Contrary to what Daily Mail readers might think, most ‘good life in France’ expats below retirement age still need to work and are busy doing a whole variety of things in an attempt to make a living – spending all day sipping wine and gazing at sunflowers is unfortunately not usually an option and I don’t know anyone here of our age (40′s) who is just sitting round ‘living the good life’.
Here’s a snapshot of a typical day chez nous to give you a clue what it is really like…
Mowing, painting, mending, pool cleaning, garden: 2 hours. This is more in April than, say, December because we re-open the gites from the beginning of May and there is always a lot to be done beforehand. Today I setup a new flatscreen TV and DVD in the gite, cleaned the newly-re-opened swimming pool and started painting a bedroom.
Helping the children: 2 minutes. I was asked for help twice today. The first time was regarding what to buy for an 18 year old ‘goth’ for his birthday – a conversation rapidly ended when I suggested a set of spanners might be useful. Second time was with homework, question: ‘What do American women aspire to?’. I tried a couple of suggestions but they were also apparently no use at all. Another conversation ended.
Handy hint: giving rubbish answers is less time consuming than thinking of good ones.
Eating and drinking: 1 hour, mostly as a family but the children never quite make it to breakfast. Before being expats we never managed to eat together very often, now we usually do. Lucky us. There are three women watching their weight in the family, and me – so junk food is very rare and chips are an endangered species. Think salad and white fish, with occasional outbursts of Nutella.
Cycling: 2 hours. I try to get out on the bike every day, although it’s not always possible. Sometimes just for an hour sometimes for longer. Very often the techie work problems I can’t solve when I’m staring at the computer get solved when I’m cycling along thinking of something else. But very often they don’t.
Paperwork and accounts: these should be allocated about an hour a day but really only get about two minutes a day. Except for year end when its 24 hours a day for a week as we desperately try to work out if we made any money – and if so, where it went (answer: Orange, for several mobile telephone contracts and assorted internet charges).
Driving children to far off destinations: 1 hour. In truth Mrs B does much more of this than I do but I like to claim credit all the same. Unavoidable when you make them live in the middle of nowhere with school friends living up to 30 km away.
Watching TV: 2 hours. Often I’m asleep in front of the TV rather than watching, but in principle I do no work after 8.00 in the evening – I watch the news and then whichever rubbish French channel happens to be slightly less rubbish than the other rubbish French channels. Dr House is the highlight, better in French dubbed version because you don’t hear Hugh Laurie’s curious American accent.
Website related work: every remaining minute / hour, usually starting at 6am when everyone else is still snoring. Want to catch my attention? Send an email in the middle of the night, I might just answer when I get up. Time is spent dealing with everything from contributing authors to spam emails, while also implementing system improvements (such as my shiny new Dordogne gites listing site); dealing with gazillions of queries; and even writing the occasional blog entry.
It always amuses me when I get emails for ‘the systems department’ or ‘the marketing manager’ since there is of course just me and Mrs B beavering away, and she’s usually outside trying to stop the garden from invading the house.
Drinking and living it up: bottle of lager every evening at 6pm (usually while still working). Highlight of the day.
Are you an active expat? Want your 15 minutes of fame? It would be great if a few other French expats could send in their ‘day in the life of’ stories so readers can get a better picture of what real life is like out here in expat land. Leave a comment or send me an email if you would like to be a victim!