“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend”
― Albert Camus
Being in another country where the majority of people don’t speak your language is, at times, rather demoralising, and at other times very useful. Like for example when your 18 month old son does a poop in his swimming nappy and your husband is shouting at you from the next-door cubicle, in which he is trapped with said son and his poop, “Help what do I do?” To which you reply “wipe as much off as possible and then hold him under the shower butt up” (sorry if you are eating as you read this). Or when your daughter says something rather un-PC about the smell of the person standing in front of you in the queue to pay for groceries. In those moments, you are so very thankful that (hopefully) no one will really understand what you’re saying, especially if you say it fast enough.
However, when it comes to making friends in France it’s not an easy street. I wonder if it would be if I’d moved to the UK?? Being new and friend-less can be a very lonely place but there are ways to combat this:
- find an expat group, of which there are always many, get involved and meet lots of English speaking people – great if you are only in your country for a few months or maybe a couple of years and just need to meet some like-minded people to have some fun with on this crazy French adventure
- total immersion – learn the native language, avoid English speaking people as much as possible and completely immerse yourself in the culture and language – this is hardcore, but I do have a great friend who did this and, although it was a tough and lonely first few years, she is now reaping the benefits of having the beginnings of a French group of friends. Or, if you are like another friend of mine, get yourself a French boy/girl friend who doesn’t speak English
- a mix of 1 & 2. Find some nice English speaking friends. People who you can sit down with for a good ol’ cup of tea or coffee…(with milk!) and have a bit of a grumble about the French administration, share about the latest discount shop you have just discovered and laugh at the language mistakes you have made. But also, learn the language, don’t avoid walking out of your door when your neighbours are outside, speak to mums at school and just do your best to find kind people who will be patient with your language abilities
I’ve gone for No.3.
French friendship groups are tough nuts to crack. Generally the French stay in the region in which they were born most of their life. So therefore their parents live nearby, their best friends from school live in the same town, their cousin is their kids’ teacher, their cats had kittens with their sister-in-law’s cat in the next street etc. But, once you have cracked the nut, you are IN!
We are gradually making french friends, slowly but surely. Our wonderful childminder is a real source of friendship. Not only do my kids love her but she includes me now and then with some activities with her and her friends.
Mim’s bestfriend’s parents are also becoming good friends of ours as well as some students and their partners/families to whom Roger and I have taught English to.
My lovely French teacher is, well, lovely. And in a couple of months we will have new neighbours next-door, a young couple with a daughter similar age to Mim. Step by step. Tapping at the nuts.
On the other hand, English speaking friends are a source of bittersweet joy. Joy in that we have met some really really wonderful people from all over the world since being here. Bittersweet in that we’ve already had to say goodbye to some lovely people who have only been here relatively short term…..you start to become good buddies and then they go. Boo. On a positive note though, should we ever get to Australia or back to the USA we’ve got plenty of people to visit now. Winner!
Now just to make you smile….some shots of us doing fun things…..