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LANGUEDOC ! October 2011 - Issue 3

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What’s on

Text-speak

Bio-sphere

Places to go, things to do p6-7

What messages p10 can reveal

Where to find organic food p8-9

Why work is a big issue for expats These protestors are marching for the right to work. The march took place in Marseille, an area with high unemployment, but rates are also high in the Midi. Special report pages 2 and 3

FULL STORY PAGES 2-3

Photo © PHOTOPQR/LA PROVENCE/Cyril SOLLIER/Maxppp

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2 News PAGES

Contact us With a story, email: languedoc@ connexionfrance.com (please include a daytime contact number) With a subscription or advert query call: From France: 0800 91 77 56 (freephone) From UK: 0844 256 9881 (4p per minute) or by email: sales@ connexionfrance.com The Languedoc Pages is published by: English Language Media Sarl, Le Vedra, 38 rue Grimaldi, 98000 Monaco. Directrice de la publication: Sarah Smith. Printed at Nice-M Matin, 214 Route de Grenoble, 06290 Nice Cedex 3. Environmental policy The Languedoc Pages is printed on recycled newspaper, using a printing company which adheres to strict regulations to reduce pollution. Mensuel Depôt légal – a parution ISSN: en cours, CPPAP en cours

Work is hard to find, but expats can make a living Joblessness is rising faster in the region than the French average, and that’s a challenge for expats, says

LOUISE HURREN

THE SUN may shine more often in le Midi, but Languedoc-Roussillon and its neighbour Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur are high on the list of French regions where finding a job is a tough call. At the end of the first quarter of 2011, Languedoc had a 12.9% unemployment rate, with 7,900 more people signing on in the 12 months to July. PACA was close behind with a jobless rate of 11.1% Overall, unemployment in France, at 9.2%, has reached an 11-year high, with the number of people out of work now standing at 2,756,500. With near-zero growth in the economy, consumer spending down and the government’s €11 billion tax rises and spending

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Dépassements?

Franchises?

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cuts looming in 2012, the future is far from looking bright. Languedoc is one of the five regions where the number of jobseekers has increased by more than 6% year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Employment. The others are Champagne-Ardenne, Limousin, Corsica and PACA. Compare this to the national increase of 2.8% and it becomes obvious that in these parts of France, earning a living is especially challenging. That is particularly true for expatriates. For those in Languedoc-Roussillon, finding a fulltime salaried position looks like the least feasible option. As well as facing stiff competition from domestic applicants with local qualifications and work experience, expats can only succeed on the basis of specific, transferable skills and the necessary fluency to work alongside French nationals. The alternative is to to work as a freelance or set up your own business. Help is available when you embrace the comparatively new status of auto-entrepreneur, which offers various benefits for those starting out in a range of businesses and self-employed activities. Details can be found online (in French only) at www.lautoentrepreneur.fr. Encouragingly, many English-speaking expats living in Languedoc-Roussillon have managed to carve out niches for themselves, but their stories illustrate the importance of knowing how to identify gaps in the employment and services market. Former London advertising executive Alex Charles and his partner Greg Taylor moved to Languedoc in 2003, giving up a comfortable joint income. “Eight years on, we are earning a crust from the various businesses that we have set up here,” they say. “However, it has never been plain sailing. The sale of our London house generated a small pot of money which had to stretch a long way. We invested it in buying, renovating and reselling three village houses. “For the longer term, we created a limited company and started trading as web designers. It was always going to take time to build this up into a money-making enterprise, so the property renovation kept us afloat in the meantime. The cost of living in France is often underestimated, and money was tight. “The creation of the business was fairly easy and relatively cheap to do. We did everything

October 2011

Photo © Fabrissa Delaville/Maxppp

LANGUEDOC

Languedoc Pages

Above: a “march for jobs” in Paris last December

through our accountant and he arranged the various meetings with lawyers to draw up the paperwork. Since then, the new auto-entrepreneur scheme has been launched, which certainly simplifies things. “Earning a living in France is hard, especially if you cannot rely on a company transfer or a recognised professional qualification. Unemployment is high and opportunities are limited, especially if your French is poor. The trick is to build up a network, stick at it, and keep ‘fingers in pies’. Try to create additional income streams. The website design company is still trading, but we also recently completed the renovation of our home, which we now run as a guest house, so with the two incomes we are able to manage.” James and Philippa Bowman moved to Languedoc in 2000 soon after their marriage.

Helping you to look RELOCATION expert Wendy Boyrie helps English-speakers moving to LanguedocRoussillon, providing practical help and advice. One question that comes up frequently is the prospect of being able to earn a living in the region. She says: “I often point people in the direction of my website (see below), where I list jobs I’ve heard about. There are also some useful links to French sites relating to employment where newcomers can find more information. I advise against anyone

coming to Languedoc to look for work. Jobs are thin on the ground and an English person arriving with limited French language skills has little hope of working for a French company. “If you are fluent in French, you must learn how to do a French-style CV and lettre de motivation (personal statement), which are quite different from what you might have been used to doing in the UK. “If you already have a skill, or can work remotely from Languedoc for UK-based


Languedoc Pages

News 3

October 2011

Below: Alex Charles and Greg Taylor and the Bowman family are making a living in Languedoc

THE SERVICES of a life coach can be helpful for people seeking a career move or looking for a new job. Sandrine Musel is a French life coach based in the Hérault department. She says: “At a time when the employment market is increasingly difficult, coaching can help you work out your next steps. Whether you’re changing companies, hoping to find a new position within your existing company or entering another sector, leaving paid employment to set up your own business, or looking for a job after being made redundant, you need to clearly identify some realistic objectives, and this is where a coach can help. “My approach integrates clients’ career plans within their ‘life plan’. I help them see things from another point of view.” Sandrine suggests a series of five or six coaching sessions of two hours each, with a period of two weeks or more between each session. Clients work with the coach to identify their skills, their potential and objectives, and agree with the coach on ‘homework’ to be done. This might involve research, writing specific documents and contacting people. Sandrine coaches in French, and can be reached on 06 08 94 43 75. John Falchetto is an English-

Have a query about healthcare in France?

Philippa said: “We registered our first business in 2001, essentially to get into the health system and obtain the then necessary carte de séjour. We identified a gap for an Englishspeaking property-finding company, and Live Languedoc was born. “The company grew to become the Live France Group, with representatives in several regions across France. In 2003 we became a fully-licensed French estate agency and traded successfully until 2008, when the downturn hit us and forced us into liquidation judiciaire. “We had been naïve about the cost of employing staff in France and had a large team, which was a major problem when times got tough. There is no flexibility in the social charges, and even the cost of making staff redundant was huge for a business already in financial difficulty. In May 2008 we went back

for work

clients, the auto-entrepreneur status could be right for you. If you have restaurant/bar or building skills, there always seems to be work out there. “When you get here, it’s vital to network: it’s word of mouth that will get you work. There is always the teaching English route, but you won’t get rich doing that, unless you are hired by large companies.” http://work-in-montpellier-and-languedoc.blogspot.com http://startbusinessinfrance.com

to the UK; with three children to support, it seemed like the only option. Less than two years later, however, we were back in selfemployment in the UK and decided that we would rather not be there. “And so, in March 2010, we arrived back in Fitou, starting again from scratch. Meanwhile, the French government had introduced the status of auto-entrepreneur, which makes being self-employed more affordable. Administration and paperwork have been simplified (although if you don’t speak French it can still be complicated, and enlisting the services of an English-speaking French accountant would be money well spent). I did not want to run an agency again and so opted for being an agent commercial, selling property under the umbrella of a local agency on a selfemployed basis. “An important lesson we learnt was not to put all our eggs in one basket, with both of us working in the same business, so we have recently taken over a property management company, looking after rental properties along the coast. One advantage of the new autoentrepreneur status is that one can list several activities on a single registration, so we include James’s web business. “It has been a tough 18 months, but things are starting to come together. We are building three businesses as well as managing family life. But the advantages of being here are clear and we feel our priorities as a family are right. Despite the bureaucracy and frustrations, and the knowledge that we will probably never make a fortune, there really is no going back.”

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Could a life coach be the answer? Pôle-emploi

Life coach Sandrine Musel speaking life coach based in the south of France who works with clients via the internet and telephone, as well as face-to-face: http://expatlifecoach.com/ The cost of coaching varies. Expect to pay between €50 and €80 euros an hour in Languedoc-Roussillon.

AIMED at both jobseekers and recruiters, the website www.pole-emploi.fr gives addresses and contact details for all the government’s Pôleemploi offices across Languedoc-Roussillon, arranged by department. For example, in the Montpellier area there are now eight “generalist” Pôleemploi offices, where jobseekers can obtain advice without an appointment, and three “specialist” offices to which clients with particular needs can be referred after an initial interview. This year, three nouvelle génération Pôle-emploi groups have been created in the Nîmes, Montpellier and Perpignan areas to offer a more streamlined service. The website’s “questions” section for both potential employees and employers is particularly helpful.


4 News

Languedoc Pages

Photo © Trombax - Fotolia.com

A75 to close for four days A MAJOR project to secure the cliffs bordering the A75 motorway north of Lodève is proceeding and will result in the closure of the road for four days this month. The closure is scheduled to be in effect from Monday October 10 to Thursday 13. The urgent work, which started in September, is being carried out at an estimated cost of some €1.3 million.

THE wild boar hunting season is under way again and the debate about the pros and cons of killing these animals continues. Last year some 7,000 boars were shot in Languedoc-Roussillon and Aveyron. At the same time, the animals caused an estimated €1.5 million worth of damage to crops, including cereals and vines. While some people believe the boar should be protected, others – including Philippe Coste, president of the Hérépian cooperative winery, and his Aude counterpart, Gérard Bedos – point to a massive expansion of the wild boar population. That has been encouraged this year in particular because weather conditions in the Aude, for example, have resulted in abundant food for the boars. A groundswell of concern has emerged in the local press regarding not only the amount of damage to agriculture that could potentially be done by the beasts but also the level of indemnities being claimed by landowners, farmers and winegrowers.

Attack on mosquitos OF THE 48 species of mosquito that live in the Mediterranean basin, only eight bite humans, and for three of these species a comprehensive eradication programme is now being carried out by the Entente interdépartementale pour la démoustication du littoral méditerranéen, or EID. The programme covers

some 10,000 hectares of marsh land, 2,500 km of ditches and 95,000 urban sites and runs throughout the year. Female mosquitos lay their eggs when there has been a rise in water levels, for example in the autumn, when the south of France often experiences heavy rainfall after a long, hot summer.

Port scheme to go ahead THE regional council of Languedoc-Roussillon has announced that it is now in a position to buy the land necessary to widen and deepen the river Lez, as part of flood relief measures planned for the Montpellier area. The result will be the creation of a public river transport system. The silting up of the river has meant that until now only small boats could navigate their way upstream. The council’s plans will allow the Port Marianne project finally to be developed, in line with the vision of former regional president Georges Frêche, providing a port for the university town that lies eight kilometres from the Mediterranean coast. Work should start in 2013 and be completed in 2015.

Ecocité plan revealed AMBITIOUS plans for a new, 2,500-hectare quartier, providing an estimated 15,000 homes, to the east of Montpellier, have been presented to the public. Named Ecocité, this ecofriendly urban development will include social housing, public transport, cycle tracks, shops and businesses and public spaces. It will be built between 2020 and 2030, covering part of Montpellier and Castelnaule-Lez, Lattes and Pérols.

Canal du Midi trees to be replaced

New rail line being tested THE LGV high-speed train route that will link Perpignan with Barcelona is entering its test phase, now that the drilling of the 5.8 km Gerona tunnel has been completed. When the new line is opened in early 2013, the estimated journey time between the cities will be just 50 minutes

THE felling of ancient plane trees contaminated by fungus along the Canal du Midi is already under way and now a replanting programme is being developed by French waterways body VNF (Voies Navigables de France), together with the regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. Of the 42,000 plane trees that provide shade along the

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length of the French Unesco World Heritage site, some 2,000 have already fallen victim to the axe. The replanting has already been authorised to take place this winter in the Aude towns of Villedubert and Trèbes. Unesco inspectors will visit the site in 2012 to reassess the classification of Europe’s oldest, largest and most spectacular manmade waterway.

CARREFOUR is to introduce a new shopping concept to its Languedoc-Roussillon stores. Named “Planet”, the idea is based on creating themed spaces – organic foods, beauty products, local produce and so on – to replace traditional aisles. Work has begun at the Carrefour store in Lattes (Hérault), with launch expected before Christmas.

Nuclear blast death ONE person died and four people were hurt in an explosion on September 12 at the nuclear power station of Marcoule, near Nîmes, in the Gard. A nuclear industry official said that there were no radioactive leaks after the blast, which was apparently caused by a fire in a radioactive waste storage site.

Photo:© MDLF Bibolet

Boars in €1.5m havoc

October 2011

Some 2,000 of the Canal du Midi’s trees have gone

A9 speed limit cut proposed THE Prefect of Languedoc-Roussillon, Claude Baland, has proposed a speed reduction from 110 kmh to 90 kmh on the section of the A9 motorway that passes Montpellier, between Saint-Jean-de-Védas and Baillargues. This notorious accident blackspot has been under debate for months and is the subject of several plans to reduce traffic levels by either widening or bypassing the existing motorway.


Languedoc Pages

News 5

October 2011

Real vintage celebrations The traditional grape harvest festival, Vendanges de l’Histoire, will take place at Chusclan, near Bagnols-sur-Cèze, on October 15 and 16. This charming village in the Côtes-du-Rhône area hosts a weekend of activities based on wine-making methods from olden times and features period costumes and vintage cars www.fetevigneronnechusclan.com

Take the train for €1 THE successful “Bus for €1” campaign launched three years ago in Catalonia is to be extended to trains, following the launch of the “Train for €1” campaign in Languedoc two months ago. The regional government of Languedoc-Roussillon has announced that it will be starting an experimental service before Christmas in the Rousillon area, linking the 47 km stretch between Perpignan and Villefranche de Conflent. The objective is to encourage motorists to leave their cars at home and take the train instead, while making transport more accessible and affordable for those on lower incomes (Pyrénées-Orientales has an unemployment rate of 13.3%).

Big jump in passengers at Béziers LANGUEDOC airport Béziers-Cap d’Agde was used by 135,000 passengers during the year to August, an increase of 48% on the previous 12-month period. New services scheduled for 2012 include a Manchester route, with two flights a week starting from the end of March. Seasonal changes in traffic mean that the existing Oslo, Stockholm and Düsseldorf flights will come to a temporary halt for the winter on

October 31, but they will start again on March 31, 2012. The current Southampton service will also stop at the end of October, but it will be offered throughout all the school holidays and resume a month earlier, in March 2012 instead of April, because of its popularity. Destinations continuing to be served by Béziers-Cap d’Agde throughout the winter are Paris Beauvais, Bristol and London Luton.

Montpellier unveils its designer trams WORK continues apace on Montpellier’s new tram routes,which are due to open in April 2012. Line 3 will link westerly Juvignac and Pérols to the south-east and Line 4, known as La Circulade, is an eight-kilometre route encircling the town centre. Each line will have

its own specially-commissioned tram carriages styled by the famous Languedoc-born fashion designer Christian Lacroix. Adorned with a gold and black heraldic motif, the trams of Line 4 will be making their début this month as tests begin on the lines.

Did you know?

Clive’s pies are a Languedoc classic AS ANY visitor to the pretty, medieval town of Pézenas will know, les petits pâtés are a local “must”. Roughly the size and shape of a large cotton reel, these little pies are one of the town’s claims to fame. Made of golden brown, crispy pastry, filled with a sweet-yet-savoury mixture of minced lamb, lemon zest and raisins, they can be eaten warm or cold, as a snack or starter (they are often served with salad), or even as a dessert. Although they are proudly made in the pâtisseries of Pézenas, they were allegedly introduced to Languedoc in the 18th century by Lord Clive of India, who is said to have passed on the recipe to the locals while he stayed at the Château de Larzac in 1768, convalescing after his Indian campaigns. Today, “Clive’s pies” have found gastronomic fame, although they are not to everyone’s taste (the sweet but meaty filling can be a stumbling block for some).

Upper crust: the unique petits pâtés of Pézenas They are often served at official functions with a glass of dry white wine or something sweeter such as a Muscat. The Très Noble et Très Gourmande Confrérie du Petit Pâté de Pézenas is a group whose name might loosely translate as the Mince Pie Brotherhood. Its

members keep a close eye on the quality of les petits pâtés, whose unique qualities are now protected by the French trademark body INPI. Each December, the Confrérie members march through the town’s cobbled streets wearing blue robes, with replicas of the pies around their necks.


6 What’s On

Languedoc Pages

Hérault

SAILING

Photo: © Ville de Palavas-les-Flots

Cap d’Agde

October 2011

notice board

October 28-November 1 Salon Nautique d'Automne.This bank holiday week-end offers the ideal occasion to buy or sell a boat or to equip it during the exhibition, which will feature 500 vessels of various kinds.This displays and stands will surprise, interest and inform the amateur yachtsman and the lovers of the sea, all in a festive atmosphere.There will be many activities, conferences and workshops. Call 04 67 21 54 73 or visit www.capsalon.com or email salonnautiqueducap@wanadoo.fr

Palavas-les-Flots

New group helps home workers to share ideas can miss the spontaneous ideas and creativity that come from working in an office: sometimes it's more fun working in company.” Jelly events originated in the USA, in 2006, when two New York IT freelances felt the need to get out of their own environment and work alongside like-minded people. Since then, Jelly events have sprung up all over the world, including other parts of France (there are groups in Normandy, Ariège and the Dordogne). Languedoc Jelly events are organised voluntarily and rely on a host venue to offer free space and wi-fi. The next meetings will be held on October 13 at Montpellier’s Fairview Café and November 3 in Montblanc, at the Villa Roquette.For details, see the group’s Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/LanguedocJelly) or Twitter @LanguedocJelly

Hérault Sète

Gard

Festival de la Soupe Florac, October 27-30. A great way to greet the autumn in true Cévenol style. Wander through the town tast-

Halloween Party Montpellier, The French American Centre, October 31. Come and get spooked with this lively, fun event for French- and English-speaking children and their parents. Games, surprises and a costume contest. www.frenchamericancenter.com

Promote your community event, send details to languedoc@connexionfrance.com

CONCERT

Photo: © PHOTOPQR/L'ALSACE - maxppp.com

Kipling's Imaginary World Vernet-les-Bains, Salle Polyvalente, October 13. An evening with “The Storytellers of Sahorre” (with wine and roast chestnuts) as part of the centenary of Rudyard Kipling's time spent in this Pyrenean mountain resort. www.vernet-les-bains.fr/vernet/programme.asp

Laudun l’Ardoise

October 15 The concert Celtic Legends is performed by about 20 young dancers from different places in Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Belfast).Their works features both the impetuousity and the grace of different styles of Irish dancing, and music that varies from frantic rhythms to the melancholy of the traditional ballad. Prices: €39 for adults, €32 for groups (10) and €29 for under-12s. Call 04 66 50 55 79

ing an awesome variety of soups, soaked up with rustic bread and washed down with hearty red wine. www.mescevennes.com/sortir/festival-soupe/ Feria du Chocolat Béziers, Palais des Congrès, October 15-16. Paradise for chocoholics, including chocolate massages, tastings and cooking workshops. Special activities for children throughout the weekend. www.beziers-congres.fr

ART

Until October 31 Discover the painter Juan Gris (18871927) and his works during the exhibition held at the Paul Valery Museum. Juan Gris is an artist of the Cubist school and his works are influenced by his predecessors Picasso and Braque.This exhibition will gather works from collections in different countries. Prices: €7 for adults, €3 for youths (10-18) and students, FREE for under-10s.The museum is open every day from 09.30 to 19.00. Call 04 99 04 76 16 or visit www.museepaulvalery-sete.fr www.ganges1900.com

From Kipling to chocolate Cinémed Montpellier, October 21-29. The 33rd International festival of Mediterranean film, including works financed and shot in Languedoc-Rousillion. http://www.cinemed.tm.fr/

Photo: © Musée Paul Valery

LANGUEDOC JELLY is a group for home-workers where they can meet and chat with a view to collaborating. It is open to anyone, of any nationality, is not a membership association and there is no charge for taking part. The group aims to provide a relaxed and informal way for people to enjoy a change of scene and share ideas. “Languedoc Jelly events can be for as few as two, or as many as 222 people – it depends on the location,” says founder Annette Morris, an internet marketing consultant who started the group this year (the first event was held in April). “It seemed to me that many selfemployed home-workers struggle to find time to network face-to-face or learn new skills. Running your own business can be lonely anywhere, particularly in a foreign country. Even if you do have the language skills, you

CULTURE

October 29, 30 Palavasia Vintage is a vintage exhibition of fashion, furniture, jewelry and decoration from 1950 to 1980. Find out what life was like during those years in France or just revive some memories of youth. Opening 10.00-19.00. Prices: €3 for adults and FREE for children. Email tourisme@palavaslesflots.com or visit www.palavaslesflots.com

Photos: © crimson and Ivan Gulei - Fotolia.com

YOU’RE NOT ALONE: Languedoc Jelly offers company and support

Hérault

Gard October 11 This annual market, la Foire St Firmin will gather 200 stallholders offering their local products, which vary from food to clothing, jewellery and pottery.The market will be open from 08.00 until 18.00. Uzès is, of course, a historic town near the famous Pont du Gard. A weekly market is also held there, every Saturday all year round, from 08.00 to 13.00. Call 04 66 03 48 48

Uzès

MARKET

Photo: Office de tourisme d'Uzès et de l'Uzège, Aline Périer


Languedoc Pages

What’s On 7

October 2011

Aude Carcassonne FAMILY Photos © Cédric Caumes

October Mende

FOOD

Photos © Mairie de Mende

Lozères

October 2 You can take part in a race organised by volunteers in the town of Carcassonne.You have the choice between running 12 km or doing a halfmarathon.This race will be a great opportunity to combine performance and pleasure and to discover the old part of Carcassonne (La Cité) and the Canal du Midi. Prizes will be given to all participants. Registration fees €12. Fill in the registration form on the website www.asc-athle.fr or email Laurent Jobard at asc-athle@wanadoo.fr

Lozères

Saint Julien des Points

Photos © équipe Train de l'Andorge en Cévennes Photos © Jean Louis Maurin

ANIMALS

France in English News, interviews, practical info and more

Villefort CULTURE

Pyrénées-Orientales Photo:© kriss69 - flickr.com

Espezel

Lozères

October 30 Journée du terroir will promote many local products such as chestnuts (flour, jam), honey, walnuts, mushrooms and seasonal vegetables (potatoes, pumpkins, etc).The market will open at 10.00 and from 10.15 there will be a series of displays given by two folklore groups.The morning also sees a competition for the best chestnut cream. In the afternoon there will be Provencal dances, a raffle, games for children and rides in a horse-drawn carriage. Call 04 66 46 87 30

Perpignan

October 28 The Toulouse Capitole National Orchestra will perform some wonderful pieces of classical music at the Théâtre de l'Archipel.Works by Shostakovitch and Rachmaninov will be played by the very talented musicians under their charismatic conductor, Tugan Sokhiev. Prices range from €18 to €28 depending on seats. Call 04 68 51 64 40

Photos © M.Callegari CdC Haut Minervois

October 9 Come and enjoy the country fair in Aigues-Vives, a town famous for its apples, rice and fruits.There will be a market with lots of local products, including apples and wines, activities for children and a giant apple compote. At 09.30, discover the nearby salt lake of Marseillette in a little train. During the afternoon there will be a discussion on the varieties of apples from the past. Call 04 68 79 05 60 officedetourisme.hautminervois@orange.fr

October 22-23 A big agricultural fair will be held at Espezel with many activities and animals on show. As well as displays of sheep, pigs, horses and agricultural equipment, there will be sheepdog displays, horse-breaking and dressage, heavy horses and a competition testing the skills of cattle-handling – plus a funfair and a market selling local produce. Call 04 68 20 20 21 www.cc-pays-de-sault.fr

FAMILY

October 17 Catch the little train TAC (Train de l’Andorge en Cévennes) from the Saint Cécile d’Andorge station that will take you to the market, where you can discover many products made with chestnuts, such as jams, breads, cakes, syrups, crêpes and flour.There will be different activities throughout the day and exhibitions of paintings and photographs. You will enjoy trying the toasted chestnuts and other food available. From 10;00 to 18.00. The little train is €4 for adults, €2 for children and €10 for families. Call 04 66 45 40 71 or 04 66 45 93 66

CONCERT

Aude

Aigues-Vives FAMILY

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October 7-9 Les toqués du cèpe are three days of discovery around ceps (mushrooms). In the early morning there is the opportunity to pick ceps with well-informed mycologists in the woods of Charpal. Ceps will be available for sale in the market. If you don’t know how to cook them, an expert will offer lessons. Entertainment will be an important feature, with many activities, concerts, a photo exhibition, visits in Mende and a giant omelette.The cooking lessons cost €40 per person. Call 04 66 94 00 23 www.ot-mende.fr

Aude


8 Organic

Languedoc Pages

FRANCE is leading Europe in the production of organic food, as more and more farmers diversify into ‘bio’ growing methods. Recent government measures to increase this sector aim for 20% organic food in state catering by 2012, and although it is unclear whether this target will be reached, the trend is definitely on the increase. Unsurprisingly, there are big regional differences in the percentage of organic producers. Top is Languedoc-Roussillon, with 35% two years ago, followed by Île de France with 33% and PACA hot on their heels at 30%. Outside France, only the USA and Australia have this sort of growth. The scene in the UK is rather different, with emphasis currently being placed on locally-produced food, rather than organic. Indeed, according to the Soil Association, the number of organic food producers in the UK fell last year by 4.2%, and sales were down by 5.9%.

I caught up with two expats in Languedoc-Roussillon who have made the move to organic. Both said that although they have to work extremely hard, it is worth it and means they really feel fulfilled by what they are doing. Catherine Wallace spent 15 years in the wine trade in the UK, knows it inside-out and has plenty of contacts there. For two years she and her partner searched Languedoc-Roussillon for a working vineyard with potential for development. The right location in terms of terrain and climate is very important. Six years ago they bought

Château de Combebelle, in the St Chinian AOC, from a fellow Brit. “It was a very steep learning curve,” Catherine told me. “The best way to learn is to be very handson.” Although the vineyard already produced the traditional red wines of the region, Catherine had a vision: to expand the range of wine produced. Her first rosé was produced in 2007 and she has plans to plant some white varieties soon. This is an expensive business; to plant a hectare of new vines costs €30,000, even with subsidies. “You need to know what you are aiming for and be realistic about how much it will cost,” she advised. Why organic? “We both have total respect for the environment. We are not only organic, but bio-dynamic and I couldn’t do it any other way. It sums up our whole philosophy.” Sales are going well, and Château de Combebelle’s wine is represented in several UK outlets, including the Co-op. Promotion is via wine fairs, but also very much through personal contact, gained through Catherine’s previous experience. Sarah and Jim Pearce own and run pickyour-own farm Top Fruits (www.topfruits.com), an unusual enterprise in France. Running alongside is a pig farm and the original vineyard. Although they are not totally organic, the Pearces are extremely environmentally aware. They bought the property, a fruit farm with some vines, in 2005. They used an Englishspeaking agent in the region, which they knew to be right for their needs. Jim had been a farm manager in the UK for some years and already

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While food producers across the country are feeling the effects of the stormy economic climate, organic growers are bucking the trend. In 2008, Agence Bio, the French organic agency, saw more than 300 producers sign up to the state organic scheme each month, and organic food products represented 1.7% of total food production. By 2010, the number of organic producers had risen by a further 23%. While this is still only a small proportion, it is rising year on year. JOAN BUNTING reports.

Photo: © Subbotina Anna - fotolia.com

Going Bi in France

had a great deal of relevant expertise. It was this experience that helped them avert disaster when, after their first year in the property, the jam factory to which they sent their peaches went under. They had relied on this income to support the development of their vineyard, so they switched to PYO and have expanded that part of the business over the years. They brought in pigs to use up the windfall peaches, and the rest of the farm, including six beehives, developed from there. Sarah points out that bees need an environment free from chemicals, so this in itself is a good reason to adopt organic methods. Sarah explained that one of the main obstacles to becoming completely organic is the weeds. “The public don’t like wandering around fields and orchards full of weeds, so they simply have to be kept down – the weeds that is! However, we have to be very careful indeed about treating the fruit, after all we have customers picking every day.” The 33-hectare property between Béziers and Narbonne grows a huge variety of produce, from stoned and soft fruits to table grapes and vegetables. They also sell their pork as half-carcasses for the freezer, and of course there is the wine, which is, however, not organic. Sarah told me that 95% of the farm’s customers are French, adding that French people haven’t lost the skills of preserving. “They pick by the bucketful, and as for the pork, they don’t waste a scrap. They are, in fact, perfect customers.” Visiting Brits apparently prefer to pick up punnets of soft fruit and neat joints of pork, whereas Turkish customers go for the table grapes in a big way.

Organic wine producer Catherine Wallace wouldn’t want to farm any other way

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Where to find bio-produce in your region Fans of regional cuisine, organic farming methods and an all-round “back to nature” approach will find plenty of food (and wine) for thought in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Goat’s cheese, pick-you-own produce and pig farming are just some examples of the rising organic market in France I also spoke to two young French producers, Julien Laurens and Stephan, known as the Cheese Man, who are taking the cautious route to organic production. Julien is a neighbour. A horticulturist by training, he inherited land and wanted to do something a bit different. Passionate about the organic movement, he hit upon the idea of growing saffron and last year harvested a trial crop. But instead of selling it, he took samples to some of the best chefs in the region and asked for their honest opinions. They were extremely enthusiastic about its high quality and said they would buy as much as he could produce. He has now extended his planting and is looking to add organic herbs next year. Julien says he was looking for a niche, something regional but with few producers. The hard work for him comes after harvesting when, to get a kilo of saffron, the stamens of 150,000 flowers have to be removed – time to recruit the family! Stephan produces organic goat’s cheeses high on the plateau and sells quite simply door-todoor, visiting the local, often remote hameaux once a week, with a refrigerated container in the back of his vehicle. His cheese is so good and well priced, at €1.20 per cheese, that in just a few months he has developed a large customer base. His other outlet would be farmers’ markets, but he says the cost of getting to them would eat into his profits and keep him away from his goats. While he is never going to make a fortune, he clearly loves his life: a good enough reason for any enterprise.

„

www.agencebio.org

„

www.soilassociation.org

„

www.bio-dynamie.org

ORGANIC WINE Languedoc-Roussillon is France’s largest organically-grown wine region, both in terms of surface area of vineyard and number of officially certified organic winemakers. The AIVB-LR is the trade association of producers of wine made from organically-grown grapes in LanguedocRoussillon. It organises Montpellier’s annual organic wine trade fair, Millésime Bio (January 23-25, 2012). www.millesime-bio.com/v2/aivb_lr.asp

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Useful Websites

SLOW FOOD Founded by Italian Carlo Petrini in 1986, the Slow Food movement strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages the farming characteristic of the local eco-system. The movement now has more than 1,000 local groups in 132 countries, including four in LanguedocRoussillon. Each group is known as a “convivium” (Latin for feast or banquet). See their blog at http://sflr.unblog.fr/ Narbonne: Convivium Narbonne, “L’Aude à la Bouche”. Contact Bernard Grellier, tel. 06 64 36 81 79, email: slowfood.narbonne@orange.fr Montpellier: Convivium Languedoc. Contact Joël Bernard, tel. 04 67 22 10 31, email: slowfood.languedoc@orange.fr Haut-Languedoc: Convivium Terrasses du Haut Languedoc. Contact Elisabeth Besle, tel. 04 67 23 00 09, email: elisabeth.besle@laposte.net Perpignan: Convivium Roussillon Contact Hélène Decoene, tel. 04 68 80 82 98, email: h.decoene@wanadoo.fr ORGANIC FOOD STORES The website Bio et Bien-être lists organic food stores in Languedoc-Roussillon, searchable by department: http://alimentation.bioetbienetre.fr/magasin-bio/ languedoc-roussillon/c2/r13

Photo: © FOTOCROMO - fotolia.com

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10 Food

Languedoc Pages

After she was chosen as first BBC Masterchef in 1990 JOAN BUNTING was soon writing a food column and doing BBC local radio. Now the former advisory teacher has retired and moved permanently to her home in France, but is still keen to tell readers about good food.

I waste food; don’t we all? I am trying hard to reduce it, and believe that living in France makes this easier. For example, fruit and vegetables, the most wasted items in the UK, are much easier to buy loose here. I suspect that people in France struggle with two areas of potential waste: bread and cheese. Depending on the size of your household, and your capacity for both, I think many readers would agree. That half baguette hanging around or the leftover pieces of cheese, lurking in the back of the fridge? Why not put them to good use.

ONE OF my prized possessions is a bread board given to my mother for Christmas 1940. It still has the faint inscription: “Waste Not”. In May 2011 a report to the United Nations food and agriculture organisation stated that the world’s richest countries waste nearly as much food as the entire net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, one third of food produced for human consumption is wasted. These are shocking facts in times of famine, rising food prices and falling incomes. Let me just say that in developing countries, food loss caused through production, harvest and processing is the major problem. In developed countries the big problem is waste. Retailers and consumers throw away perfectly edible food in terrifying amounts. France Nature Environmental reported in 2010 that every citizen throws away 20kg of food, 7kg still in its packaging. In the UK each year £420 (€475) of food per household is wasted unnecessarily. In North America the figure is $620 (€430).

Suggestions for bread: Cut it into slices, put into a plastic bag, add a little oil and shake, then spread on a baking tray and bake when cooking something else. Then cool and store in a tin for canapés, or to float on soup with cheese. Bake without oil, then crush and store in an airtight container for crumb coating. If fairly fresh, crumb in the blender/processor and then bag and freeze, making dishes as below. For cheese: Grate and bag in the freezer for all sorts of dishes. Soft cheeses can be turned into quiches and tarts, especially good with red onions. A Provençal recipe blends soft goat and blue cheese with a little marc or brandy for the cheese board, or as an apéritif with toasts. For many other suggestions go to www.lovefoodhatewaste.com Here is one of our family recipes that uses both bread and cheese.

Fluffy Cheese Pudding - serves 4 Photo: © Joan Bunting

Eat it, don’t bin it

October 2011

SUPPER: Don’t waste leftover cheese and bread – turn it into a delicious family meal

INGREDIENTS 500 ml milk 50 g butter 100g fresh/frozen breadcrumbs 1tbsp grated or finely chopped onion

1tsp mustard Salt and pepper 2 eggs, separated 150g grated cheese

METHOD Heat the milk with the butter, then add the onion and crumbs and leave to soak for at least half an hour or overnight. Beat the mustard, salt and pepper into the egg yolks and add these and the cheese to the crumb mixture.

Whisk the egg whites until firm, fold in. Pour into a litre buttered dish and cook at 200°C (400°F) for 40 minutes, lowering the heat if the top begins to brown too much. When the pudding is firm to the touch serve at once with a green salad and baked tomato halves.

Tried and tested by us Which wine should I drink with this? Caline Montfort, of Julien de Savignac wine merchants (www.julien-de-savignac.com), says: Caravansérail 2007 of Domaine Chemins d’Orient. €9.80. Pecharmant. Red wine with character. It is soft, fruity with a spicy note, thanks to the excellent soils of Pecharmant, allowing Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec to express themselves fully. This wine will stand up to the mustard and cheese, but still marry gently with the bread, milk and butter as it remains very soft in tanins.

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A Languedoc Pages team member has put this recipe to the test, hoping to pass on some handy hints when you try the recipe at home: “Georges my eight-year-old son helped me make this easy tea-time treat. The only drawback was the infusion time needed for the bread and milk mix (one night). A good tip to cut down on washing up is to put the bread slices in the milk with the onion then put in the microwave for one minute. It is then easy to mash. Whisking the egg white did give the dish a nice soufflé texture. If I made it again I would add some lardons for extra flavour. We served with a rocket and tomato salad.”

in Languedoc

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Business 11

October 2011

FINANCE Answered by

ANNETTE MORRIS has lived in Languedoc for almost four years. She works as a freelance internet marketing consultant and website developer helping businesses optimise their online presence. Annette co-runs www.LaFranglaise.com and the Languedoc group of the Survive France network. Earlier this year she started Languedoc Jelly, designed to promote the co-working concept to expats and English-speakers in France. In this regular column she shares her tips for the business community and would welcome readers’ questions and feedback.

Let them know you’re there

Living together Photo: © Richard Villalon - Fotolia.com

A PACS contract is a good idea for co-habitees What are my legal rights as somebody living in concubinage? I have been living in Béziers with my partner now for 20 years. Do we have the same inheritance and property rights as a married couple? THE number of unmarried couples living together in France has been on the increase since the 1980s. This trend reflects not only more open attitudes toward sex, but also an increase in the number of couples finding it financially difficult to marry and have children because of the shortage of employment. There is also, of course, a strong element of choice, as many people are against marriage as a matter of principle. For others there is no choice, as the partner may already be married. In 1999, the French government began recognising couples living together as in effect married. The move led to equal treatment for married couples and unmarried ones who live together, but it does involve some procedural steps. French law now distinguishes between partners living together on a casual basis (en union libre) and those in a more committed relationship (en concubinage). If you live together en concubinage you have some of the same privileges in law as married couples, including social security, but you are still in a fairly poor position legally. To obtain a certificat de concubinage, you need to obtain an attestation from your mairie testifying that you live together as man and wife. The major disadvantage of concubinage is that it isn’t recognised under French inheritance laws, so partners can only inherit through a will, and then only the proportion left after succession rules are applied. The partner will also pay tax on most of the inheritance at 60%. No state pension is payable on death to the surviving partner. A pacte civile de solidarité (PACS), which is signed at a court, confers many more of the legal benefits of marriage. PACS developed from a promise made by a former prime minister, Lionel Jospin, to recognise gay relationships, but it came to include virtually any two people sharing a home and in a relationship. The principal purpose and effect of a PACS is to improve the position of unmarried couples with regard to tax and social rights. Without adopting either of these two procedures, you are living as two individuals, effectively en union libre. In the event of a breakdown in the relationship your partner has no duty of support, assistance or loyalty, and you might find yourself without resources and without any possibility of obtaining anything from your former partner. In terms of property ownership you could be similarly disadvantaged. Unless you purchased your property jointly under a clause tontine, in the event of the death of your partner, you will be faced with a 60% tax bill on the value of the half-share passed to you in order to assume full ownership. I mention the perils of the union libre in case you are assuming concubinage without having applied for the certificate. If this is the case, I recommend that you take steps to safeguard your position and consider a full PACS.

Many expat entrepreneurs and ‘solopreneurs’ arrive in their foreign country of choice with big ideas but not enough research. The truth is, you often lose your professional network and recreating a business and corporate identity from zero can be a daunting challenge BUILDING a reputation can take time and unless you have great language skills or are walking into a ready-made job and a new lifestyle, integrating into the local community and finding new clients can be a rollercoaster experience. So how can you make your fledgling enterprise more visible? Marketing matters Yes, marketing matters especially for freelances. Let’s face it: no marketing equals no business. It’s really important to carve out time every day to do some kind of marketing activity. If you’re busy it’s tempting to cut back on the marketing effort, but you still need to be prospecting for the next job. Marketing isn’t like selling second-hand cars. You are trying to reach people who need what you have to sell and who would probably be your customers – if only they knew you existed. PR is more than just a press release A lot of people think they don’t “do” public relations. The fact is that every time they answer the phone, meet a prospective client, update their Facebook status, write an email or a letter, they are contributing to their own PR. Ask yourself these four questions and closely analyse your answers: a) As a business, what am I trying to achieve? b) For my business to achieve (a), who do I need to reach? c) What do I want my prospective clients to do? d) If those prospects are going to do (c) what must they think about my business?

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Languedoc Pages

A business will not become known by itself – you have to tell people about it The more precisely you can define your answers, the closer you will come to finding the right PR message: and the best news is that, if you do it yourself, PR is free. Making news How much do you know about your customers? Do you know what media they read or follow? Find time to target those same media channels with information or news. A word of caution: if you do decide to issue any kind of press release, “be newsworthy”. Journalists receive hundreds of emails a day, so don’t just send information about your product. Catch their attention with something relevant to them and make sure you follow it up. Physical versus digital Have you Googled yourself lately? The likelihood is that if you are trying to promote your services or your business you are being Googled all the time. Sign up for free Google alerts and receive an email when you or your business have been mentioned on the web. Don’t just worry about the physical – keep a close eye on your digital presence too. Do the search results reflect your current image? Crossing the brochure bridge Internet and social media marketing is

increasing all the time, but in France there is still a huge desire to have printed material for publicity. Brochures, fliers and posters are still widely used but can be costly investments for the average “solopreneur”. However, most people can’t do without a business card so consider adding a Quick Response or QR code. This is a two-dimensional code designed to be read by smartphones. The basic code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. This code takes people to your website where they can find your “brochure” information at no extra cost to you. If you don't have a blog or a website, consider setting up a free business profile using www.about.me instead.

Useful Websites www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ QR_Code www.smarta.com www.google.com/alerts www.mediauk.com www.about.me Please be aware that information given by private website-users should be verified by experts to make sure it applies to your individual situation.

To contact Annette Morris, call 07 86 14 16 39 or email Solutions@LaFranglaise.com

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12 Directory

Languedoc Pages

October 2011

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LANGUEDOC DIRECTORY English-speaking firms near you For your security, we check that the French businesses in this section are officially registered with the authorities

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PETER JOHNSON SARL Business & Financial Services French taxation specialists (25 years experience)

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HOUSES ON INTERNET Do you want to sell your house quickly? Our fee is only 2.5% Find out how on: WWW. HOUSESONINTERNET.COM

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Languedoc Pages

Directory 13

October 2011

ADVERTISING FEATURES

Target the international property market If you are looking to sell your French home, Richard Kroon’s company, Houses on Internet, will ensure it gains exposure to buyers in over 25 countries worldwide NEARLY three years ago Dutch entrepreneur Richard Kroon came up with a new way to sell French property that was better, faster and cheaper than the methods in use at that time. His company, Houses on Internet, was born a few months later and today four people work full-time and nearly 70 local representatives work part-time to sell his clients’ French properties. The 50-year old marketing and internet pioneer was one of the first to recognise the power of the internet in 1998 and offered online solutions to European businesses that wanted to attract new markets. The concept behind Houses on Internet is exactly the same as the one Richard developed for those European companies - except now he uses today’s modern techniques. “It is basically the same thing: as an owner (seller) you are looking for

clients (potential property buyers). In the old days this buyer used to pass by an estate agent’s window, see a photo he or she liked, and walk in, but unfortunately those days are over,” said Richard. With economies struggling, many potential buyers are uncertain of how much they can spend on a house, which in a lot of cases increases the average time a property is on the market. With non-stop Google advertising, along with putting each house on other leading property websites, the Houses on Internet website reaches over 100,000 visitors per month from over 25 different countries worldwide. “After the traditionally slow summer period, sales really have been going up again since early September. The only difference is that the buyers are not the same as

those we were seeing one or two years ago, when the majority were French, British, Belgian or Dutch,” said Richard. “This majority is shrinking rapidly and we have been selling properties now to people from countries like the USA, Canada, Africa, Asia, Russia, Finland, Australia and New Zealand. Our policy to think global and advertise worldwide definitely seems to pay off.” Putting your property on the market with Houses on Internet is easy. Just visit the website www.housesoninternet.com and go to the page “selling a property”. Here you will find all the information you need and at the bottom of the page is a form you can fill in to sign up. Richard personally calls everyone that submits the form. “Some people might still have questions or just want to share their experiences with

viewed by potential buyers all over me, so I believe it is important to the world. have that initial talk,” he said. From then on, the company’s wellwww.housesoninternet.com oiled machine starts working for the Tel. 05 55 65 12 19 client. A local representative calls to make an appointment and take a large selection of photos. Following this a questionnaire, in the customer’s own language, is sent to gather information about the house; texts are written and translated, and the photos are edited. The end result is presented on a website that has been specially made to sell the property, which Richard Kroon’s website for Houses on Internet will then be reaches over 100,000 visitors each month

Invest in some tried and tested advice Peter Johnson SARL is a fully licensed and insured professional body giving fee-paying advice across a broad range of areas from taxation and healthcare plans to pension schemes and selling property PETER Johnson has been offering professional advice to expatriates in all aspects of the leap across the Channel for the last 25 years. Having lived in France since 1985, he has developed a wide network of professionals in the field of buying and selling property, from reliable estate agents to notaires. “Moving to France is a big step full of complications, in a foreign language, which are steeped in Gallic customs and bothersome red tape,” said Peter. “We can help customers through the whole process and even connect them with specialised mortgage banks, which have a greater understanding of the sometimes intricate financial affairs of foreigners.” When it comes to French taxation

whether that be an Auto Entreprise, a limited company or SARL. Peter added: “I can explain the pros and cons to clients and then actively work through the documentation with them.” One of the biggest concerns for expatriates arriving in France is how to take advantage of the French healthcare service. Peter and his team can help clients no matter what their situation. “Whether you

the company is experienced at helping clients ease their way into the French system. Often Peter meets clients in their own home and can help in all aspects of the tax system, from income tax returns and estate planning to wealth tax and local taxes. “I can also inform clients about any changes in legislation and meetings with Moving to France is a big step full of local tax officers is also complications, in a foreign part of the process should language, which are steeped in Gallic there be any questions or misunderstandings,” said customs and bothersome red tape Peter. are retired and coming into France If you are looking to set up an on an E121 or S1, or working in the active business structure then the French system and getting cover via company can lead clients through RSI or CPAM, we can explain the the maze of French bureaucracy to details and plough through the help them find the best vehicle,

paperwork,” said Peter. Another area where the company can offer support is by helping clients make the best decisions regarding taxefficient savings plans and investments - as well as finding a pension plan that fits both the needs and pocket for those who are still working. “Above all I am here to offer helpful guidance in a personable and friendly manner,” said Peter, adding that his reasons Peter Johnson helps clients manage their for moving to France business and financial affairs in France were the same as many can offer no nonsense, plain talking of his customers, so it is with both assistance that is just a phone call warmth and sympathy that he helps away.” them with the great adventure of moving here. peterjohnson@wanadoo.fr Peter added: “Life in the belle pays 04 93 29 34 32 may not be home forever, but all the 06 21 04 89 37 time people are here and need help I

How French can you get? Whether you need French lessons, translation help or advice, Howfrench.com has a wealth of language and cultural knowledge to share with those who need support in France HOWFRENCH.COM is a small translation and language teaching business run by Carole and Mick Howarth from their home in Perpignan in the Pyrénées Orientales. Carole was born and raised in south-west France, Mick hails from the North of England and the couple met through working together in London. Both have dual French and British nationality, are qualified French and English teachers and have taught in both the British and French state education systems. In 1986 Mick and Carole arrived

It’s unfortunate, but the French didn’t learn to speak from the same grammar book you used in secondary school!

in a region of France they did not know with a car, a tent and a baby. They bought property, found work and started a business. Although it was hard at first, they say, it meant that over the years they have accumulated a great amount of experience and finely honed language skills to share with clients of Howfrench.com. “Being small allows us to provide a service that is both professional and personal,” said Carole, who explains the company name “Howfrench” came about by adding “How” from their surname “Howarth” to the word “French”. One of the services the company offers is an advice and “hand-holding” service. If you are hoping to become more than a permanent tourist in France then Howfrench.com might be able to assist you with cultural under-

standings and administrative hassles. “Don’t be like one client who arrived in late October and was so impressed by the beautiful pots of chrysanthemums on sale everywhere that she bought one as a present for her new next door neighbour - who was insulted, obviously, because they are sold exclusively to be placed on the graves of loved ones at Halloween,” said Carole. If a simple advice session is not enough, Mick or Carole can accompany you to view houses, sort out disputes with neighbours or present a case to the local ombudsman. However, for most people who move to France the main problem is the language. “It’s unfortunate, but the French didn’t learn to speak from the same grammar book you used in secondary school!” said Mick. Howfrench.com can design specific courses for each student in

modules that require 20 hours of learning over a few weeks. “An alternative to this would be to take part in a regular conversation group for more advanced students and, on request, we do half or whole day workshops on specific topics,” said Mick. “We also do summer homestay courses. These are the most intensive as we speak French all the time - at meals as well as lessons. It is hard work for everyone, but worth it!” Mick and Carole do not just teach local expats, they also offer a language learning service via Skype, which means they have students in other regions of France and in many countries overseas. “Nobody has to travel, but you’re still face to face

Face-to-face via the internet and looking for “le mot juste” with your teacher. We email documents in advance and correct written work the same way,” said Mick. He added: “We translate publicity material for French business clients, but we also have a cheaper ‘gist translation’ service for people who just want to understand the main points of a French document. Three official-looking pages might just be a company trying to sell you life insurance!” www.howfrench.com connexion@howfrench.com 04 68 38 91 69


14 Property

Languedoc Pages

October 2011

Reduce heating costs and D I Y t i p s cut your carbon footprint

WHY NOT SPONSOR & ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS HERE?

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and heating bills, there are several popular renewable energy options to choose from: solar, biomass or wood-fired, aerothermal and geothermal. FRANCES COOK finds out more about what each system involves.

How to restore old wooden furniture

Photo: © Elenathewise - Fotolia.com

Photo:© tiero - Fotolia.com

Going solar USING the inexhaustible natural energy from the sun by installing solar thermal panels – either evacuated tube or flat plate – is an effective, pollution-free alternative to fossil fuels. “A solar thermal system can reduce bills for domestic water heating by up to 70%,” said Michael Swan, of Dordogne-based Swan Solar. A stand-alone solar thermal hot water system using evacuated tubes is considered one of the best ways to heat water. “The vacuum inside each tube provides perfect insulation and protects the system from cold and windy weather, so even in these conditions, as long as it is light it will work,” said Paul Elliott,

Installing a solar system attracts money off income tax. Below: pellets for a biomass boiler

who runs Ecopower. It can generate more than 90% of hot water needs. A 45% crédit d’impôt (money off income tax) is available calculated on the cost of materials for a solar thermal system, which takes up to two days to install. A 22% tax credit is available for solar photovoltaic panels, which generate electricity.

To qualify for credits it is vital to use materials of the right specifications, so it is important to use a well-established firm. Detailed factures (bills) should be kept as proof. Biomass or wood-fired systems With almost 17 million hectares of tree coverage in

France, using a biomass or wood-fired system is a popular choice. There are two types of stove: a wood stove, which heats the room it is in, and wood boiler stoves. The latter can fall into two categories: a stove which has a wrap-around boiler, or wood gasification, wood pellet and other biomass boilers, which are normally housed in a separate room from a tank where the heat is stored. Tax credits of up to 36% are offered. Doubling up on solar and wood The combined approach of installing a solar thermal hot water system and a wood gasification boiler can be an effective way to heat your home. “We save €3,000 per year on energy bills - based on a 300m2 house once heated by oil and electricity and now heated by the sun and wood,” said Mr Swan. He added that the gasification boiler and solar panels complement each other by working at different times of the year and also heat the swimming pool. Aerothermal and geothermal Air source heat pumps take freely available energy from the air around your home, and much of the installation work happens outside, so there is minimal disruption or mess. “Even though air temperatures vary at different times of year, there is always a vast amount of thermal energy available,” said Mr Elliott. He added some air source heat pumps will operate even when the outside temperature is -15°C. Ground source heat pumps take the heat out of the ground, the temperature of which is more stable and higher than that of the air. Although extensive digging up can be disruptive and costly, this type of system is costeffective for renovations or new builds where the ground works are combined with other works. Tax credits of up to 36% are available for heat pumps.

A small amount of work can transform old wood BUYING old wooden furniture in an auction or second hand shop can be an economical way of furnishing your home, especially if you are prepared to go for the pieces that need some work. However make sure the wood is good quality and that there are no serious faults, or restoration will have to be carried out by a professional. First step in the restoration process is to strip back any old paint and varnish. If there are several layers, paint stripper is the quickest and most effective solution. Be careful not to leave it on for too long and to wash down the wood with warm water and a cloth afterwards. Once the wood has dried, sand down the surfaces to remove any remaining paint or varnish. Next carry out any repairs that need doing. Wood filler is best for cracks and holes. It is available in different colours, but choose carefully as when dry they can sometimes look darker than the wood. Start by cleaning out the cracks or holes and then firmly press in the filler, leaving a small amount above the surface of the wood. Once it is set, smooth the patch down to the level of the wood with fine grade sandpaper. Continue sanding the rest of the piece of furniture down. If you would like a natural finish to the wood, gently rub in a light wood stain, following the instructions on the tin and apply furniture wax when dry. To varnish, proceed according to instructions on the box and again wax to protect as a final step. Sometimes the piece of furniture is in good condition bar a few superficial stains. In this case, work can be carried out on those small areas alone. Below are a couple of common problems and solutions. White Spots Lightly wipe the area with a small amount of methylated spirits. It is important not to use too much as it can damage the finish. If this doesn’t work, use a very fine abrasive in paste form – several applications may be necessary. As soon as the stain has disappeared, wipe the wood with a soft cloth and apply several layers of hard furniture wax. Blushing This is when a white haze appears over the surface of a piece of furniture and is a common problem with old finishes. Blushing is caused by moisture. Firstly, try the same techniques as for removing white spots. If this doesn’t work, take some No. 0000 steel wool dipped in linseed oil and lightly buff the surface, working with the grain of the wood. Once finished, wipe down with a cloth and apply hard furniture wax.

SPONSOR & ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CALL

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Languedoc Pages

Property 15

October 2011

Houses for sale in and around Languedoc

LegalNotes

Buying or selling a property in or around Languedoc? We can help. Our website www.connexionfrance.com carries details of more than 14,000 homes for sale across France.

Answered by

Photo: © Richard Villalon - Fotolia.com

We also feature properties for sale in this dedicated section of the paper each month. To find out more about any particular property, go to www.connexionfrance.com and enter the ref: code shown under the property. For sellers, the adverts are also displayed across a range of popular Englishlanguage websites and are seen by thousands of potential buyers EVERY

day. Our 3+3 package costs just €200TTC and gives you three months online advertising as well as a print advert in three editions of The Languedoc Pages. Our 6+6 package is best value at €330TTC and provides the same, but for six months via each channel. Contact us on 0800 91 77 56 (freephone in France) or email sales@connexionfrance.com

New Consumption and Emission Chart - e.g. Energy rating C & F refers to C for Consumption and F for Emissions

More details on all these properties - and how to contact the seller directly - can be found in the property for sale section of

www.connexionfrance.com Simply enter the code under each home to find out more PROPERTIES IN LANGUEDOC

An SCI means more legal fees, but may be worthwhile

Beat inheritance laws with holding company WHEN looking to buy a property in France, readers may have heard of the possibility of using a purchasing vehicle called an SCI. This stands for Société Civile Immobilière – a civil real estate holding company. There are many advantages for using an SCI for a purchase, and it can be very helpful in avoiding or lessening the effect of French inheritance laws. First and foremost, if it is an SCI that proceeds with the purchase of a French property, then the shareholders, who only possess shares and not the actual property, avoid the French inheritance rules, as long as they do not become French residents. If the shareholders do decide to live in France and thus become subject to French inheritance laws, then cleverly worded byelaws and the use of specific clauses can lessen the impact of the inheritance laws and provide greater protection for the surviving spouse in the case of more acrimonious family situations. It is also possible to include a tontine clause in the byelaws, as long as this clause is included when the company is first registered. The SCI must be set up before the property is purchased. In most cases, the decision to use an SCI is made between the signing of the compromis and the final sale deed. For this reason, it is essential that a clause de substitution be included in the compromis, so that in the final deed, the SCI can take the place of those who signed the compromis and thus become the owner of the property. This article would not be complete without us drawing your attention to the disadvantages of using an SCI. Firstly, it adds extra expense to a purchase, as there are legal fees for drawing up the documents and registering the company. During the existence of the company, it is essential to comply with some basic rules to avoid the wrath of the French tax authorities. The SCI must open its own bank account and annual yearly accounts must be drawn up and approved in an AGM. In most cases, the director of the SCI draws up the annual accounts as they are very simple, and no real knowledge of accountancy is necessary. In more complicated cases, ie where much renovation is being carried out or there is rental income, then the use of a French accountant may be necessary, with the extra cost that this entails. The AGM is often a very informal affair, although legal assistance may be necessary to draw up all the documents to be signed by the shareholders. The signed documents must then be transcribed into the AGM’s bound and stamped register. Finally, the SCI cannot trade; the only money-making activity that is allowed is non-furnished rentals. Also, the SCI does not benefit from limited liability, so the shareholders are personally responsible for any company debts in proportion to their percentage in the share capital.

€150,000

€180,000

Bédarieux, Hérault The house has 2 bedrooms, a large, well-equipped kitchen diner, a shower room, as well as the roomy salon. The house is renovated to an excellent standard.

Estagel, Pyrénées Orientales This house comprises an open plan kitchen, a large living room with beamed ceiling, a hall with nice floor, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and toilets.

REF: IFPC20194

ENERGY RATING = Not given

REF: 40053

€200,000

€230,000

La Redorte, Aude The Chateau de la Redorte is a beautiful complex offering 3-bedroom apartments and villas with services including a restaurant, a Spa and a swimming pool.

Anduze, Gard The villa has a living room, a lounge, kitchen, utility room, 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms an office and two terraces. The area of 3050m² is forested with chestnut, oak and cherry trees.

REF: 26626

ENERGY RATING = Not given

REF: F756

€240,000

€308,000

Sournia, Pyrénées-Orientales Comprises: a fully fitted kitchen, living room with fireplace, large laundry room which could be converted into a bedroom, 3 further bedrooms with built-in wardrobes, and a bathroom.

Near Béziers, Hérault Stone wine barn converted to a very charming spacious home (2005) of 160m2 living space including 4 nice sized bedrooms, 2 big wash rooms, a superb living area of 62m2.

REF: 310

ENERGY RATING = Not given

REF: 10765-CA341000E

ENERGY RATING = Not given

ENERGY RATING = Not given

ENERGY RATING = C

PROPERTIES AROUND FRANCE

€180,000

€186,500

St Jean de Maurienne, Savoie 4 bedrooms, end of substantial village house at 1410m looking up to the Grand Coin and across the Valley. Cross Country skiing on site. Wonderful walking. Laid out as two apartments.

Saintes, Charente-Maritime Large sitting/dining room, kitchen, entrance hall, pantry, 3 bedrooms/study, bathroom, recreation room(formerly an office and now a music room), garage. Large cellar.

REF: IFPC21385

ENERGY RATING = Not given

REF: IFPC21202

€216,000

€355,100

Le Bugue, Dordogne This house, within walking distance of a market town in the Dordogne, can be used in half aswell in a whole. It has an apartment and a converted barn with a passage between.

Allemans, Dordogne This house comprises of 4 good sized bedrooms, 2 fully equipped and modern kitchens, large lounge with fireplace, patio door, dining room, office and tower.

REF: 100360

ENERGY RATING = Not given

REF: 12241

€410,000

€620,000

Saint-Gaudens, Haute-Garonne A large, elegant house built in 1817. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, large kitchen diner and large living/dining room. Internal garage.Recent 10m x 5m heated swimming pool.

Naucelle, Aveyron Authentically restored 4 bedroom country house with 11 hectares of established gardens close to the village of Naucelle. Includes 2 storey stone barn with considerable potential.

REF: IFPC21392

ENERGY RATING = D & E

REF: IFPC21284

ENERGY RATING = D & E

ENERGY RATING = Not given

ENERGY RATING = D & A

The adverts above cost from just €179TTC for a whole year of web advertising and one edition of advertising in the Languedoc Pages. Let our distribution get you a sale. Contact our sales team on 0800 91 77 56 (freephone in France) or email sales@connexionfrance.com


16 Profile

October 2011

Languedoc Pages

What les textos say about French New Zealander Rachel Panckhurst first came to Languedoc in 1979, aged 18, to learn French on a one-month intensive course. Today she is a senior linguistics lecturer at the University of Montpellier III, running a unique project collecting text messages. Louise Hurren finds out more. FRENCH computational linguistics may sound a rather obscure and intellectual subject, but Dr Rachel Panckhurst’s sud4science project is quite down to earth and practical. Over a three-month period that ends in mid-December, Rachel and her research team are aiming to collect no fewer than 50,000 French text messages from the people living in Languedoc-Roussillon. The information collected will be organised in a database for dissemination in the scientific world, or use by researchers, students or the public, in CD/DVD form and/or as a book. But what will all that data tell us? The answer is that – working with linguists, computer scientists, psychologists and communications and research specialists – Rachel hopes to analyse how the French language is evolving through the use of communication devices such as comput-

ers, mobile phones and iPads. After all, as any expat knows, learning French is one thing, but the French used on the web, in chatrooms, forums and email is something else again. Although the sud4science project is forward-looking, Rachel is no stranger to this kind of communication. Over the past 15 years she has developed an interest in analysing the language of email messages, forums, chats, blogs, social networks, and more recently, text messages. As the mother of a 12-yearold bilingual son, she is of course already familiar with teen-speak and Twitter language. Rachel’s Languedoc initiative is part of a vast international research project involving universities in Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and France, bringing together researchers and the French-speaking populations of many countries.

Asked how the public can take part in her project (there are prizes to be won for participating), she explains: “First, you need to register on the website, which is www.sud4science.org, sign the consent form and fill in the questionnaire. Then you will be given a mobile phone number to which you can send us copies of your text messages. “Once you have completed the questionnaire and sent us at least five text messages, you can enter a weekly lottery. The person who sends in the most messages over a three-month period will win an iPad 2, donated by the iTribu store in Montpellier, so there’s certainly an incentive to take part. “Although we’re studying text messages in French – what French speakers would call les textos or “SMS� – we’re also really interested in foreigners who write text messages in French, so I hope the readers of Languedoc Pages will feel encouraged to take part.� Rachel has lived in France for more than 30 years and benefits from dual French and New Zealand nationality. The way of life obviously

Rachel Panckhurst: assessing the French of the communications age suits her. When she is not teaching at the university, she enjoys fine wine and cooking. With her passion for food, she loves to shop at her local market in Les Arceaux on a Saturday morning and she has

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recently written, in English, a book of French and Mediterranean recipes. She also likes swimming and going to the cinema – or as French teenagers might say in a text message, “o 6nĂŠâ€?.

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Languedoc Pages - October 2011