Belgian Expats is a weekly interview series in which I talk to Belgians who’ve built a new life abroad. This week, Eddy tells us about moving to France.
1. Hi, Eddy! Please quickly introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, where you’re from, where you moved to and when/why you moved.
My name is Eddy Claes, born and raised in Hasselt and married to Martine Temmerman. I have lived in Genk for 30 years and worked as an HR Manager for Philips, Duracell, Alken-Maes, Carrefour, Kruidvat, and Syncreon.
In 2005 we bought a holiday home in Courniou, the South of France, Languedoc-Roussillon. We moved there permanently in 2012 and took over the local grocery store. We moved because of the climate, the tranquility (no more stress), the space and the better quality of life in ‘le Midi’.
2. What did you expect from France and life there before moving? Did those expectations hold up?
We knew what we could expect because since 2005 we had spent all our vacations here in Courniou. After taking over the shop, integrating went even faster than we expected. You could say that our expectations did hold up.
3. What’s the biggest difference between life in France and life in Belgium?
There’s a lot more space here and nature is beautiful. I only have to walk 5 minutes to work each day, there are no traffic jams and little to no stress.
Another advantage is the good food, the wine and the fact that we enjoy each day to the fullest. Thanks to the mild climate we often get to eat outside on the terrace. The hours in ‘le Midi’ are different as well, which is why our shop is closed between noon and 4 pm.
4. What’s the best part about living in France?
The climate, the tranquility and the fact that we enjoy life more here.
5. What do you like least about living in France?
The cumbersome administration and the prehistoric and expensive banks. Besides France still lags behind in terms of English, the Internet and customer service.
6. What do you miss most about Belgium?
The children and a good old-time bar with good beers.
7. Is there something about Belgium that you don’t miss at all?
The politics and constant bickering between the regions in such a small country.
8. Do you think you’ll stay in France? Or is there a chance you’ll move abroad again someday?
We will be staying here but there’s a possibility we’ll move further South after our retirement, to go live closer to sea (Narbonne, Perpignan).
9. Do you have any tips or advice for other Belgians who consider moving to France?
Try to get a lot of information beforehand concerning social security, taxes, insurances and bank matters. In that way, all those things can be arranged quickly before our during the move.
10. What are some tips you would give to people who are traveling to your region/city? Things they should visit or eat?
These are some beautiful places to visit nearby: Pezenas, Carcassonne, Narbonne and Perpignan. The Cathar castles in Peyrepertuse, the Cirque de Navacelles and La Couvertoirade (medieval village) are worth seeing as well.
With respect to food, I can recommend the following: cassoulet of Castelnaudary, eating oysters by the Thau basin, wild boar from the Montaigne Noir, Charcuterie from Lacaune and cheeses from the Pyrenees.
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This interview was done by Paloma García Miranda, a talented Master’s Student of Business Communication who’s helping Sofie out here on WonderfulWanderings.com.