"Having spent many years trying to conceive, I then had 4 very intense years within the French health care system undergoing various Fertility procedures, that were all covered within the standard healthcare offered to all people in the French system. The treatment I received was first class, with private rooms in every hospital and clinic I stayed in. Eventually I was successful in becoming pregnant and my pregnancy was followed to an unsurpassable standard" (JB Dec 2010)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in France?
Jane Fraser-Bryan. 38 years old. Nearly 12 years!
Whereabouts in France do you live?
Cours de Monsegur, Gironde, Aquitaine (SW).
What nationality are you and your partner?
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
1, Mathilda Jane Bryan (2 years old)
Do you work and if so what to you do?
We have an Estate Agency Business (Immobilier). Our head office (Siége) is based in the small Bastide and predominantly French market town of Miramont de Guyenne, located in the north west corner of the Lot et Garonne and close to the borders of the Dordogne department and the Gironde. We work in sales (Transactions), rentals (location) and rental management (Gestion). Our second office is based in the very popular tourist Bastide town of Eymet, in the Dordogne department. The area we cover stretches from the Eastern Gironde, to the southern Dordogne and northern Lot et Garonne. Our Location/Gestion side of the business, is a very important part of Guyenne Immobilier. With the market suffering due to the economic climate, this side of our business remains unaffected and buoyant. This side of our business is predominantly French, with over 100 management properties on our books, 98% of which are French owned and rented by French. The transaction/Sales side of our business is 75% based around the International Market, so has been effected by the economic climate. My husband and I are joint owners of the company. The company was founded by a French man, 20 years ago. Antony and I worked for him as commercial agents selling property to the British speaking international market for several years before taking over it, upon his retirement 5 years ago.
What was your experience of having a baby in France? (if relevant)
Having spent many years trying to conceive, I then had 4 very intense years within the French health care system undergoing various Fertility procedures, that were all covered within the standard healthcare offered to all people in the French system. The treatment I received was first class, with private rooms in every hospital and clinic I stayed in. Eventually I was successful in becoming pregnant and my pregnancy was followed to an unsurpassable standard, with twice weekly visits throughout my pregnancy from a local midwife (because I live an hour away from the hospital [Bordeaux] where my Gyno/Obs is based and as he had followed me for several years, I did not want to move to one of the more local hospitals). The same Gnyo//Obs saw me every 4 weeks throughout my pregnancy (with 8 scans throughout the 9 months!) and promised he would be there to deliver my daughter, which he was. Although it was a very difficult journey, I know that if I had been in the UK, I would not have had the opportunity to undergo the various treatments I was offered and undertook here and would never have received the care and attention that I had during my pregnancy and I cannot express my gratitude to the French health system for that and the superb medical staff that I was lucky to be assigned to. In my opinion and experience it has been unsurpassable.
What was your experience of relocating to France with children? (if relevant).
We relocated before having children, but with the intention on having children here. For a better standard of life, better education system, better health care (which did live up to its expectation and beyond), more freedom, less crime…….
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
Our daughter is completely integrated, being at the local crèche since she was just 10 month old and already understanding both languages equally at just 2 years old. With a very large and important part of our business working directly with the French, I feel we are well integrated. We socialize with our French neighbours and my husband is one of the only British players of a local football team, which he has been a key player for, for 10 years. That said however, our closest friends and acquaintances here are British. I believe we have the best of both worlds.
What language do you speak to your children?
English although when we are with French people we speak to her in French.
What is your impression of childcare and education in France so far?
Although my experience is so far limited, I am delighted with the Crèche where my daughter goes. She is there 4 days a week and it was a new facility 2 years ago. The staff are friendly, fun and caring and the daily Menu choice is exceptional. With an in house chef, using Fresh local produce, even at 2 years (and younger) the children sit down to enjoy a first class 4 course lunch with a starter, main course, cheese and dessert! Where else in the world would you find that! Government funded, the facility is, in my opinion and when compared with British costs, cheap! Having lots of friends with children of all ages in the French education system, the feedback I get is generally very positive and often excellent and I have no concerns about my daughter going through the system here.
What school do your children go to?
Why did you choose this school and are you happy with your choice?
Brand new facility, close to home. Superb service. Excellent facilities, excellent staff and superb food cooked freshly on the premises every day!
Where you live, how good are the facilities for children (shops, restaurants, activities etc)?
We live just outside Cours de Monsegur. Living so rurally, we don’t expect to find the same facilities available to us as one would living in the UK. One does have to travel further to find the same facilities. For example, we would love a Gym on the doorstep, but the nearest Gym is a 25 minute drive! We would love an indoor swimming pool close by, but again, the nearest is a 25 minute drive. As for restaurants, most towns and even small villages usually have a small restaurant/café and if you are happy to eat the locally produced daily choices, then often you can be surprised to find a grubby café serving superb French country cuisine at very low prices. Equally however there are some superb ‘Gourmet’ places to eat – but we expect a 20-25 minute drive more often than not when we go out to somewhere special! Shopping locally is fine, with excellent local markets and smaller supermarkets. The larger Hypermarkets in the bigger towns (Bergerac, Marmande, Ste Foy) are very good. With a big choice – just don’t expect to find the same choice of pre-packed processed ‘bang it in the oven’ type food, that you would find adorning the shelves of M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the like. Living here, you have to learn to cook and use seasonal food. However that is one of the reasons why many of choose to live here (although don’t get me wrong, a family meal from M&S would go down a treat on some busy days when I get home from work and have to think of something to cook from scratch - thank goodness for the BBC food recipe website – there is no equivalent to that here!) I also find you have to be more organised living here and have a good well stocked ‘larder’ (or cellar, as many of us have here). Further afield in the larger towns and Cities, for example Bordeaux is a 50 minute drive from us – the shopping is superb. However the general cost of living/shopping is certainly considerably higher now than in the UK. This is definitely a downside.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the international community living in France?
The main disadvantage has to be the language barrier. For many people this is a huge obstacle. One of the main advantages is the network of Mums and families among the British community which we have met through Mums in France (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mumsinfrance) .
Is there anything you think would improve children’s lives in France?
No, I think children growing up here are very lucky. Perhaps as they get older they need to broaden their horizons, but this could be done by, for example, sending them to a larger city for Lycee. Many of my friends do this and their children board Monday-Friday from the age of 14. Also, I think if you want to broaden their horizons, this is something you can do as parents (travelling and educating them in a different manner).
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to France with children?
Learn some French. Life can be difficult, even depressing if you cannot get yourself understood or cannot understand something and of course it can be vital in certain circumstances that you can understand. My husband is a fluent French speaker (fortunately) but I have always struggled (not for lack of trying!) and at times Antony’s language skills have been crucial. For some of us, it is not easy to learn a new language and it does take time, effort and hard work. Even now I have a French dictionary next to my bed and Michel Thomas grammar CD’s in my car, but for the first few years of living here, my poor French language skills did make life hard for me.
What couldn’t you live without in France?
What could you live without in France?!
Bureaucracy and taxation – however no country is perfect!