To Do or Not to Do

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This is for my sister who is seriously thinking of moving to France, not to where I am in the South, but possibly Brittany or Loire. She has a twelve year old daughter and I wondered if anybody could give me their personal experience of uprooting a near teenager, the problems, the surprises, etc. etc. I have my own opinions, but would be glad to pass any other views on to her to give her some food for thought. Thanks in advance!

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Seeker-381844 1058839611

Well Vonny, when I moved to France from London 4 years ago, my eldest daughters were then 12 and 14.

As I recall, the 14 year-old's greatest concern was with the move from big city life to what she perceived as rural oblivion.  Whereas changing to an international school and learning French didn't bother her so much, the thought of being stuck in the middle of nowhere, away from modern shopping centres, clubs, theatres, cinemas, museums, etc. and mixing with French peasantry and 'living in a barn', as she saw it, really did not appeal.

The 12 year-old's main and very serious concern was with losing her school friends. No amount of talk of making new and perhaps better friends or having old ones to visit could assuage her, and for a while she was deeply miserable at the thought of leaving the UK, her surroundings, her house and her bedroom, to the point of near-refusal up to one month before D-day.

Well, in the end, showing the 12-year old estate agents' Web-shots of the kind of home we would likely have (with swimming pool, even!), promises of getting a dog in dog-friendly France (she'd always dreamt of having one) and the assurance that Sky TV would still beam Friends, Charmed and ER into the living room greatly helped change her mind, I can tell you!  For the 14-year old, a pre-move visit to the area, especially to nearby cities to prove that France wasn't all corn fields and 2CVs and that there were signs of teenage night life and trendy shops here (thank God for Mango and Zara!) also helped dispel some fears.

They still miss Capital and Virgin Radio, Cadbury's milk chocolate, Prêt à Manger, M&S, John Lewis (and a host of other High Street shops), Christmas in London, the Underground, Covent Garden musicals and that slight loss of 'urban street cred', they hate the idea of waiting longer for film releases in 'VO' and they still scoff at French pop music, French TV and a good proportion of French 'geeks' at school (but then I do recall there were quite a few English geeks back home..).  However, they also delight in their new-found Europeanism, they are secretly proud of having become fully bilingual, would be lost without a pair of sunglasses on their heads and would consider it abnormal now not to be able to platonically 'faire la bise' to their multi-national friends in the morning as they meet in the local café outside school over a noisette or jus d'orange pressé and croissant, comment on each other's choice of teenage fashion for the day and revise for yet another twice-weekly maths test, without even so much as a bat of an eyelid.

Even though the eldest is now eager to start university life in London this September and no.2 is no doubt bound to follow later on, the ultimate test has to be to ask if they now regret their move to France.  'No' is the categorical answer. So there you have it, I guess…

Hope some of this helps, although I'm sure not all of the above would necessarily apply in your niece's case.

Seeker J

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