Moving to France should be a happy adventure, whatever your age. Hundreds of thousands of us have made the move successfully, finding the French extremely welcoming. You won’t find it difficult to come across a few fellow expats too, whichever area you choose to live.
The key to making a success of your life in France is remembering that it depends on you, not your new French neighbours and friends. Our advice is to get out and about as much as you can from the start. Accept any invitation you receive, whether to a neighbour’s house, a local art exhibition, concert or café. Throw yourself into your French life – don’t compare it with your old English one – and immerse yourself in your new community.
The important thing is to throw yourself into French life… immerse yourself in your new community
There are all sorts of ways of getting to know new people, particularly if you are in a village or small town. Find out about local classes where you can meet people who have similar interests. Use the services of local artisans for anything you want doing around your house and last but not least, practise your French!
Another useful tip is to use your local shops and attend your weekly outdoor market. It is common to say a cheery “bonjour” to everyone in the local shops, your fellow shoppers and the shopkeeper. French folk love to chat and market day is very important, not just for the fresh local produce, but for meeting up with friends for a coffee and a chinwag. Café society still exists in France and there is nothing nicer than sitting outdoors watching the world go by.
Families are very important in France and manners are taught from a young age. Families like to integrate socially, with the generations mixing very well. Don’t be afraid to talk about your own family to your new French acquaintances; they will love to hear about this and will no doubt tell you all about theirs too.
Many larger villages will have some sort of French/British organisation, which will always be a great help when it comes to finding recommendations, such as good doctors, dentists, schools, vets etc. Again, another great way to meet new people.
Most French people love to hear their language spoken with an English accent and don’t mind in the least if you make mistakes – they even find it charming. So don’t be afraid to have a go at improving your broken French, just make sure you listen carefully to what people are saying to you. Try watching French TV rather than UK channels and tune into French radio in your car. If you make the effort you will soon find yourself picking up new words and phrases.
Most French people love to hear their language spoken with an English accent and don’t mind in the least if you make mistakes
If you have children at school here, you have a head start. Children find it much easier to adapt to new surroundings and will pick up the language very quickly. Taking an active interest in your child’s school will mean you will meet other adults you can practice conversing with, and hey presto, a new French social life will evolve.
Christmas will soon be with us and France is a super country in which to celebrate it. The run-up does not start anything like as early as it does in the UK, but once December arrives, the shops and garden centres start to look festive and every village takes great pride in its Christmas lights. Strangely, as I write this to you, I am watching our local workers putting up a giant illuminated star in front of our 14th century church. So maybe Christmas is starting a little earlier than December this year!
France is in our view a most civilised and friendly country in which to live. The key to integrating easily is to adapt to its culture and to join in with the French way from the moment you arrive.