Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Expat Country Life

A large number of expats go overseas and look to escape the hectic world of city life by moving to somewhere in the countryside.

Although I know many will praise at great length the virtues of simple country life, in reality price is also often a big factor in their decision. That’s because in some English-speaking countries many rural villages have become more or less extended dormitories for the nearby cities they serve, so suburban or rural properties can often be almost as expensive as those in the towns. Overseas this is less frequently the case.

Quite often the town or city almost stops dead at a line and suddenly in the space of 5 minutes one is really ‘in the country’ and prices fall accordingly.

Once established in the country it’s easy to forget that although you live in a rural environment, in fact you know little about that way of life. It’s amazing how quickly, and with such little warning, the self-sufficiency thing ‘kicks-in’ and you can start seeing yourself as a part time farmer.

Suddenly you’re gripped by the overpowering urge to fill up those old sheds or barns in the garden with a few chickens, ducks, sheep and perhaps a pony or pig.

If you think you’re vulnerable to such tendencies, let some of the experiences I know of be a warning!

One woman took a small donkey given ‘free-of-charge to a good home’. Over several weeks in spite of her family’s best efforts, they could not stop the donkey escaping from its field. What did it do once free? It ALWAYS stood in the middle of the fairly busy local road blocking traffic and refusing to move for anyone. Even the local police paid them a visit to complain.

Another family decided a large goat was just the thing they needed – until one day it ate virtually every item of laundry on their washing line. For dessert it entered the kitchen and ate a 50euro note that had been sitting on the table.

One family I know of purchased 12 x 1 day old chicks hoping in time for healthy eggs. To their surprise, as the chicks grew it became apparent that they’d been statistically unlucky and managed to get 10 cockerels out of the 12 chicks. Following much fighting and carnage as they grew, eventually most of them needed to be disposed of (with much heartache) and eggs were few and far between.

My favourite though is the British woman who was horrified to learn that local semi-feral cats that were encouraged in the area to help keep pests down, were also periodically shot by farmers if their numbers got out of control. She started leaving food out for them in the garden to encourage their increasing domestication – until such time as she came into her kitchen to find one munching happily away on her completely untouched freshly cooked turkey that was just ‘resting’ before carving!

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