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Moving to the Dordogne

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

A guide to settling down in the verdant countryside of the Dordogne, which also happens to be one of the best popular expat regions in all of France.

Since the 1960s, people from other countries have been moving to the Dordogne, which is located in the southwest area of Aquitaine. This includes not only large numbers of people from England (thus the joke about "Dordogneshire") but also people from the Netherlands and Germany.

Perhaps it's the wonderful temperature, the beautiful mediaeval towns, the lush green rolling hills, the housing costs (which are far cheaper than in the UK), the meandering flow of the Dordogne, or the readily available wine. Whatever the reasons may be, a large number of people from other countries have moved here to work and live.

About five years ago, Helen and Sam acquired an ancient stone home with outbuildings in a hamlet that was not far from Bergerac. The hamlet consisted of a single path with perhaps eight dwellings scattered along it. "It was a classic example of a French country home, complete with blue wooden shutters, a climbing vine growing over the front door, various outbuildings, and a vast garden and meadow." We couldn't believe how much value we could acquire for such a little investment.

They were able to acquire some of the existing furnishings since the English couple who they purchased it from had put a significant amount of time and money into making modifications, which included transforming an open-air barn into an enclosed swimming pool with fencing. Helen explains, "We painted the home in bright, sunny colors and hung new drapes, and it looked fantastic. However, we overestimated the amount of care that would be necessary." After the first year, we were faced with the need of repainting all of the outside walls; a cold winter caused the mosaics in the pool to become ruined, and we discovered bee nests in the ceiling!" In addition to leasing it to a writer during the colder months of the year for six months at a time, they turned an ancient chai (wine shop) into a gite so that they could generate cash during the hot summer months.

If your level of French is just intermediate, the Dordogne is a location that you should consider moving to since there are so many people from the United Kingdom living there. The disadvantage of this is that it may prevent you from being completely integrated into the community where you now live. Helen, who is completely fluent in the local language, and Sam, who is "improving," quickly made good friends with the other expats in the area as well as their French neighbors: "We have sons the same age, and because no fences or walls are separating our properties, the children run between the houses." On the other hand, it has been more challenging to establish new friends in France: "The people are nice; you bump into them during the market day and in the local cafés; but, it may be difficult to make the transition from acquaintance to friend."

The Dordogne was formerly virtually only a destination of choice for married couples in their golden years. This is not the situation anymore. It has been estimated that there are over 800 enterprises owned by Britons in the area surrounding the bastide town of Eymet; nevertheless, the majority of these establishments cater to the needs of the expat population. Charlotte & Tom have been running their own gardening company in France for close to 10 years now. "We started with a single reference from friend-of-friend and now we take after roughly 20 different gardens, many of which are for second-homers," Charlotte said. At the local school, their daughter is one of twenty students studying English.

Libourne serves as the last stop for trains coming from London, either through Paris or Lille, therefore transportation options are many. Bergerac and Bordeaux also have airports. Real estate, much like wine, is available in plenty and comes at a reasonable price. The standard of living is very high. Because there is a lot of room, you can always go away from the other British people if you want to. What could go wrong?



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