Rob and Suzanne Acteson
Adventures in France,  Simple Living,  Travel & Adventure

The best things from living in France for a year

We have just seen our one year anniversary in France come & go and it’s such a good time to reflect. We all say ‘how time flies’ on a regular basis, but I really can’t believe that it’s been a whole year since we arrived. For those of you who are unfamiliar with our journey, you can play catch up with why we wanted to move and some of the experiences we’ve enjoyed along the way here.

On a whole, we have loved everything about our adventure and settling into life in France. The boys have really settled in, have good friends at school and in their sports teams. This has been the key to our enjoyment here; without happy kids it would make the whole experience much different. They are content, thriving at school and have lots of different friends that they have seamlessly integrated with. We (finally) have a bit of a social life that is making us feel adult again and is giving us the necessary human & adult interaction with people other than ourselves!

Moving from a big city to the country has been an adjustment, but after some time getting use to the quiet, slower pace, we are both embracing it and leaning into the simpler way of life. I have really started to enjoy the simplicity of gardening, baking and reading books again. Our local market each week gives us interesting foods to try and seasonal produce to create with. We’re keenly trying lots of local foods, preparing meats and have even started curing meats and fish. All of these things we had interests in previously, but for which we never made time.

French countryside St Jean Pied de Port

The number one best thing from the year, is hearing the kids speak French. Spencer was 9 when we moved and wrote & read English well, so this gave him a headstart with learning French. As he could read sounds and words, he was able to try pronouncing French words from the start. This allowed him to learn the language very quickly and he just finished Harry Potter in French with his class! 

Oliver turned 7 this year and is also speaking well and understanding almost everything. Oliver was only just starting to read and write in English before we left. This made it a bit more difficult to learn as his reading wasn’t good enough to read the sounds or words in French. He has relied on hearing and speaking and is working on reading French sounds and writing as well. As he’s in the equivalent of Grade 1, he has time to catch up and I would imagine that next year, will start to read and write better in French. Interestingly, our friends who are visiting us from Australia noted that Oliver’s Australian accent is less pronounced and has a French tinge!

Spencer, Oliver, Charlie Acteson

Charlie, as he’s not in school or around French kids yet isn’t learning any formal French but is picking up words every day and choosing French words to express himself. His favourites are attend (wait!), arrête (stop!), bouge (move!), oui  (yes), ca va (how are you?), que-ce que c’est (what’s that?), and most of the time calls us Maman and Papa, so there is a real blurring of the languages. I’m sure when he starts formal school next year, he’ll surpass us all with his French and may become the most fluent because he’s starting at 3 years old.

I believe another key to the boys success at school this year is the size of the school. The school has 70 kids across 3 classes so Oliver’s class teaches the equivalent of Grade 1 & 2 and Spencer’s class has the Grade 3, 4, 5’s. This enabled Spencer’s teachers to start him with the Grade 3 in reading, writing, conjugating & grammar and then progress him as he improved and moved up to his grade level. Just this month, he has moved up to his grade level in reading and conjugating and his teacher (and us) were really happy with his progress. As he moves to high school (college) next year, it’s been helpful that he’s grasped the language so quickly and is now with his grade level in almost all of the curriculum.

Both of the boys are really happy overall and it’s probably a combination of factors that have contributed to their happiness. As a family, we are spending a lot more time together and Rob & I are both a lot less stressed than we use to be. I would think that us being less stressed and not running around so much with our jobs, is having a positive effect on the kids. They may feel more supported or connected to us, and also each other because of the time we are all spending together. 

French bakery

I won’t lie, moving from full-time work to full-time parenting has been hard. We were both use to getting the kids organised each day, but going off to our respective jobs which makes you feel fulfilled, where we achieved goals and even had a few minutes to ourselves. Come September last year, we had the boys in school and Charlie at home so the new daily & weekly schedule took a bit of getting use to. We’ve had to create new roles for ourselves in the home, and divide the ‘labour’ up in a fair way. We’ve let the roles work themselves out organically, and before long we’d found a little groove where cooking, cleaning, shopping, childminding duties were divided. At least 1-2 days a week, usually when the boys were at school, we get out to visit our area and have a nice lunch somewhere, using the excuse of driving to Bayonne or Pau for ‘grocery shopping’ to the fullest.  

From this coming September, things will change again as all 3 boys will be in school (Charlie 1/2 day) and both us will have a bit more personal time when we can also fit in our work. I’m looking forward to having more time for writing, blogging and working with clients who I do digital marketing for. Rob has talked about taking some french classes and with his soccer coaching and friends he’s met through the soccer & rugby club, I expect his french knowledge & speaking will continue to expand. 

River Rafting Gave Oloron

I’ve received a lot of questions about the logistics, how we’re doing this, why we chose the SW of France and I will start on a post answering all of these questions. I hope in sharing our story, we inspire you too to take a new look at your family situation and find ways to liven it up or take a risk yourself. It takes a lot of bravery but is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. 

You can read more about our Why and how this journey is changing our lives in so many positive ways. You can also read more about me & my business Habitots here. 

Until next time.
Suzanne x

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