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The French making themselves at home in London… does it show?

By Marie-Cécile Boulle, Founder of Boulle International

When strolling through Chiswick, in west London, on a week-end, one can come across a bilingual restaurant board enticing the many French families now settled in the area to come in and enjoy the food. Ten years ago, to most new comers, Chiswick was considered ‘la banlieue’. French home seekers would reluctantly be driven away from Frog’s valley(Kensington and Chelsea) to experience the proximity and attractiveness of homes in our many London villages, amongst them Chiswick.


Moving further south of the globe to the town of Cape Town, one of the world’s most scenic cities, one can also feel the deeply rooted and century long influence of the French culture at this tip of Africa. The showpiece is Franschoek (le coin français) valley with its vineyards, world class wines, excellent cheeses, its award winning cuisine at ‘le Quartier Francais’. The Huguenots brought with them their religion, language, skills and distinct French culture. The continental or cosmopolitan buzz attributed to the mother city of Cape Town can be greatly attributed to its French roots.


Back to London where hundreds of thousands of French people reside, mostly in rented accommodation. Over the last decade their presence, helped by the ease of air and rail transport to and fro, has impacted on many aspects of London’s daily life and educational system. Patisseries, the conviviality of gastro pubs, annual ‘Fête de la musique’ in our parks, a TV channel dedicated to French Films and much more!


However home is where the heart is and the importance the French attach to finding a home where they can live well and entertain their friends and family has greatly influenced the typical English interiors of yesterday. At some stage, the English landlords came to the realisation that the French actually liked London and the Londoners. They came to appreciate that the French tenant’s unwillingness to compromise on quality at the start of a tenancy led to a long mutually beneficial tenant/landlord relationship. In real terms the landlord found himself being handed back a property in better condition than at the beginning of the tenancy. Attracting this model tenant became a priority to the professional landlord. Separate tiny kitchens were transformed into open plan ‘cuisines americaines’, wood replaced carpeted (bathrooms too) floors, neutral white and off-white to suit any interior décor is now de rigueur and, in the family market, removing furniture became the norm. Many suppliers in the building and refurbishment sectors have benefited from this Anglo-French transition. Landlords have also enjoyed getting to know their tenants and the unexpected pleasure of being invited to dinner by their house proud tenant.


Accompanying and advising this exclusive and demanding clientele has been and continues to be a culturally enriching yet challenging journey. In recent years the French are showing further appreciation of life in their country of adoption. They are entering the emotionally charged home acquisition market and some are actually ‘risking’ investing in ‘buy to let’ in London real estate.


This is a sure sign of a renewed and long term entente cordiale from which we can all benefit and who knows where this cross cultural experience will lead us all?


03/05/2012 - apajoreorce said :

This has made my day. I wish all posintgs were this good.

21/07/2011 - carl said :

Vive la fete et mort aux party-poopers!

12/06/2011 - helenalive said :

As we know the French are the most pessimistic in Europe!

24/05/2011 - janehamilton08 said :

I agree with j.chneour. I too am French, I live in South Ken and have the most inconsiderate French, yes, French neighbours who like to invite friends back to the very expensive apartment any time around midnight to party loudly until 4/5am - at least twice a week. They may live in a very beautiful apartment but they do not have very beautiful manners.

12/05/2011 - j.chneour said :

Model tenants, eh? Why don't tell that to my neighbours and ask them to conform to this new stereotype? They are loud, inconsiderate pests. I am French too and *I* am a model owner-occupier, but then I have lived in London for 31 years. I was trying to escape the self-satisfied, constantly moaning French. I thought I was safe in Shepherd's Bush - it isn't South Ken, is it?, but they are now on my doorstep. Aaaaargh!


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