Stephanie Dagg, Creuse

We are the Anglo-Irish Dagg family consisting of myself Stephanie and husband Chris, children Benjamin (now 19), Caitlin (now 17) and Ruadhri (9), and an ever growing menagerie of animals including alpacas, cats, dog, goats, guinea pigs, hens, llamas, rabbits and turkeys.

In August 2006 we left Co. Cork, Ireland, our home for the previous 15 years, and came to Creuse, France. We had always loved France, spending longer and longer on holiday there each year. A redundancy loomed and it was truly the ‘now or never’ moment for making the leap.What challenges did you face during the move?

Having three children then aged 4, 12 and 14 was the biggest concern, but they were excited about the move to France and have coped fantastically. There were problems to start with for them, but after six months they were starting to do well at school, and after a year they were fluent. They are truly French these days. The actual day of the move itself was very stressful, due to the non-arrival of our prebooked (months in advance) skip and worries over the dog whose anti-rabies antibodies were low, but we got through it.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We had done a week’s househunting, with kids, the previous November and found Les Fragnes. I went back in December to check out lake registrations since the property had 3 lakes and our intention was to run a carp fishery. This was a good move as the lakes weren’t legal so we were able to write into the Compromis de Vente (pre sale agreement) the need for the lakes to be registered as a prerequisite of the sale.

Are there many other expats in your area?

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Surprisingly yes! However, there is a lot of coming and going. Many people seem to stay for a couple of a years and then go back. Most of the expats are retired people. There aren’t so many families around.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Very good. The Maire has always been helpful and supportive. Living in a rural farmstead, our neighbours are all rather distant but we are on good terms. The people of Nouzerines village, our closest, have welcomed us and our llamas with great interest. Boussac, the nearest town, has helped us get established as a tourist attraction with our llama trekking, although this comes second by a very long way to our main business as a carp fishery. For that we have signed up with a British company, Angling LInes, that specialises in carp fishing holidays.

What do you like about life where you are?

The rural setting. The fact that every day has its own unique challenges and is different from the day before. The physical nature of our lives now. The better opportunities that lie ahead for our children who are receiving a top-notch education. Owning a farm and animals. The wonderful summers and the fact there are seasons – we didn’t have those back in Ireland! We consume less, need less and live much richer lives.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Nothing particular. I grumble about petrol prices and inflation, like everybody else, and occasionally feel very much an outsider when cutlure differences rear their head, but nothing serious. We are so glad we made the move.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Prepare well. Do lots of research on the area you want to move to and into the business you intend to run, if applicable. Allow yourselves three to four years to become established as an enterprise, so budget wisely. Don’t panic about your children. They are adaptable and you are offering them a fantastic opportunity to soak up a new language and culture which will be nothing but an advantage for the rest of their lives. Go for it!

What are your plans for the future?

We are well established now, but hope to steadily increase the business. We are exploring sidelines to our main business. I want to get back into writing – I was a popular children’s author back in Ireland with 30 books published. We may also instal as alpaca farmers. But most of all I want to see the children do well at school and go onto further education or training. Our eldest will start at Limoges University in September if all goes well with the Bac.

Readers can contact Stephanie via the comments on her blog at www.bloginfrance.com, and see the lakes here and here (Anglinglines.com)


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