May 7, 2008

Brownie Points

cesseras up the hill

Living in a small village of 400 people in the south of France has its advantages and its disadvantages.

  • everyone, and I mean everyone, knows your business
  • your neighbors always know if you're home or not - no hiding!
  • the épicerie owner knows if you have guests arriving by how many baguettes you buy on any given day
  • very slow tractor traffic
  • can feel like a ghost town in the winter when everyone is inside, shutters closed, huddled next to the fire
  • don't expect to run a quick errand to la Poste on the other side of the village without having to stop and talk to at least three people - a normal, 10 minute trip will take at least 30 minutes, so plan accordingly

  • the owner of the épicerie will let you take things home without paying because she knows where to find you
  • your neighbor the winemaker will deliver a case of his excellent Muscat Sec or Viognier right to your door
  • concerts at the church are a 30 second walk down the street
  • your neighbors (who know that you suck at gardening and take pity on you ) will leave lettuce, eggplant, green beans, fava beans, zucchini, cherries, apricots and tomatoes hanging in bags from your front door
  • the Poissonerie van on Thursday, the Poultry van on Wednesday, the Fruit and Vegetable van on Monday, the Pizza van Friday and Saturday nights
  • the mailman will deliver mail addressed to "Aunt Jenny, Our Village, FRANCE" - they must figure since it came from America, it must belong to les Américains
  • delivery drivers can pretty much ask anyone who we are and where to find our house
  • you can always have a quick snack of figs, which grow everywhere
  • your Mayor writes you a very nice, complimentary letter to the powers that be, in support of you becoming a French Citizen

Last time I was dealing with bureaucracy problems, I took Lemon Bars as a 'thank you' to the Mairie. I think this time some gooey, dark chocolate Brownies are in order.
Our Mayor deserves a giant Merci.

It's good to live in a small village.

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Pumpkin said...

I wish my village was more like yours then I may be happier living here.

My neighbors keep to themselves or some of the others try to meddle in my life. Actually, they try to make my life miserable.

Then, we have all the villagers that don't like outsiders including other French speaking Swiss. There are more of these than the rest. Many are very judgemental and close minded and can be rude to a point that I stand there in disbelief at what they just said to me.

It happens at least once a week but I don't blog about it each time. I only blog about the really bad ones that I get super steamed about like the village doctor post I just did.

I was completely happy in Strasbourg living in a quiet quarter that had a village feel without everyone knowing my business. I love my privacy. I have no patience for people that have nothing better to do than talk about everyone else.

Perhaps, it is my village and other villages are not so stereotypical. However, I am praying that I get a job in a city so that I don't have to live in another Swiss village again for the rest of my life. :)

But, I can understand where others love living in villages whereas I do not. :)

To each his own!

La Belette Rouge said...

In this cost/benefit ratio report it is obvious that there are more benefits than liabilities in living in your little village. Is there an old post of yours in which you explain how you chose the village you did?
p.s. I am in a state of fig envy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminders. Even in the short time I was in my village, all of the people were so nice. Well, accept that one creapy person.

Yes, gooey brownies.

Anonymous said...

I was amazed when I first visited France (a small village in the Dordogne) how important the Mairie is. Our friends told us when we move to france the first thing you do is go and introduce yourself to the Mairie. Congratulations on getting on his good side because I hear if you don't he can make your life miserable. Brownies...yummy.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I would love to live in your village. So friendly I can just imagine me cycling through there..

I think there is an advantage to people knowing you, ok wouldn;t like them too nosey...I would like to think that if they hadn;t seen me for a few days, they would knock and see if I was little neighbour who passed away, had a few callers not many and she had lived here for 28 years..

Oh yes your Mayor deserves some scrummy chocolate cake!! :-)

Jennifer said...

pumpkin pie
How sad that things there haven't worked out as you wished. I hope you settle in to another place where you feel more at home very, very soon!

la belette
no, I've not written how we found the village. It was very random and I'll have to write about it soon. I feel we got very lucky!
figs are like weeds here!

ah yes, the creepy man! If I see him I'll chase him with a hammer or something.

we did just that...within 2 months of moving in we made an appointment to say hello. If you don't have the Mayor on your side as a foreigner in France, you're going nowhere!

you would love the bicycle riding around here, other that the wind which makes it difficult sometimes.
Our neighbors would definitely know something was up if they didn't see us for several days (and if the car was still here)

Pumpkin said...

Thank you and I hope by the end of summer we find somewhere that 'fits' us better.

I am really happy that you have found a home that you are happy in.

Honestly, I will miss many of the small village perks.

I think that it is wonderful that you have found a community that has accepted you and supports you.

I have to admit that I miss France and the French culture even if life in Switzerland is nice.

Jennifer said...

pumpkin pie
I cannot imagine our experience of moving to and living in France had our neighbors been unfriendly and cold toward us. This little place has made the transition easy and we're so thankful for that!

Good luck finding your new place!

Betty Carlson said...

This is a great post -- something that could probably be developed and sold somewhere, BTW (cf. our conversation in Albi...)

I love how French postpeople deal with the vaguest of addresses!

Ken Broadhurst said...

I agree, this is a great post. Fortunately for us, it also corresponds to our experience. We found our village completely by accident, and we have been warmly received everywhere. Now the mayor is our neighbor two houses down, and she's great.

I'm so glad, Loulou, that the mayor wrote that letter for you. I think it will make a huge difference. Good for you.

Jennifer said...

Yes...good idea!

We were amazed when that letter arrived. La Poste can be very resourceful.

Good to hear another happy arrival story. We've heard some bad ones, but mainly good! The attitude of the people arriving (i.e. the foreigners) makes a huge difference too, I think.
Thanks for the kind words re: citizenship. I hope it helps too!

Avory said...

I know there are disadvantages to living in France (bureaucracy, nosy neighbours), but your description reminds me why I really, really hope I'm able to retire to a village in the Cevennes one day. I miss the attitude there, and the food, so much!

Jennifer said...

Yes, it does have its headaches but the benefits far outweigh them!

Katie Zeller said...

We only have 5 houses in our little hamlet... And I always tell my 80-something year old neighbors when we are going away (not that they wouldn't know, anyway) and they always remind me to turn the furnace off and latch all the shutters tightly...
Our big disadvantage, is, other than the old neighbors, we really have no one to talk to - thus no language practice!

Jennifer said...

Wow, only 5 houses! Un vrai hameau!
We never tell anyone that we're leaving if we go out of town, but since our car disappears from the small car park behind the church, they all know and welcome us home when we return.

The Late Bloomer said...

Loulou, I haven't commented in a long time either, and now I'm trying to catch up on a bunch of back posts -- I don't even know if you'll see this comment as this post is from almost a month ago, but I just had to say that this is a wonderful post! Very inspirational, and it really makes one want to live in a village, even more so than before -- I already figured it would be lovely, if you fall on the right village! And it sounds like you definitely have. And how wonderful that your Mayor wrote that letter -- what a great thing to do! I sometimes wonder if we shouldn't have introduced ourselves to our town hall in the city suburb we live in, for goodness' sake, because maybe that would have helped us in our sticky situations -- namely the repeated burglaries... Ah, you live and learn, right?!

Oh, and like La Belette Rouge, I am SOOOO envious of those figs! I'm CRAZY about fresh figs!

Jennifer said...

Late Bloomer
We are very happy to have landed in this village. The kindness of our neighbors made the transition of moving to another country as foreigners a bit easier.
We've heard some horror stories from others!

The figs are starting to ripen. I can't wait!

Samantha Vérant said...

Man, I wish I had somebody bring me a case of wine! I'm moving! (We live in small town -- 13,000 people--no vineyards...) : (

Jennifer said...

We have 8 vingnerons!