Are you an ex-pat struggling to fit in with the locals of France, or are you thinking about making the move and wondering how best to go about it?
Having done it the other way round, leaving everything behind in France to start a new life here in England, I understand how hard it can be. It is an adventure, it is exhilarating but boy it can be tough. All the little nuances to life, the etiquette, the norms, the social interactions seem to be different. It feels a little like being a child trying to learn all the ins and outs of life all over again.
Don’t be put off though, nothing can be more exciting than learning a new language while wallowing in the culture of a new country. If nothing else it will be an experience to remember, or hopefully it will be the beginning of a totally new and exciting life.
Knowing just how hard it can be, I thought of a few tips I can give you as a native French woman to help you enjoy your time in France:
Get out and explore France
Don’t stay at home, get out there and enjoy France. It may seem daunting but the train system is great. Even if you have moved for a job or partner, don’t miss out on truly getting to know the country. Not just Paris, remember France is a country of beautiful hot beaches and the snowy Alps too!
Use your French
No matter what level your existing French is when you move to France, don’t be afraid to use it in life. The more you practice the more you improve. The more you use your French, the more you integrate into society and find you don’t have to worry about simple things like a trip to the shops.
Join an Expat community
No matter how much you work on becoming French, don’t try and forget about or dismiss your own culture and habits, they are too fundamental to ignore, and trying to do so can make you miserable. Having other ex-pat friends will help keep you grounded and happy.
Make French friends
Though I recommend having your ex-pat community, make sure you don’t use this in place of befriending the locals, you need both! Friends in the local community will help you integrate, help you pick up the local customs and really make you feel you are living the French life. This could be neighbours, people from clubs, an exercise class or whatever works for you.
Participate in local customs
Try and pick up on some basic customs fast, it will help you fit in and feel more natural. Some basic ones include: kissing on the cheeks when you meet, don’t shake hands. Don’t ask what people’s jobs are it is considered rude, on the other hand talk of politics is very common.
Accept that things won’t be magical from the beginning
You won’t suddenly speak fluent French, be a master French cook or have hordes of French friends. Don’t get disappointed, just be realistic and keep working on it. Take things step by step, and don’t beat yourself up if you feel things are progressing slowly, take a win on your small achievements.
Improve your French
Continuously working on improving your French fluency is vital. No matter what level you start at, the more you improve the happier you will be in France. Your level of French may have been OK to start with but if it doesn’t change after living there for a couple of years you may start to feel embarrassed. So, pre-empt this problem by ensuring you keep up your French language classes.
I hope you find this advice helpful and have a lot of fun putting it into practice in your time in France! Don’t forget I give private French classes if you want a French language boost now.