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“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!”

Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz


One of our past consultation clients moved to France to fulfill his dream—what I call the “Peter Mayle Syndrome.” Peter Mayle was an author who moved from the U.K. to the Luberon in the late 1980s, however, his intention to pen a novel was eclipsed by his account of life in his new French surroundings. This manifested in the publication of his 1989 book titled A Year in Provence, which achieved global acclaim as an international bestseller.

The cover for Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence

If you haven’t read it, do it now. In spite of the book’s woeful tale of what he experienced renovating an old home in Provence that tore his life apart, yet enriched it, it has stuck in the minds of Francophiles far and wide, providing a true/false and rose-colored-glasses view of life in “La France Profonde.”

I speak to people on a daily basis who have this burning desire to be Peter Mayle, yet they know not of what they speak! One of them was this client, coming from the hustle-bustle life in New York City to one of the Luberon’s prettiest towns—Roussillon. He rented a large home with a pool for him and his family near the village. Then, he set out to renovate and decorate it to bring it to Peter Mayle standards, even though it was a rental and he’d never be able to recuperate his investment. Still, the idea was to really be able to “call it home.”

The village of Roussillon


He contacted me because he said he’d never been so lonely and depressed in his life. This was after his parents came to visit and they toured Provence and the Riviera, getting better acquainted with his new home country. Then once they left, he realized he had no real friends and the ability to make them just wasn’t there—he couldn’t relate to the locals who actually lived in the area full time—the older French who perhaps had never even seen New York City. He couldn’t communicate with them because his French was limited, to say the least. To get a baguette for breakfast meant getting in the car and driving a few miles. Getting anywhere became a big schlep. He was not happy, sadly missing the vibrancy of the city.

I chuckled hearing his tale, not to mock him in any way, but because, as I told him, he was my “Poster Child” for the Syndrome. This is not to say that I am entirely opposed to life in the countryside…not at all. But, there is a reality to that dream created by Peter Mayle, that one must understand before making such an important full-time, permanent move. It’s perfect for certain kinds of people, but entirely wrong for others. And it can be perfect as a second home for the warmer months, but for year-round, it poses another kind of challenge.

Peter Mayle

Read Peter Mayle’s book (the audio version is in his own voice), but take off your rose-colored glasses. Realize that he wrote about his trials and tribulations because they were real and frustratingly so that he couldn’t help himself but to put it down on paper. Take note of this when you’re dreaming about living the rest of your entire life in that village in the French countryside. Writing the novel was likely a cathartic experience, and one that gained him fame and fortune, but would he have done it all over again? If he were alive, we could ask him…


Are you a perfect candidate for a move to France? You can be if you prepare for the onslaught of the cultural crossings. It’s the toughest thing to overcome. The rest is mechanical.

Remember that the French are not like you. The number one thing to understand is the difference between our legal system and France’s. This is the foundation for why we are diametrically opposed in our cultural formation.

Cartoon by Antonio Meza for English Law Made Simple

Cartoon by Antonio Meza for English Law Made Simple

NAPOLEONIC CODE: “Everything which is not allowed is forbidden.” ENGLISH LAW: “Everything which is not forbidden is allowed.”

The legal system in Anglo-Saxon countries is based on what is forbidden while the legal system in France is based on what’s allowed. In America, you can’t do this, and you can’t do that, and everything else is allowed. In France, you are supposed to do this and you are supposed to do that and everything else is not allowed. This means that English law engenders open-minded, out-of-the-box thinking, while Napoleonic Code is about following the rules and thinking within the box. If you can think the way the French think, or understand how differently you think than they do, you can avoid making some of the biggest mistakes. And if you apply this principle to every cultural clash you have in France, it will explain everything!!

When you’re moving to France, remember that EVERYTHING IS IN FRENCH! Do not expect any French agency to provide documents in English. Why should they? Just because you can’t speak, read or write the language? That doesn’t mean some won’t provide the English version, but DON’T EXPECT IT. Instead, use the amazing translation program of DEEPL and within seconds you’ll be a master of French!

This leads me to one of my main recommendations: CHANGE THE WORD “EXPECTATIONS” for “HOPES” and you will never be disappointed!

Cartoon for Expectations and Hopes

HAVE PATIENCE. Nothing happens quickly in France. Everything has a long, tedious and administrative process. Everything. Just relax. It will all work out in the end, even if it takes some time.

DO NOT CROWD SOURCE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. You really should rely on the experts and NOT on the people who LOVE to expound their “knowledge” on Social Media platforms, but aren’t qualified to give advice. Often there are Facebook or other sites that are being used by people who promote their businesses by giving advice, but disguising that they run a business, hoping you will be duped. There is one in particular that is so unreliable that another group posted a site against hers! Imagine that!? It’s always best to seek out professional advice that costs you money, but will be well worth it, because you can be confident you’re getting the best advice.

Examples of social media groups for France

The bottom line is to learn how to LIVE IN THE PRESENT. You’ve heard me preach this time and time again. It’s a way of looking at life that will change your life for the better for a long list of reasons, which include removing fear and allowing you to fully enjoy everything you do, even the things you prefer not to have to do! I urge everyone to read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle to learn how to live in the present moment, use the past as well-earned knowledge and fully realize that the future is completely illusory, that it exists only in your mind and will never come.

Eckhart Tolle

And once you leave Kansas and land in France, you’ll be over the rainbow!


The Nice Speaker Club, organized by Paul Hancock and Patricia Solar, hosted an event Monday morning, with Notaire, Maître Carole Vangioni as the speaker. Maître Vangioni is our primary notaire in Nice, so naturally my team in Nice was in full force to attend and hear what she had to say.

The room was filled with a variety of expatriates, many of whom were our clients—some who had already purchased a property and others who are considering it and wanted to learn more.

Carole’s one-hour presentation was exemplary and she missed virtually nothing. Being the ultimate “heckler” and conference host myself, it was impossible for me NOT to add a few tidbits of information and questions to further enhance Carole’s talk and to ensure that this Anglophone (mostly North American) audience understood fully what she described as “normal” for the French process, but very unusual for someone coming from that other world of real estate.

For example, there were questions about “inspections” being done BEFORE making an offer on a property. That’s what might be the “norm” for a property in the U.S., but that’s not what happens in France! It’s a very different process, but one that provides the necessary information a buyer needs to make a good decision.

Carole is one of our most important resources. We both promote and protect such valuable resources as we’ve worked hard to find such qualified people. Many of these resources can be discovered on our website and therefore are available to everyone. Even so, we ask that our readers and clients respect our hard work to amass such a formidable team, by letting us know in advance of your contacting them of your intentions, and even more importantly, letting Carole and the others know that WE REFERRED YOU. They will want to know, too, how you may have discovered them and because the recommendation came from us, they will surely treat you better!

To learn more about the Nice Speaker Club, email the organizers or to subscribe, visit their Facebook page.

And to learn more about how to get out of Kansas (or wherever you are!), click here to schedule a personal consultation that will change your life for the better…by moving to France!

A la prochaine…

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Adrian and guest on an episode of House Hunters InternationalP.S. We are seeking to hire more rental search consultants for all of France. Your place of residence, as long as it’s in France, is not necessarily important to the search as much is done “virtually” by email, phone and online meetings. The skills required are: knowledge of the rental market and process, basic computer skills, a moderate level of French, the ability to be assertive, good communications skills and the ability to work well with a variety of personalities. If you are interested, please email us and provide a resumé.


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