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French book on British expats

by Lupin Mon Apr 17th, 2006 at 04:11:32 AM EST

Un nuage de vin dans votre thé ?

This is a review in Le Monde of a book entitled AU SECOURS, LES ANGLAIS NOUS ENVAHISSENT ! by José-Alain Fralon (Michalon, 168 pages, 17 €).

I haven't read the book, but the review, IN FRENCH, is interesting.

As the reviewer notes, it's about the perennial question of lifestyles, "to be or to have, that is the question."

I look forward to afew's response.. ;-)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 05:28:11 AM EST
It's a bit of a minefield for me, since I'm one of the British invaders in question -- though I'm not one of the wave of the last few years. When I first applied for a carte de séjour here, they told me at the prefecture I was the only Brit on their file...

However, the review in Le Monde leaves me with the impression the author is basing his account fairly largely on the Dordogne, where there has long been a genteel British community. Let me quote from the "Useful Addresses" sheet the Consulate in Bordeaux hands out (and has for many years) to UK citizens:

DORDOGNE LADIES CLUB - English-speaking social gatherings

DORDOGNE ORGANISATION OF GENTLEMEN - English-speaking luncheon club

THE BRITISH CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATION IN FRANCE, Dordogne Branch (No, no Labour or Lib-Dem Club, sorry...)

This may account for the outpost-of-empire types the author says he met... (Though, frankly, the overall tone of the Bordeaux Consulate's communications is redolent of a time when Britannia ruled the waves and there was none of this vulgar EU citizenship business...)

The latest wave of house-buyers isn't, for the most part, of this category. There are all kinds of people among them. As the article notes, some are arrogant, some (more than one might expect) don't attempt to learn French. Some make an effort to get on minimally with the locals. Others make more effort, and there are doubtless a good many who are genuinely happy to live in a different environment from that of Britain. (As the author suggests, space and time to breathe, etc...)

Where I disagree is with the usual sweeping assertion that, in buying houses, the British are somehow doing good:

La flambée immobilière qui leur est reprochée a rempli les poches de "froggies" qui ne savaient que faire de leurs ruines familiales.

The property boom they are blamed for has filled the pockets of "Froggies" who didn't know what to do with their family ruins.

Beyond the condescending slight that sees France as some half-dead place where old families possess ruins no one wants, it's true that there are owners who are pleased to have sold at a good price, and, of course, in some far-flung corners, this has led to declining villages getting new inhabitants and refurbished housing.

But it's not that simple. As Britons have done elsewhere (Spain, in particular), buying up properties is synonymous with taking them out of the local market and up into a parallel higher-priced market in which British estate agents buy and sell and make more money than the locals.

Next, the British house-buying wave goes far beyond just useless ruins to "do up", and actually bites into the market for homes French families can no longer buy, because the price has gone through their mortgage-raising ceiling. I don't think it's anecdotal that I know several young couples with children who can't find a house to buy in this zone 40-60 km out of Toulouse -- not at a price they can afford and would normally have been able to find six or seven years ago.

There are other things I grouse about, like the non-stop short-hop low-cost flights to small local airports that in fact fuel this wave. And, overall, I just don't find it healthy, that a fairly massive movement of this kind is based on a crazy, speculative market in a neighbouring country. So many people in England (and again, it's anecdotal, but I know several) have based their capacity to earn money on the speculative nature of the housing market, and they are studying markets in other countries in order to speculate and make yet more money out of them.

In conclusion, I'm glad some Britons come to France to live the life, but I think there are far too many who have near-colonial attitudes, and the "perverse" market consequences are real.

Or, alternatively, I just want it all for myself ;). Brits go 'ome.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 09:21:47 AM EST
I don't think it's anecdotal that I know several young couples with children who can't find a house to buy in this zone 40-60 km out of Toulouse -- not at a price they can afford and would normally have been able to find six or seven years ago.
Sorry to interrupt but this is a trend I think everywhere in western world. As I have heard in that same UK they are now offering mortgages for 130 years (?!?)...here in Australia they are about to "invent" dual ownership (your bank and you just for the piece of price you can afford) etc. I can't find cheep house (or land for that matter) even 400-500km around Brisbane and Brisbane was almost "country town" 8 years ago not to mention it is in Australia that is right in the end of the world...and there is soooo much land here...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 10:29:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and all Europeans seem to have the same neo-colonial attitudes with few exeptions. Could be brits, french, germans, scandinavians whatever. dont see much difference in outlook between nationalities here at all.
Anyway just a quick outsiders perspective on these things.
by observer393 on Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 10:51:46 AM EST
Dare I say ... If they don't like the Brits, I can't wait to see the response to what will surely be an "American Invasion", if things keep going the way they are around here.  

btw, When I think of British in France, all that comes to mind is that Swimming Pool movie ...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 04:41:07 PM EST
Americans who came here to escape a political situation they found intolerable would be in a very different category from those (numerous) Britons who practise arbitrage between two adjacent property markets, either for speculative reasons, and/or, as DeAnander pointed out in this thread that discusses the same subject, to buy into a "gentrification" dream.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 03:10:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to support this, based on our own (anecdotal) experience.

Telling folks upfront, any folks, civil servants, shopkeepers, whatever, that we've fled from George Bush get us an amazing amount of goodwill.

by Lupin on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 07:02:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How does it feel being a political refugee?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 07:07:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Truthfully: a little strange. But we were always "citizens of the world" before.
by Lupin on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 08:46:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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