Expand your social circle in France

Hello everyone,

Moving to France means leaving one's family and friends behind. Creating a circle of friends or joining an existing one should therefore be paramount in order to fight loneliness in your host country.

But how can one develop a social network in France? Where and how to meet people there?

How easy is it to meet locals? What about cultural specificities?

Share your advice and experience!

Many thanks in advance,


Learn French!!! :dumbom:

Hi Priscilla,

I joined some language exchange events to make new friends and to enhance my ability in French.
I tried to be more open and it helped me to move forward.


We have lived in France for 12 years and have visited for probably 30+. We have found we have really had to work hard at it with the French but once accepted it is comfortable but you need to speak or try to converse in French especially if you live rurally.
As far as other expats are concerned we do not find them that friendly and English builders are a group to be careful of. We have been lucky as we now have a very good friend who is an English builder/odd job person and was happy for me to assist him. Most uk people are re-inventing themselves and you need to be very wary of these as they will rip you off without any conscience at all.
I guess it depends on what you want out of life in France. We are a close family and like our own company and don't want to live in any else's pockets or houses.
France is beautiful. Live it and get out what you want.

I agree with gfsimons that speaking French is mandatory - preferably before you arrive. You can get by with a B at o'level; but anything less you'll be squeezed out of all conversations, not least because of the speed.

There are many cultural differences and I'm going to mention three here that have affected me as a person who's lived for 5+ years in both countries:

1. The French don't believe in returning favours which I have come to believe is a fundamental value in the UK. If you expect favours to be returned, you're going to be disappointed. It may help you to adjust if you don't expect anything.

2. The French are rather myopic in their world view (judge how many pages are devoted to international news in all their major newspapers compared to the UK) . This inevitably trickles down to daily life. While more French people are travelling abroad, usually Japanese fashion - in buses - the lives of the vast majority revolve family and school friends and they have little idea of international news. Part of the reason is language limitation, but it's also profoundly cultural.

3. Making friends - there are two types of population, the locals who live in the same village for their entire lives and the transient population. The latter are often younger professionals who speak a half decent level of English. With the locals, you have to keep turning up and talking to access the more international/mobile set, it's best to join a group like Internations or an American group. Groups like this have planned activities and will help you to feel less lonely.

My sign off tip for people thinking about living in France full time is this: Don't think about living in the country unless you speak fluent French (advanced) esp if you're hoping to renovate. You're setting yourself up for getting ripped off and none of your neighbours will help you. The system doesn't work like that. Unless you already live in the middle of nowhere, e.g. it's a day trip to find a halogen lightbulb, just don't even think about it!

In the south, many villages shut down after the summer season, even places like Grimaud on the Côte d'Azur are ghost towns in the winter! You'd be lucky to find a baker's open during the winter. So if you're getting on a bit, just be aware that you may have to get in a car to get bread!

Lots of Brits are selling up and returning to Britain. You have to research the reasons why. If you're here with a loved one, just be sure neither of you will pop your clogs off because you will find yourself lonely and isolated esp if your partner is the one with the language skills. Go in with your eyes open. You've been warned!

I've been here for about eight years, but visiting for fifteen. Serif is exactly right. I wouldn't suggest moving to France for the purpose of making friends, to say the least. If you are a tough loner, who speaks French, you will be fine. However, if you are outgoing and accustomed to socializing, or used to empathy, mutual understanding and sharing of personal's going to be a hard ride. Although, you may find some relief in larger cities like Paris, Lille or Toulouse. In small towns...forget it completely.

When asked 'How you're doing?', anticipated and approved replies would be; 'Just look at the weather, Work is going well, The family is good, Kids are doing great in school' and 'The last vacation was terrific!'. Expand on these as much as you like--even to the most minuet detail--for as long as you like. But, drift off course and mention anything remotely emotional or personal, and you will get a blank stare, or a very generic response at the most. Conformity earns you big bonus points. Imagine yourself communicating with robots and you're gold. Based on conversations with many divorced 'Anglos' from French ex-partners and personal experience, this seems to carry true into marriage. Be cautious before marrying a French person, unless you don't need much support, encouragement or compassion.

To give a French perspective on this, I've been told that 'Anglo people' are like peaches and the French like coconuts. They say it's very easy to begin conversation and talk openly with and 'Anglo' or foreign person, but very hard to get deep inside. Whereas, a French person is very hard to get close to, but 'once you're in, you can go very deep'. I really haven't seen the deeper side of emotional expression, except if they are heavily intoxicated. But, if you get past the shell, you generally have a friend for life. I have one after eight years.

Finally, the bureaucracy and tax system is suffocating. I moved here and immediately opened two classic car garages before understanding this fact and they were both closed within two years--despite selling a lot of cool cars. I have known very talented and skilled French people, who after perfecting their abilities, opened their own companies. One eventually had around ten employees and was doing extremely well. Then the taxes came. He had to fire everyone and went back to the same position in the same company he left. This story is very common...too common. The 'rule' is not to hire. Subcontracting or a temporary contract (CDD) is the general theme.

Hope this doesn't sound too negative, which was not my goal. Just the personal experience I've had.

Bon courage!

Hi does any expats live in puy de dome area?

Moving to Brittany, anyone got any positive comments about the Bretons and the region?  No offence to Serif and Lotuselisel I appreciate their comments and do agree.  I am from the UK and making a comparison we have lived in the same village with the same local people for 20 years if you say good morning they look amazed you have the nerve to speak.  We have tried to make friends but no one goes out and there is a lot of name calling and twitching curtains...not my thing so we don't bother now.  I think it also depends on the area you live in before we bought our cottage we rented a cottage in the next village and the people were great, stopped to chat and always friendly for the year we spent there. Anyway thanks in advance for any feedback on Brittany.  :)

I've heard a lot of nice things about Brittany and the Bretons region. Apparently, they're more 'Anglo' in culture...friendly, outgoing and like to have fun. I'm planning a visit. I also lived in Lille for a year and the farther north you go, the nicer people seem to be. Currently, I'm right near Senlis, which is the capitol of curtain twitching. LOL

I'm afraid I don't recognise the France being described here.

I've said it elsewhere here but people in the Pays Basque could not have been more friendly to us.

When we used to visit the Pays Basque for our summer holidays every year, we'd stay at the same simple country hotel/restaurant.. They treated us like family. At the end of each holiday, we'd pay the bill, one last bisous all round and I'd pick up our suitcases to go.. The owner and chef would reach from behind his back and he'd slip a bottle of Irouléguy under my arm - saying, "Think of us when you drink that..". Where else does that happen?

We've lived here almost 10 years now. We arrived not knowing a soul.. but we've made good friends since then.. even in the Basque community which is 'reputedly' hard to enter..

Let me give you an example.. We stayed in a gîte for 5 months when we arrived. It was part of a vast white Basque farmhouse about 8km inland from Bayonne. At the end of each month we'd go downstairs to pay the rent and Monsieur would be sitting at the dining table and he'd indicate that we should join him. He had an accent so strong you could lean on it! First order of the day was to have a drink.. and maybe another. An hour or so later we'd lurch back upstairs!

When they killed their 200+kg pig in winter, we later found a parcel of homemade black pudding and sausages outside our door.

When we finally left after 5 months, the lady asked us to come around at 11am one Sunday morning for 'coffee' - as she put it. We arrived, and after coffee and a piece of brioche and a lot of talking, she disappeared and came back with a tureen of delicious soup (garbure) and 4 soup plates.. After a while, she went out again, and returned with a roast farm chicken.. and so it continued.. all the way through to coffee again - which was where we started. When we finally got up to leave (riding very low in the water!) she went out one last time before returning with a porcelain Basque pattern coffee service that they gave us.. They wouldn't take no for an answer. We were deeply touched because we knew they didn't have much. They were two of the most generous people we've ever met.   
Maybe the problem (if there is one) doesn't lie with the French?

I left New Zealand in 1980 for London where I lived for 8 years.
It was an amazing experience & I made many friends of a variety of nationalities (some of whom remain always)  . Met my french husband there ( comments re french spouse = lot of bull )

My french was then limited ( secondary level 60s, never taught correct pronunciation, thus even if had correct wording, hit & miss at being understood  :| 
Hubby's family were in the south-west, near Libourne. They couldn't speak a word of english, yet accepted me with open arms.

We moved to Dover in 1988 where our son was born. We lived happily in Dover for 13 years, again making some lovely friends.
Sad to say also came across a load of anti french, anti any foreigners sentiment by some locals.  Sentiments quite often uttered by those sailing merrily across the channel  to stock up on cheap booze etc.
A frequent refrain "oh France would be lovely, if it wasn't for the french"???

Moved to Northern France in 2002.
Again most locals were friendly. Some weren't.  And some  wary for a while, more because they couldn't understand a lot of my first (and second.....) attempts at their language.  But now accept me as voisine & copine xxx
Our son at 9 could speak no french. He started in a nearby state primary in CM1 in the January, this was the only year he repeated throughout his schooling.  He soon assimilated into school life. Friends and language both came fairly quickly. 
Yes it was hard at times, for him & me.
My husband was working week on, week off on the ferries, so me and the lad were on our own for a week at a time.
But I wouldn't have changed this life here for anything.
Our son is now studying for his masters in Tourism, after obtaining his licence Langue étrangère  appliqué. He by his own choice took French nationality at the age of

It's been an incredible learning experience this life of mine so far.

And, soon we will be looking for a small house southwards.

Every country has it's good and bad points:
Here without doubt the family Le Pen evokes the worst with their Front National, & equally I detest their mates across the channel the National Front
I've lived in some counties & visited many.
The most immediately welcoming without any doubt (& most talkative) would be Ireland!
Where I probably could have ended up if I hadn't bumped into a lovely frenchman.

Thank you such an uplifting view, I agree I too have heard the comments, like France is okay but they all speak b-----y French, makes me winch..  We are planning to retire to Brittany this year, what a year to pick after the leave result..but it worked out that way for us time you think the French will be okay with new British arrivals after we came out of the EU...I know there will be changes eventually but I am hoping we wont encounter any difficulties regarding registering for a doctor and healthcare even though we will be paying insurance...I am looking forward to moving but just feeling a little nervous as I want to make French friends as well as British and generally join in....any helpful tips welcome in advance...Thank you.

Hi. I will be moving to Dinan,  Brittany most likely in September. I'm looking to buy a home there as a base and travel when I can through Europe. My French is at a beginning level, so I'm hoping  to connect with either Anerican or Brit ex-pats in the area.  I plan to learn French but English speakers (clubs, wine groups etc, will be helpful). 

New topic