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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

Relocating to Loire Valley: Expat Interview

Moving to the Loire Valley for a dryer climate with Amanda Johnson

How many of us dream about moving to a dryer warmer climate? Somewhere that has not only great weather but is packed with history, great architecture and a way of life that has a focus on community and family life.

Well that’s exactly what British Expat Amanda Johnson was looking for and found in the Loire Valley.

I interviewed Amanda who told us her story about making the big move from the UK to France, and what life is really like living the French dream.

Have a read of that interview just below…

Amanda, you’ve been an expat since 2006 living in the beautiful Loire Valley. What was the inspiration behind your move to France? What’s the story behind your journey to celebrating 16 years here?

I hope you are sitting comfortably because it is a long story! We had always enjoyed holidays in France and my Mother in law was a French teacher in the U. K. and loved all things French.

When she retired she was going to move here with my Father in Law, unfortunately he died before that was possible.

The decision for us to move to France was health related, I had two bouts of pneumonia in 12 months in the U.K. and my lungs were damaged because of this.

We were talking with my consultant and he was explaining that it was likely I would be poorly again and again and my husband said jokingly, should we move somewhere hotter? He replied, not necessarily hotter but dryer.

So, we began to look at where we could move to that had noticeably dryer weather and was still commutable to London for my husband’s work. The Loire valley ticked all the boxes and we began looking for our new home.

Loire Valley Castile

You live in a lovely part of France. What are some of the things you love about the Loire Valley?

The architecture of the Loire Valley is beautiful, it was the playground of the Kings of France and everywhere you look there are stunning buildings. The area also produces fabulous wines and some great food specialties so it is my idea of heaven!

Finally, the climate is perfect for my health and we are two hours from the seaside at La Rochelle and the trains to Paris take an hour!

The Beautiful, Sandy Beach at La Rochelle

Things were very different 16 years ago. What are some of the differences you’ve noticed as an expat living in France during that time?

For me the biggest difference is social media, when we moved here we only met people face to face and from introductions of friends. There are so many brilliant Facebook Groups that support either Mums in France or people starting their own businesses and from there you get to meet new people and attend in person events which can then lead to friendships.

The next biggest change is the fact that supermarkets are open during lunchtime and on Sunday Mornings and the range of products available. Not just international foods but specialist dietary.

What are your favourite things about French life and could you ever imagine moving back to the UK?

Gosh, there are so many! The slower pace of life for one and then that leads to a better work, life balance. The community spirit and the fact that people are genuinely interested in how people are.

When we first moved here I helped out voluntarily at my daughter’s school with simple English conversation lessons and when I see the children now, even though they are now 22 years old they still say hello and ask me how I am.

I am very happy here and moving back to England isn’t on my agenda.

Amanda in Loire Valley, France

You’re a handy person to know as a Financial Advisor for Expats with Spectrum IFA Group. Tell us more about what you do and the services you can offer to help expats here in France?

I advise people who have moved to France how to be the most tax efficient and tax compliant. Many of my customers have moved from the U. K. and have savings and investments that are tax efficient there.

Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that works here. I look at their whole financial situation taking into consideration whether they are moving to France for a particular time frame, say 10 year adventure or planning on staying here forever! What currency their money is currently in and who will be inheriting when they have died. Only then do I look at what solutions would be the most beneficial.

It is the same with pensions, what might be available to a U.K. tax resident is not always available once you have moved abroad and I look at finding the solutions to ensure the customer has the same opportunities.

I work with leading investment managers and product providers which mean I can look at multi currency, fully portable and fully regulated options.

I was fortunate that my U.K. qualifications as a fully qualified financial adviser were portable and the French authorities accepted them.

What are some of the most common financial questions you get post Brexit from expats here in France?

Since Brexit the questions I tend to hear are:

  1. My U.K. financial adviser cannot continue to advise me. Can you help me?
  2. My pension company won’t allow me to have a flexible drawdown. What can I do?
  3. Is my U.K. will still valid? Can I choose where I pay my taxes?

For more information on these questions remember to visit Amanda at Spectrum IFA Group.

French street with beautiful houses

It can be a hard transition moving to a new country where everything including the language is different. Sometimes one person settles in easily whilst their partner doesn’t and that can be hard. What about your family? How do they feel about French life?

That’s a good question and I see this a lot too! For the first few years my husband was doing the Euro commute which meant he was living between the two countries, that was very hard.

When he moved to France permanently life became much easier. He already spoke very good French, his job meant he travelled around Europe and one of the companies he worked for was owned by a subsidiary of Society General, a French Bank.

Our daughter was only 5 when we moved and she adapted very well. I would say she sees herself as more French than English.

I’m not going to say it hasn’t been challenging, because it has at times. Thankfully we work as team and talk a lot!!

I believe you also had a gîte. How did that come about?

We did run a gîte in the early years of me building my business and it was very hard work. When we bought our house we had a large barn attached to our house and decided to convert this into a gîte to provide some extra money.

I didn’t know that there would have been an option of working in financial services again due to my poor health.

Having holidayed in this area regularly we knew there was a tourist market. We worked as a team and could see how important this was if we wanted to succeed.

We no longer run the gîte. We found that we needed the space and privacy in the summer months to give us the work life balance that we felt our family life needed. If I knew then what I know now, I’m not sure we would have bought our house!

Amanda Johnson and husband Scott in France

In your experience, if you don’t speak French when you move over here what’s the best way to learn?

I visited my local Marie’s office and they gave me details of local classes and this was really good. We listened to French radio and bought French Newspapers and of course watched French TV.

With Alexandra, our daughter, being school age I also got to know other Mums which helped too. Everyone was super helpful and genuinely wants to help you improve.

How did you integrate yourself and your family into French life when you made the move? How did you avoid the trap of only socialising with those that spoke English?

With Alexandra being at school there were so many activities and events that were family based and we just got stuck in. We attended all the local events organised by the local communes. Lots of happy memories.

We also have a wonderful Parisian family that has a holiday home next door to us and they have been so much fun and introduced us to their friends.

We do have lots of British friends too and I do believe that you need both. One tip is when hosting a dinner party, all French or all British unless everyone can speak both languages! Otherwise you will be exhausted at the end of the evening from translating.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give other families thinking of making the move to France?

Location, location, location! If you currently live in a city or town and are moving to the countryside this is going to be very different! Even if you moved into the countryside in the U. K. We rented for the first four months and that gave us the opportunity to see if we liked living there.

How easy is it to get back to see family? If you have younger children, what is public transport like, will you be driving them around to see friends or can they walk, get the bus?

Finally, everyone needs to be onboard, moving to another country can put a strain on family life and keep talking!

You can follow Amanda on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/askamandafrance/

And remember to visit Amanda at Spectrum IFA Group.

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