Yesterday ITV's new Reality TV Documentary 'Little England' aired, with stunning aerial views of the Dordogne region of France, it showcased some of the 1001 Chateaux in the region, and focused on the English Expat community and their lives there.
From a retired policeman and his wife turned 'Wedding Planners' to an English Butcher turned 'Farmer & Sausage Maker', not to forget the couple who travel from idyllic town to sleepy village in their 'camionette', a mobile Fish & Chip shop, all are in the true sense of the word 'Entrepreneurs'. What stood out in this enjoyable first episode was the spirit of community, and entrepreneurialism that these individuals have brought to the region. Although many of their businesses are targeted at english speakers and expats alike, it was encouraging the hear that sometimes the French account for some 60% of Fish and Chip sales, 'Très Agréable !'.
One of the five departments of the Aquitane region of france, the Dordogne has long been recognised as a magnet for English folk, and others too, including Irish and Americans. However, perhaps one of the most noteworthy points was the change in recent years from predominantly retired people moving to the region, to people who need to earn a living.
This marked change in the demographics of those moving here, is a result of various factors, including the economic crisis, the cost of housing in other countries and the comparatively better standard of living in France, a point that was happily highlighted by some in the documentary, as they enjoyed their Fish & Chips and a bevvy on the terrace of a cafe.
This phenomenon is on the move, it is increasing, and is in fact more evident as you move along the Dordogne River where it merges with the Garonne at the capital of Aquitaine, Bordeaux. Larger cities naturally highlight the fact that the migaration from the UK to France is no longer the respite of the retired, but is in fact a choice which holds the hopes and aspirations of a younger generation. Larger cities tend to offer more employment and better access to education and services for growing families, however they can't beat the peace and harmony of the rural idyll's.
photography by Knooq Design Agency ©
Bordeaux is known as 'Little Paris' and like 'Little England' in the Dordogne, offers a variety of opportunities for those seeking a bit of the 'Joie de vivre'. For those who have seen its stunning architecture and the sweeping promenades along the 'Port of the Moon', they rarely disagree with this analogy, and perhaps feel it fitting that the Capital of Aquitaine is deserving of such a title. With such magnificent Chateaux throughout the Dordogne, the Gironde and the other departments of Aquitaine, it is unsurprising that such a region was crowned with a jewel such as Bordeaux.
However, what was also clear from this charming documentary, was that in order to earn a living, it is necessary to invent an occupation, to identify a niche market, and to work hard.
The language barrier can be overcome to a certain extent, for instance when dealing with French clients in an English owned business. However, there is a further language barrier in our view, which means that only the very fluent have a chance of getting a job in a large French company. This is not a gripe but a fact of life. A lot of French companies want to have English speakers on their staff for international business clients, however they want you to have fluent French also. This presents a great opportunity aswell, if not for the adult expat, but importantly for their children. For one gentleman who expressed pride in seeing his child take the bus to school in the Dordogne, it is clear that for those children who will be able to become fluent in French, and perhaps to cultivate a French accent, there will be better employment oportunities as they will be ideally placed to work in either France or England, or both.
Speaking with some French friends who also watched the program, they mentioned that before the English moved to the Dordogne, it was less well known, and more regional, perhaps a French secret. They readily concede that the presence of expats has brought something positive to the Dordogne, and to the public coffers.
Here in Bordeaux, we too long for some bacon, a proper sausage, and a fish supper. Next time visitors come over for a holiday, I think we'll take a day in the Dordogne and pick up some sausages, lots of rashers, and a few bags of Fish and Chips. Can't wait!
From time to time we take a little break from web design and write a little about life in France and things in general. Your experiences and comments are welcome, please post them below.