Before my husband and I took early retirement, we talked endlessly about where we would like to live. Our holidays took us to Italy, Cyprus, Madeira, Portugal, Malta, and France. We found that we enjoyed our time in France so much that we bought ourselves a holiday home.
However, eventually, we took the plunge and moved ourselves to France permanently. Of course, we appreciated the excellent local golf course, our spacious garden, the beautiful surrounding countryside, the proximity of the long, sandy beaches, and the friendliness of our neighbors. But not one of those things was our main reason for packing up our belongings and making the move. What was our main reason? The French way of life. It fits in so well with how we always pictured our retirement.
It’s no coincidence that the French phrase ‘joie de vivre’ is almost impossible to translate accurately into any other language. ‘Joy of living’ just doesn’t conjure it up somehow. Most people would agree that the meaning of ‘joie de vivre’ is having the ability to derive great pleasure from every aspect of living. And the French certainly have that approach to life because each generation inherits it from the one before them. It’s as much part of their culture as the air they breathe.
If you too have spent your life working hard and you’re looking for ‘quality of life’, in France you’ll absorb a healthy approach to life without even noticing that it’s happening. And if you think the French don’t like the non-French, nothing could be further from the truth. What they are not so keen on are inconsiderate tourists. When you show that you respect and are prepared to fit in to their existing way of life, the French welcome you with open arms.
On making our permanent move to Lower Normandy, we couldn’t help but compare the enthusiasm with which we were drawn into the community to the more usual reservedness of our erstwhile English neighbors. Home-grown produce was left for us at the gate, neighbors called to see if we needed any assistance, and we received numerous invitations to join them for early evening aperitifs and social occasions. A local farmer helped us find the right building materials at the right prices, and we were able to learn many things that were known only to the local community.
Every small French town has its local weekly market, bigger towns twice weekly or even daily, and there can be nothing more tantalizing than wandering through the stalls, selecting good quality home-made or home-grown produce. Once you live in France you notice other things that may have escaped your attention when you were just a tourist. For instance,there are no plastic bags at the supermarket checkouts, the French don’t like chemical additives and colorants in their food, they prefer to walk rather than take the car if they only have a short way to go, recycling banks can be found in the smallest of villages. The list is endless.
The French holistic approach to life is contagious and immensely satisfying. If it’s an improved quality of life you are looking for, France really is the best place in Europe for your retirement.