I was first sent in France by my mum when I was 12 with no French and, in the bathroom, there was a bidet. I had never seen one before. Cripes, I thought, no one told me French people’s digestive systems are different. What shall I do? I just had not understood that the WC was outside so spent an uncomfortable first three days… but when I returned to the UK I could speak French and I could cook as the host mother was a fabulous cook. I owe her a great deal.
We moved to France with my husband after we got married, and ended up opening a now award winning French school in Rouen – the city we spent our first night of our first ever holiday abroad together. My husband died in 2014, but I stayed to ensure that what we started continues to grow.
My first time in the UK was in 1968, aged 17. As soon as I set foot in London, I just knew it: the city was waiting for me, with the sound of the Swinging Sixties in the air, Mary Quant's mini-skirt, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Herman Hermitts, the Troggs, and so much more. I’ve now been living in London since 2009. I wanted to pick up my life where I left off, forty years after that first experience, and discover everything that London has to offer; eight years on, I’m still hungry to discover new things.
My wife and I moved to France as we had planned to on retirement.
When our car was broken into on holiday in Canet Plage, we went to the Tourist Office to ask to use their phone to call our insurance assistance. Before they closed they gave us all the spare cash they had in their pockets in case the money we were expecting later that evening did not arrive so we could have a meal. Beautiful people…
I think living in France as a Brit is about balance. We live in the wine growing area of Blaye and have embraced its traditions and customs, running a Gîte specializing in introducing visitors to the process of wine making. We are perfectly accepted locally: I am involved in French associations such as the Hermione as well as being Vice President of the local Photographic Club. But I also work for the Royal British Legion… and I still like my marmite!
Buying a house in France after finishing work in the UK was the best move my husband and I ever made. We enjoy the warmer climate, the slower pace of life, the culinary delights of the food and wine, the French customs. And what a magical feeling when you arrive in this beautiful country!
French people tend to guard their privacy in all aspects of their lives and to guard themselves to any outsiders, but once they get to know you and you have gained their trust and respect, then you have a good friend or neighbour you can count on for life.
My husband and I have hosted the annual Fete Du Voisins at our French home the last two years and it's been a great success both years. It’s really enabled us to form a close bond here with our French neighbours. Wish they had something similar for neighbours in the UK!
I think I can say without exaggeration that I totally fell in love with the UK and the British people. Spending one month at Oxford for a summer internship, I have learned that the British reserve, that some people here in France see as coldness, actually hides a great kindness and generosity, something that has warmed my heart very much towards British people. The evening strolls I took in Christ Church Meadow, watching the sunset on Oxford, these moments of peace are amongst the best - and most relaxing - memories in my life. I plan to come back as soon as I find an academic position as this is where I feel most at home: it's like the British way of life has been created just to fit me and my personality.
I first moved to France when I was 26, because I wanted to learn French… and I have now been living here for 20 years!
I stayed because I found a good job with a French company. When I started, I was the only English person there and I had to learn the language the hard way - evening classes at the Sorbonne and being forced to speak French.
At the time I did not realise my family's link with France was going back 300 years! My Great Grandfather was a French Naval Commander who married a British woman, and was naturalized British by Sir Winston Churchill, my grandfather was instrumental in the French Resistance, and one of my ancestors worked directly for Napoleon.
Although we are very similar and the links are entwined very deeply, I have learnt that patience and understanding is needed from both parties to understand each other.
Long story short, I moved to France after I met my french partner Jean-Pierre on a boat travelling between Cyprus and Greece. We live near Nantes. I love the vineyards and the Loire, and I fitted in very well. In fact, I was one of the founding members of the Centre Culturel France-Britannique in Nantes where for a time I was the only native English speaker! French was not my best subject at school, but becoming bilingual was an incredible experience, opening up a whole new cultural world: making French friends, discovering French literature etc. Once able to join in conversations, I discovered the joy of spending hours around the table eating, drinking wine and talking -- often complaining – about the state of the country… but proud of being French.
When I chose “A”-level French at school, I never imagined that I would end up married to a Frenchwoman and living in France. Indeed, university led to the UK's Scientific Civil Service. However, linguistic skills later allowed me to undertake two different secondments to Paris. After many years working for the UK government, a restructuration programme allowed me to stay on in France. I have now worked 10 years for a scientific agency of the French government, again deploying my linguistic skills – the English ones.
Besides marriage, other memorable moments have included attending the 90th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of the Somme - my paternal grandfather had been badly wounded on the first day of the Battle. One of his brothers was tragically killed in November 1918, near the Franco-Belgian border, and I made an emotive visit to a military cemetery there. A much happier occasion was at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, for the inauguration of a square named after the Duke of Connaught.
Living in France has changed my entire worldview – and for my French family too!
A big rock'n'roll fan from a very early age, my main influence about the UK lies in three legendary words: British Rock Bands. As a teen, I used to translate all the lyrics of most Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin songs. Despite the fact my mum is English, that was my dad who got me into it as he was a guitarist himself, and I got involved into playing music from then on. Today I do it as a job and I ended up in a band with a British celtic rock singer who is now my partner for 6 years: that goes to show how far my passion took me!
In plenty of occasions I travelled the UK and appreciated how cosmopolitan the country is. From learning the language to meeting and even sharing houses with all those different people coming from many foreign countries goes to prove how open the UK is to the world.
I moved to France to complement my doctoral research and finally adopted the country. This is where I learnt how to live, where I found myself, and where I made my career.
Not only do French people enjoy good food and good wine: everything is an art in this country.
My wife Gillian and I and her daughter's family came to France in 2006. It all started as the familiar desire to run a Chambre d'Hôte in a farm that we had bought, but our ambitious project soon led us to open the business as an hotel.
When we arrived, my wife Gillian was in remission after three years of cancer treatment. As the disease finally returned, the full might of the French health system swung into action. One could not be more impressed with the care that she received from all the doctors and nurses at the centres she used. Unfortunately, after a valiant fight against the disease, Gillian finally succumbed. The dedication of the French medical personnel was summed up by the visit I received afterwards from our local GP, who was visibly upset by their "failure", and apologised for not saving her.
My decision to come to live in Paris, 27 years ago, came to me suddenly and with real urgency while I dined on a boat on the Seine. It was a warm May evening, and I fell in love with Paris as I admired the beautifully lit buildings and bridges, as we glided down the river.
Since childhood and its many holidays in different parts of France, I had always had a fascination with France, the French and the French language – so I knew it was where I must live.
If there is one thing I have learned after all these years in a very French environment, it is that there exists a real " art de la conversation" which is still today very much at the heart of their social life.
I should probably say that my best memory of moving to Paris is meeting my now husband in a bar, two weeks after I arrived in Paris! While meeting the man of my life is definitely a 'perk' of moving to Paris, one of my favourite memories is from when I had been living here for about 6 months. It was when I was velib'ing across town from a bar to a club with some new friends in the middle of the night, laughing so hard, that I realised how lucky I was to have this experience and how living in another country was going to open my life to so many new and happy opportunities.
My best experience in France was being a tour guide. After studying French and History in Paris for 3 years, it was my first post-university job. Although I was working on touristic sites that I had visited myself so many times before, introducing Paris to tourists was a great way of reliving my own first experiences of the city. Nevertheless, I have learned that sometimes you just have to go back home for British comfort food even if you live next to a Marks and Spencers in Paris.
My best memory is arriving in London as a young girl (I was 20) after having found a job, more than 35 years ago when French people were rare in that town...I only had a suitcase, and an address for a shared house... I must have been very brave ;-) When I was born my parents were working for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Paris, I guess Great-Britain and its history were part of my life from a very early age. Arriving in London was the fulfilment of a dream, without any doubt. My love story with the UK and the English started when I was very young and has never faded, even though I am nearly 58 years old. I must be one of the rare French persons who love everything about the British ;-) and most of all their sense of humour and the way they live their everyday lives.
I remember vividly the evening when I decided I would relocate to Paris. I was sitting on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin on a warm summer evening, hearing accents from all around the world, exchanging conversation over picnics of cheese and wine and being invited by strangers to join them. Having always wanted to live and work in France, I had the opportunity to join a law firm in Paris at age 24 and snapped up the chance to move to the city. The years that followed were the happiest of my life. I became fluent in French, explored the city's numerous (and delicious!) markets, drank in the rich culture of the many museums and galleries, went on weekend trips to ancient towns, relaxing beaches and vibrant cities. I always felt welcomed by the people I met, some of whom became lifelong friends.
When I lived in France, I was always the 'Scottish' or 'British' one when referred to by my French friends. Despite growing up in France, I truly identified with my British heritage, and my yearly visits to Scotland reinforced this feeling of belonging. On the other hand, never did I feel more French than when I moved to the UK. It was as if some invisible umbilical cord clung to me from the other side of the Channel. I'm now the 'French guy' in any social group, and feel a particular fondness for French language and culture whenever I remember my country or meet French people. I still appreciate the UK because it has a particular charm which I find both novel and deeply nostalgic. It's really a love brewed by contrast!
I first came to London when I was 22, and I had no idea I would end up building my life here. I have now been living in London for 16 years. I met my British filmmaker wife at the Institut Francais, I was then working as programmer of the Ciné Lumière. It is a very romantic story but I am not going to give you the details here: just the fact that it's thanks to Catherine Deneuve that we met. I spent a lot of time promoting French cinema in the UK. Le Monde did a portrait of me in 2009 and the title was "The Ambassador of French Cinema". Although I am very French in spirit, with respect to certain traditions, I feel like I am a Londoner now. 20 years ago, I was immediately fascinated by this country and its people. The Beatles did the rest, and I fell in love with London. It's my place, and I still love it. Good bread is now the thing I miss the most.
I have the privilege of meeting some very interesting people in my job from Presidents of France past and present, to film stars and the everyday people who make the country work. Organising the funeral for the policeman who was shot on the Champs Elysées earlier this year was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. Without talking about the grass being greener on the other side, I’ve realised that England has a lot to offer on all fronts, whether it be landscape, culture, history to name but a few. I grew up in West Yorkshire, its moors, Bronte landscape and grit. I still miss it every day, but listen to BBC Radio Leeds everyday where my friend Liz Green presents her Breakfast Show.
I love the way French people greet everyone with'Bonjour' or shake hands in a bar, or say 'Bonjour Madame' in the supermarket. I like the pride the French have in their environment, lack of rubbish on the streets and their welcoming manner to their fetes and festivals. I liked the instant neighbourliness when I bought my first 'Maison Secondaire' (second home) and this has continued in the village where I now live.
I moved to London after I graduated because I was petrified to have to look for a job and start the ‘serious’ boring part of my life. As a vibrant, tolerant, creative city, London provided the adventure playground I was looking for. I initially set-off for two months with the aim to brush up on my English and 20 years and a marriage to an Englishman later still haven't made it back.
I will always remember my time working as a bartender in a pub, a temporary job I started the very day after I arrived. I had never come across such a successful melting pot of cultures, social classes, colours, religions, generations etc. – a diversity well reflected in the wonderful English language with all its versatility. It certainly blew my little French provincial mind away!
My best memory is the Tour de France coming past our house! From then on, I've always followed the Tour and the last two years I've cycled out to it from where I live with my younger brother who visits for it. This year I finished my ride at the top of the col de Ares with him, my son and two friends. Something I never dreamed I could do.
To get promoted at the restaurant where I worked in Paris, you needed to be bilingual or wait for the chef de rang to pop his clogs so I came to the UK to learn English. A recent great honour was being chosen to represent The Cook from The Canterbury Tales on the plinth of the new bronze statue of Chaucer in the middle of Canterbury. An anonymous customer paid £5,000 for this and I was shocked and delighted to be there for many many years to come.
Swimming the Channel is without doubt one of the greatest challenges on the planet both mentally and physically. But you learn that very ordinary people can allow themselves to have the most incredible and unbelievable dreams and make them come true. Nothing great is easy, but very often it is possible. It is achievable and sport is a wonderful passport to friendships.
I have lots of fond memories of France, which started with my parents bringing me to Paris for my 10th birthday. I remember being stunned by the beauty of the country. We came back every summer after that: fantastic memories of baguettes, pain au chocolat and sunny, sandy beaches!
I moved here just before the 2012 elections with my French boyfriend (now husband). We were at Solférino for the announcement of Hollande's win - I watched in amazement like an outsider looking in from the sidelines. 5 years, one wedding, 3 house moves, two children and another general election later, I feel like part of the gang!
This is the third time I have moved back to Paris now. I may say it in jest to friends and family, but Paris seems to draw me back each time I leave. You can have days where everything seems grey, gloomy and you yourself play the role of a grumpy parisian, you "râle" it's raining, you're late, people are in your way, the metro is busy....but then you catch a little glimpse of Sacre Cœur in the distance, you turn a corner, forgetting you're near the Eiffel Tower and then get goosebumps when you see her.
The United Kingdom gave me the chance to realize one of my biggest dreams: creating my own company, an online marketplace that helps EU students/graduates find a job opportunity abroad.
Living in the UK made me realize that, even though we are really close geographically, our cultures are very different. I do not always get my British friends’ jokes, I often don’t know what they really think, and I still don’t understand why they drink tea with milk – but what matters is that they are always happy to live life. Don't be afraid to meet all your team in a pub at 5pm!
To be given the opportunity to move to the south of France and to work within an incredible ITER project in the field of fusion science was a dream come true for a young researcher like me . Living in Aix-en-Provence has been really exciting, and the fact that a cemetery from the 15-17th centuries was recently discovered outside my apartment, turning it into an archaeological site, is something that I am sure I will never forget.
In the early 80s, after I started work, I visited a friend in Paris for a week. Every day I took the bus along a beautiful tree-lined avenue with buildings built from stone. I imagined what it would be like to live there, never thinking it would ever be possible. Today, I live on that same avenue!
I moved to London for the amazing energy the city has. You can feel it at every moment - the city literally resonates.
My most memorable experience in France has to be a 1000-mile road trip my wife (then girlfriend) and I took after we graduated. We surfed, camped and ate our way around Brittany, driving a 40-year old British Reliant Scimitar that could not have been less suitable. The heating permanently on, the car would only do 50mph on the autoroutes and we spent half our budget on fuel. But it was definitely worth it because everywhere we went, the French were eager to speak to us crazy Brits in our ridiculous car.
Being a Brit in France one has the best of both worlds. My children, having been born here, love living in the French countryside and then hopping on the Eurostar to visit family back in London. Having gone through the excellent French schooling system up to the Bac, they will study at University in the U.K. Now that really is the best of both worlds.
It is my late father's experience that stays with me most. He was in hospital with a French man (Pierre). Neither of them spoke each other’s language but somehow they got along wonderfully and had a lot of laughs using a dictionary. When they both left the hospital they met every week and became very close. Pierre would bring gifts for my mum and when he became so ill that he couldn't leave his house he used catalogues to continue to send presents for us all. My father went to see him every week until Pierre passed away. Language and nationality separated them, but could not keep them apart.
I moved because I fell in love with France, in the way that I'm in love with my home country of Wales. I moved because I couldn't stand a life that wouldn't be straddled between the two. Because when I travel across the Channel, either way, I'm going home.
When I left the UK at the age of 30, I could arguably have gone to the USA, Italy or the Middle East but chose Paris. I found myself on the steepest of learning curves but managed to survive, a feat of which I am proud. Integrating into a foreign culture is a process of self discovery. As for me, I have my Parisian wife, 4 children, my law practice, good friends and I am a truly settled. But I do admittedly miss great and inimitable English telly.
Coming out of the Pont de Neuilly metro station in 1992 when I first moved here and realising that I was in a city of 10 million people and I knew no-one and that I was going to have to do something about it.
Before I moved here I was incredibly nervous... I thought everyone would be proud and unhelpful. I couldn't have been more wrong. All the local people I've met have been kind and patient with me, coaching my terrible French. I realised I was basing my worries on stereotypes. I've made some wonderful friends – it doesn’t matter that some conversations are still basic...all you need is to share a laugh and a smile.
My best memory in France was my first-ever invitation from a friend to his family's country house. It was the first time I spent a weekend away with just French people. And no phone signal – instead we just ate, drank, laughed, talked, played games - and had a great time.
One of my best memories of my life in France is when, a few years ago, I was at dinner with some French friends. Half way through, I realised that I was no longer translating from French to English in my head. It dawned on me that I was thinking in French – it was the most incredible moment! I wanted to cry I was so happy! It felt like one door had closed and a hundred more had opened. It just clicked, then and there and I felt as though I was finally becoming a true Parisienne.
My most influential experience about UK is music I have discovered, very young; with David Bowie for example and many others: this has guided me in my life and given me happiness, creativity and freedom, not to mention historical and artistic events – the UK is a kind of lighthouse!
There is a huge emphasis on work/ life balance in France and the family is always priority, which appealed to us both. Oh and the food - did I mention the food?
It’s hard to look past the big moments that have moved the country. I arrived a few months before Hollande’s victory and I was there at Place de la Bastille that night. The optimism and exuberance was incredible! I was also here for the march after the Hebdo attacks. The solemn defiance of that day was awe-inspiring. It showed me that the French spirit of unity and freedom is as strong now as it’s ever been.
I’ve spent delightful springtime weeks exploring the rugged coast of Brittany, the rolling colza fields north of Paris, the Pyrenean mountainsides and the vineyards of Bordeaux, which is where I now live. Perched on the saddle of a bicycle is arguably the best way to visit France and to enjoy not only its wide open spaces, but also the countless small towns and villages that have managed to retain their own timeless heart and soul.
The French love the Brits: they enjoy our culture, our Queen, our humour - and even sometimes, our food!
I've learned that the French do have some misconceptions, especially about English food - but after they've tasted my cooking and baking, they soon change their minds.
When I started French lessons at the age of 11 in secondary school I was totally and utterly clueless. My parents were so desperate to help me scrape through my French O-level that they sent me on a French exchange. My French correspondent, Sophie, lived near Angers and we got on really well. Everything about France was so different and exotic - from the sign posts to the TV ads, from the pillow on the bed to the "carottes rapées" on my plate, from the socks people wore to the Orangina they drank. Needless to say, my French improved dramatically. As a result I got an “A” in my French O-level, continued to a degree in French, and ended up marrying a Frenchman and living in France - something my 11 year old self could never have imagined, and all thanks to that exchange.