Expat Magazine

French Living – Quelle Difference?

By The Contender @The__Contender

French Living – Quelle Difference?

View of the local Cathedral from our Garden

Monsieur l'ail: "Bienvenue la France!"
CoNTeNDeR: "ail ail ail what is this guy saying? Can I get some garlic, cheese, a baguette and beer une bouteille de vin please?
In this post we are going to have a look at the short term implications our downshifting: 
  1. Media Blackout - being offline for several weeks.
  2. Settling in our new house and surroundings
  3. Financial Independence Implications - French budget vs London Budget
  4. A look at the garden and some of the wildlife - saving money by growing some of our own food?
Media Blackout
Our little tribe is now settled in our rental property in France and have Internet access.
Having been offline for several weeks we have avoided all the mass media's doom, gloom, death, celebrity behaving badly and sport related distractions. This has been refreshing to really focus our minds on what is important and real in our lives. What is within our circle of influence - home, family, community and friends.
It may be nice to disconnect however this could be dangerous - being ignorant of the wider world around us. There are BIG world problems that can easily come knocking (for instance a US default on its debt and the European austerity drive causing large unemployment in its youth population) on our door that we need to pay attention to.
Now we are able to keep tags on the 'real' news from the blogs and websites we follow the 'blackout' we have had is a reminder that taking everything in moderation is important to us. Perhaps less time reading (read browsing not real reading of a novel for instance) and more time spent doing is the order of the day.
Why not trying to turn off the TV and internet for a whole week (we have now ditched our TV completely). What important information and from what source was really missed over this time?
Settling in
Our rental property is much bigger than the terraced box we had in London. In addition it has a massive garden with lots and lots of fruit and nut trees, two rows of vines and a large vegetable patch.
We have some very nice neighbours. All very polite, keen to make friends. All hard working Gascon families that have to survive the high taxation French system whilst enjoying the benefits of excellent facilities and health care.
We have already participated in Rugby training. Our eldest daughter took a little while to get going but we could not hold back our just turned two year old. She was awesome.
As ever in France the facilities are exceptional.
French Living – Quelle Difference?

The French Countryside Budget vs The London Budget
Over the past couple of weeks we have been updating our French budget based on real utility costs, food and fuel bills. Here a a few initial observations:
  • The house only needs wood heating in the winter months as it has double glazing throughout
  •  It will have a utility bill that is at least a third cheaper than London
  • We can easily grow a lot of food to reduce our shopping bill further. French food is generally fresher as you get it from the local market instead of the food that is transported over vast distances to the supermarket
  • The rent is half the price from what we paid in London

UK France Diff To UK % Diff to UK Total

Electricity $48 $79 $31 0.91%

Gas / Wood $88 $84 -$4 -0.11%

Water $51 $27 -$23 -0.69%

Local Tax $181 $136 -$45 -1.32%

Rent $2,160 $917 -$1,243 -36.59%

Internet $40 $37 -$3 -0.10%

Education Fees $0 $87 $87 2.56%

Car Insurance $53 $54 $1 0.03%

Fuel / Train $138 $239 $102 2.99%

Food $592 $544 -$48 -1.41%

Miscellaneous $48 $41 -$7 -0.21%

Totals $3,398 $2,245 -$1,153

Note 1: The difference in the cost of housing from the city to the countryside is astounding considering the country house is bigger and more comfortable. We will be spending more on transport and education.
Note 2: This is a look at the spending side of living in France. What has not been looked at is the taxation side when we have had a chance to get our head around it. Social tax payable on income is 15.5%. Income tax is paid above certain thresholds.
This will be looked at in more detail in a later post to consider the full picture of expenditure and taxation.
So far so good – any downsides?
French Living – Quelle Difference?
  • The significant cost of changing country has reduced our savings by $7,880. One off costs are:
    • Removals 
    • New Washing Machine
    • Garden Tools 
    • New Utility Contracts
    • New plugs, water filters etc
  • We no longer have a salary to rely on - time will tell if this is freedom or a dumb idea :)
  • More work to maintain the garden – fortunately for us we perceive this as a good thing as we will have work hard outdoors.
  • Driving to the shops and the school. These used to be on foot and now we have a short car ride (3 km) to the supermarket and local town. 
  • Our outgoings are higher than our current income due to the rent! We are on the lookout for a property to buy in the next 6-12 months which will tilt the monthly budget in our favour.
Renting the house
We are still renting. This is still a significant cost compared to owning our own home outright. $916 per month is flowing out of our bank account. We don't like this but it is a necessary step.
It is easy to gather from this blog that our little Tribe is not big fan of renting.
We believe house prices have been manipulated higher than "normal" historical levels of affordability. We again believe this is an aberration of our times because of the monetarisation of the western economies. We used to make stuff and people were workers and producers now we rely on financial services AKA theft. This is truly for the benefit of the few real 'owners' of the financial system.

French Living – Quelle Difference?

Financial Liberation? Source: http://sophismata.files.wordpress.com

Would the average man want to be able to by the average house for two times his earnings to leave lots of disposable income or just hand it over to the banks? They are the entities that really gain from  from high house prices.

French Living – Quelle Difference?

Original Source Nationwide - Note the long run average includes the bubbles!
Taken From 2012 Monevator Article

Sure if you own your house it goes up in value. What about the next generation? Will our generation have to take out home equity loans to help them become mortgage slaves because house prices are kept artificially high? THE.CoNTeNDeR is not happy!
He does not want his children to be come one of the millions of mortgage slaves paying for the excessive living costs of the 'owners'.
Here are a couple of spreadsheets from this blog to look at the costs of buying a property and the effects it can have on Financial Independence goals:
Early Retirement with a Mortgage? Analysis of buying versus renting - Free Tool!You Can't Take It With You - Free Tool! – Financial time line planner
To whit we are still caught with the problem of "overpriced housing" or "renting". Although we are dealing with the pain of renting we are hoping it will give us more leverage for a better price when buying a property.
Working the garden
Hornets and Wasps in the Fig Trees and two big nests to boot! Us poor city folk who do not have to contend with hornets. These flying battle ships are something to marvel at and definitely something we do not want to annoy.
French Living – Quelle Difference?

The great thing about renting is that we are getting free guidance and demonstrations by the landlord on how to deal with these pests. Something new every day.

French Living – Quelle Difference?

Clearing Those Pesky Wasps

French Living – Quelle Difference?

Our Happy Cat - Space!

Our Downshifting Challenge
We did not need all the the consumer products to be happy. Sure we had fun down the years but the distractions were expensive. They were creating consumer habits and guiding us away from producer habits, locking us into an expensive way of life that kept us on the treadmill.
If we all downshift a little we would still be able to have fun and have more time to enjoy the fun. Work a little and live a lot. We are less rushed as we would have time to complete day to day activities.
We now use a manual lawnmower - harder work, slower but some exercise, time to reflect and not wasting the world precious energy resources and polluting the environment.
We can enjoy more long sociable lunches instead of re-fuelling at the sandwich and coffee bar.
Time and slowing down, simplifying our lives - will this make us happier? THE.CoNTeNDeR would like to think so ;)
Peace, prosperity and happiness
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