Real life story – growing up in France

This week I am delighted to have a guest blogger. I know for many of my clients, one of their biggest worries about moving to France is how their children will cope with the upheaval. Well, it is half term here in France and so it seems an appropriate time to hear it from the horse’s mouth; the real life story of a 15 year old who moved to France when she was six. I think she has turned out fantastically – but then I might be biased as today’s excellent blog is written by my eldest daughter, uncut and unedited (just to prove that English children can keep up their written English when they move to France):

“wave bye-bye to england darling”. It was sunny but cold and windy the day that my family and I started our journey to southern France. I was six years old. My primary school teachers had got rather fed up about hearing about my moving to France, especially as we were having one of those grey and rainy disappointing English springs. They were probably very relieved to wave good bye to me on my last day. I, on the other hand, was extremely excited and only felt the tiniest pang of sadness as the white cliffs of Dover melted into the distance.

The car journey was long and boring and it was dark by the time we reached the house we would be renting until we found our own. We moved at the beginning of July and for the next few months I remember long hot days followed by stormy nights that cleared the air. I remember that it was a huge lifestyle change; my parents seemed to give me lots more freedom which, I realised later, was because there were fewer risks; it was safer. My siblings and I would disappear all day into the woods and forests only venturing home when we were hungry or to hot and wanted to go swimming. Once a week we would be forced out of our grubby shorts and have to accompany our parents round the local markets. Very often a golden “pain au chocolat” and a glass of Orangina in the cafe would have to be used as a bribe to tear us away from our dens and adventures. When the heat became too much to bear for us Notherners, along came the winter bringing frosty mornings, icy roads and occasionally snow. Finally when signs of spring started to appear and the French people decided it was time to come out of hibernation, my parents brought a house a couple of hours away. It was amazing, so much bigger than anything we had expected with even more space for us to discover but before that it was time to start French school!

The area where we rented a house had been full of English people and as a result I had been speaking English at school and had not learnt much of the French language. Our new school, hidden away in the still undiscovered (by the English at least) Ariège did not look like a school in any way, in fact it could have been someone’s house. There were only twenty children in the whole school who shared a single teacher. There were only five other pupils in my class. No one spoke a word of English. However thanks to a few gestures and simple words I soon understood the way things worked. The other children were all very nice and, as the first foreigner most of them had ever met, I was the centre of attention. A couple of them happened not live in my hamlet and very soon I was out and about on my by bike surrounded by friends. After only six months of going to school I could have a fluent conversation with a French person who wouldn’t know that French was not my mother tongue until I mentioned it.

The best things about growing up in France has definitely been all the sporting possibilities such as learning to ski, swimming, cycling, horseback riding, kayaking and so much more. I have also really enjoyed the freedom we are granted, being able to go outside and to be free to do whatever we want. I do not regret my parent’s decision to move us all out to France. It is an amazing thing to tell anyone about. My friends back in England ask me endless questions and then tell me how perfect my lifestyle sounds and how lucky I am. To that I always have the same response: I nod my head and say:”yes, I love my life!”

2 comments to Real life story – growing up in France

  • Spot on. I moved to Nice 4 years ago and still don’t speak French. Shame on me.

    I hope you don’t mind me plugging a new Facebook Page called Moving Abroad where people can get answers to questions about moving abroad. You are of course most welcome to be part of our community and help answering questions from people considering moving abroad.

    Here’s the page:


    • nadia

      Thanks for the comment – I will pass it on to my daughter, she will be chuffed. I have become resigned to the fact that I will never speak French as well as my children…c’est la vie! Thanks for reading.