"We visited lots of schools in the area – in the larger ones the children seemed to be left to their own devices a bit more, especially during playtime and the children were a lot more pushy. Poppy is quite shy as she understands that she speaks a different language and can’t talk to people and she just got pushed around and ended up crying for most of our visits. At the Razac D’Eymet school the children and teachers were welcoming straight away and within 5 minutes Poppy was off playing! After her first day all the children were saying goodbye to her and kissing her which was lovely." (KB Dec 2010)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in France?
Karen Bowen – I’m 36 and have been in France a year.
Whereabouts in France do you live?
Just outside Eymet.
What nationality are you and your partner?
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
We have 2 children – Poppy who is nearly 3 and Alice who is 6 months.
Do you work and if so what to you do?
I run an online shop selling British food and household goods.
What was your experience of having a baby in France? (if relevant)
MUCH better than having one in the UK!! I was amazed when Alice was born and I had my own room in the hospital and they won’t let you leave until they are sure you’re recovered and rested. The only downside was the food was very healthy and I was just craving chocolate!
What was your experience of relocating to France with children? (if relevant)
No problems at all…just the same as moving house within the UK
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
It has taken a long time to meet French friends…for the first 7 or 8 months the community of British mums over here was a lifeline and then I gradually met French people through Poppy’s crèche and then school.
What language do you speak to your children?
What is your impression of childcare and education in France so far?
I can’t really comment on the education as Poppy is not even 3 yet and only started school in September. She was in crèche 2 days a week for a year before that and she was never completely happy…she didn’t speak a word of French when we arrived and the ratio of nursery nurses to children was quite poor compared to the UK so she never got the one to one attention necessary to learn French properly.
What school do your children go to?
Poppy goes to Razac D’Eymet school
Why did you choose this school and are you happy with your choice?
Very happy with our choice! We visited lots of schools in the area – in the larger ones the children seemed to be left to their own devices a bit more, especially during playtime and the children were a lot more pushy. Poppy is quite shy as she understands that she speaks a different language and can’t talk to people and she just got pushed around and ended up crying for most of our visits. At the Razac D’Eymet school the children and teachers were welcoming straight away and within 5 minutes Poppy was off playing! After her first day all the children were saying goodbye to her and kissing her which was lovely.
Where you live, how good are the facilities for children (shops, restaurants, activities etc)?
There are lots of things to do with children but they are really badly advertised…as in, in the UK your health visitor or local website would tell you everything that was happening, but here you have to ask at the Mairie or you hear it word of mouth – it took us a while to work that out!
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the international community living in France?
Main advantages are;
The children can grow up bi-lingual
The children have a taste of 2 different cultures so will hopefully be more accepting of cultures and ideas different to their own as they get older.
We can experience a more laid back lifestyle without traffic jams!
The main disadvantages are in this area it takes a long time to integrate as the French community is very family orientated and tend not to bother joining toddler groups etc…
Is there anything you think would improve children’s lives in France?
More French toddler groups where little ones can mix a bit more and pick up some French before they start school.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to France with children?
Go for it but I would move somewhere where there is a community of British people already otherwise it could be very lonely for the first few months. Especially after having a baby when you are tired and emotional, you need some friends around you!
What couldn’t you live without in France?
Sky TV to keep up with Eastenders!
What could you live without in France?!
(KB Dec 2010)