How to live like a local home owner in France

How to live like a local home owner in France - - NomadorWhat’s the one thing you hate the most? For a lot of us the truth is a bit embarrassing. Alors, it’s confession time. 

Want to know our seething, secret hatred?

Feeling like a tourist.

Oui, we’re telling the truth. It’s that sensation of feeling conspicuous, obvious, and out of place.

And while it might seem silly – selfish, even – the truth is that it stems from our desire to live out our French dreams. We want to experience a culture (especially French culture) at its fullest and most authentic!

We much prefer to play the role of savvy traveller when we’re abroad – or even better: local. And being a local means so much more than knowing your way around, being in on the secrets and goings on.

Imagine wandering into your local boucherie, where the boucher not only knows your name, but your favourite order too – and you can chat away for twenty minutes about his daughter’s wedding or his dodgy car mechanic!

How to live like a local home owner in France - - Nomador - Boucherie

It’s all these personal interactions that make the difference. When you begin to know the stories behind the faces is when you truly become a local.

And while it might seem like this privilege is up to a select few who can, say, afford to own a house in France, the truth is that this couldn’t be further from the truth!We’ve realised that it’s not about paying for fantastic experiences: it’s about being savvy enough to seek them out.

Don’t sacrifice your next dream trip to France

Another thing savvy travellers love is the planning stage. But if there’s one thing we hate almost as much as feeling like a tourist, it’s having to compromise our dreams in order to be economically practical.

Often, you end up spending all your money on the boring things – like flights, or accommodation. And even worse: you end up going for the sub-par option (that you’re not keen on at all) to make the savings go further.

How to live like a local home owner in France - - Nomador

Here’s where we need to let you in on our next little secret: there’s actually more room to move than you think when it comes to getting inventive with accommodation.

We’ve been investigating a phenomenon that is letting travellers have the best of every world: savings, an enriching experience, the chance to meet locals and stay somewhere with all your creature comforts.

The savvy traveller’s secret solution

Our little secret? House-sitting!

For the uninitiated, home exchange and house-sitting have been popular forms of accommodation for over a decade, gaining real momentum with the growth of the web. Websites now allow for people to easily find, virtually ‘meet’ and set up a home swap or sitting agreement with someone on the other side of the globe.

Allowing travellers to become locals

Marrianig Ferrari - How to live like a local home owner in France - - NomadorEnter a new house-sitting platform for both house-sitters and home owners founded by Mariannig Ferrari, who has run the top European house-sitting website, Ilidor, since 2007.

Ilidor and Nomador grew as a natural response to a feeling we all know well: the excitement of planning your next dream trip, and the awful feeling when complications suddenly appear. For Mariannig, this was a holiday to Corsica with her family.

“The pleasure of planning our holidays… was spoiled by the thought of leaving the house alone, as well as putting the pets in a kennel or travelling with them (four children – that was already enough a full car!),” Mariannig explains in a recent interview with

“After searching for hours on the web, I found a retired Belgian couple. They were happy to find free accommodation in our house and visit our region. And they really loved pets!”

“That experience made me realise that a real need existed: so many families were in the same situation.”

Mariannig had a house to stay in – there was no need to swap. What she did need was someone trustworthy: a house-sitter who would also look after her pets.

How can you be sure you’re leaving your home in safe hands?

For Mariannig, the peace of mind that came along with finding the right people to house-sit meant she could enjoy her holiday all the more.

The added bonus, of course, is flexibility. Nomador takes the benefits of home exchange (a place to stay, and someone to look after your house) and leaves all the complications (having to swap at a time and to a location that suits both parties). These two processes are mutually exclusive – you get all the benefits, flexibility and choice, with none of the complications.

How to live like a local home owner in France - - Nomador

To experience both sides of Nomador – as sitter and homeowner – is a wonderfully natural way to build trust, gain perspective and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You understand how a company like Nomador builds trust – and trust is paramount.

Nomador customer Christine only has positive things to say about her experience. “I didn’t really have any apprehensions [about the house sitters]; following our first phone interview and after seeing all the information about them online, I was completely reassured.”

Trust: overcoming challenges

The idea of leaving your house and pets in the hands of strangers understandably leaves many feeling apprehensive. As Mariannig explains, on Nomador, “each home-owner can examine the profile of candidates before answering.”

“The secure internal email system allows them to discuss, get to know each other, provide more details about their lives [and] work.”

How to live like a local home owner in France - - Nomador

While sites like HomeExchange might have more listings, Nomador’s edge lies in its unique trust requirements. It means that users have peace of mind – something incredibly hard to come by when transacting on the web. In order to become a high-ranking ‘trusted’ member of the community and not just a browser, full identity checks and profiles are required. Each member’s profile shows the ‘trust’ profile ranking – a score out of 5 – according to the progress of their identity checks.

In the end, the most powerful thing about house-sitting is that where trust is nurtured, real connections are formed. You can build relationships with people you would never have otherwise met; explore corners of the globe that you wouldn’t usually discover, and finally, finally feel like a local.

As Guardian writer Juliet Kinsman says, you will “stop thinking of [your counterparts] as strangers, but [as] friends [you’ve] never met.”

What would be your favourite part of living as a local in France? Share your thoughts, dreams and experiences in the comments box below!

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Image credits:
1. Background image via Unsplash.
2. Pinson Boucherie, Chartres, via Wikimedia.
3. Andlau, Alsace by Allan Harris via Fotopedia.
4. Mariannig Ferrari.
5. French house in the hills, by A Guy Taking Pictures on Flickr.
6. Winter French village, by apefrance on Pixabay.

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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  1. Jill Craig Jul 24, 2014 at 6:14 PM - Reply

    What a fascinating way to travel- I adore this idea. I’ve never been a fan of the `hotel` experience, and as a family we always preferred renting apartments- it gives you much more flexibility, but this is a massive step further. I will definitely recommend this to my parents!

  2. Elise Mellor Oct 15, 2014 at 5:21 PM - Reply

    This is just the best idea ever. My favourite accommodation experiences have been not staying in a rowdy hostel full of Irish and Aussie backpackers playing beerpong, but staying in small guesthouses run by quiet old ladies. You get so much more of a feel for how the local people live and conduct their day to day business.
    So the idea of Nomador is even better – you actually get to immerse yourself in someone else’s home and slip into their lives for a little while. What a dream.

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