Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting on with the neighbours

A recent post on one of the French discussion forums concerns an English family who moved to a small village in France 'hoping for rural solitude'. They had in fact bought a derelict plot of land and spent the last two years building a house, and are now suffering hostility from the neighbours.

Perhaps not surprising, as they describe their activities as including long periods of using a mechanical digger, receiving deliveries of building supplies, keeping a noisy guard dog, erecting a seven-foot high surrounding hedge, and claiming they do not work during lunchtime or on Sundays! If it was a British person writing about a French family, doubtless they would have been labelled as neighbours from hell.

Much of the advice given in the replies to this post has included adopting a more conciliatory approach to the (French) neighbours, and trying to apreciate the situation from their point of view. Sadly, the original poster appears more ready to file a formal complaint for harrassment.

I think one can draw a number of lessons from this truly sad situation. One of which is clearly that you can not and will not find peace and solitude in a small French village, where typically everyone knows everyone else's business and new arrivals have to make a super-human effort to fit in and slowly become accepted. It is very much about contributing something to the overall life of the community.

If you are not prepared to do this, for whatever reason and it is entirely a personal choice, then it is perhaps wiser to settle in a larger, more cosmopolitan community, where your arrival and lifestyle will pass largely unnoticed. In many of the Mediterranean coastal resorts where I live, the original residents are used to the influx of seasonal visitors of virtually every nationality, and those who live here permanently tend to go about their affairs wihout attracting any particular interest. Friendships and connexions can be made but they are an option not an obligation.

Selecting your French property for either occasional or permanent use should take into account your personal preferences, and time is well spent in searching for the neighbourhood which suits your way of life and in which you will feel most comfortable.