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French Neighbours


londoneye

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Hi all

Some advice or thoughts would be appreciated.

We have been here around 18 months now, and have a 'bonjour' or occasional 'pass the time of day' relationship with our neighbours.   Now, we don't want, any more than we did in the UK, to live in our neighbours pockets, but I have the feeling that we could stay here another 20 years and still have the same relationship unless we do something positive to slightly move the relationship forward.   To what?   Well, I don't know, same as in England I suppose, the odd drink at christmas, pop in a couple of times a year for a drink, that's the sort of level I suppose we would aim for.

What have you done, or is the done thing, in order to progress past 'bonjour'?

Any thoughts anyone.   And for information OH understands but only speaks a few words of French, I pretty much understand and speak fairly horrible, but basic conversational level French.

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Why not invite several of them round for a christmas apero?  Tell them there will be some typical British christmas drinks and nibbles to try.  Make (or buy) some mince pies and sausage rolls, and serve mulled wine and sherry.  But have some pastis, whisky and pineau available too.

Christmas makes a good excuse for making the first move, and might start the ball rolling for return invitations.

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You could invite them for an apèro but if your french isn't very good then it will be a bit awkward for everyone.  Why not invite a couple of other French people - I don't know - either some other neighbours or the Maire and his wife so that they will be able to talk to each other and you and your husband can join in when you feel you can.

Most French people will return an invitation which may get you to the 'level' you are aiming for.

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When I read on some forums about how some people have really lovely and kind french neighbours I feel a bit envious because we haven't yet got close enough to be invited for meals etc. Apart from communal functions. We have got past the bonjour stage though, by giving eggs, fruit, homemade bread etc and then they reciprocate. At our last house I was on chatting terms with madame, but never really trusted her as she had reported us to all and sundry once for a misdemeanor.  Maybe it's because we are a bit insular ourselves, and don't do a lot of socialising. Do you live in a rural area or do you have a lot of close neighbours?
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We live rural but neighbours are within shouting distance, ie bordering us (but no in UK terms !).  

We are very good friends with our next door neighbour, who is French but speaks excellent english.   We see him most days, walk his dog, look after his animals if he has to go away, etc etc, and he has helped us a lot also.    So its not really him I am thinking of, its two families who live opposite really, farming families. 

I have a nice chat with woman who lives behind us whenever I see her, mainly about garden or dogs, and she did once pop over for a drink last summer when our neighbour, friend, from next door was in, but she is due to move out in next couple of months.  She told me she has sold her house to parisiens, so I suppose I wanted to get some ideas for getting to know them as well (yes I know what everyone says about them, but you never know they may be lovely).

I suppose christmas was in my mind, and I wanted to just try to get a little more involved.   The little girl opposite now goes out of her way to ride past our house several times a day in order to see me and say something, so its not that they are not friendly, and the farmer occasionally tries to pump me for information on my english speaking french neighbour, so they are approachable.  

I suppose my fear, to be honest, is that they will refuse any invitation and then I will feel like a complete fool ....

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Londoneye, I think your final statement is your problem.  I think these feelings are very human and in such circumstances we must try to remain positive.

From what you have said, you have 2 friendly neighbours who, I bet would not decline your offer.  The little girl would love to come over.  Why not give her the invitation to take to her parents who I assume are the nosey ones, who I again assume have been waiting for the invite just for a nose.

PS When you give the little girl the invite, think of something to entice her with ie games, British cakes, you know, that sort of stuff.

You'll be fine. [:)]

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Thanks, I will pluck up courage near christmas, and also get the english speaking french one in, so he can translate if there are any ghastly misunderstandings !!!

When is good at christmas do you think, ie a few days before, when do the French start winding down for christmas ?

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[quote user="Just Katie"]

PS When you give the little girl the invite, think of something to entice her with ie games, British cakes [:)]

[/quote]

You could send over a consignment of your daughter's cakes, eh JK?  They'd 'break the ice' (or break something!)

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I really do think that it's possible to make too much of the 'neighbour thing', although it's perfectly understandable once you've left the UK and are in a different country.

We lived in the same house in the UK for nearly 25 yrs and were very fortunate and had excellent neighbours - never a cross word in all that time, but we were never really sociable with each other in that sense.

We arrived here 3 yrs ago and have the most wonderful French neighbours, with another adjoining Belgian (residance secondaire) couple. The latter brought me a pack of special beers when they were down last week: Michel came round last night to find out if I was dead because he hadn't seen me for 2 or 3 days!!

What I think I'm saying is that it's the luck of the draw: your neighbours might just be 'your kind of people' and vice versa, but that's relatively rare. Be happy if you can co-exist without any difficulties and don't try to force things too much (not suggesting you are, by the way). 

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I feel we are lucky with our French neighbours.   We are the only anglaise within 7k - novelty value presumeably - nevertheless our nearest neighbours have been truly wonderful with  help sorting out planning permis, where to buy things we need for the house, old photos of the place so we know what we can rebuild for our barn, in fact one would hardly know they came from Paris 15 years ago!   (Madame tells me that the other neighbours did not even acknowledge them for ten years for that fact alone and she was quite surprised that everyone else always says "Bonjour!" to us, the Incomers from a lot further than Paris)

As we are moving in Feb 08 our plans for a bit of a shindig are going on hold for a couple of months until springtime when we will have a house-warming bbq in the garden for our new neighbours.   I think it will be a sausage rolls, cheddar on sticks, oh and a trifle of course alongside some French goodies too in acknowledgement of our old home alongside the new home, but we are keen to make it so that people know we are not wanting to be aloof from the community and that we are part of it.

An apero is a great idea.  Accept the olive branch and invite the daughter in for butterfly cakes and a milkshake, oh and as you obviously have the internet, maybe offer that the daughter might use it occasionally for homework?  We gave our old computer to the neighbours which has been a godsend with homework as they are using them increasingly in school now.  It was appreciated by all.

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Hi, we live in a rural area where our only neighbours are 100 metres down the drive. They run a wine domaine. Our other 'neighbours' are miles away. We have extended invites to them  for dinners and BBQ's and etc plenty but they are always too busy to accept. We chat in passing and are quite friendly. But, after 4 years, we have accepted that their job is a 365 day a year thing. And it certainly is if you produce wine for your living. They never seem to have any spare time to socialise.

I dont know what your 'relationship' is with your neighbours, or what they do for a crust, but I feel you have assumed that moving to France includes having wonderful neighbours who are always offering you invites to long lunches and great dinners all the time. Plus regular supplies from their vegie patch. I have read such in all those magazines.

This is not always the case. Many French people just want to be left alone, just like many of us, to live quietly. Continue to be polite and friendly. Maybe they just do not want to develop a 'relationship'?. Don't try to force them into being the english-stereotypical 'french neighbours' that we all read about.

Live and let live. A 'bonjour' is better than nothing.

 

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I have a feeling that inviting several neighbours around at the same time would do nothing for your integration - the neighbours would all speak French as per normal and you would feel uncomfortable trying to join in, catch up or even understand - you know what it's like with a group chat going on!

For me one of the best ways to make progress with the neighbours is to go and see them and ask their help or advice with things - if they want to be more communicative they will be but if not then they probably won't be. Friendships often stem from small encounters. And btw not all Parisians are loud and selfish - some of our friendliest neighbours are from Paris and they do at least have the advantage of having lived outside of the local vicinity!

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  • 1 month later...

We got to know our neighbours a couple of years ago after we had been through a bad snow/ ice weekend which destroyed all of the 22 mimosa trees in their garden. He was out the following morning with his son-in-law and their chain saws. I just loaded mine into a barrow with the fuel and oli and went round and joined them. We had already met and been to their house, but I think that it really showed that we were willing to help. We now go walking once a week with several people from the village and at the Telethon I was asked if I would show some of the things that I make along with 2 of the artists in the village. The Mayor told us it was good to see we were setteling into the village so well and joining in wth village life...

I think that you get what you give to a great extent. I think that where ever you are in the world, apart from almost any big city, if you can bring yourself to talk to people then they will respond. If you talk down or at  them they will also respond, but not as you wish. So bite the bullet, go and talk in French to your French neighbours. If your French is as bad as mine then what the hell, you are trying and they will respond well! They may well overcome their reluctance to 'look silly' and respond with their broken or scant English. We have found that so many are terrified of looking silly by trying their bad English, but they will try... eventually.

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I think Gemini-man gave a good reply.  People love to be of use and if you went and asked advice from them - say asking where you could buy some wood, or asking something about the area - then you would probably find that the door would open and you would be invited inside.  I think perhaps the neighbours are a little reserved about approaching you - they don't speak English perhaps, and have the same reservations about communicating and making fools of themselves.  But if you ask advice, or directions, and TRY to speak a little French but always smile, even if you make a mistake, you may find that people's natural friendliness and helpfulness comes through and they will help you along. 

I did this with a French neighbour and, in time we became friends and she taught me French as well. 

I read what was written about people keeping to themselves and that may be true, but I think we all would like to know a little more about our neighbours and, particularly, that they might be helpful in an emergency and be willing to assist.  And as you have the internet, and perhaps a car, you might find that they are also considering you as a 'lifeline' for a possible emergency.

Be brave, knock at their door and, above all, smile.  Works wonders.  Good luck.

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I do not think you can generalise about people eg all Scots are this or all French are that. People are people there are different social conventions but they are not barriers.

We are very friendly with our neighbours here in Edinburgh do jobs for each other and helping out but we do not socialise.

When we bought in France we were very proactive in seeking out our neighbours taking round some flowers to introduce ourselves. We now have them round for apèros they have us round. We take packs of minature whisky and shortbreads as tokens they give us garden produce. One couple have moved from Paris and have very young children the others are well into pension age and are locals we are none of those things but we have some really enjoyable times. Infact I look forward to seeing them on our visits as much as all the other delights. 

My French is not great (it gets better as the night goes on!) they have little or no English but we communicate.

Its about putting the effort in make an effort, I agree perhaps one couple at a time, tell them its a tradition to have neighbours round on what we call Boxing Day and ask them to pop round.

Perhaps they are wondering how they socialise with you, you wont know until you have tried.

 

 

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Funny this should come up again, because yesterday we actually met the new Parisien neighbours (due to move shortly).   Rather surprisingly, I was horribly confused because my French neighbour introduced him to me (in French of course!), and he immediately swept into flawless, accentless (perhaps slight american tinge) english.       I have asked him when he arrives to speak to me in French, and he said we will interchange - oh and we have already been invited for a bottle of champagne when he moves in.   And the neighbour who is leaving has asked us for aperos before she goes, so I assume the rest of the tiny little hamlet will be present also.   She has also told me where her new house will be and said that I must come to see it and have aperos there also!

So, it's strangely all moving along very nicely now on its own.   But lots of good advice given, which I have taken on board.   Hopefully after we all meet socially at leaving neighbours apero, it will be easier to have one of my own before too long (except they might be really excited and think I am leaving too !!!)

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[quote user="united"]

Its about putting the effort in make an effort, I agree perhaps one couple at a time, tell them its a tradition to have neighbours round on what we call Boxing Day and ask them to pop round.

 [/quote]

They might be at work: the 26th isn't a holiday.

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