Getting along with the neighbours in rural France

Getting along with the neighbours in rural France

Getting along with the neighbours in rural France

It’s always advisable to do your best as a newly arrived expat to make friends with your neighbours, but in France it’s sometimes not that easy.

France has a not entirely undeserved reputation for being rather less than welcoming to new expat arrivals, especially if they’ve decided to live in rural havens rather than in the country’s cosmopolitan cities. According to the majority of expat surveys, getting on with the neighbours and integrating into the local community are considered two of the biggest challenges of a move to France, but it’s an essential without which your new life will be a lot harder.

Neighbours don’t have to be best friends, but it’s good to have someone to chat to and even better to know they’re there for you in case of an emergency. Even if your French is first-grade standard as yet, making the effort shows you really want to fit in to your new community. Expat Life in France, a helpful Facebook group, has many tips on how to painlessly integrate, suggesting you simply visit your new neighbours with a little gift and as much friendly small talk as you can muster.

An alternative is to invite the folks next door over for a coffee, or even a meal if your cuisine is up to it – remembering you’re in France, the home of gastronomy – and attending village social occasions can get you noticed in a friendly way. Another good tip is to walk around your small town or village twice a week or so, thus making your face a familiar one to the locals. It helps if you have a dog to walk, as it’s easy to strike up conversations with other dog-lovers. Using all your village’s small shops rather than heading to a nearby large town for supermarket shopping is another way to blend in with the locals.

Volunteering to help with local social activities is certain to advance your integration and find you new French friends, and expat parents should get involved with their kids’ local school activities. Joining in with campaigns about local issues shows you’re willing to give your time to help the community. A good few expats have found supporting a local sports team and attending their games gives great results as regards popularity with the locals. By this time you’ll have realised French lessons are a necessity for every expat who’s determined to become part of the local community.

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