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9 Dec 2008

And the Brits.....

When we bought our house in 1990, we were the second British owners in the commune, which being very rural has a population of just over 600, and includes five villages. Apparently, there are now over 50 British owned homes.

The attitude of the native French people to this influx is divided. On the one hand, there are those like Jacques, who for a while has rented some fields from us, who is fine on the surface – indeed we have had dinner at his home - but who tells his drinking friends that les Anglais are ruining his country. He thinks we are responsible for rising property prices, most of us don't speak French, and we have foreign ways.

His brother Georges however, says that the British are helping save the commune, because we are buying properties that the locals don't want, and spending our own money on local firms to restore them, when they would otherwise crumble away. He thinks that we do indeed bring new money into the region, and new life into villages which have declining and aging populations. Many British owned houses are only occupied for a few weeks a year, but the owners pay the same taxes (taxe d'habitation and taxe fonciere) as the locals even though they make less use of the services the taxes pay for.

In addition, in recent years younger British people have been arriving, and making their lives there, not just part timers and old fogies like me drifting into retirement. As a result, the local village school, which was in danger of closing, has a renewed future because of several British children being enrolled. Also, an increasing number of French people, locals and Parisian week-enders, are also buying old properties and renovating them, having seen what is possible.

For myself, and I think a good proportion of other local Brits, the purpose is to be in France, and not to be part of any 'ex-pat' community trying to create the equivalent in Normandy of Surrey-en-Dordogne, or Costa Dagenham. We know two local Brits, one who recently bought a barn which he is converting, and who we pass on our way down the lane to the road, and another who makes a living doing all sorts of work, such as house minding, lawn mowing, helping with harvests, carpentry and so on, for local French people, Parisians, and a few Brits; we met him when he did some work for our French neighbour.

Fortunately, the Normans dislike the Parisians more than any of them dislike the British.

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