STEVE AND CAROLE IN VENCE

A One Year Update From Carole

August 21, 2020

If you’ve read our About page you’ll know that Carole wasn’t as excited about moving to France as I was. This has always been my dream, not hers. It took me over 25 years to convince her to move to France and even then with more than a little reluctance. I think it’s important to share stories like ours because not every couple that moves to France (or any other foreign country) are in complete agreement about the enormous changes that they are embarking upon. That can add even more difficulties and complexities to something that is already very challenging in many ways.

I don’t take any of this for granted. I know that my wife made a huge, life altering move for one reason and one reason alone: me. I do everything I can to make her as happy as possible, to smooth things out when I can, to take her on adventures I think she’ll like. But, at the end of the day I always remember that she gave up a life in the U.S. that she was perfectly happy with so that I could live my dream. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.

As most of you reading these articles have probably figured out by now, I (Steve) do all of the writing. Carole reads the articles and sometimes offers me advice and insights, but the website is my doing and she’s fine with that. She is pretty active on Facebook though and belongs to a lot of groups that deal with Americans and other “foreigners” living and retiring in France. When someone posted in the group “American’s Retiring in France” asking if anyone regretted retiring in France (and if so, why?) Carole posted the following that I thought might be of interest to some of you.

Carole at the Fête de la Transhumance in Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée
Carole at the Fête de la Transhumance in Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, a few weeks after we moved to France.

From Carole:

“Someone pointed out that most of these responses are positive. I’m guessing most of these people chose to move here. So here’s the viewpoint of someone who did not want to move. Nothing against France. I like France fine to visit, but I liked my life, friends, job, home in Nashville. I had my own plans for what I’d do (in the U.S.) with my time when I stopped working.

“Finally giving in to my husband’s life long dream to live in France, we made the move at his usual breakneck speed. (I think he was afraid I’d change my mind.) In 4 months we both quit our jobs, sold two cars, sold our home of 18 years, found and made the promise to buy an apartment in France and sold almost all of our belongings except for twenty boxes / suitcases.

“Most people think, what a romantic adventure! Well, I guess it is that, but it’s also a lot of work and stress. During the first 6-8 months here in France I had a number of meltdowns and murder was threatened more than once. (But my husband is still alive, folks.)

“So many things are different in this country and culture – some good, some not so much, some both. And of course, these will vary depending on whether you move to a village or big city, which part of the country, how much money you have, if you’re still working or retired, have children or not, etc.

Carole Richmond at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Carole and our friend Gloria at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, May 2020.

“The French do not seem as money driven as the U.S., they take their time to take care of you and get to the next customer, businesses close for long lunches and do not stay open late – good except when you’re trying to get something done quickly. And do not move during Europe’s vacation month of August, as we did! Then it’s exceptionally difficult to get anything done.

“The biggie of course, is the language. My husband had been studying in preparation for his dream, but he is still not what you’d call fluent. I, in my resistance, did not learn any. (I showed “them”!) Learning a new language is a lot of work and I had not planned on all of this work in my retirement! However, the lack of the language has caused many of my frustrations and difficulties.

“As a gardener, many of the plants are different. Even different breeds of dogs here.

“More differences you need to adapt to are:

  • Money is in Euros
  • Time is in 24 hours rather than 12 – 14h30
  • Month & day is reversed in dates – 25/08/20
  • Temp is in Centigrade rather than Fahrenheit – 0 C = 32 F
  • Measurements are in metric, which effects so many things – distances, cooking, weights, clothing sizes, gas, etc.
  • Small shops rather than Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. I like that it’s not so cookie cutter like the US, except when you’re trying to furnish an entire home. Even Amazon France has much less selection than Amazon U.S.
  • Property purchase takes an average of 3 months to close rather than 30 days in the U.S.
  • It can be difficult for Americans to open a French bank account and/or obtain a loan due to FATCA.
  • Credit cards are considered a negative, they use debit cards.
  • No FICO score in France and is of little importance to anyone here.
  • Renting a home can be difficult for older American retirees due to the protections meant to protect you, but they can work against you.
  • Lots of bureaucratic red tape for us immigrants for obtaining visas, national health cards, drivers licenses, etc. Although, I’m sure it’s true for moving to the US, also.

“All that being said, there are so many good things here – in our town of Vence, the people have been so welcoming and helpful (expats and natives), the climate is more temperate (I lived in MN, TX, TN), healthcare is universal & less expensive, food is fresh and less processed, we’re able to walk most places. And France has a sane president!

Carole Richmond in Peïra Cava.
Carole and our friends Sally and Sanna in Peïra Cava, December 2019.

“I do miss my friends & family, some foods, good music, my larger home on a wooded acre (we chose an apartment in old town), but considering the state of the U.S., I have to say I’m glad to be here this year.

“After being in France only one year, if my France loving husband weren’t in the picture for some reason, would I stay? Hmm. I would probably go back to the U.S. (Depending on the election results.) But… who knows.”

12 thoughts on “A One Year Update From Carole

  1. Wow Carole …..What a giving wife you are …I have a husband just like you who would give up everything to live my dream …which of course would be to live in Nice …not that we are City people ..far from it ….For me the best of both worlds …Being Hikers and Photographers it is ..The sea…Playa de Anglais..the coastal paths ..hill villages .. but mainly the mountains …but family needed us ..so our dream is on hold ……for now …….You are one brave and wonderful wife ….but hubby must be worth it ……….Love it ..thank you …

    1. Yes, aren’t I, though? And it’s true, I wouldn’t have done it if he weren’t such a good guy. Plus, he does know he owes me big time! Vence is not far from Nice, a year round functioning town, but smaller. I understand family commitments. I told Steve I wouldn’t leave the country as long as my mom was still alive. And then, ha, she lived to almost 99! Good luck with your dream –

  2. I love reading Carole’s perspective too. The pros and cons are so practical – living there is much different than a visit but one of the upsides is to be able to enjoy these glorious side trips you’re doing! Thanks so much for sharing your journeys with us. I’m coming to see you when traveling is easier! (what are the different dog breeds? curious to hear about that….)

    1. Kelly, I don’t know what they all are. Many of the same breeds, of course, but also several shepherds, including Belgian, many Griffons, herding dogs like patois (Great Pyrenees) and Beauceron. I think French bulldogs might be the most popular.

  3. Congratulations! I know it’s a huge decision Carole, and I know the trials and travails of relocation. Vence was home for me for a number of years and I also moved there from Tennessee (at least that last time). What other expats have you met in Vence? I live in the Smokies (near Knoxville) but I would move back in a heartbeat. You will learn to love the region even more with time. Being in Vence is so different from Nice and Antibes, Vallauris, places I have lived before. The life, I think, is suitable. Have you met some of the folks from England and Nordic countries who live in Vence as well?

  4. Oh, the Smokies are so beautiful. What town are you in? And when did you live in Vence? We’ve met a lot people here! We’re actually more social here than we were in the US. That’s probably due to my being retired (although Steve still works remotely) and that many of us are establishing new lives and friendships. So far we have friends are from the US, Canada, Scotland, England, Sweden, Germany, and of course, France.

  5. I have to comment because I had almost the same experience as you, Carol. My husband moved us to Paris in 2002. I knew about 100 words of French. We bought a small apartment and had to furnish it from zero. We used the box from the washer/dryer as a table for quite awhile. We ended up staying for 15 years. We returned to the US because my husband was very sick. By the time we returned, I’d learned French, made many friends, worked and loved everything about France. I was sad to leave and I hope to get back once this pandemic is over. So, it was as much of a shock to return to the US as it was to go to France in the first place. Enjoy your time, it is such a wonderful experience that most people don’t get to experience

  6. Hi Carole,
    It is always so good to get both sides of a “story.” My wife (dual US/Italian) and I lived in Italy for a year returning to the US in 2018. We are once again considering moving to the EU. And since my wife speaks passable French, we are giving serious consideration to France. And as I am an avid biker I am reading with great enthusiasm Steve’s biking entries.

    I give you get credit for being such a wiling partner in this upending, life-altering, game-changing decision.

    Keep us informed of how you are doing and how life is treating you there in Vence.
    Jim

  7. Hi JIm,
    I’m glad you like our stories.
    Where are you in the US?
    And where do you think you might move to in France?

Hey, we'd love to hear from you, leave us a comment!

Steve and Carole in Vence