Settling in a French town

Well, that’s already four days that we’ve lived in the French town of Bergerac and the number of cardboard boxes surrounding us is starting to recede! Can’t say we’ve spent much time strolling along the river or around the old town quite yet though!

The move itself went relatively smoothly although signing on both the sale of the old house and the purchase of the new house on the same day was not much fun – each process involves spending about two hours in the notaires while they read an incessant number of pages about the historical owners of the property and other uninteresting matters.

To add to the pre-move stress we got a message in the evening before signing, after everything had been packed and taken away, ‘reminding’ us that having a copy of our Taxe Fonciere (property taxes) bill at the signing was ‘very important’. Ours of course was locked in a lorry miles away and completely inaccessible. After a sleepless night of worrying that the whole deal was at risk it turned out ‘very important’ means ‘rather trivial’ and the notaire just asked the Tresor Public for a copy.

During the signing process they occasionally throw in a startling question like ‘do you accept the condition of the property and contents as it is because there is no comeback later’ – so if you are buying a place in France you should really not just inspect it the morning of the purchase but also check everything you are relying on. If the kitchen is included does the washing machine actually work? Did you check the boiler? Whether the claimed insulation in the attic actually exists? Whether the pool leaks or the pump works?

Anyway everything in our new house seems to function OK although the previous owner has been more enthusiastic than I would have hoped in removing every possible electrical and light fitting (I know the law is that a cable and bayonet fitting is all that needs to remain, but I didn’t really think he would get an electrician in to remove all the existing light fittings, but apparently it’s the French way).

It did take us a couple of days to work out how to use the electric gate before we could get the car in and out but it turned out it was a problem with our common sense rather than a technical fault. No surprise there then.

One curious thing moving here from the country is that everyone closes all their shutters in the early evening, and most people have electric type shutters that completely block the window i.e. they don’t let any light through at all. So walking along the street in the evening you would think every house is boarded up for the winter, with not a sign of life anywhere.

It is fun pushing the buttons to close the shutters at night though, a bit like all the dooors slamming closed in a prison lockdown (I am guessing from what I have seen in films, having successfully avoided prison so far myself, both in the UK and in France).


It’s just as strange being inside because there is nowhere at all that you can see out from, so if we hear a noise outside it is impossible to glance out and see if someone is coming to the door or stealing our garden plants (OK pretty unlikely given the size of our garden but you know what I mean) without actually opening the shutters. No chance of peeking from behind the curtains to keep an eye on things.

Cosy I suppose but I do like to know what’s going on when I hear something unexpected!

Anyway, although I am more likely to be seen in a diy shop than a medieval restaurant for the time being, seems like all is going well so far*, with internet etc all working just fine.

* Not related to moving but adding to stress levels, the day after we moved in we received a bill for 40 000 euros for various ‘social contributions’ we had supposedly overlooked. After a day of panic it turned out that someone somewhere had pushed the wrong button and ‘restarted’ a business we closed 5 years ago, made up fictitious income figures for it, and then charged us social contributions based on these made-up figures.

Of coure, the bill didn’t say where the numbers had come from or what they related to, just that they had to be paid, so it took a nail-biting 24 hours to be sure that it was a mistake. Glad we are keeping a few civil servants occupied somewhere!