Who are you?
I’m Kylie Lang and I was born in the UK. I love to travel and have managed to live on three different continents during my life, but I’m now settled in France.
As a full-time blogger, I spend my time travelling around France writing about the chateaux, wineries, culture, history and way of life here.
I love writing and helping people through my own experiences on my blog, Life in Rural France.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I’ve always loved discovering new places and have lived in Spain, Australia and America. I finally came back to the UK in 2014, hoping to put down some roots once and for all. It wasn’t meant to be. I just couldn’t settle and the weather didn’t help matters. As we all know, England gets its fair share of grey, rainy days.
So, in 2015, with my hubby Richard, we made the decision to move somewhere sunnier, which wasn’t too far from our respective families. There was no real thought process behind it if I’m honest. There was no bucket list of countries, and I’d never had a burning passion for France, unlike many other expats here. So when hubby suggested France, I thought why not? I’d only ever really been to Paris and not explored much further.
We set about finding our forever home, and in 2015 we found it in the beautiful Charente. We made the move to live in France a year later and have never looked back.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Hmm … I think the biggest challenge for us was around my husband finding work. My job can be done from anywhere where I have WiFi, but he was a health and safety manager for a large kitchen manufacturing firm. Remote working wasn’t an option, so he was giving up his job to live the rural life in France.
As we moved pre-Brexit, we didn’t have any major hoops to jump through; we pretty much packed up and came over.
Did you need to obtain a visa, residency permit or work permit? What was the process like?
When we first moved to France in 2016, Brexit hadn’t happened and there was no actual requirement for a visa. However, as Brexit loomed, we knew we needed to make sure we had all our ducks in a row if we wanted to continue living here the way we were.
So, we applied for our Carte de Sejour and registered my business with URSAFF so we could continue to work and have a company in the UK. It wasn’t a straightforward process, as although URSAFF had been set up with people like us in mind, the right hand didn’t really know what the left hand was doing.
The whole process took us nearly two years, and we had help! We paid someone to accompany us when we had to visit the prefecture in Angouleme, as our French wasn’t up to that sort of scrutiny.
How does the cost of living compare with your previous country?
Good question. Things have changed slightly since we moved over. Originally, I would have said that food shopping was definitely more expensive in France than in the UK, but now it’s about the same.
I find our household bills are cheaper here as we don’t have mains gas and rely on wood burners to heat our home. Even with a year’s supply of wood, it’s still substantially cheaper. And electricity is definitely cheaper than in the UK.
Things such as Internet packages and mobile phone plans are slightly more expensive, but not massively.
The biggest difference is property. We get so much more bang for our buck here. I know, without a doubt, we couldn’t afford the property we have here in France if it was picked up and moved to the UK. It would be at least triple the price.
And then of course there’s the wine, which is much cheaper. Even the boxed variety here is good.
Is it easy to open and use an account with a local bank?
Yes. We were introduced to Credit Agricole by our real estate agent, and they are excellent. We have an English-speaking account manager who is super responsive.
I also have a borderless bank account with Wise, which allows me to hold several different currencies. I get paid in USD, GBP and EUR so this makes sense for me.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We stuck a pin in the map and off we went. Seriously, it was a bit like that.
We started off looking in the Pyrenees, but quickly realised it wasn’t for us as it was a little too isolated.
We then moved to the South West and looked at the Dordogne, which we loved. However, the price of the property there compared to the neighbouring department, the Charente, was quite a bit more expensive.
By purchasing in the Charente we got the same lovely rolling hills, medieval villages, chateaux and sunflower fields, at around 30% less than in the Dordogne region.
We started scouring all the online real estate websites and shortlisted the properties which looked like they fitted our requirements, on paper at least.
After spending three long weekends in France we finally found the perfect property, put in an offer, which was accepted within the hour, and so our journey began.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Funny you should ask. Our next-door neighbour on one side is English, but he lives in Berlin for most of the year and uses the house in France as a holiday home. And two doors up is another English person.
In the villages around us, there are also quite a lot of expats, which is nice if you just fancy a chat in your own language. It’s a good community and they organise plenty of activities and events.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I made it a point when I moved here to get to know the locals and take part in as much as I could. Turns out that was a good move as they’ve been so welcoming. Being part of the entertainment committee for our local village was a smart thing to do as it helped me get to know everyone quite quickly.
I also joined the local line dancing group to meet more French people and have absolutely loved it. I never knew dancing in French could be so much fun.
The key to fitting in here is to at least try to speak French, even if you’re not very good. They appreciate it and will make more of an effort with you if you do. As we’re quite rural, many of the people here don’t speak English so you really need to learn how to speak French.
And besides, you’re missing out on so much if you don’t. The French are very social, and we have a great community with lots going on, usually accompanied by wine.
What do you like about life where you are?
Where do I start? I love the slower pace of life, the gorgeous countryside, the history, the culture, pastries, bread, cheese, and wine….should I go on?
Seriously, life here is so much healthier and not work-obsessed. The French don’t live to work, they work to live, and that rubs off after a while.
I should probably mention the weather too. As someone who needs a daily dose of sunshine, the Charente is the perfect place to be. We have a lovely little micro-climate where we are and can often sit outside in December enjoying the sun.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
The main thing would be admin. The French love paperwork; the more the better. Why fill in one form when you can fill in ten?
I’ve also struggled to get my head around the inheritance laws here. To me, allowing your children to inherit everything, even when there is a remaining spouse, is alien to me.
But when in France you live by their rules, and we have found a workable solution to our inheritance issue.
I also miss not having my family close by. Having said that, we are only an hour’s drive from the nearest airport, with a short drive the other end, so it’s not that bad.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The way the French treat mealtimes and how everything stops for food would be the biggest difference for me.
Where we live, nearly every shop stops for lunch at 12 pm and has a two-hour lunch break. There’s no grabbing lunch at your desk and powering through.
Obviously, this is great for the people taking lunch, but not so great if you want to take a quick trip to the bank during your lunch break.
Mealtimes are sacred in France and it’s sacrilege to rush them.
Then there’s the controversial retirement age. The French might not like the idea of raising it by two years, but it’s still substantially lower than the UK.
Also, here where we live in rural France, they still allow hunting, La chasse à courre. It starts in September and normally runs through to February.
It’s all properly organised, but can be a real issue for pets, especially dogs. I’ve known a few French people out on the chasse that have been shot because someone has had too much to drink!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Go for it. It’s a wonderful life out here in France and you really can live the dream if you want to – I’m living proof of that.
But do your research and get someone to help with the paperwork. It’s worth the investment to make sure you get it all right. One form with a tick missing could cost you an extra six months.
And be prepared to learn the language. Don’t expect the French to speak English to you, it’s not fair. You’ll only miss out in the long run.
What are your plans for the future?
To carry on enjoying life here in rural France, learn how to grow my own vegetables and start a line-dancing reality show.
And of course, continue to share my adventures with the world on my blog, Life in Rural France.