Having uprooted from the mother country and settling in a new land, foreign hosts retell their stories of how they came to be in France, started organic farming, and welcomed WWOOFers from back home as well internationally.
Boff, Egyptian host in Cantal
I am from Egypt and my wife is from Scotland. I’ve worked in Scotland but we didn’t meet until working in Abu Dhabi where I was for many years. What brought me to France? I always get asked this question haha! When we retired, we wanted to renovate a barn, and found the most beautiful old barns to be in France, not to mention that the countryside where we are in south-central part reminds us a lot of Scotland.
I can’t say that I have gotten a WWOOFer from my home country yet. From all over, yes! Our first WWOOFer was a girl from Japan who worked on a cruise ship. Another was an American firefighter. Others from Denmark and China. I don’t think WWOOFing is very well known in Egypt. There is not a farming or organic mentality there. But we have gotten WWOOFers from the UK and that’s always nice. A WWOOFer from Scotland stayed for 45 days; it felt like family. My wife would make a typical Scottish broth with lamb and barley. Great for winter!
Jan and Inge, hosts from Holland in Cévennes, believes in everything eco-sustainible from food to fashion
I came to France because I grew up in the countryside and wanted to give that lifestyle to my kids. In Holland, where I am from, that’s harder to do. Here there is more space to grow up in nature; the southern lifestyle is more easygoing than what I’m used to in the Dutch city.
We really haven’t hosted a lot of WWOOFers from our own country—I would say about two. And honestly I don’t find it different than hosting WWOOFers from elsewhere. Most WWOOFers are people with hope and good intentions that want to change something. We find that in all WWOOFers who come whether they are from Holland or elsewhere. With the ones from our own country, we talk about the differences between there and France: how there is little space in Holland, how there is much more regulation and social control. It’s an economically rich country and we find that people are less interested in changing eco-sustainability for the better.
That’s why we started doing WWOOFing here and how we started to attract WWOOFers with the same philosophy of life. I renovated an old abandoned home where we now live in countryside of southern France and practice permaculture and my wife uses reclaimed clothing to do upcycled, local vintage fashion.
Daniel, off-grid living in the Alps
My wife is what brought me to France. She’s french however we met originally in Thailand and after moving to and working in Mexico, the US and Paris, I was ready to get out of cities and into the countryside where we could realize our dream: zero waste permaculture where people can vacation with little impact on the environment.
I’m Canadian, but when looking for places to buy we chose France over Canada for a few reasons. Better weather for one, and a better growing season for living off-grid. Also, doing eco-tourism is easier being located in the alps where a lot of Europeans come through. Getting around Canada is more complicated and expensive.
We receive WWOOFers from all over the world, after all our goal is to be international. However, there is a sense of familiarity and comfort in welcoming those who speak English. It’s not even a Canada thing, but an anglophone thing. Whether it’s talking about music or films or jokes with a few cold beers—all anglophone countries share many things in common because of the language. And that’s the big marker for feeling normalized and back to my roots.
David, English wine and veggie grower in Occitanie
We used to holiday in France every year. I felt the time was right for a change with Brexit happening as I felt I was European at heart. We moved to France to do Organic farming and now we’re settled here. It’s quite different than London where we were living before. We actually know our neighbors by name. Yesterday my neighbor came by, he lives behind me, a hunter and left us a large quantity of wild boar meat. It’s such a difference from our nameless neighbors in London that only stopped by to pick up a parcel. People here are generous.
We get more anglophone WWOOFers than anything else. A few requests from back home, but not loads. I get a lot of anglophone WWOOFers—loads of Americans for example. I’ve never been to the States but after receiving and exchanging with American WWOOFers, I now have a better cultural understanding of the States than I did before, purely on the basis of people we’ve met by WWOOF. There is a sort of comfort and camaraderie with other anglophones, and I’m sure they find that sense of normalcy WWOOFing with an english speaking host in France.
Maria and Hans, Dutch gardeners in east France
I am an artist and painter; Hans is a carpenter. We are both from Holland but our stories of how we arrived to France are different. Hanz came to this country 25 years ago to work on a house for a Dutch architect. After the house was finished he decided to stay because he liked it very much here. I came to France 14 years ago and really, life brought us together. When I met him, I knew he was the one to realize my own projects of off-grid and sustainable living. We thought we would take a nice spot in the natural environment and be self-autonomous. That’s when we took over and transformed a house that was in ruin, and the garden.
People come from all countries—Portugal, Australia, Canada. We get about half English speakers. Dutch WWOOFers are not requesting to come so much. We imagine they want to have another experience, so we have hosted very few. If they do come, it may be because of a certain motive. Like one Dutch girl wants to live in France and have the same idea of what we do, so she asks to stay with us. But we are not looking for a contact with dutch people per se. We are so happy with all the nationalities that are coming into our home.