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Archive for the ‘Foreign in France’ Category

Mr Piglet is often witness to money issues tearing families apart and has recently been a unwilling spectator in a very spectacular family bust up where a family is literally being torn to shreds for a few thousand Euros.

Having been through times where we’ve had no money, plenty of money and then no money again, I think I can say that I know what money is but I also know the value of it and its place in my life. It’s nice to have money, it certainly makes life easier, but it is not a priority when it comes to family. I personally would much rather have my family than money.

So going back to Mr Piglet story: He recently sold, or at least thought he had, a house to a young couple looking to buy their first home. The house was the result of a typical French inheritance. Father passes away, half the house goes to the children whilst the Mother remains living in it. These days’ children are spread out all over the place and the mother wished to remain living in her home even though she couldn’t maintain it. One of the children in a village nearby and took on the role as carer giver, caretaker and everything else that goes with looking after an elderly parent.

When the Mother passed away, the nearby daughter wished to purchase her siblings share of the property, but they couldn’t agree a price and therefore agreed that they would sell it and split the proceeds. So they put the property on the market a year ago with pretty much every local agent.

During this time, nobody really looked after the property. The winter was cold; the spring came with plenty of sun and rain, ideal conditions for making an overgrown garden. The property started to tire like it’s previous owners and started to look (and feel) neglected. Little efforts were made such as trying to mow the law and pulling up some weeds, but the property deteriorated and in a market where prices are falling, nobody was willing to pay the owners asking price.

So along came Mr Piglet with two keen buyers. They were young, keen DIYers which is quite rare for young couples in France, and were willing to take on the project. They knew they were somewhat limited by budget but they could see through the cobwebs and the weeds and spotted the potential which lay behind.

Mr Piglet negotiated the price with the lady representing the owners; he had checked that she had power of attorney to act on behalf of the other brother and sisters which she did. He negotiated his commission right now to a mere two thousand Euros which was not even 1.5%. He was happy though, as the house was a good deal and the young couple would settle nicely there but only had a very limited budget and the owners wouldn’t negotiate any further.

Then out of the blue, he received a call from one of sisters living abroad. The air became tense in the office and she refused to accept the offer. Apparently her sister, the care giver, was asking for a larger split than the other siblings and the other siblings didn’t want to accept.

In the following days, emails between the siblings ensued, a family row had really broken out and Mr Piglet was copied in absolutely every email. It was like a whole seasons worth of Dallas unfolding in his inbox – he was only missing the actors and it could have been a multi-million dollar television serial. I happened to read one of the latter emails and couldn’t believe how for the sake of the extra 2 000 Euros the care giver wanted, this family were willing to rip each other to shreds in front of a spectator with little care of regard for the fact that this was their parents home.

All they cared about was money, money and more money.

Is this really what our world has come to? It would appear to be yes, but please reassure me that there are people out there that place more value on family than money?

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In my last post I mentioned I was worrying about school and that I was learning that a parent never stops worrying.

Now I am worrying what English I am teaching Little Piglet. For the moment she only says the odd word in English and French and thankfully she hasn’t said any swear words yet.

But today I realised my English is so rusty that I say some pretty weird stuff and I really need to work on my vocabulary.

Since my husband launched his estate agency last, I have been helping out where I can and quite enjoying myself especially as I used to work in property.

Today I was showing some English speaking clients around and was keen to point out a properties features. Arriving in a room, I pointed to the corner and stated “that’s the nooky cupboard”. My clients burst in to laughter and I was the none the wiser, I thought they weren’t keen on the decoration but couldn’t see anything wrong with it myself other than maybe the colour which honestly wasn’t that bad.

Outside the room, the lady pulled me to a side and quietly told me what “nooky” meant and that maybe I meant “nook and cranny”? She was still in stitches and I was too as soon as I realised the error I had made!

Thankfully these people told me what I had said wrong, but what about all the people in French and in English who have a laugh at my expense and I’m none the wiser?

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I’m lucky in that I speak French fluently but it hasn’t always been the case. I moved to France aged 16 and didn’t speak a word, but the learning process was natural for me and I learned French through not having any choice. If I wanted friends or to be understood by my trainer then I was going to have to speak French. I can remember reading the dictionary for hours on end and phonetically learning how to say each word and then practising.

I know not everybody is in a situation where they can learn and have the opportunity to practise but I personally cannot imagine not being able to communicate.

Have you experienced language barriers where you live? Maybe you have some tips?

I’ve reblogged my Mum’s recent posting about this and her frustrations about not being able to speak Portuguese here:

Is Language a Barrier to Social Integration in Portugal?.

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Last Saturday we were invited to a neighourbood get together La Fête des Voisins
which literally means neighbourhood party. This is a traditional get together which takes place all across France albeit later in May generally.

When living in Lyon, this was the type of get together that I’d watch on the television but never see or even hear about in real life, so when we got a note through the letter box some weeks ago I was delighted.

Since moving to the French countryside I’ve not really met that many people and have remained in close contact with my Lyon based friends. It can be quite a lonely existence but the friends I have made more than make up for quantity in quality.

It’s said here that people are wary of foreigners and when I say foreigners, I don’t mean people from other countries but people from other parts of France! So I guess I am a super dooper foreigner for people in these parts!

Anyway, back to La Fête des Voisins. We’d been invited to Chez Gael which was one of our neighbours although I didn’t have a clue which one or where they lived. Our neighbourhood is quite extensive and to walk round it takes me 35 minutes and there aren’t that many houses.

I managed to locate the house quite easily last Saturday by walking down the lane whilst pushing Little Piglet (yes, I’ve decided on a name). I couldn’t but notice the huge marquees outside a house at the top of the hill, so I was guessing that either the party was there or I’d be gate crashing someone’s wedding reception… Thankfully upon arrival my destination was confirmed as being the correct place! Ouf!

I’d been told to bring along something for the aperitif or for dessert and in Mr Piglet’s absence (he was working) I took a long a bottle of white and some crisps. Good job I had Little Piglet in her pushchair as I was confronted with lots of home made specialties from the other guests making my offering look very basic. Little Piglet’s presence more than made up my lack of food however as everyone cooed over her, saying how gracious she is.

Eventually Mr Piglet turned up and it was great meeting all the people who live nearby. It was frequently commented how people were glad that the previous owners had gone and how they were very cold and snubbed people. We chatted and met so many people, I can only remember their faces not their names or where they live so it’s going to be fun over the next few months working out where everyone lives and checking out their names on their letter boxes.

I even met a lady who grew up in our house, it belonged to her great grandmother and her bedroom was Little Piglet’s room! She is very fond of the house and hopefully she’ll accept my invitation to drop in for coffee one day and tell me more about the house and how it was before it was renovated.

After a while the heavens opened and as Mr Piglet had returned to work and I hadn’t the foresight to bring an umbrella or rain cover I was kind of stuck, baby in tow and wondering when the rain would stop so I could run home. General debate amongst the neighbours decided that it wasn’t wise for me to run home in the wet so a car was arranged and a kind soul (the retired village Doctor!) drove us home.

We were made to feel truly welcome and it felt great to finally meet up with our neighbours and it feels even better to be able to greet them when I’m out on a stroll or working in the garden.

Vive La Fête des voisins !

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One of the most annoying things I find about driving in France is the fact that you don’t actually need to have a driving license to be on the road. “What?!” I hear you say. Well, if you want to drive a normal car and actually get anywhere in a normal time then yes, you need a license, but if somehow you’ve not managed to pass your test or have had your license taken away from you then you can drive one of these:

If you see a car like this be sure to give it a wide berth

Or if that one is a bit to basic how about one of these?

If the first one is too basic how about a nice little convertible?

That’s right, you can still have a car, albeit one that allows you to drive without a license. If you’ve had your license taken away from you say for drink driving, well you can still legally be on the road, drunk and ready to hit a pedestrian, a tree or another car!

This bewilders me. Surely there is a valid reason as to why these people do not have a license?

When I was living in Lyon I had a couple of close calls with these fake cars as I call them. One tried to plough me down on a pedestrian crossing and another carved me up.

Now that I’m living in the countryside it is frequent that I get stuck behind one or have to swerve to miss one. They dawdle at no more than 60 kmh (I think) which is still plenty fast enough to cause damage. Their owners rarely seem to care about other drivers. Indicators? What are they for? Right hand side of the road? No, they can frequently be seen around here wobbling all over the road.

Of course, they are a good method of transport offering independence to those that don’t (or no longer have) a license but to the rest of us they are menace. If they hit a child the consequences could still be fatal.

What to you think? Danger or transport solution?

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Have I become old? It’s been suggested that I’ve become old and less ranty but I think I’ve been keeping a lid on my rants lately, partly due to not have enough time to write but also due to the “go back home” brigade.

 

Yes, that’s right, the GO BACK HOME brigade.

 

Do you know who I’m talking about? Some of you will, some of you won’t. The GO BACK HOME brigade are a certain breed of expats that I have come across this year that tell you to go back home whenever you say anything negative about France or about missing anything from Britain.

 

But they have failed to understand one thing.FRANCEIS MY HOME.

 

This breed of expat is one of the reasons why I have not been so keen on blogging recently and certainly one of the reasons why I have tamed my rants, but pants to them! If they have such a problem and cannot recognize thatFranceis my home then tough luck!

 

I got a lot of stick, nasty comments and horrible emails when I dared to say anything negative about the French medical system and how I was treated after the birth of Baby Piglet earlier this year. I was verbally attacked by people who knew little of my life and who assumed that I was non-French speaking and profiting from the system here.

 

I was called a liar and told to go back to theUKif I was so unhappy with what had happened. This left an extremely bitter taste in my mouth and I found myself censoring my posts and my will to write disappeared.

 

On another blog I was told that I showed no respect for the French culture because I missed certain British foodstuffs and that I should sod off back to theUKif I wanted to eat Branston pickle. I mean how daft is that? Should French people be told to go and live elsewhere when we see them eating in McDonalds?

 

I have never had much to do with expats in the past as my friends tend to be French. I arrived here when I was 16 so grew up here. Since I’ve started blogging I’ve loved feeling part of an expat community and exchanging experiences and I’ve missed it recently.

 

Franceis my home, it has been for the last 15 years and will remain so in the future.

 

There. I’ve said it. Rant over.

 

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Happy Halloween

I’ve seen quite a few blog posts about Halloween today and have come over feeling nostalgic and sad that we won’t be having a party. I love Halloween (okay, I love any excuse for a party) so I will miss not having a party this year and none of the French people I know really go into Halloween so I don’t have any invites to parties either.

It’s rather a case if I want to “do” Halloween, it’s me that has to throw the party. I guess next year will be a childrens party so not quite the same (the goriness will need to be toned down). I have learned that for some people Halloween isn’t all about scary costumes and witches and what not, but more about fancy dress. This has got me wondering why? Is it cultural, does it depend where you grew up? In the UK Halloween was all about the ghouls for me and even now anything scary is good for Halloween.

I may make the effort to try and find some of our old decorations and put a few bits outside just in case there are any trick or treaters but I would be very surprised if there were! In the meantime, here are some pics from one of our previous parties, Happy Halloween!

Mr Piglet will need to tone it down

Butchers Wall

Spooky!

More spookiness

And to think I couldn't even buy a pumpkin this year!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Booze

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