Coronavirus: How are Brits in France coping two weeks into lockdown?

The French countryside is proving to be of huge benefit for those living under lockdown (c) IvonneW/

The French countryside is proving to be of huge benefit for those living under lockdown (c) IvonneW/Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

At the end of the original two weeks lockdown and with another two weeks recently announced, how is morale in France?

Beth Haslam's dogs don't seem to mind having the family at home all the time

Beth Haslam's dogs don't seem to mind having the family at home all the time - Credit: Archant

It’s been two weeks since President Macron, with the support of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, announced that all those living in France must stay inside for a period of 15 days, and work from home. After some days of the newly imposed rules being ignored in some places, and the severity of the coronavirus crisis worsening dramatically in France, the decision has now been taken to extend the lockdown period until 15 April.

So, two weeks into isolation, we’ve been getting in touch with Brits living in France to find out how morale is holding up, and their thoughts on the current situation.

Facebook users in France are, for the most part, staying positive and busy when possible. Andrew Michael Bailey, based in Haute-Vienne, is retired and making the most of the opportunity to pause and enjoy the simple things in life. “We’re in the process of renovations which is on hold due to lack of materials, but to be honest it’s rather a nice break,” he says. “We have a large garden with a vegetable plot, our freezer is well-stocked, and there are lots of sunny days to lift the spirits.”

Beth Haslam, author of the popular series Fat Dogs and French Estates, is based in Midi-Pyrénées, and agrees that time outdoors is proving invaluable. “The privilege of owning a chunnk of land means we won’t go crazy. The garden is getting neater, and so are the dogs thanks to a groom after our daily rambles in the woods. We’re also keeping in touch with family and friends through social media; recipes are being swapped, and so are book recommendations. Oh, and I’m using online tools to improve my French language skills!”

For others though, while the pleasant weather and abundant countryside of France is making lockdown bearable, there is the added worry of how family back in the UK are faring. “We are keeping busy here in rural Brittany and are thankful for the nice weather,” says Sharon Haseley. “I am worried for my family in the UK though. My daughter is a nurse in the UK and currently unwell, so although the government is starting to increase the number of tests being carried out, she is currently self-isolating.”

Diane Millard, though faring well in Creuse, is also prioritising concerns for her family in the UK. “Everyone is adhering to the lockdown here and we were due to fly back to the UK a couple of weeks ago, where we live for most of the time with our daughter. Since she is due to have her baby any day, though, we decided to stay in France. It is difficult as I wanted to be close to her, but it’s not worth the risk.”

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Aside from the obvious concerns over health and welfare, many also have concerns regarding employment, not least because many expats in France are self-employed. “We did worry about where the money was going to come from,” says Lauren Clary. “But there is nothing we can actually do apart from obey the rules and wait until it all gets better, so there is no point getting angry or stressed. We are lucky that we own our house and have no mortagage, and have some savings although they are dwindling. But I can work a little online and have a job lined up for September, so we are just taking the time to read, do DIY, and create some online promotion for our B&B.”

For those involved in the tourism industry, although things are beginning to find a new rhythm, there were some tough blows initially, especially for Sharon Hart who works in Savoie in a ski resort. “We are ok and safe, but I was heartbroken having to say goodbye to my team of 42 who lost their jobs and were repatriated. We are just waiting and hoping a summer season can still happen here in the Alps.”

And how are things going for estate agents, who the French Property News team works with on a daily basis? Verity Reeve of LBVImmo is keeping optimistic. “The good news is, people are still looking to purchase over here once travelling restrictions have been lifted, and we have been explaining the process by phone, FaceTime or Skype,” she says. “We recently set up a Youtube channel which is helping a lot of our prospective purchasers, and whilst we won’t win any Oscars for them. they help enormously to show what may or may not be right for you. As for the family, we are making the most of enforced down time,and with no panic buying, my supply of Maltesers is ok! Home schooling our four-year-old is challenging, but the school have put guidelines on the internet, which helps enormously.”

Sarah Francis of Sifex luxury real estate agent shares some thought-provoking words to take with us into the next weeks of lockdown. “These exceptional and frankly unimaginable times are making many peopel re-evaluate what really matters in life, and perhaps even start to value life itself instead of the normal headlong dash for material things. There is a new appreciation of being allowed to take a stroll and see beautiful spring flowers in the sunshine if you can only do it once a day!”

“We are beginning to re-learn how to live,” adds her young French assistant, Myriam. “This global difficulty has demonstrated how we can still take care of each other from afar, and reminds us what we can give to the world.”