In 2018, we spoke to Beth Nicholson, who had fulfilled a lifelong dream of living permanently in France by buying a beautiful home in the Charente. She told us how she’d safely bought during an economically volatile time, and what she hoped for from her new life. Today, we’re catching up with Beth to see how she’s enjoying her French life.
We hear that you’re very well settled into your life in France now! Could you remind us a little about what you bought and where?
I bought a lovely house in a village called Deviat in the middle of the countryside, with a large garden of about 2,000m2 – sometimes it seems like a park! I don’t think I would ever move within France. Here, I’m out of big towns and cities as much as I want to be, but I am in reach of them, should it ever come to the point where I miss them (which hasn’t happened yet!).
It’s been a year since we last spoke – sounds like the move’s been a resounding success?
The move is the best thing I ever did, because now I’ve got a house for the first time in my life that looks exactly how I want it and is exactly what I always imagined but could never get anywhere else.
The locals here are so very kind to me, especially because they know I’ve taken the leap of moving out here on my own. If I’m struggling doing anything in the house, then I can just go and ask any neighbour for help and they will willingly drop everything and come over and help me. They refuse to take anything in return for it!
I honestly cannot fault the community side of life here. Last summer, I had endless vegetables and sometimes even fish arriving at my door from my neighbours. They are so kind; they have vegetable plants and struggle to get it eaten so they just bring it around. I might go out and come back and find a crate of tomatoes on my windowsill.
One of the natural concerns for people moving overseas – whether it’s France or elsewhere – is managing money between two different countries. How have you found the financial aspect of moving out to a rural location abroad? Any surprises or aspects to keep in mind?
A lot of people come out here with a fair amount of cash behind them, normally the overflow from a property sale in the UK, but you should be careful with estimating how much it costs to live, to renovate and do things to your house and so on.
It’s hard to say whether the overall cost of living here – apart from property – is cheaper than the UK. Food does cost more than you think and, if your house is heated by oil, you really are dictated by the market.
One interesting thing is that people in France tend not to do credit cards and credit in general.
One interesting thing is that people in France tend not to do credit cards and credit in general. However, I will say that in a community like Deviat, you’ll generally be able to pay things in instalments, just because you know them and they know you. There’s no formal signup; you just split the cost in four and pay monthly.
We spoke before about how Smart had helped you to control the risk of currency fluctuation, especially as you were buying just before the BoE was or wasn’t going to hike rates. Are you still finding it useful working with a currency specialist now that you’ve moved over?
I am finding it wonderful. I originally did a forward contract, as you said, when I bought the house. I do spot contracts nowadays. I’m running a business here, called Kalitera, focused on helping business owners and people moving/living in France to achieve their goals, so I do still have transfer needs outside of daily life. I keep an eye on the markets and ring up when I need to. I normally go straight through to Jade, and we have a friendly chat and a laugh and that’s it, it’s done. It’s so simple and I just prefer being able to speak to someone on the phone – the moment you open your laptop and log on, it feels like work!
It’s so simple and I just prefer being able to speak to someone on the phone – the moment you open your laptop and log on, it feels like work!
Actually, I’ve recently been chased by all of the other currency transfer companies that I spoke to when I originally started talking to Smart. I haven’t heard from them the whole time I’ve been here and suddenly they’re contacting me, and, frankly, I went back and said I am using Smart Currency and I’m very happy with them so that will continue. A lot of other companies really do push a hard sale, which I don’t like.
Fantastic that it’s still going so well for you! What would your advice be for anyone thinking of following in your footsteps and moving abroad?
Plan in advance! I’m lucky because of my job in that I’m quite process-driven. It used to be that people were coming out on holiday, fallen in love in a week with the area, gone and seen a house and put an offer in on it. That’s really not the way to do it, because no matter how much you love somewhere, living there and holidaying there are two different things. There’s a lot of administration you need to plan for, financials, and ‘due diligence’.
Real life here is much more beautiful, colourful and joyful than my life ever was in the UK!
You see a lot of people come with the idea of ‘I want a house in the middle of nowhere, not near any people at all – I’ve had it with people!’ It’s very important that you come out here on a viewing trip to the areas you think you want to move to and spend some time here without pressure.
When you find the right place, you’ll know. For me, it was the house that determined where I live. My next steps are what you could call the ‘solidification of life ahead’. It sounds terribly serious, but it isn’t at all, because real life here is much more beautiful, colourful and joyful than my life ever was in the UK!