It is very surprising that many British ex-patriates living in France don’t speak French. We really don’t know how they manage. Although there are English speaking Web call centres for some of the utilities, it is inevitable that it becomes necessary to communicate with somebody in French.
Phill took French lessons while still in London and got to an intermediate level. Since moving to France we have spent a lot of time int the UK on business and there has been little reason to speak French other than to waiters and shop assistants. In May, while living in Montpellier, we wanted to go to our favourite Thai restaurant called Art Mango which closes for several months during Winter when the owner goes to Thailand to buy furniture. We went there and it still wasn’t open so we went to the restaurant next door called Il Mercato. It was a Tuesday evening and we discovered an organisation called Go Lingo. They do English and French evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a Spanish and French evening on Wednesdays. The idea is that you register for an evening on their Web site. You register with them between 1900 and 1930 and get a voucher for a free drink. The evening starts at 1930 where each native English speakers are paired with a native French speaker. We speak in one language for 8 minutes and then a gong is sounded and we switch to the other language. After a further 8 minutes the organiser switches all of the partners. Typically you speak to 5 people in an evening.
Phill signed up to Go Lingo and has been 9 times during may and June. It has been fantastic. His confidence in speaking French has improved a lot. He has learned a lot from the people he has spoken to. It is also a great way of improving vocabulary. If you don’t know the word for something you just ask! It is a good idea to arrive early at 1900. That way you get to speak to people before the event starts. Having moved into our property in Marseillan, we decided to go to Montpellier a night out. We booked a cheap hotel so that we could stay the night. Steve went to Go Lingo for the first time on 25 June 2015. Although he doesn’t speak much French he had a good evening and met some interesting people. Phill had a really useful conversation with a guy about French electricity regulations. We finished the evening with a lovely Thai meal at Art Mango.
The French regulations governing electric wiring, gas installations and sewage are an issue when buying a property in France. It is OK for an old house not to conform to regulations. When you buy a property it is the new owner’s obligation to make the installations conform to current regulations.
The electric wiring in our property is downright dangerous. Wires appear out of walls and disappear into adjacent walls. Most power sockets are 2 pin and there is no earth connection. There are far too few sockets. Apparently a living room should have 5 power outlets. The water heater doesn’t work either. This is OK in the hot Summer weather when a cold shower is rather welcome.
We got an electrician in, via the estate agent, to quote for new wiring and heating. His quote was a staggering €18,000. He must use gold wires!
We also have 5 rather large pine trees in the garden. We got a tree surgeon in via the estate agent. His quote was a staggering €7,500.
We found a site called “Find a Trade in France” where you can post a job and several local tradespeople can then send in a quote. We will get at least 3 quotes before parting with any money.
There is quite a lot of work which needs to be done before we can start operating as a guest house. Now we need to prioritise the work and get the urgent things done as soon as possible.
There was a 6 week wait after signing the compromis de vente. The Notaire has to do some checks and the Mayor need to have first refusal to purchase. During this time the mortgage offer needed to be obtained. We also needed to obtain mortgage and property insurance. The completion can’t take place without it. When it came to buildings insurance Britline came to the rescue. They were most efficient.
Everything seemed to happen at the last minute. There were several missing documents including the all important 30 page Acte de Vente which we didn’t see until two days before completion. Finally everything was in place.
We went to the Notaire’s office on 19 June 2015. The previous owners and the agents were there too. He was running late so we had to wait 20 minutes. We finally went in and the Notaire read through the Acte de Vente and then all parties had to initial and sign the document. The keys were then ours!
We went to the agent’s and drank a glass of bubbles to celebrate. We then went to the property. The previous owners were there removing stuff! Not that we wanted it. One of them asked if she could have the lights…