The real truth about Brit expats in France

Published:  23 Jan at 6 PM
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France has long been a favourite destination for Brits looking to change their lives via emigration, but stereotyped expat communities are decidedly not the norm in the land of wine and fabulous food.

Misconceptions about expatriate behaviours and perceptions are normal wherever foreign residents hang their hats, with France no exception to the rule. For example, the beautiful Dordogne region in the southwest of the country is know as ‘Dordogneshire’ for its high number of Brit residents, in spite of the fact that UK expats are scattered in cities, towns and villages all over the country.

Another belief is that all Britons living in France are doddering old retirees living off their pensions, saving money on heating and watching UK TV 24/7. This myth is easily dispelled by factual data, which states the majority of UK expats in France are working for a living. Of the estimated 70,000 British nationals over the age of 55, many are still gainfully and happily employed and expect to continue being so. Another recent study confirmed that just 22.5 per cent of the 250,000 total of expats in France are pensioners.

Despite rumours to the contrary, not every British expat arrives in France loaded down with oodles of cash. According to research, the majority still struggle financially just as they did in the UK, even if they’ve found work which helps make ends meet. The worst scenario of wearing winter coats indoors to save on heating bills does happen, according to online testimonials, with those in that unenviable situation mostly older couples on British state pensions. The recent fall in sterling has meant a 20 to 30 per cent drop in pension payments when converted to euros.

Other misconceptions include the erroneous belief that all Brits in France were in favour of staying in the EU. Admittedly, those who voted to leave are having to keep a low profile nowadays even although they’re still convinced the Leave campaign got it right. Another common mistake made by those who’ve never been to France is that Britons don’t speak French, with the exception of very basic sentences. Expatriates know this is just nonsense, as the majority have come to grips with the language and can communicate at most levels.

The real truth is that most people who choose to live in France become Francophiles keen to blend in and become part of the French community. Rather than spending every night in the local pub, they cultivate French friends and even get involved in their local communities by being elected to town or village councils with the encouragement of local mayors.

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