There’s a lot of nonsense spoken about the British in France. The cultural stereotype is that the British won’t speak French and the French won’t speak English! This could not be further from the truth, as I discovered this week in my local bar when we all made ourselves happily understood.
Having lived in the South of France for over seven years now and having made many new friends of many nationalities including French (!) I thought it would be handy to share my own experience of integrating into the French way and getting along with French people, whether you have an expert knowledge of the language or are more restricted to what my husband calls “good restaurant French”.
Put shyness or any worry about not getting your tenses or genders correct to one side and simply go for it.
Friends in the UK still ask us if we have had any problems communicating with the French people. I can hand on heart say the answer is a resounding “no”. Furthermore, I am confident that our British friends down here would wholeheartedly agree with me.
As I write, this is a holiday weekend with the Fete of Assumption – another bank holiday – being held on Tuesday which effectively means that many businesses will not re-open until Wednesday 16th August. It also means that every village is filled with holidaymakers enjoying the very warm sunshine and balmy evenings and the bars and cafes are filled with families out enjoying themselves.
We went with some English friends to a recently opened bar where everyone was getting along famously – it was a super atmosphere. A French family joined our rather large table and we quickly got talking. Our English friends have a limited command of the French language but none of us had any problem understanding each other since what actually counts here is the ability to communicate. Putting shyness or any worry about not getting your tenses or genders correct to one side and simply going for it, using gestures and smiling while you are at it pays huge dividends!
By the end of the evening we were swapping anecdotes about customs in each other’s countries and had made new friends who now are keen to brush up on their limited English.
The key to happily living in another country is quite simply good communication and this can be achieved by making a real effort to chat, ask questions, show interest and generally compare notes.
I would say the French don’t just like us Brits buying homes in their country, they positively love it! It is often British people who bravely take on renovating an old French property and there seems to be a certain cachet to coming from the UK – we almost seem to be fashionable!
I suppose the moral of today’s story is to go for it and buy a property in France if you love the country as we do. You will in all likelihood wish you had done it earlier.
If you are ready to buy in France in the next three months, let me introduce you to Yasmin who leads our friendly France Resource Team. Call her on 020 7898 0549 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We can put you in touch with a trusted estate agent, French lawyer and currency specialist.