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The joys of living in an ‘expat no-go zone’

British expats in France tell us the benefits of living in some of the country's "expat no-go zones", areas where the expats are few but the quality of life competes with even the most popular regions.

The joys of living in an 'expat no-go zone'
Verdun, Lorraine, a huge region in north-eastern France with few expats. Photo: Antonio Ponte/Flickr
Late last month, we took a look at where exactly all the Brits live in France.
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the stats from France’s National Statistics Agency INSEE showed of the almost 160,000 Brits in France, most congregated in places like Paris, Poitou-Charentes and Brittany while almost ignoring other areas completely (see the map below for exact details).
 
But the Brits living in those areas, which we dubbed the "expat no-go zones" of France, have contacted us to tell us why they love their corner of the country. 
 
 
(NB: The number for Poitou Charentes should read 16,300)
(The map above shows exactly how many Brits live in each region)
 
Rebecca Pintre – Location, location, location
 
Rebecca Pintre says she is delighted to be among the 850 Brits living in Lorraine, where she's just a five hours' drive from Calais and thirty minutes from Luxembourg airport.
 
"Lorraine is big. I am in the corner which borders Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium. We came here from Paris for one reason: Luxembourg. We joined the army of cross border workers – over 100,000 of us cross into Luxembourg every weekday morning, and back again in the evening," she tells The Local.
 

(The town of Nancy, in Lorraine, south of Pictre's home. Photo: MorBCN/Flickr)
 
"The houses here are rented at approximately half the price they are in Luxembourg, so we chose to live in France. We are at the heart of Europe – Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, the Black Forest, Alsace, all within a three-hour drive. We live in a very rural, quiet village with all the advantages of a capital city just 20 minutes’ away (ahem, outside of rush hour!)
 
"The local history is fascinating, and the architecture, food, and the local dialect (le Platt) is influenced by the neighbouring countries. We also have good wine. And lastly, the best fish and chips I have ever had on the continent was just 5km from my home, over the border in Luxembourg. Not the same, of course, but is it ever?"
 
Lesley Polley – Why return home?
 
Facebook follower Lesley Polley is among the 2,300 living in Burgundy and she says it has been a "fabulous experience" so far. 
 
"We are Brits living in Burgundy," she says. "And we absolutely love it."
 
"We've been here nearly nine years and despite being of a 'mature' age I found work teaching at the university in Dijon almost from the beginning – even though I wasn't a teacher in England. My husband is kept extremely busy cooking for the guests at our Bed and Breakfast – La Bagnosienne. I'm also on the municipal council. Any support we have had comes mostly from our super French neighbours and we have no intention at this time of returning to the UK. 
 

(The courtyard of Polley's Bed and Breakfast. Photo: La Bagnoisiene)
 
Pat Green – Escaping the Brits
 
Pat Green in Haute Cote d'Or, Burgundy, says she chose the area because "we didn't want to be surrounded by Brits". 
 
"We had plenty of support from the French when we arrived and I was voted on to the municipal council within the first six months. We do also have British friends and enjoy the variety," she adds. 
 

(The Dijon prefecture. Photo: Christophe.Finot/WikiCommons)
 
Tracy Thurling – Who needs other expats?
 
Tracy Thurling in Burgundy says she also loves living in an area that's not "overrun by expats".
 
"I count myself as an immigrant, not an expat, as I chose to live here. Our children were born when we lived in Chamonix where one in five of the residents at the time were non-French. It made it tough for them to learn French. Here in a Catholic school of 1,300 children, there is only one other English-speaking family.
 
"We enjoy the French lifestyle and culture precisely because it is very different and not British whereas in somewhere like Chamonix, it was perfectly possible to live a totally British lifestyle. This lack of French language and culture (along with inflated property prices) led to a great deal of resentment from the local people as all Brits got lumped together while here in Burgundy we are still novel enough for people to chat to us to find out why we came here. 
 
There are plenty of English-speaking people in the season as Beaune is a popular tourist destination (indeed I work in tourism offering tours at Burgundy By Request) but out of season we turn our heads and stare when we hear someone speaking English. I love it – I have no intention of ever going to live in the UK again."
 

(Stunning Beaune. Photo: Mkfsca/Flickr)

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PROPERTY

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

Plumbing ermergencies are common in France, so here's our guide to what to do, who to call and the phrases you will need if water starts gushing in unexpected areas.

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

How do I find a reliable plumber and avoid getting scammed?

First, try to stick with word-of-mouth if you can. Contact trusted individuals or resources, like your neighbours and friends, or foreigner-oriented Facebook groups for your area (ex. “American Expats in Paris”). This will help you find a more reliable plumber. If this is not an option for you, try “Pages Jaunes” (France’s ‘Yellow Pages’) to see reviews and plumbers (plomberie) in your area. 

Next, educate yourself on standard rates. If the situation is not an emergency, try to compare multiple plumbers to make sure the prices are in the correct range. 

Finally, always Google the name of the plumber you’ll be working with – this will help inform you as to whether anyone else has had a particularly positive (or negative) experience with them – and check that the company has a SIRET number.

This number should be on the work estimate (devis). You can also check them out online at societe.com. If you want to be extra careful you can also ask to see their carte artisan BTP (craftsman card). 

READ MORE: What is a SIRET number and why is it crucial when hiring French tradesmen?

Who is responsible for paying for work?

If you own the property, you are typically the one who is responsible for financing the plumbing expenses.

However if you’re in a shared building, you must determine the cause and location of the leak. If you cannot find the origin of the leak, you may need a plumber to come and locate it and provide you with an estimate. You can use this estimate when communicating with insurance, should the necessity arise. 

If you are a renter, the situation is a bit more complicated. Most of the time, water damage should be the landlord’s responsibility, but there are exceptions.

The landlord is obliged to carry out major repairs (ex. Natural disaster, serious plumbing issues) that are necessary for the maintenance and normal upkeep of the rented premises (as per, Article 6C of the law of July 6, 1989). The tenant, however, is expected to carry out routine maintenance, and minor repairs are also to be paid by the tenant. If the problem is the result of the tenant failing to maintain the property, then it will be the tenant’s responsibility to cover the cost of the repair.

Legally speaking, it is also the tenant’s responsibility to get the boiler serviced once a year, as well as to maintain the faucets and joints, and to avoid clogging the pipes.

READ MORE: Assurance habitation: How to get home insurance in France

If you end up in dispute with your landlord over costs, you can always reach out to ADIL, the national Housing Association which offers free legal advice for housing issues in France. 

What happens if the leak is coming from my neighbour’s property?

Both you and your neighbour should contact your respective housing insurance companies and file the ‘sinistre’ (damage) with them.

If you both agree on the facts you can file an amiable (in a friendly fashion), then matters are much more simple and you will not have to go through the back-and-forth of determining fault.

If having a friendly process is not possible, be sure to get an expert to assert where the leak is coming from and file this with your insurance company.

As always, keep evidence (lists and photographs) of the damage. Keep in mind that many insurance providers have a limited number of days after the start of the damage that you can file. Better to do it sooner than later, partially because, as with most administrative processes in France, it might take a bit of time.

Vocab

Plumbing has its own technical vocabulary so here are some words and phrases that you’re likely to need;

Hello, I have a leak in my home. I would like to request that a plumber come to give me an estimate of the damage and cost for repairs – Bonjour, j’ai une fuite chez moi. Je voudrais demander qu’un plombier vienne me donner une estimation des dégâts et du coût de la réparation. 

It is an emergency: C’est une urgence

I have no hot water: Je n’ai pas d’eau chaude

The boiler has stopped working: La chaudière ne fonctionne plus.

I cannot turn my tap off: Je ne peux pas arrêter le robinet.

The toilet is leaking: Mes toilettes fuient.

The toilet won’t flush/ is clogged: Mes toilettes sont bouchées

There is a bad smell coming from my septic tank: Il y a un mauvaise odeur provenant de ma fosse septique

I would like to get my electricity / boiler safety checked: Je souhaiterais une vérification de la sécurité de mon installation électrique / de ma chaudière

I can smell gas: Ca sent le gaz

My washing machine has broken: Ma machine a laver est cassée

Can you come immediately? Est-ce que vous pouvez venir tout de suite?

When can you come? Quand est-ce que vous pouvez venir?

How long will it take? Combien de temps cela prendra-t-il ?

How much do you charge? Quels sont vos prix? / Comment cela va-t-il coûter?

How can I pay you? Comment je peux vous payer ? 

Here are the key French vocabulary words for all things plumbing-related:

Dishwasher – Lave vaisselle

Bath – Baignoire

Shower – Douche

Kitchen Sink – Évier

Cupboard – Placard

Water meter – Compteur d’eau

The Septic Tank – La fosse septique

A leak – Une fuite

Bathroom sink – Le lavabo

The toilet – La toilette

Clogged – Bouché

To overflow – Déborder

A bad smell – Une mauvaise odeur

The flexible rotating tool used to unclog a pipe (and also the word for ferret in French) – Furet 

Water damage – Dégât des eaux

The damage – Le sinistre

And finally, do you know the French phrase Sourire du plombier? No, it’s not a cheerful plumber, it’s the phrase used in French for when a man bends down and his trouser waistband falls down, revealing either his underwear or the top of his buttocks. In Ebglish it’s builder’s bum, in French ‘plumber’s smile’.

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