Friends

“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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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…..

 

A Week of Firsts

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Here we are, we’re in Lille.  I actually live in France now! HECTOR!

This week has been a week of firsts, some good and some-not-so-good.  Let’s start with the not so good and end with the good stuff.

The not-so-good Firsts:

  • First altercation with a neighbour about parking on our road.  This consisted of her talking/moaning and me nodding not really knowing what she was going on about.  Seriously people there’s A LOT more to life than where you can/can’t park
  • First fall down our stairs – unfortunately I was carrying Mim at the time.  Neither of us was seriously hurt although I do have a bruise the size of a grapefruit and the colour of an aubergine on my right hip…Merde! (you’re allowed to say that word in France…it’s not as naughty as the literal translation….honest)
  • First cold of the year!  Would you Adam and Eve it?!  Rog and I are pretty healthy-tastic but literally 24 hours in we both come down with stonking colds.  Thankfully I stocked up on Paracetamol which are ridiculously expensvio here (please send more!)
  • First argument with our internet provider (Rog not me, my words would consist of “vous êtes stupide n’est pas?” and that would be it).  Like all such companies they promise to set up quickly and don’t, they promise to call back and don’t.  Frustrating but perhaps helpful I’m not seeing everyone back in Canters having fun

The Good Firsts:

  • First time introducing myself, yes that’s right I walked right up to my neighbour and introduced myself all on my lonesome.  I quickly ran out of things to say (about 10 seconds in), said an awkward “au revoir” and scuttled inside but she was still smiling when I left, probably thinking to herself “what waz zat all about, zees crazy English?” (nb. Not same lady as parking lady above)
  • First conversation with another sweet neighbour who very kindly sorted out the parking (yes it really does seem to be an issue on this street) and I’m pretty sure I understood most of what she said.  She hasn’t been over yet to tell me I’m parked in the wrong place anyway
  • First drop off of lovely friend to the Eurostar station in the middle of Lille, hopefully the first of many. This was preceded by first drive around the centre of Lille trying to find the station again as I missed all the drop off points, and then again…managed it the third time!
  • First drive into town just me and Mim, I didn’t get lost or hit anyone or anything else, yay.  We parked up and hurried along to the British library to try and make some friends only to find it didn’t open for another 2 hours, this was a blessing in disguise as I’d missed the parking meter and not paid for parking…Whoopsy! Thankfully not first parking ticket (yet!)
  • First trip to the supermarket and first go at using the snazzy bleeper thingys they have.  It’s a bit like doing your wedding list bleeping in Debenhams only in the supermarket and you can do it every time you shop!
  • First Blog!

Well there we go.  I could have gone into more detail, first meal, first sleep, first dream, first use of the toilet…too far?  You may think the above is dull but there ya go, life is what it is.

The Holy bit

Every now and then this week I’ve thought of what I’d be doing in the UK knowing that being a bit bored I could easily call someone, go to a park with Mim, join my small group on Thursday eve, visit special friends and their new born, go to my favourite coffee shop etc.  The emotions start running high when I think of the family and friends we’ve left in the UK and making friends with a language barrier seems almost impossible.  Mercifully I have a good friend who speaks to me through His word, the Bible, and he said this to me this week:

Jeremiah 32: v 27 “I am the Lord, is anything too hard for me?” v 41 “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul”