11/21/2010

WAIF : Women alone in France

When some low-cost airlines cut back on flights and property values fell, some women found themselves alone in the South of France: why?

 


This story appeared in  the Sunday Times of today, 21 November.

For many years some families from Britain have chosen to relocate to the South of France. Often they felt the desire to live in havens of peace and enjoy warmer summer weather, forgetting that the winters could also be cold and wet. Some were charmed by the descriptions in the book by Peter Mayle, published over 20 years ago (how time flies!) and entitled "A year in Provence".

When the Internet came of age and low-cost airlines started flights to small airports around France, entire families with young children started moving. They (normally the man) could either work from the new home or commute to Britain on a weekly basis. Often they could join a community of ex-pats and feel at home.

This all changed when, folllowing the recent recession, the low-cost airlines cut back on flights, the pound sterling dropped in value (hard on the pensioners) and property values fell. As a result, some women found themselves in financial difficulty when their husbands cracked under the strain: some men died, others just went back to England alone.

One interesing, though unsurprising, reason was that many men, in their working environment, found no need to learn French. The women, on the other hand, were more exposed to the local language through taking their children to the local schools and meeting local people in the shops. Sometimes they became very fluent, which could lead to a stressful situation (some men hate to feel in any way inferior, as well as wanting to know what their spouse is saying!).

There were also various problems due to different laws in Britain and France. Women who had underage children could not take them out of France without their husband's consent. Also, if their husband dies, the succession law in France stipulates that any step-children that he may have are automatically entitled to a part of the estate, regardless of any British will, so some widows had to try to sell their property in a housing market in a slump.

One woman, whose husband went back to Britain with all their savings, decided to help other women in the same situation by starting an association called WAIF : women alone in France. The stories on this site (which also can help men alone in France!) make interesting reading.

Fortunately, it is not likely that this situation could arise in Switzerland, though women may still often be better at learning whichever is the local language of the region in which they live. It also seems unlikely that cheap flights back to Britain will cease. I do not, however, know what would be the equivalent legal situations in the cases cited above.

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Comments

I never thought this thing can really happen.

Posted by: Anthony | 11/23/2010

Which thing? Men leaving women in the lurch or low-cost airlines abandoning an airport?

Posted by: Mike Gerard | 11/23/2010

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