"My advice would be get out and about as much as possible even if its just the local shops and cafes. Learn the language and try to speak it as much as possible. Doing a gym class or art class in French is a great way to learn whilst having fun. Dont worry about making mistakes or looking stupid and dont give up the first time a French person is rude to you. Some people can be quite abrupt but it can sometimes be more down to cultural differences. A lot of smiling, nodding and waving my hands about seems to work for me. There are a lot more culteral differences than I had realised and I think it is important to accept them rather than fight them. Nothing changes quickly here" (JN, March 2011)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Biot?
My name is Jacqui Napier, I am 48 years old and I have lived in Biot for 7 and a half years
Why did you move there ?
We moved to Biot initially because we did have existing friends living here and they were able to tell us about schools etc. Also because of the close proximaty to the airport as we were both commuting to London at the time
What is the area like?
The village of Biot is a typical medieval hilltop village. Full of winding, cobblestone streets very hilly but very beautiful. There is a very tightnit community within the old part of the village but not so much in the surrounding suburbs.
What nationality are you and your partner?
My partner and I are both British born and bred.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have 2 children. Hannah and James. Hannah was born in November 1996 and James November 1998
What was your experience of relocating to Biot ?
I think the relocating for me was easier as I was still spending a fair amount of time in the UK and was therefore weaned in gently. The main problem was the language as my french was only to O level standard which was a long time ago. The first year was quite a struggle just dealing with everyday events such as the doctor or dentist or issues that occurred at school. In time this has got easier. My French has improved but also I have become more confident and dont worry about it so much.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
When we first arrived I was still working as cabin crew for British Airways and commuting back to London every 12 days. I left nearlly 3 years ago as I wanted to be around for the childen more. I am now a co owner of La Tasse de Couleur Paint-Your-Own Ceramics and Cafe which we opened last July 2010.
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
We bought our house after looking at only 3 houses so the process was relatively easy. We had to go through all the usual laborious french administration of course. We also spent the first 2-3 years renervating the house so we had our fair share of experience with French builders which was interesting and at times trying but probably no more than with English builders.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
I would say we have intergrated very well now. It took probably about a year to be really accepted. Having the children in the local village school helped a lot. Myself and the Children have a very good social life now. My husband not so much as he is away a lot. We also get on very well with our neighbours.
What language do you speak to your children?
We only speak English to our children.
What is your impression of childcare and education in Biot?
There are 4 primary schools. 2 in the center of the village and 2 on the outskirts. Our children went to the one of the village schools for primary. They have now moved on to College lEganaude, international section(this is part of CIV and the feeder school from Biot. They have to take a test to join the international section). We found the Biot school very good in terms of class sizes and dedication of the teachers to the children. For us the jury is still out on the French education. In the international section they do 10 hours extra work a week with english, history and geography. Our daughter is thriving on the high work load and managing well. For our son who has just started college this year it has been very tough. From what we have seen from others too is that boys find the education much harder here. The main focus seems to be on the academics and everyone is expected to progress at the same rate which of course does not always happen. If they dont they can end up redoubling the year, which I think is totally demotivating. We have in fact been looking at other schools for James. There is an International school at Mougin and also a newly opened school called Ebica in Sophia Antipolis. These are both fee paying but concentrate more on building the confidence of the child. In the fench system there is no place for children with any kind of difficulties. Also in the French system activities such as sport art and music are very much down to the parents to organise in the limited spare time that the children have left at the end of the day or the weekends.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Biot?
Coming from an International Community in Biot as a parent the main advantages are the children being bilingual . The disadvantages are just being accepted in the community.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Biot?
When we first arrived in Biot we tried very hard to be accepted but it probably took about a year before the locals were really welcoming. In Biot we are lucky as there are families from all over France as well as other countries so it is not too clicky and closed.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
There are a lot of families living in Biot but there are not many places for mothers with young children to meet other than cafes and restaurants. I think it would be good if there were more networking groups perhaps like they have in the UK such as Mothers and Toddlers. More proper play parks in the area would be good too and there is not a great deal for older children and teenagers. Perhaps organisations like guides, scouts and youth clubs.
Are you able to recommend to other MumAbroad members in the area any local services (home delivery, plumbers, dentists, babysitters etc) or any activities, restaurants or shops for children in the area?
In Biot we have a very good Doctor who speaks some English and also a good Dentist all within walking distance of the village. There is an the organisation in Sophia Antipolis called AVF which does lots of activities like french lessons, art classes and I think Mother and Baby groups for newcomers to the area. In Biot there is the Centre Culturel that offers classes in music, art and dance for adults and children. This is in french but there are some lovely teachers who are very welcoming and it is a great way to really get involved in the village. The bar de Coin in the center of Biot is a very family friendly Creperie open all day. There are also a couple of good Pizzerias in the center of the village. Of course you also have La Tasse De Couleur which is our Paint-your -Own ceramics and Cafe.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Biot with children?
My advice would be get out and about as much as possible even if its just the local shops and cafes. Learn the language and try to speak it as much as possible. Doing a gym class or art class in French is a great way to learn whilst having fun. Dont worry about making mistakes or looking stupid and dont give up the first time a French person is rude to you. Some people can be quite abrupt but it can sometimes be more down to culteral differences. A lot of smiling, nodding and waving my hands about seems to work for me. There are a lot more culteral differences than I had realised and I think it is important to accept them rather than fight them. Nothing changes quickly here.
What couldn´t you live without in Biot?
I couldnt live without English tv, radio and sometimes English papers otherwise it easy to lose touch from what is happening around the world.
What could you live without in Biot?
The parking is a nightmare in Biot so I could probably live without a car. Luckily we are within walking distance of pretty much everthing and there is a very good public transport service in this area.