"Learn French, and accept that the culture of having a baby is very different here. My experience was that the doctors and midwives found the notion of natural childbirth a bit crazy. Its perhaps better to embrace the French way, if youre planning to have a baby here, than attempt to fight the system" (AW, Feb 2011)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Limousin?.
Alice Wright, 40; have lived in the Limousin for 5 years.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?.
Amelie (4), Mirabelle (2), both born in France (2011)
Do you work and if so what do you do?
Was an intensive care nurse in my former life; now full-time mum.
What was your experience of having children in the Limousin?
Good. Despite having uncomplicated deliveries I stayed in hospital for nearly a week both times, and was very well looked after.
For those who don`t know, can you describe what the region of the Limousin is like?
Its one of the poorer regions of France, famous for its cattle and sheep-farming. Quite green and lush.
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
Our friends are a mixture of French and English; Amelie is quite well-integrated because she goes to the local school.
What language do you speak to your children?
English. French they will learn at school.
Do you feel that you need to speak French to be fully integrated in the area?
Do you feel that having children has helped you integrate?
Not really. Most of our French friends we knew before the children came along. The school gate is not an especially sociable place; the local mums mostly seem to keep to themselves. But the fact that Amelie has started to be invited to parties has helped a lot.
How much French and how much English culture do you think your children are exposed to?
French: at school and at the garderie (nursery), the culture is exclusively French. At home, its almost exclusively English. We dont have British television, but they watch a few DVDs of things like In the Night Garden and Bagpuss.
Previous to living in the Limousin you were living in Baltimore, how much of a culture shock was it for you?
Not too much of a culture shock, because Id already moved abroad once by moving to the States. But Id never lived in the countryside before, so I found that all very different. And initially I really struggled with the language, because I didnt speak a word of French before I came.
How welcoming were the locals when you moved to the Limousin?
They were really welcoming, because they were already friends of my husband, who had been living here for three years when I arrived.
How would you describe a typical local?
Decent, introverted and not particularly interested in whats going on in the outside world
Do your children go to a nursery or have any childcare, and if so how do you rate it?
Mirabelle goes to the local garderie (nursery). She seems to rate it quite highly, because its got great toys. But its more of a creche than a playgroup.
Are there any particular family restaurants, activities for kids or shops you can recommend in Limousin?
All over France, Flunch is a good family-friendly chain of restaurants for a quick stop. Here in Bellac, Le Central restaurant always makes our children very welcome, despite being smarter than most rural eateries. As for shops, our local Ecogem is an emporium of horrible cheap Chinese plastic, and therefore an Aladdins cave to children.
Are there any services you’d like to recommend?
Lamaison Shopping Services are excellent when we want to order stuff online in Britain, and have it delivered cheaply to France.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Limousin?
The advantages are that life is very simple here, and it feels as if the children can grow up in an uncomplicated, uncrowded world. The main disadvantage is that we are so far away from our families, and grandparents in particular.
Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
More mother-and-baby groups; more things that I could do outside the house with other children and other mothers.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to the Limousin with children?
Learn French, and accept that the culture of having a baby is very different here. My experience was that the doctors and midwives found the notion of natural childbirth a bit crazy. Its perhaps better to embrace the French way, if youre planning to have a baby here, than attempt to fight the system.
Can you ever imagine moving back to the UK?
Imagine, yes, but its not currently on the cards.
Your husband Michael has written his second book about living in the area, what kind of experiences does he recount and who do you think the book appeals to?
I think Michaels books, Cest La Folie and Je taime `a La Folie, have been a success because hes so truthful about the life he has created for himself in France. The first was about moving to France alone; the second about finding someone to share the adventure with him. They appear to appeal to anyone who has ever dreamed of changing their life for the better.
What could you live without in Limousin?
The impenetrability of the French social security system, and the hugepayments it demands.
What couldn´t you live without in the Limousin?
My lovely dog, Digby, who settled me into my life in Baltimore, and now has settled me into my new life in France. And Marmite and PG Tips, obviously.