Life Style

How about moving away from the big cities?

In a few days, Hélène, a 48-year-old Parisian, has an appointment to finalize the purchase of her new house in Brittany. This freelance editor, who has always lived in the city, is going to make an old dream come true: to leave the city to go and live in the countryside. By 2022, by the time her spouse, currently a bookseller in Paris, finds a job, they will settle in a village in Côtes-d’Armor where they often go on vacation. ” We had been thinking about it for two years but everything accelerated this year with the end of the social lease for an apartment I rented in Lyon. And then, the confinement definitely helped us decide, tell Hélène, elated by her project. JI can stand to live in Paris less and less, locked in a 48 m2, without garden, especially during a heat wave when you can’t be outside. “

Containment, the trigger

Like Hélène, many city dwellers dream of leaving metropolises and settling in smaller towns or in the countryside, to escape the population density, noise, pollution, the lack of green spaces. , cramped housing or crowded public transport. To this list of urban inconveniences are now added scorching temperatures, violence on the fringes of demonstrations, terrorism and, for nearly a year, the health crisis, of course. The unprecedented episode of confinement was, for some, the trigger.

→ MAINTENANCE. Coronavirus: “Taking refuge in the countryside is a traditional protective reflex”

Thus, last May, the day after deconfinement, 54% of Ile-de-France residents said they were ready to leave the capital as soon as possible, against 38% before the pandemic, according to a survey carried out by the Paris I leave you platform. Among the 866 people questioned online (sample “adjusted to be representative of the Ile-de-France population according to the quota method”, ensures the site), 59% wanted ” a less stressful environment, closer to nature “And 57%” a simpler life, in line with their values “.

“The confinement acted as an accelerator of awareness of our anxieties and our life choices, analysis psychoanalyst Elizabeth Serin, who worked on dreams during this period. Leaving the cities is part of a phobic reaction to the reality of death, which has become omnipresent, and to the alienation that constitutes the endless confinement in apartments.. It may also respond to a desire to empower ourselves in an urban world in which we feel fragile from all our dependencies (to eat, move, etc.). The countryside, like a lost paradise, she continues, probably drains the ideal of a Rousseauist society in which everyone cultivates their own garden and where human nature would be, if not good, at least more reassuring and less contagious because of the great outdoors. “

“Go to real life”

For Jérôme, moving from Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine) to a small village in the Cotentin, where he moved this summer with his family, was not only rediscovering nature but “Go to real life”. ” In town, we don’t lead a normal life, launches, a bit provocative, this photographer and music teacher aged 44. ” We live in hutches and the cost of housing is disproportionate, when we can find housing. In the countryside, there is not always a doctor, not always 4G, but we have space and we are more free. “

After having spent the first confinement in their country house, Jérôme and his wife took the plunge at the start of the school year, while keeping the apartment for rent in Montrouge where he has his photo studio. Julie has found a job as a nursery assistant. As for the children, aged 7 and 11, they were not too disoriented since they were already passing “A third of the year on vacation in this house”.

Néfélie and Dimitri, too, decided to leave in the spring. ” We had wanted to for a few years and, during confinement, it became a project, traces the young woman, currently looking for a job. During these two months, neither of them worked and we really realized the difficulty of living in Paris, where the prices are exorbitant ”. At the end of August, the couple in their thirties therefore settled, with their 8-year-old daughter, in a small town in the South-West. to find ” tranquility ” and “A cheaper life”.It was not easy to find remote accommodation, especially in my professional situation ”, recognizes the young woman. The change was not easy for her daughter either, who is “ sad to have left his friends ” and “Don’t like his new mistress too much “.

Confinement or not, “The first motivation of families leaving big cities is the lack of space and social ties, observes the sociologist Jean-Didier Urbain. Departures to the countryside are quite rare. Most of them settle in medium-sized towns which combine the advantages of metropolises with a more communal sociability. »(Read benchmarks). It is in fact in this type of agglomeration that employment and secondary schools are found, two essential criteria in the choice of destination.

From now on, teleworking will facilitate mobility, but school could remain a barrier for many families attached to the quality of education. “The education of children is often a cause of failure in a relocation project, confirms Jean-Didier Urbain. This question ends up, one day or another, by interfering with the ideal living environment, when the parents cannot find a good establishment or when the teenager has to travel several kilometers to go to class. Sometimes that means sending the children to boarding school, which is not for everyone.

Luc Morena, general manager of the My New City site, which supports employees in their project, however notes a change since the health crisis: “ The ‘quality of life’ criterion now seems to weigh more heavily, he observes. Couples no longer think only of school but of the environment in which they will be raising their children and, therefore, more easily consider settling in the countryside. With the spread of teleworking, the families realized that another organization was possible and this opened up new perspectives for them. “


Urban exodus, from dream to statistical reality

At the time of confinement, “200,000 inhabitants of intramural Paris have left their city” for other departments, according to INSEE. But without a population census (the latest in 2017), it is difficult to quantify the moves.

In 2017, 128,000 Parisians moved from the capital. But more than 71,000 of them stayed in Île-de-France. On the other hand, mobility “outside Paris” has increased for couples without children : 27% of departures in 2016 compared to 23% in 2008.

► Leaving Paris for the countryside is often a dream but not necessarily a statistical reality. “ It is the reality of the labor market that prevails today », Underlines INSEE in his blog. In 2017, 57,000 Parisians have settled in the provinces, nearly half of them in large cities. Those who left for the countryside were mostly retirees.



Claire Desmares-Poirier, author of The urban exodus: Manifesto for a positive rurality (ed. Terre Vivante) gives some advice for a successful greening.

Clearly separate living environment and lifestyle choices. Urban exodus is a lifestyle choice. If we leave the city just because it is no longer “bearable”, we will feel a lot of frustration. You have to be able to adapt to another way of life with a different relationship to consumption, otherness, work, space, leisure. If you want to continue going to the theater twice a week or taking your children to several activities, there will be even more constraints because, in the countryside, travel is greater.

Keep a dream book. Write down what matters to us, what makes us flourish, the skills we want to develop, those we would like to acquire. Project yourself and draw the place of life you dream of. It is not always easy to know what you want to do with your life and this notebook can help to clarify your desires or to adjust them when you are in a relationship.

Go beyond clichés. When one settles in the countryside, one still hears talk of “raising goats in Larzac”, of “returning to the land” or then of “backward countryside”… However, rural areas have evolved. Today, the countryside is increasingly connected, people’s expectations are no longer the same and there are more jobs per worker than in urban areas.


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