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Integration, how did you do it?

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If you live in France and have integrated into the community where you live, how did you do it?  And I do mean French community.

I live in a fairly large village in England and there was a lot of integration going off while the children were in playgroup and primary school, but after the children hit 11, this has gradually faded away.  When we moved to our previous house in 1985, there were housewarmings as all the houses were new and the whole-cul-de-sac became friendly.  5 years later we moved to another nearby cul-de-sac and very few people even talk to each other.  12 years on, things haven't changed!

I expect that those of you who have moved to France and have been living there with young families have had an opportunity to integrate because of them.  But what about those of you who have moved or bought maisons secondaires after your children grew up?

I can't move to France, but hope to buy a property where we can spend a fair amount of time.  Did you find any sorts of clubs or organisations which helped you to integrate, or did you just do it by talking to people in the vicinity?  If we buy in France, we want an opportunity to mix with the local people.  Have you any tips for how to get to know the locals?  Amongs my own French friends, there doesn't seem to be anyone who has a social life.  Social life appears to be concentrated around their own families.  Any thoughts on this could be useful.  Thanks.

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[quote user="Jill"]

Social life appears to be concentrated around their own families.  Any thoughts on this could be useful.  Thanks.


Whilst it does appear that most social life in France does centre on family, I have found that joining a club or association is definitely a way of getting to know people. Playing a sport, going to keep fit classes, joining a walking group, any kind of class such as learning a foreign language, flower arranging; anything which requires you to talk to people, especially commiserating with them when a class or group activity is more taxing than you/they thought it was going to be.


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I agree with Sue.  The walking group (very active here with around 60 people attending on average from all generations) and the local twinning committee have been both fun to do things with, and very open and welcoming.  Also the regular car meets in the area.  Do something you enjoy which the locals do too and you'll be surprised how many people you meet.  And go to any village events and join in.

Personally, I like this way of doing things because when it's over you can go home and shut the door, and just join in when you feel like it, and enjoy your own company likewise.

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I don't believe that English people here really ever integrate. We become known and more or less accepted, but always as 'les Anglais'.

I am pretty good in French, and I am a well-known local figure in a medium-sized town, who has worked, run cultural events, and been involved in local politics but it's rather like the West of England where I lived for 30 years: if your great-grandparents aren't in the cemetary you remain an out sider.

In this part of France this is also true of people from further North, so it's not a specifically  anti-English thing, although our accents don't help.

Blood relationships are very important here, so unless you marry into a French family, you will never be completely 'one of them'

This doesn't mean that you can't have a decent working relationship with your  neighbours, just don't fool yourself.

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Nuggets of truth in everything said so far and I have to agree with spg, Coops and NormanH.

By the way, Norman, your description of the West Country was exactly as I found it.  Also Wales, where I lived for many years, Northampton, St Albans, etc, etc.

It's fine by me just to be accepted and perhaps recognised and greeted when I go about my business.  We have been here a year and we go out with both Brits and French people.  Occasionally, I have them to my house and they have me to theirs.

The OH plays table tennis in our village club so he gets to know more French families than I do but then they come to our house and I get to know them too.

My hairdresser lives in our village and her husband and various members of her extended family are now known to me.

My French neighbours are obviously more friends than merely neighbours now and I have met most of their family members from as far afield as Paris.

So, am I integrated?  I doubt it after just one year but I feel very comfortable here and the OH was actually homesick for France when we went back to the UK last month.

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  • 1 month later...
well done Norman for trying hard to speak French. I can not understand how anybody, from anywhere going to live anywhere (especially by choice - it may be not so easy if people have to escape quickly due to persecution, or for elderly relatives joining the family) doesn't make the effort to learn some of the language first, then make a BIG effort to continue to learn and to improve - and then expect to become 'integrated'. Doesn't matter about the accent, grammar, getting it all wrong - but one must be seen to TRY. And in fact the more mistakes you make... the more they will love you! Like my friend who said that 'j'adore la France parce que les francais baisent (kiss!!!) 3 fois partout, meme dans la rue. Any funny linguistic big booboos you made- share them with us.

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'er indoors id getting on great. At the invitation of our French neighbour (77 and fit a a butchers dog) she's joined the local keep fit class and although she's only been going for a short while already people are saying hello to her in the supermarket and Mr Bricolage etc. It helps enormously with her French learning too.

At her own suggestion the neighbour also comes round one afternoon a week to speak French with her.

BTW; I now know the naughty filter is truly mad.

I mean how much more French can you get than c*l-de-sac, but just because the first part on it's own can be a RUDE word .......give me strength [:-))]


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Hi everyone

Really interesting reading.  We only have a  holiday home but we are lucky enough to be able to get to it quite a few weeks a year, each august we have held a party in our barn for the people we know in france just because we can, i have found this a really good way of getting to know neighbours they are all interested in the crazy english who do things so differently from the french,(even when they are trying not too) we have  had some great fun at these parites each year and it seems we invite more french friends each year.

As to learning the language, my neighbour tries to take me shopping in the summer and i have intense frenglaise lessons as she is keen to learn english as well.  We also MSN each other as often as we can i have to write in french and her in English, can be most entertaining.  I have even attempted to write her a letter in french this week.[:$]


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Hi Everyone

It’s funny, the word « integration ». We moved a fair amount because of the armed forces, and have learned to fit in anywhere - we have never had any difficulty, either abroad or in the UK.

As far as France goes, it was a definite plus being able to speak French when we arrived. When we came here over 10 years ago, there were only one or two people from the UK in the area. Working helps, as does owning horses – they really did help us get to know people (French).

As previous posters have said, joining a club or association can really get you started – and it’s fun being with people with a common interest. We have done various courses for work and pleasure, all in French, which has opened all sorts of doors. We have never stopped trying to improve our French and it has always been a pleasure to learn new expressions !

Do we feel integrated ? Yes, completely. Neither of us feels in the slightest bit like an outsider, nor, indeed, like a foreigner. Yes, they laugh at some of our idiosyncrasies but then we laugh at some of theirs ! We have friends of several different nationalities but one of the common links is generally the French language. Perhaps that is the secret. That and the fact that we are both used to settling in quickly and feeling at ease in our new surroundings.

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We seem to be integrating courtesy of a Dutch lady who lives in the village.  She lives on her own and seems to get involved with everything, whatever goes on at the Mairie, local hunting group, demonstrations involving local environmental issues, exhibitions, etc.  I'm talking of a really tiny village, no more than 100 inhabitants.  But she seems to have managed to get us, plus the other English couple in the village, involved with just about everything going on, introduced us to everyone, made us take part in the very limited social life of the village, etc, etc.  Her French is not perfect by any means but she appears to be fearless and knows just about everyone in the place, doing favours for all sorts of people and generally just being a pleasant neighbour to everyone.  I'm sure we would remain "les anglais" under normal circumstances but we seem to have had very little choice here and are regularly included in whatever is happening now.  We also seem to be reasonably well accepted.  It appears the secret seems to be being prepared to join in, once you find out what is happening, ie put aside the English reserve.
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  • 5 weeks later...
NormanH is, of course, right about remaining forever "les Anglais" even relative locals (10km away) who have married into the village are still regarded as a bit foreign. However, I don't think that's necessary for integration; I think that one has integrated when fully accepted and generally part of the place. My own tips for integration:

1. If possible be the only "Anglais" in the place;

2. Speak (at least) adequate French;

3. Rent rather than buy - this immediately makes you different from all the other Anglais and also means that you immediately get to know someone - landlord or agent or both (you can always buy later on);

4. Introduce yourself to the neighbours and I don't mean those to immediate left and right but all those within seeing distance - with luck, like us, you'll find yourself with a constant round of dinners and, especially in the summer, aperos;

5. Attend all village events;

6. Register to vote in local elections;

7. Vote in local elections;

8. Join the Comité des fêtes or, even better, get your wife to join the comité while you sit back and relax;

9. Join a few Associations, especially those involved with Patrimoine;

10. Go to your local market each week;

11. Search out the local French language classes (your mairie should know of some while you can find others via various organisations such as GRETA and, probably, ANPE), attend regularly and don't drop out;

12. If you can, do something for the place.

If you are in a town it will probably be more difficult, much as in the UK or any other country.

[PS. We've been here a bit over 2 years, feel part of the community, have been accepted and that, I think, means we have integrated.]

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OK, I know I may crush a few corns here but would you not consider moving into an English enclave?  That way you can enjoy a wonderful country, visit and get to know the French locals in the next town and run back to your own flock when they start doing your head in.[:)]

Seriously, I really do admire those of you who up and go to France and choose to live amongst the locals.  We all like to think of ourselves as being strong but the lack of understanding and the risk of rejection would be enough to make me cry myself to sleep

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Ah, Katie, ain't that the truth!

The snag with deciding whether you want to "integrate" or not is the limit you put on your circle of friends.  Last week I gave a party to celebrate 5 x *0th birthdays which are happening this year.  The invitees were about 50/50 Brit/French.  What was really striking to me was the fact that those Brits (about 10 of them) who never do anything but move within their own little Britain enclave, once they had greeted one another, had a pretty boring time compared to those who spoke French, or at the very least gave it a go and tried to chat to the locals (one of whom was our new mayor, whom I've known for a while as he and his wife are in our walking group).  They see each other three or four times a week so it was obvious they had very little to talk about once the formalities were over.  That would just bore me to death!

I have no quibbles with my British friends but with so few around here, it would do my head in if they were the only people I ever saw.  But it appears to suit them so who am I to argue with their attitude?  It's their life - but no way would I want it to be mine.  On the other hand, why make friends with people just because they are French?  It's equally possible to find dull French people as it is dull Brits, prejudiced Brits as prejudiced French people.  Chosing your friends simply on the basis of the colour of their passports has always seemed a bit daft to me.

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