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These are the biggest challenges of living in rural France

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These are the biggest challenges of living in rural France
The lack of modern public transport in rural France really can be a challenge, our readers found. Photo: Deposit photos
15:14 CEST+02:00
The rolling hills, the tranquil silence broken only by birdsong, the fresh crisp air - living in rural France is just one long piece of paradise, right? Well it comes with some challenges as well, as our country-dwelling readers reveal.

For a significant proportion of people, moving to France is about embracing a better quality of life and for many of them, that means taking advantage of the beautiful and peaceful rural areas of the country, whether the Charente, Creuse or Correze or busier places like Dordogne.

There are numerous advantages to rural living, from the comparatively cheap properties to the fresh air and healthy lifestyle and the smaller communities. 

READ ALSO The 10 must-visit French villages you've probably never heard of

But that doesn't mean that it's all plain sailing, and there are some things that can come as a bit of a culture shock to newcomers, while other aspects present severe practical challenges.

We asked our readers who live in the countryside to share what they found were the biggest challenges of living in rural parts of France.

Transport

This came out as the biggest problem that many people face in rural areas, the fact that public transport is so poor or even non-existent in parts that you are almost entirely dependent on the car. And it's not just newcomers who find this a problem, in fact that issue was one of the sparks that kindled the biggest political crisis in France of recent years.

Proposed increases to fuel taxes so incensed French people who live outside the big cities, and are therefore highly reliant on cars, that they began the 'yellow vest' protests which shook the country for months. A major component of their anger was the feeling that Paris-based politicians had simply no understanding of how impossible it is to live in rural or small-town France without a car.

Dina Junkermann, who lives in Côtes-d'Armor in Brittany, said: "Having to drive everywhere is the worst thing, there being no public transport within a half-hour drive, except for one community bus on market day once a week, which is wonderful but has no flexibility at all.

"Living in a small rural village, it's difficult to go out for dinner. You can't have a drink if you have to drive home, and there's no alternative to driving.

"We have both had to go to hospital since living here, and it's a good 40 minute drive to the nearest one, which is a pain for daily visiting and follow-ups. 

"I worry about how we will cope when we are too old to drive, or if one of us becomes seriously ill or incapacitated."

Deborah Eade in Haut-Savoie and Stephanie Sheldon in Charente-Maritime both agreed that the lack of public transport was a big problem.

Deborah said: "If you don't drive you are reliant on hitch-hiking (a bit odd in my mid-60s) or walking (in my case 12km to the shops and back, with my shopping in a backpack)."

While rural areas in every country suffer from a lack of public transport, France does seem to have its own unique road problems.

Jeffrey Poster, who lives in Eymet in the Dordogne, said: "Drivers in France seem to be divided into two incompatible groups; those who consider it a matter of honour to drive on local roads as if they are competing in Formula 1 (and who consider it a matter of personal honour to instruct those of us who are not competing on how to drive) and those who believe that traveling at the speed of the growing season will extend their lifespans."

READ ALSO Why train services in rural France could soon be derailed

La Chasse 

Before you get too carried away about the peace of the country, remember that in hunting season the quiet is likely to be penetrated regularly by the sound of gunfire.

Hunting is a big thing in rural France and although some areas have a mounted foxhunts in a similar style to England, in most places la chasse means shooting - often at anything that moves.

Over a million people in France take part in hunting in a season that opes in September and runs until the spring.

While some hunts put up signs telling people where the hunt is likely to be on a given day, many don't and if you live in a rural area it is up to you to find out where they are going to be and generally keep out of the way.

Cecile Walker who lives in Vienne says: "For me the biggest gripe is hunting. I don't like the attitude of the members of the hunt and I abhor cruelty to birds and animals. They mistreat their hunting dogs."

While Claire Casson who lives in the Dordogne says that for her the biggest challenge is having to remember the days of la chasse. She added that members of the hunt "can be arrogant at times".

Knowing where the hunt is likely to be is more than a matter of simple convenience, it can genuinely be a question of life and death. Every year in France there are casualties with people accidentally shot by trigger-happy or badly-sighted hunters.

Some are freak accidents, such as the death of a driver killed by a bullet that rebounded off a boar, but the majority of them are hunters shooting at people they have mistaken for game.

READ ALSO How to get through France's hunting season without being shot

Facilities

Carrie Sadler in Vienne said: "It’s not really a gripe, just something to get used to and that is not having all of the groceries available locally that I was used to being able to get before. I have learned to adapt though and would far rather have this rural life."

Dina Junkermann said: "There's not a huge range of professionals to choose from (doctors and especially dentists, notaires).

"Also there's been a demise of many businesses - when we bought our house 12 years ago, there were two restaurants, a bar, an epicerie and a garage in our village. Now there is only one restaurant."

Barbara Crawford in Occitanie in the south west added that she found it difficult to find doctors and dentists in her local area.

The problem of finding healthcare in rural areas is one the affects many French people who live in so called 'medical desserts' - places where there is a severe lack of health services.

The nature of France's health system means that doctors are essentially self employed and so choose where to work - unlike in the UK where each area is allocated a certain number of health professionals based on the local population.

This has left some areas of France with very poor provision, meaning people have to travel for many miles to see a doctor, something the government is attempting to rectify with a new healthcare reform.

And while great for retirees, the countryside does suffer for a lack of employment opportunities.

Richard Hince who lives in Finistère in Brittany says that finding a way of making a living is his biggest challenge.

READ ALSO The jobs you can do if you live in deepest rural France

The positives

But while there are challenges to the rural lifestyle, all of our country-dwelling readers were adamant that they wouldn't have it any other way, with people waxing lyrical about the relaxed lifestyle, the incredible beauty of the French countryside and the warm welcome that most people have received from their neighbours.

Brian Reid who lives in the Aube in northern France said: "We have conviviality, peace and a lot of land.

"Plus brilliant neighbours; it's a two minute walk to the boulangerie but I allow myself 30 mins to pick up bread as everybody I meet stops to talk after the mandatory four bises or handshake.

"I love the sound even during the night of neighbours' cockerels, dogs and especially the pigeons and turtle doves cooing to wake me in the morning. The dawn chorus is wonderful as we are surrounded by woods."

He added: "The only challenge I can think of is being invited in for an apéro when I have a meal cooking on the stove and have to decline."

Stephanie Sheldon said: "I love the feeling of belonging. Neighbours expect to give help if you need it."

Anne McLean loves "the peace, the pace of life and the feeling of escape from the rat race" although she admitted to feeling embarrassed by "the awful Brits who won’t learn French and do not attempt to understand French culture".

Claire Casson likes the traditional life and the friendliness of her neighbours while Dina Junkermann said: "We value the quiet beauty of the countryside, and the community feel of the village."

She added: "We often look at each other in amazement and say 'We live here!"

READ ALSO La France Profonde - is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey. All your comments contributed to this article, even though we weren't able to include each one.

 

 

 
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Boggy - 01 Aug 2019 15:35
Have these people never lived in the countryside before? It's the same if one lived in the countryside in the UK. The biggest problem today is lack of coverage for mobile phones and broadband.
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