Many newcomers and resident ex-pats in France use Anglo/French forums, in fact some of these forums inspired me to write Vantastic France and a forum features as part of the starting story line.
Ask a question on any forum and you will get many different answers, some encouraging, some disheartening, some totally off topic and others darn right rude. The job of moderating post must be a nightmare, but it is also quite entertaining reading when some of the more acidic comment are left on.
I always take many comments on forums with a pinch of salt, as various people have different agendas. Some of them are genuinely helpful, although they sometimes get fact from fiction mixed up. Others are never wrong, well in their eye’s, and will argue their point till the cows come home. Then you have the wind up merchants, who love to throw a spanner in the works. These people then complain when their comments are removed, I say leave them on, it makes for far more entertaining reading.
For example someone will offer a a dog free to a new loving home as the current owners just cant cope with the poor excitable moggie. Mr wind up merchant will then post ‘why did you get the bleeding dog in the first place?’ A fair comment, but not really helpful to the owners or the discussion. However, forums should be about freedom of speech, within reason of course.
A new boy in the block
I have to say firstly that it was was after writing Vantastic France that I stumbled across a new and refreshing type of Anglo/French website, so unfortunately I could not add any of the eccentric characters from there into my novel. Although that it not to say they they will not be featured in the sequel!
Survive France Network or SFN for short is not a traditional forum but a social network where members can connect, make contacts, publicise events, make friends and do business just like they would in the real world. The site is more of an on-line encyclopaedia of great help and advice for those of us lucky enough to be living in France, full or part time. Yes there is a little healthy banter on some of the discussion threads, but there also appears to be a far more knowledgeable class of posters than I have sometimes found on other similar sites. Very in-depth discussions are posted, with comments from experts in their field, whether it be a gite owner, a financial wizard or a PC expert you will always get good sound advice to most questions posted.
The site is only very slightly moderated by the owners James and Catharine Higginson, firstly because that was never their aim and secondly because they believe in healthy open discussions. Anyone stepping out of line will soon be curtailed by other members, but these minor confrontations usually occur because either of the party had their wires crossed.
SFN is more than just a forum, there are many different interest groups and of course advertising which importantly pays for the upkeep of the site.
Why am I plugging this site? you may well ask, especially when I have my own French advertising site French Classified. Firstly for one thing I do not have a forum, as it is such hard work and there are more than enough to go around. Secondly, hands up the lovely Catharine did give me a plug here for Vantastic France on SFN, which I will be eternally grateful for. Thirdly and more importantly I do genuinely believe that it has set a new standard in Anglo/French websites and is a credit to James and Catharine for the all the hours and hours of hard work that they have put into the site.