“Kids can be kids”: Why France is a good place for families
Less stress, less pressure to grow up fast, more quality family time – no wonder so many British parents choose to raise their children in France
Families in the UK choose France above all other European countries when relocating to the Continent, latest figures show.
According to research by the Office of National Statistics, the country is home to 34% of all British children living in the European Union – just over 20,000.
Relatively affordable house prices and the warmer climate play a part, by there’s more to it than that, say British expat parents.
“Here, children are allowed to be children - there’s no need to grow up too fast,” says estate agent Clare Rolt who moved to Charente with her husband James and their one-year-old daughter Katie 10 years ago. Katie is now 11 and the couple also have nine-year-old Amélie and three-year-old Jessica. “Children are encouraged to play outdoors (climb trees, make dens, get messy) and there’s a huge focus on family; children are encouraged to join their parents in restaurants and join in the conversation.
“We love the outdoors life for our girls, the weather, the quieter and safer environment and the more relaxed way of life. We love the education and health system, and also the proximity to all sorts of different activities – skiing, the seaside, walking, wonderful cities, quiet villages and amazing châteaux.”
Clare’s comments are echoed by Katy Lunsford,who moved across the Channel a year ago with husband Dev in the hope of providing a better life for their daughters Sophie (now eight) and Maddie (now two).
“It’s safer; the air is cleaner; there’s less pressure to grow up so fast, fewer screens, less pressure in school, and children can be children for longer,” said Katy, a wedding photographer. She and partner Dev lived in Manchester in a three-bed terraced house with a small yard before starting a new life in Charente where they own a five-bed stone farmhouse with a “huge garden” where the girls spend lots of time.
“We have swings, a trampoline, trees to climb, and there are horses and donkeys in the next field which they adore,” she said. “France is very child-friendly too - there is a real emphasis on family, and children are included more. It is much more acceptable to bring your kids with you to evening events here, from food and music festivals to concerts and meals out in restaurants - so we definitely do more together as a family.”
Indeed the average family in France enjoys a work-life balance rated one of the best in the world while the average Brit has one of the poorest, according to a global index of the 35 countries. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that only eight per cent of French employees work very long hours, compared with 13% in the UK. And on average the French have more time to spend on leisure (including socialising) and personal care (including sleeping and eating) than anywhere else in the world – 16.4 hours a day compared with 14.9 hours in the UK.
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