Why? Why are you moving to France? People inside and outside of France constantly pose that question.
In 2009 I came to France and was mesmerized and enchanted. So much so that I returned several times before moving here in May of 2013.
Five years ago, I initially spent time in the Dordogne Valley, headed south to the Haut Pyrenees, and then stayed in Montpellier for several weeks. I returned to the United States with France dancing in my head.
In 2011, I came back and lived in Bezenac, in the Périgord Pourpre—the purple region of Périgord. I arrived in February, stayed until December, and when I returned to the States, I knew that I wanted to continue living in France. Bezenac and the surrounding area is lovely, and my time there was amazing, but the place that kept drawing me back was the town of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil on the Vézère river, in the area known as Périgord Noir, or the black Périgord. This place makes my heart sing, and when one’s heart sings, it surely is wise to listen.
A series of events and suggestions led me to my current home—a small house in the woods above the village of Tayac. Once I had secured a home and knew that I could have it for three years, I began the process of getting an extended-stay visa and from there, my residency.
Many a foreigner complains about French bureaucracy, and it is stunning, but, as my French friends say, it is difficult for them as well. Negotiating the dense maze of governmental controls created by increasing rules, regulations, and ridiculousness is a challenge in any country, and France is no exception.
When moving to a new country, it is smart to leave all the “we do it this way” nonsense at home. You are leaving one country and moving to a new one that has a whole different “we do it this way” in place, and the sooner you recognize that and start learning the rules associated with the new country, the better and easier life will be.
In the Périgord region of France, speaking the language is a must. If you do not speak the language, find a friend who does. The French love their language and rightfully so; it is beautiful and full of formalities and politeness non-existent in the English language beyond “please” and “thank you.” It is also loaded with explicative and swear words, used liberally and with great gusto.
French is a formal, lyrical language that encourages and conjures up poetic imagery. Learning to speak and understand French is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth every word and phrase mastered. And if you learn nothing else, know that the French expect a greeting before a demand of any sort. I quickly got myself into the habit of saying bonjour, bonsoir, bon après-midi, before asking for a cup of coffee or anything else. When I have received whatever it is I asked for, I always say merci, or merci beaucoup. Saying hello, thank you, and good-bye gets me some respect, not saying it gets me attitude.
Finding My Way
I grew up in and around New York City and have lived in large, urban areas most of my life; I am used to people who are not interested in “passing the time of day.” People simply want you to state your business, so that they can “get on with it.” As a result, I understand Parisians and find them similar to the people in cities everywhere. They simply want you to state your business and to “get on with it.” Most of them are not the least bit interested in listening to feeble attempts to speak their language and will quickly switch to English when they hear hesitant, stuttering attempts at French coming their way.
Not so in the Périgord.
With the help of my French teacher Emma, I quickly learned that people here do not have city rhythms or attitudes—this is truly an ancient land. The Périgord was formed by thousands of years of shifting weather patterns that have left gorges and deep depressions in the landscape. It is a land of lush valleys and wide, swift rivers twisting their way with ancient purpose. A land full of caves, some of which have paintings on their walls that were painted by people who inhabited the area over 17,000 years ago.
The political tides have also left their mark on this land and on the hearts and souls of its people. From the Vikings to the first peasant uprisings against heavier and heavier taxes, the wars of Napoleon, and the occupation of the area by the Germans during WWII, many heavy boots have tramped through the Périgord in response to one sort of greed or another.
And so it is that this area has captured my heart and imagination and invited me to get better acquainted.