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Integration, isolation, friendships... (offshot from the DSK thread)


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First of all, I have to address idun (it's all right, we "know" each other).  Id, we visited both Normandy and Brittany extensively when we were househunting, say, 7 years ago.

We first went to Brittany and, because OH is Welsh, we felt very at home.  I loved the scenery and we went to every departement  except Finistere because we knew a French person with a sister there and she said it was very damp.  Well, after Wales, I didn't need more rain and I certainly didn't need to live yet again on some Celtic fringe.

When we went to Normandy, we fell in love.  In fact, there was a house in Bagnoles de l'Orne that we could have happily bought.  To be absolutely sure, we visited in January of 2006; don't know if it was a typical winter but it was the coldest I'd ever been in my life and I didn't think I could spend every winter freezing half to death.

We loved both areas, so much so that, when we were looking to move again in 2009/2010, we looked in Brittany again though we didn't consider Normandy.

We met lovely people, in hotels, on the streets, in restaurants.  Don't know if they would have been lovely if we'd lived amongst them but, even so, first impressions are important, n'est-ce pas?

Then, for good or ill, we moved to the Charente-Maritime.  I was very depressed but it could have been homesickness for the UK, whatever.  Again, we had nice neighbours (except the English ones that I didn't particularly care for though OH liked them well enough) and there was one French couple who were always smelly and, whilst friendly, always seemed to be trying to take advantage of our naivety and somehow he always wanted to lord it over us or do some deal such as with the firewood from which he'd earn something.

Nonetheless we had wonderful friends from the village, although we didn't live in the village itself, and OH had some fantastic camaraderie from the chaps in his table tennis club.  We, the wives, then got to know each other and got on like a house on fire.  Lots of nice dinners and we were invited to join the Rotary Club (we declined because I always knew I wasn't going to live where I felt so depressed).

Now, I had worries about moving to the "Home Counties" aka the Dordogne but I guess we just got lucky.  Wonderful neighbours, both Brits and French, and I am even coming out of my shell to play boules of a Sunday.  We have French neighbours who live within hailing distance.  I said I liked pastis and within a couple of days, they brought me a bottle of Ricard, OH mentioned that I needed some sabots to walk around the garden when we had storms and within days, they brought me plastic sabots as un petit cadeau and the latest present was a bottle of Mumm's champagne.

So, I don't think you could generalise at all.  We are lucky, I do recognise that......

And, believe me, we don't especially go out to find "friends" and we certainly don't throw parties or invite all the village round.  We do walk our beautiful dog around and, perhaps, that's the secret.  Walk around with a beautiful dog and everybody comes up to speak to you![:D]

PS forgot to mention that, whilst in Normandy, we visited and stayed in departements 50 (Manche), and 61 (Orne).

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This thread is an offshot from the DSK thread (HERE) and is derived from the following post by idun:

[quote user="idun"]

I think I shall scream if I hear 'french family values' ever again.

That apparently  refers to the odd bbq or fete each year, or maybe not, I

have yet to really work it out. It sounds grand though and means

absolutely nothing. 

This whole integration thing that is mentioned; well, until you start

hearing the whispers about the down right disgusting and despicable in a

french village, then no one is 'integrated' in my opinion. Because as I

said, every one lies. They do every day in France with their ça va and

the reply ça va. How often is that response a true one. But we say it as

it is expected and a polite front to real life.

Me and my neighbour, 'ça va Nath' with a smile, Nath says 'ça va'

back, also smiling. When she should have said, 'ça va pas, my husband's

been shagging my colleague and I'm considering suicide', but you see, we

don't, but soon after, she left home and did try to kill herself three

times. And if I hadn't been 'integrated' I may not have been told all

those details, the gossip, the dark side to village life. And if she had

had the courage to tell me, then I think that she may not have at least

made attempts on her life.

If I didn't have 'my' man in my life, I would have another one. I

like men's company and cuddles and the rest. I would hate to sound anti

male, I'm not, I'm anti macho and anti rapists and abusers though.

[/quote]

The posts showing before this one were moved from the DSK thread.

I have tried to import the relevant comments into this thread, but if you see any in the original thread which should be here, send me a PM with the poster's name and the date and time of posting, and I will endeavour to move it here.

As you were... [:)]

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Wow - sorry to butt in but....(I'm not actually sorry but thought it may be a good opener!?!).

This thread has gone way, way off mark - were you all out in India during the days of the British Raj by any chance ? I guess the conversations in the 'clubs' sounded pretty much like the ones here.

Integration, isolation and friendships - behaviour breeds behaviour. The way you treat people will directly impact on the way they treat you! Live with it!

Simon :-)

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[quote user="Simon-come-lately"]Wow - sorry to butt in but....(I'm not actually sorry but thought it may be a good opener!?!). This thread has gone way, way off mark - were you all out in India during the days of the British Raj by any chance ? I guess the conversations in the 'clubs' sounded pretty much like the ones here. Integration, isolation and friendships - behaviour breeds behaviour. The way you treat people will directly impact on the way they treat you! Live with it! Simon :-)[/quote]

What is that all about. A bit of nonsense, aren't people allowed to speak as they find.

The assumption that we have invoked some sort of bad treatment by our behaviour, well, I haven't and I doubt the other posters have either.

When I moved to France, I couldn't speak french. Do you really think that if I had been off with people and not pleasant and do my best to communicate that I would have had as much help as I got. A pleasant smile, with an all too often apologetic little grin, as I massacred their language, but tried not to and they could tell, I really was trying. I know how to behave.

So me a colon, nope. Never was, never will be. Don't like the idea of colons. No clubs to discuss such things, we simply got on with it all. AND yet that doesn't mean that I don't have an opinion about all these things, I do. I would even if I didn't know anything about it!

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I have not spoken about the beauty of anywhere. I'm sure that we all like different paysages. I love my mountains, I also love Holland, the flatness, has a beauty for me that maybe others do not appreciate. There are plenty of other places I find splendid too, even in Normandy, so my comments are about the 'who' and not the place itself.
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Eight years ago we bought a second home in this beautiful corner of southern Manche and have been coming here ever since, at first just for a few weeks a year, but since I retired we're here for months at a time each summer. We are coming to the end of our fifth summer now and I can honestly say that in all that time I have not met with any rudeness or unfriendliness, either from our neighbours and other villagers or from the officials we have had to deal with. We don't do a lot of popping in on neighbours here, but we don't in the UK either, so that's alright. However, we meet and chat, or wave as we go by. We go to village events and are thanked for doing so and for helping with the clearing up afterwards. My farmer neighbour invited me round to see her new grandson and have aperos for her son's birthday. We invited her to sample an English afternoon tea and she fell in love with scones and asked for the recipe. [:D] Nothing earth-shattering, but all very pleasant and part of the warp and woof of human existence, on either side of the Channel. I wouldn't even think of claiming to be integrated - how could I be when I'm only here for a quarter of the year? But I'm happy here and think myself fortunate to be able to spend so long here every year (it would be even longer if only I could persuade my husband......) [:)]

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Idun, I suggest that you visit my part of Picardie and you will then look back on Normandie with fond memories [:D]

I say my part as I sincerely hope that all 3 departements are not like this, i have wandered far and wide and to date the Picard (un)welcome has been universal but i live in hope.

The most honest opinions on the Picards have come from those born and bred here but through a mixture of intelligence/education/get up and go have managed to escape its clutches and make their lives elsewhere, they still return to their roots for family gatherings etc but are treated as total outcasts, worse even than I am, the reason that I get to meet them is I still try very hard to make friends through activities/associations etc which is what these people do to escape when they are forced to spend time here.

The only friends that I have thus far made in this way are those unfortunate enough to have had to come here through mutation or the ex Picards in exile, the only person from all my soi disant friends at my diving club is the one that still retains contact and actually wants to do things during the summer months, for all the others it is totallement interdit, akin to suggesting that we work through our lunch break he is a Norman I think or perhaps a Breton whichever departement St Malo is in.

I have also recently made another couple of surprising friends as they are really far too young for me, they are musicians and we go running together every other day, without them this summer would have been as awfull for me as the previous ones,.

Why are they different from the others around here? Well she is from Lille like my ex and people are far more normal there, they both are at that age where they want to achieve things and have not yet been beaten back and dragged down by those around them, to be honest anyone who remains in this area beyond their early 20,s just become like all the other negative influences around them, the young who are still in education grace à the challenge and discipline therein with their enthusiasm and ambition are pearls amongst swine.

I know that there are good people around here, thankfully I have a few as friends but they all keep their heads well down, as any nail that sticks up will get hammered down, they have all warned me in all seriousness never to talk about them, their families or our friendship.

I consider myself very lucky to have retained a pied à terre back in my village in Sussex where I have lived for close to 30 years, its a really friendly community, people rarely leave and any houses for sale are snapped up by those wanting to move back, I have the same neighbours that were there when I moved in, true friends although we dont have aperos or dinner parties etc but to me they typify what friends and neighbours can be with mutual respect, understanding and communication.

I dont let the way things are here in Picardie get to me, I cannot change them although I continue to try my best to be a decent human being, I consider it like accepting a job in a hostile environment, its not for ever and I continue to do it because the return in the end should be worth it.

There is however nothing at the moment that would make me want to remain in this area.

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[quote user="idun"]I have not spoken about the beauty of anywhere. I'm sure that we all like different paysages. I love my mountains, I also love Holland, the flatness, has a beauty for me that maybe others do not appreciate. There are plenty of other places I find splendid too, even in Normandy, so my comments are about the 'who' and not the place itself.[/quote]I am sure that people's behaviour does not change in a few miles. Either side of the Brittany/Normandy border I am sure there are many similar people.

In my life experience, both in Britain and abroad, I have found that people are people everywhere and in general most are very pleasant if you approach them in an honest and friendly way. Sure, you can find obnoxious people anywhere if you look hard enough but why bother to seek out trouble.

On my many visits to Normandy I have never had any problems with the local people but again there is a difference between visiting and living in an area 

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We are in the Suisse Normande area, Sara, close to the Orne / Calvados border. I can't relate to Idun's view of Normandy at all, but I think it is true that people in touristy areas can be cross and tired in the height of the season. Certainly in Bournemouth we resented the grockles cluttering up the place in July and August!
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[quote user="EmilyA"] ... I think it is true that people in touristy areas can be cross and tired in the height of the season. Certainly in Bournemouth we resented the grockles cluttering up the place in July and August![/quote]

Yup! I concur ... I live in Mid-Wales and by end of September we are so glad to regain our little town back to ourselves. Grockles are a necessary evil unfortunately as they do provide us a crust for the winter be it a hard crust to earn for Mr and Mrs Average and their kids can be rather trying at times.

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[quote user="Chancer"]  ... The most honest opinions on the Picards have come from those born and bred here but through a mixture of intelligence/education/get up and go have managed to escape its clutches and make their lives elsewhere, they still return to their roots for family gatherings etc but are treated as total outcasts ....  There is however nothing at the moment that would make me want to remain in this area.[/quote]

 

I find this of this area of Wales. My 2 children for example, both born and schooled in the town have now no longer any connexion with any of their contemporaries. They find that the odd encounter with any of them at the supermarket or in the street, a most cringingly difficult moment. Sometime when they are with me shopping, I can hear them muttering 'Oh gawd! so and so ahead, he/she etc...' and dart quickly into the nearest shop in such an obvious way to avoid embarrassment. Is it embarrassment for them or for their contemporaries they are averting from?

I suppose as they come from a mixed nationality marriage, they were already with a (dis)avantage to go travelling far and wide to see and experience the world in full knowledge that dear old Mum is keeping a warm welcome back in the hillsides for them. Should Mum have had more of a choice though, she certainly would not have wanted to settle here...

 

... but I too feel an outcast when I return once a year to the little corner of Deux-Sèvres that was my home for all of my childhood and teenage years and where now my parents are waiting for the Almighty to call them up to the big younder. My sister lives no far from them and she really thinks that I am a total weirdo (in her case it takes one to know one). My brothers too are strangers to the place as they went away to carve out their lives. I keep looking at the place and can't think how anyone could contemplate to live in that village for ever ...

 

Seems that some of us have a gene for wanderlust, whether it manifests itself in a physical or mental way, it will make us 'different' from our neighbours and never at ease with the present surroundings. I wonder how nomadic tribes feel of such attachment to a place and how they view those that do settle in for ever?

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Using the criteria of this thread I am not sure that I have ever integrated, even having spent the first 20 something years of my life in the same Essex village. 

What others do is of little interest to me unless/until it affects me and mine. Not speaking fluently the language of the neighbours may mean missing some things but so what? I never mixed very much even when I did.

If I ask "How are you?" it is out of politeness rather than wanting to know (living with a hypochondriac probably causes this).

Di and I are happy with our own company - most of the time anyway. If the time comes when one of us shuffles off change will be forced upon the other but one cannot cross a bridge until one gets to it.

If I visit somewhere and don't like the people or the way they treat me, I don't go back - I certainly would not brand a whole region or more just because I had a bad holiday. That is akin to believing that "you can always tell a Yorkshireman, but not much" - though, on reflection, perhaps this  is the exception that proves the rule.

A. Curmudgeon

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[quote user="LAiffricaine"]... Seems that some of us have a gene for wanderlust, [which] will make us 'different' from our neighbours ...[/quote]

I am certain this is true.

My parents, my sisters and myself have all, at one time or another, travelled and lived in other countries, which is an almost constant source of puzzlement with our rural neighbours.

They, who view a trip to Paris as a major journey, have no interest in travelling, visiting or holidaying very far from home, let alone living elsewhere.

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Kathy, we love the Manche and we went there last month for a few days. We have frequently visited this area,we try to go there at least twice a year (in our caravan) we often go to the Upper Manche,  Pres qu'ile(?). We stay near St Vast, Barfleur. It is beautiful ,it reminds me of Cornwall, lots of  small beaches and plenty of rock pools for the children. It takes us two hours to drive there and it feels like a heaven. People seem lovely and relaxed. Southern Manche is that where Dinard and Dinan are ? Also another beautiful area .[:)]

Emily, we love Suisse Normande went there in May for a long weekend. We try and go there also at least twice a year, (one half hours by car) We stay near the touristy but beautiful village Clecy. We have had a lot of beautiful experiences there but unfortunately our last visit was a nightmare. It had nothing to do with the local people it was at the campsite, it was the worst night at a campsite of my life!! One I never want repeated. I will just say that there was noise, drink and drugs and that we did not get one wink of sleep! [:@]We won't stay at that campsite again but are looking forward to going back to the area next month for a weekend (weather permitting ofcourse) Again like the Manche found people nice, people  walked with smiles on their faces.[:)][:D]

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Glad you like the Suisse Normande, Sara.

I think it is interesting how villages can be so different. I think here it is mostly because our Mayor (a well-travelled and erudite man) is very welcoming towards newcomers in the village, (English and Parisians mostly) and welcomes their improvements to local properties. He gives the lead and others follow. That gives incomers the chance to integrate and make a contribution to village social events etc. I can imagine that if you get someone influential in the village who is anti-incomers, then life could be very different.
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This is normally the kind of thread that I would not reply to... but in light of the other post on 'how we use the forum' I've decided to go for it [Www]

I hate this kind of conversation, it reminds me of the Monty Python sketch about 'when I was a lad we slept in a matchbox...'

What on earth is integration, isolation and friendship? 

When I lived in the UK I lived in a rural Devon village.  I made friends with some of the mums at the primary school but never got to know perhaps 90% of the rest.  I did join the PTA but sat with the friends I knew.  I never went to visit my neighbours, never shared a BBQ with them or went to their children's weddings, never really joined any local groups... although I did go to church once in a while.  I couldn't even tell you the names of my closest neighbours.  Do I feel bad about this... No!   I think it's pretty typical of how people live.  We had young children, busy working lives and a wonderful group of friends and family.  I would of course have offered help if it was needed and people would be friendly and say hello in passing and I certainly thought it was a lovely place to live.  I never asked myself if I felt intergrated... I lived there and was happy.

Now we're in France things are pretty much the same but because we're not working and we dont have very young children we have more time to get involved.  I got to know a couple of the mums at the local school, we joined the rugby club and the local walking group.  I could tell you the names of our neighbours and we do share a glass of wine and I consider them good friends.  When I was recently ill, my husband was inundated with offers of help from folks in our village... ranging from looking after our son, to cooking meals to doing his washing.  When I was first diagnosed we did ask ourselves if it would it be better to go back to the UK where we had a strong support network but after a day or two we soon realised that we had an equally wonderful support network right here and if anything this strengthen our desire to stay where we now feel settled.

I feel I'm as intergrated as I want to be... or have the time for.  I have a wonderful group of friends (both french and english) and I dont feel isolated... even in the most testing of situations... in fact to be honest I never ask the question of myself... As with my Devon home, I live here and I'm happy.

I'm not daft enough to think I'm living in eutopia... certainly there are things about France that can annoy me but the same would be said for the UK.  I think these comparisons prove very little except that different people have different experiences and generalisations are unfair and cruel.  I'm sorry that some people here have had some horrid experiences but it's unfair to assume that it's the same for everyone.

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Like Rose I too am going to be "brave" and comment on this thread! [:)]

Surely there are nice friendly people and grumpy miserable people everywhere ( and sometimes they're the same person on different days!), I've encountered both where we live.

We get on fairly well with all our neighbours, some we just nod and smile at, others we've shared meals with.... both English and French. We attend events that we want to attend and not because we want to "integrate". I work here and speak French and I do feel that that does make a small difference in terms of being regarded as a "normal" person as opposed to the stereotypical rich, retired English (oh I wish!). Our village is perhaps interesting as neither the Maire nor the secretary are in any way local, so I think they influence generally the "acceptance" of "foreigners" (and as in many rural communities a "foreigner" can be someone from the next village!!).

Many of our neighbours have lived here all their lives and frankly we are never going to have a lot in common. Those we do get on well with are those who have had similar life exeperiences to our own - eg travelling.

And I've had many holidays in many parts of France and been delighted by people we have met everywhere!!

Lou

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 I suspect lots of people move from a busy life where they do not really know many local people in the UK to  a more rural location in France where they somehow expect people to be more friendly, inclusive and outgoing - thats not always the case and it can be disapointing....

 

 

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I don't disagree with either Rose or Lou's posts (though I don't see what wealth has to do with it). For me integration means being part of a community at whatever level is appropriate given personal inclination and circumstances. I am a gregarious sort and I like to see people, OH is more solitary and that is fine too. There are people I like a lot in the village and people with whom I have very little in common. I am concious that from time to time I need to ask a favour - watering veg, getting a farmer with tractor to pull us out in the snow etc and I would hate to ask people to do that if I didn't do things in return. We have had examples around here of people who keep themselves entirely to themselves, only mix with other Brits and then expect people to rally round (which they do) when they get into difficulties. I don't think that is right.
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[quote user="Chancer"]

I know that there are good people around here, thankfully I have a few as friends but they all keep their heads well down, as any nail that sticks up will get hammered down, they have all warned me in all seriousness never to talk about them, their families or our friendship.

I consider myself very lucky to have retained a pied à terre back in my village in Sussex where I have lived for close to 30 years, its a really friendly community, people rarely leave and any houses for sale are snapped up by those wanting to move back, I have the same neighbours that were there when I moved in, true friends although we dont have aperos or dinner parties etc but to me they typify what friends and neighbours can be with mutual respect, understanding and communication.

I dont let the way things are here in Picardie get to me, I cannot change them although I continue to try my best to be a decent human being, I consider it like accepting a job in a hostile environment, its not for ever and I continue to do it because the return in the end should be worth it.

There is however nothing at the moment that would make me want to remain in this area.

[/quote]

I am sorry to read your post. I had always assumed that your comments about Picardie were tempered with a certain affection and irony ( as are mine for the sewer in which my 'barrel' floats).

This time what I read is much darker, and that is sad.

I moved from a typical 'deadhead dumpling' village in the West country to a very rough slum part of the South of France

In neither  place could I be said to be 'integrated', in fact I would be insulted to be seen as being like the locals, but at least here I have known appreciation for what I offer, and support through my health problems.

In both places I have been swindled...

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As we were in France for so long and we had that long long drive from the Alpes to NE England and would end up staying in Picardie quite often. Not a bad thing to say about it in the general run of things . We have stayed in Laon, St Quentin and Senlis. Our other stopping off places have been Reims and Calais and I have nothing bad to say about them either.

In fact in Laon, we often stayed in a pleasant hotel at just about the first roundabout near the motorway, not the Campanile. One evening when we arrived a little earlier than usual we went up to the citadel and parked up. At which point a bloke came running after us and told us not to leave the car there or it would get nicked or our stuff stolen. What does that say to me, it says that like everywhere there are crooks and that at least one member of the local population is very decent. We had  had our car broken into twice when we first got to France, parked outside our appartment and the next car we had was hit three times by people who didn't leave their details.

I can sort of understand rural Picardie being as it is, sounds like some of County Durham  and that can be dire, when we used to visit relatives in some places, someone once asked me how far it was from where we lived and I said 'two hundred years!' that is how it felt.

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