I’m so pleased to share Becky’s story as part of our Families Moving Abroad series. Once again, I met Becky via Instagram as we followed each other’s accounts and got chatting during the first lockdown, back in April 2020. Since then, I have loved following Becky’s daily French life on Instagram, and can’t wait to stay in their campsite when it’s up and running. Today, she shares her family’s journey on moving to France.
Meet the Family
We are the Brown family, Becky and Andrew, and the kids Reuben (11) Jacob (9) and Phoebe (1). We used to live in Sutton, Surrey, but in 2013 decided to make the move to the Tarn-et-Garonne region of SW France.
Why We Left London
We decided to move because life in London was becoming a little routine and financially things were tough on only one wage. It didn’t make sense for me to go back to work full time because all my wage would have gone on childcare. Reuben was about to enter full time education and we knew we wouldn’t get him into the school we wanted him to go to because we lived on the wrong street.
Also, I was on the verge of turning 30 and was looking for an adventure!
Moving to France
We made the decision to move in 2012 and spent a year planning, mainly coming up with business ideas as we already knew where we would live.
The last 3 months we were in the UK we stayed with Andrew’s mum so that we could save up some money, then in the Summer of 2013 we moved. We moved a large chunk of our house contents and used a combination of a removal company and my dad’s car to haul all our stuff over. I moved over with the kids first and Andrew followed a few weeks later once he had finished work.
Knowing Where to Move To
Where we moved to was an easy decision. I had been coming to France for years to our family holiday home in a little village called Parisot that my parents invested in when I was 6 years old.
When I met Andrew we had a few holidays there and when the kids were born we were back every year with them. It felt easy to move when we knew the village, the area, and already knew people.
To be honest I think I would have hesitated a lot more about the move if this element wasn’t already laid out for us. In 2017 we moved out of the family holiday home and bought where we are now, 10 mins from Parisot, to the edge of a quiet little village called Loze. Being in the middle of a village was a great start for us, but now we feel deep in the countryside with nothing but untouched woodland behind our house.
Setting Up Business in France
Back in the UK Andrew was a social worker in a primary school and I ran baby sign language classes alongside looking after our boys.
Since moving to France, Andrew has become Media Man, installing satellite dishes, repairing computers and phones, anything to do with technology basically.
I was teaching music (piano, recorder, ukulele, choirs) but since having Phoebe in 2019 have pivoted slightly and have just set up a business selling handmade children’s clothes and accessories.
We’re also setting up a campsite with fully equipped bell tents which should be ready by 2022.
Our main worry about the move was mainly work related. We had very little savings so we had to hit the ground running. If our business ideas didn’t work, we would be stuck. Luckily Andrew’s work took off at just the right moment and he’s been busy non-stop ever since.
My work grew a little more slowly but there is always work around if you put the word out and look for it.
How the Children Dealt with the Move
At the time of our move our boys were aged 1 and 4 years. Jacob was young enough to not know anything different so there were no issues there. Reuben being 4 understood what was going on.
Again I think it really helped that he had been to the village on holiday every year since he was born, so he too was familiar with the place. For him obviously it was all about the language. He had been attending a lovely little Montessori school where they had a visiting French teacher and we signed him up for classes. So he had some basics like colours and numbers and we also found a good app that gave him exposure to vocabulary.
After the summer he was straight into school full time. What really helped him was that on day one he latched onto the one other English kid in the class. They became inseparable and I think having that close friend helped him overcome any language difficulties he may have had. Despite the fact that his home life was purely English, and that back then he was speaking English to his friend at school, he still picked up the language with ease.
He’s now in secondary school (how the time has flown!) and has a lovely group of French friends. Neither boys have had any major issues to date with the language. We know that for them to be truly bilingual they need to be actively taught both languages. They’re both excellent readers in English for example, but their written English needs work. But that’s something we can work on in time.
Phoebe is our little French baby! She was born in 2019 and has settled in nicely to our life out here.
I’m planning to keep her at home with me until she starts school so like the boys, she’ll start her early years communicating in English and then be immersed in French once she starts maternelle (nursery.)
To anyone thinking about making the move…do it! I think with everything that’s been going on recently it’s clear that life is too short to sit around on ideas and dreams, just do it!
Other than that I would say research your area, start learning the language, and be prepared to do anything work wise if you don’t already have jobs to move out to and need to start working.
Social Media Links
Wild Oak Wood is the name of the brand we’re creating. You can find us on the links below:
Thank you so much for taking part in the series Becky! If you have any questions for Becky let us know in the comments below.
If you would like to share your journey on the blog, you can find all the information on how to submit your post by clicking here.