Sam & Dave Pentin: French chalet owners – Part 1

Wendy Hollands, 15/03/2012

Sam and Dave Pentin left England eight years ago to start a new life and business in the French Alps, running a catered chalet for skiers and bikers.

Has it been an easy ride? Do they have any regrets or advice for others looking to start a business? Wendy Hollands caught up with them over a hot chocolate to find out. In this article, find out why Sam and Dave moved to France and how they settled into a new country.

Making the move

Wendy Hollands, 15/03/2012

Sam waves to some of her chalet guests at another table in the mountain restaurant we’re sitting in. They’re escaping the heavy snow falling outside. She sips her drink and smiles. “The lifestyle out here is much nicer,” she says.

Dave nods. “And we now live on as much in one year as we used to spend on ski holidays in one winter.”

Making a move to another country can be daunting for even the most confident of people, but for Sam and Dave, who moved to France when their boys were aged nine and eleven, the decision came easily.

“Years ago, whenever we went to the airport to fly back to the UK after a skiing holiday, we were miserable leaving the mountains behind. It just didn’t feel right,” Dave explains. “It was this feeling more than anything else that led us to say, ‘let’s turn this around: let’s try to live in a place that feels more natural’.”

Settling in

Both Sam and Dave suffered the usual jitters during and after the move from England – sleepless nights and worries about failing or the boys not wanting to stay. Lots of hard work and determination and some good planning helped them reach their goals.

Part of that planning was to work for an established holiday company during their first year in France. This gave them invaluable experience of what to expect when they opened their own chalet. It also gave them time to settle into a new country with regular pay cheques and to adjust to life in France.

To help their sons Josh and Elliott settle in, they enrolled them in local clubs for their favourite sports. The boys were able to make friends before their first day at school.

Within three months they surpassed Sam and Dave’s French language skills, aiding their adjustment into a very different lifestyle. “They were quite outgoing and good at making new friends,” Dave says.

The locals can be tough on outsiders, but for Sam and Dave having kids helped. “In May, when the ski season had finished and we were still at the school gates, the locals were surprised,” Sam explains. “They’re used to such a transient population of seasonal workers that they didn’t think we’d stay. It wasn’t until the boys’ third term at school that they embraced us.”

The Pentins had made a family decision to move back to England after a year if any of them weren’t happy, but the milestone passed with nobody keen to leave France.

Read Part 2 of this article here.

Image credits:
All images courtesy of Sam and Dave Pentin.

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Wendy Hollands

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