By Jean-Pierre Stroobants and Johanna de Tessières
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Fragments of France Four forties French people living in Belgium explain why they left their country and why, for the majority of them, they do not want to come back.
They are all in their forties, the verb easy, and meet that morning at the bar of Manos Premier, a cozy Brussels hotel located a stone’s throw from Place du Châtelain, in the “French Quarter”. The Belgians watch half-mockingly half-annoyed developments in this district where French expatriates throng. International civil servants, executives or beneficiaries of the famous tax haven that Belgium offers to the wealthy – and to them alone, which never ceases to annoy the natives.
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The four forties do not live there, but in other wealthy municipalities in Brussels and its outskirts. All of them arrived in Belgium a few years ago through the Accueil français de Bruxelles, an association of some 600 families created sixty years ago to help the French integrate. They came that day to meet their eyes on their country of origin.
Marion Pasquier, Caroline de Lagasnerie and Annabelle Perrot, gathered at the Manos Premier hotel in the Saint Gilles district, popular with the French, in Brussels, September 28, 2021.
Expatriation? “For me it was a choice,” explains Annabelle Perrot, mother of three teenagers, involved in volunteer actions. Annabelle and her husband had to leave London due to Brexit. He was hired by a Brussels public company in 2019. His wife wanted “especially not to return to France”. And even less in Paris, even if she spent her youth there. “When you’ve lived elsewhere, you quickly make the comparison,” she explains. Now, it’s no to dirt, insecurity, overpriced rents, traffic, difficulties managing children. “
“Never, never again, Paris! », Supports Caroline de Lagasnerie, 45, also three children. Former employee of a communication company, she opened in Uccle, a town in the south of Brussels, a business based on the principle of bulk and zero waste. “Without children at the time, we sold everything and gave everything to go to Shanghai for four years, then I followed my husband to Lyon, Guadeloupe and Hungary. When he was offered to work in Paris again, I said no. “
At the Chatelain market, in the district of Ixelles, September 29, 2021. Wednesday afternoon, it is the meeting point for many French people living in Belgium. Anabelle Perrot plays the cello in her house in Ixelles on October 1, 2021.
Marion Pasquier, 43 years old, four children, trained in psychology, voluntarily chose exile, not to flee Paris but to leave Nantes. “The trigger happened when I enrolled one of my four children in college: I found the same places, the same teachers as those I had known, and parents who were my former classmates. . There I said to myself: we have to move… And for my husband, who is self-employed, Brussels, an international city and not too English-speaking, was the right place to base. »Marion is now vice-president of Accueil français in Brussels.
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