were forbidden from owning house property in their own country. When I asked him where he got that idea from, he said it had been on the television. For him it explained why we leave our own country and move to a different one, a decision no sane Breton would make without very good reason.
I also learnt the French expression which defines many Bretons’ attitude towards life. ‘Bretons have short arms and deep pockets!’ Which sums up why it’s so hard to make a living here selling products or services to the locals. They are very used to doing without the extras and luxuries we deem vital in the UK, and always look for the cheapest option. I have failed to sell my paintings here, despite having many exhibitions and promotions locally. Instead, I resort to selling them to compatriots and online.
It’s a mixed bag, living in Brittany, and in the words of Nessa from Gavin and Stacey, ‘I won’t lie to you’ – there are many challenges to staying positive about the French way of life, and issues such as hunting, animal abuse and the lack of any form of national charity such as the RSPCA goes deeply against the grain with me.
But the thing which brought me here, the beauty of the countryside, the space, the peace, the clean air and the warmer summers still remain, as do I. Let’s hope we’re all allowed to continue to enjoy our escapes to the continent in the uncertain years to come.