Life and English teaching in rural France

Life and English teaching in rural France

France has been one of the best-loved destinations for hundreds of Global English trainees over the years.

So this week I have been thrilled to hear from former Global English trainee Gary Atkins, an English language teacher living and working in central France.

Gary shares what it's like to live in one of the most rural parts of the country, how he blends voluntary and paid work and how understanding French is essential to being part of the rural community. So let's get started!

Hi Gary, tell us a little about how you came to be in France

We moved to the Nièvre (58) in December 2018 after 20 years of pastoring in the UK. Life was too busy and all sorts of circumstances accelerated a long term call to France with an empty diary! We love the Nièvre because virtually no-one speaks English which has made it much easier to become part of the community. After three years we’re getting into the groove of a very different life which we love.

Can you think back to what made you decide to become an English teacher?

When we landed, my wife and I had all sorts of ideas of what we might do in our new life. Once the internet was finally installed, I took the opportunity to take the 120-hr course (plus Essential Grammar and Business English). Honestly, I had no idea what I would do with them but saw them as an investment. That’s proved true in two ways: I have had a modest number of adults wanting to recover their English from school days - and especially to speak English rather than American after movie overload. Probably more significantly, I teach a brilliant group of adults at the local Centre Social on a voluntary basis which has been great for our integration but also two years (and counting) of invaluable classroom experience! Now with a stream of other consultancy work, I’m able to flex the teaching work to fit, knowing that I can increase it as needed. Most of the paid teaching is on zoom and usually 1:1, even after COVID.

What is it about teaching in France that you really enjoy?

Being based in such a remote area, every student and lesson is an investment in the community. People are as fascinated by UK history and culture as much as they are by the language and we have probably learned as much about French history and culture by teaching English as by reading books on the subject. Teaching and teachers are really valued here and it’s a real joy to contribute to our new home this way.

Do you speak French and if so how essential would you say this was to being successful there?

In the (very) rural area in which we live, it would be virtually impossible without good French. That’s partly true of the lessons, but much more so the relationships and invaluable links we’ve been able to make with the wider social and community scene as a result.

Have you any advice to others about starting as an English teacher?

Whilst online teaching is now more common than it was, understanding and being part of a rural community is essential. Even in the “large” towns of the 58, we “know and are known” which means students and opportunities come to us rather than us having to market anything. That certainly fits our new life and provides amazing flexibility. If teaching was my sole income…I’m not sure we’re in the right place!

Regards / Cordialement,

PS setting up legally and financially as an English teacher here was really easy to do and is really easy to maintain….

Thanks Gary, it's great to hear from you and how you have settled so well into your new environment. 




Find other stories of people living and working in France:

Row in Paris >>
Jane in Normandy >>
David in Southern Brittany >>
Maggie in Toulouse >>

Are you living in France and thinking of teaching English? Or hoping to travel and live their one day?

Check out our dedicated teaching English in France page >> 

  • Author: William Bradridge
  • Date: 08/06/2022

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