Les mains froids

This week I’ve had les mains froids. Cold feet, but Ben couldn’t think of the word for feet.

Dreaming in France is scary. We’re not just dreaming of France. Our heads and hearts are there, in deepest bordering Spain and Andorra, Gascony.

I’m worrying. I read a blog by an Irish lady who moved her family back to Ireland from a coastal town in our search area after years because she never ‘got’ the French and missed the craic.

I spent a day choosing between the Ariege and the Aude, wanting to throw our hats in with one department, to identify proudly with one department from the outset, as the French do. The Ariege came out on top, largely because the word online is that it is still undiscovered, unspoilt and unknown. Then I read that there are 5000 more Brits living in the Midi-Pyrenees than the Languedoc! No! Too many Brits, too many people!

I’m letting Ben worry and research taxes and all the costs involved in moving and living in France. There are alot of unknowns there. The exact fee upon buying a property, the amount of personal tax we’ll initially pay per month, the exchange rate when we buy, what we’ll sell our house for. But there’s not a lot of concern. We’ll be fine as long as we fully commit to the French system and effectively become French. We’re confident that we’ll succeed financially.

But culturally, I’ve been worrying about not being accepted, about not being able to become fluent enough quickly enough. I’m worrying about being allowed to home school, and what my birth options will be with babies 3 and 4. I’m worrying about us making friends, the kids making friends. I’m worrying about being home sick.

So I’ve gone back to UK options. Not the Wye, but around Tenby, and found a part-renovated stately home on the remote Welsh coast. Even that didn’t do anything for me. I looked into great spots in Ireland, beautiful, great for tourism. Nothing came up. I had the same fears of not fitting in, of being outsiders, of feeling more alone in the company of others.

Ben says we’ll be a curiosity to the French. We’re not a typical English family. They won’t have seen a couple so young, with four children, babies even, living with Nanna too. We won’t fit in with the Expats. We’re not looking for the same dream of retirement that they are. We don’t want to know where we can buy hobnobs, baked beans, Bisto and HP sauce from. We won’t have one foot left behind in Blighty.

We don’t know for sure, but we sense that we already have more in common with the French. The way we raise our children liberally, as part of the family, fitting in and learning from being around not segregated from adults. Living multi-generationally. Wanting to live in harmony with nature and the seasons, rather than trying to impose ourselves upon our environment.

The Ariege is an ancient region that was once its own country. Since the dawn of man it has provided a safe haven from danger, the elements, persecution. It’s a place of sanctuary, a stronghold of difference, of outsiders. It couldn’t be more us.

~J

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