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Expats Live the Good Life in Normandy

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Eve Damon and her partner Stephen Miles moved to Normandy from The Isle of Thanet, Kent for a life of rural bliss…

A life of Milk and Honey…

expats-in-normandyEve Damon has always loved France. She was born in Germany, studied photography in Paris and couture in Florence, Italy and graphic design and desktop publishing in New York and  worked in fashion most of her life “besides the odd job here or there”. After meeting partner Stephen from the UK, she settled in Kent and dreamed of moving to France and having a shop.

In 2013, the dream came true after the couple discovered their dream house in the Manche area of Normandy and decided to move there with their daughter Anna. They were seeking a country life where they could try to be self-sufficient but where Eve could work from home selling vintage pieces and creating her bespoke bags to sell online. Though they are several miles from a town, having a post office was critical as was having internet access. In some rural areas of France, fast and reliable internet can be a problem, one that Eve has encountered and deals with by having back up support with her mobile phone.

Normandy small holding

“We live in a small smallholding in Normandy pretty much off the grid” says Eve. There are no near neighbours and shops are 10 miles away. Stephen is growing food in the they have planted 50 fruit trees and plan to make their own juices and cider a few years down the line. They’ve also planted grape vines so they can one day make their own wine. Their free range chickens are big and bossy and own the garden and their cats keep the garden free of vermin that often comes with keeping chickens. The family are finding that planning a life of self-sufficiency takes time to come to organise and to come to fruition, but they are loving the chance to try their hand at living the good life in Normandy.

Their house is traditional and offers “million dollar views… We have beautiful wooden floors and some nice traditional red and yellow tiles. There is plenty of room for our pets and us to roam about, Stephen leaves half of the garden wild for the wildlife (and I think to not have to constantly be cutting the grass) the rest is a ball field for Anna and there is an orchard with a pond and a greenhouse”. It is tranquil and visitors are rare and the couple love the quiet life they have found.

They haven’t needed to renovate as it’s a “very sturdy building, we were lucky, but we have a lot of decorating to do eventually!”

Living in such a beautiful part of northern France is inspiring says Eve. She loves photography and the local scenery and her home and garden provide the perfect subject matter and backdrop for her store.  She travels all over France and Western Europe for her stock, English and French vintage and antique items that she sells on Etsy. Her grandfather “He taught me how to hang art in his gallery in Fisherhude and about having the ‘eye’. He was my fiercest critic and always had something to say and how I could make things better; I don’t recall ever getting any praise from him! He also taught me his basic trading secrets which I still live by to this day. Nuggets of wisdom about “the trade” which I will pass on to my daughter”.

Online business in France

Eve stocks a wide variety of items anything from decor, art, kitchen ware, farming tools to unique one of a kind finds. Her customers are hotels, photographers, interior design firms, collectors and people looking for that ‘particular’ gift. “I love my job it really combines all of my passions” says Eve, and she has found that the abundance of flea markets and places to buy second hand and vintage items in France really helps her to source goods for her online shop.

She also designs and makes unique bags that often have a French theme and that she sells around the world.

in France has proved successful for the couple in more ways than one and setting up business wasn’t as difficult as they had feared.

“Setting up a business has been very smooth – it as hard or as easy as you want it to be, all in French of course. It all takes about 2-3 months to have all of the paperwork cleared. You can do it all online, and the internet is full of helpful information. I am at a bit of an advantage speaking French but Stephen would point out that whilst there is plenty of information on line in English he would have struggled with all the paperwork if he had had to do it alone”.

Eve’s top three tips for anyone wanting to move to France to set up an online business:

Become an Auto-Entrepreneur: Go on the internet and apply for the Auto-Entrepeneur status, there you will see job categories and the tax status that applies for them. This is a pay as you go tax system which is a great option for small businesses like ours.

Get the right accounts. You will need a French bank account. Once you have this and if you sell goods that need to be posted, go to the post office and get your Carte Pros (your professional account card). This gives you a special rate and enables you to buy your stamps online. Then you can just drop your parcels off without delay (The queues and chat in the post office can see you stuck in there for hours!)

Keep calm about the paperwork. Try not to get overwhelmed by the paperwork. Stephen suggests dealing with things one step at a time and quotes his recent experience importing a vehicle from the UK to France. The paperwork was extensive and whilst there were many steps, each one went smoothly due to being properly prepared and carrying out extensive Internet research. He did this pretty much on his own using Google translate and helpful websites.

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