Fitting in with other parents

I'm looking to write about this - anyone got any experience of either finding a way to be accepted by French parents (including tips!) or want to share their struggles? Could you PM me with your details? :) xx

Parties are a good way to break the ice. Don't know when your child's birthday is but maybe you could invite a few other kids & parents ? Doesn't always work with all parents but you never know ?


Hic! Pache-moi encore un jaune et un ballon de rouge pour le bébé!

I couldn't have put it better myself, Véro, and if ever the situation did arrive your local bar is usually the only option and probably not the best place for mothers and toddlers!!!

Steve : "in the uk lots of mums would go to the coffee shop together or all meet up somewhere like the park for the afternoon so the kids could mix / play etc"

We can sometimes do that, but most of us have jobs, we have the highest uptake of nursery places in Europe & the highest proportion of 2 & 3 year-olds in school/crêche precisely because of that. So while we'd probably love to go & have coffee somewhere or meet up in the park in the afternoon, an awful lot of us don't have the option & simply sling the midgets out of the car door in the morning & pick them up from the garderie in the evening (until they are old enough to walk/get a bus home). Primary school is until 1630, collège until 1700 and Lycée until 1800 so post school activities are a bit tricky.

I have 5 daughters - you need a lot of bathrooms & loos if you want to avoid traffic-jams & being late for school/work/whatever ;-) (& only 2 have an actual bath in them, the others have showers even though they all have loos & basins). Short of running a hotel or gîtes or the like my laundry room must be one of the hardest-working around ;-)

Love that one, M-Claire and that's about as seriously as I should have taken this discussion! ;-)

I'm obviously one of the forunate ones, no I'm not French but I've been to uni here, taught in lycée, CCI, IUT and many companies, I now run a business myself and fortunatly I've always had access to a proper toilet at work, at school and at friends and family (all french). On the other hand I have heard and come across expats living in third world conditions here in France to the complete astonishment of "locals" who would never dream of slumming it! But perhaps I've missed something somewhere or perhaps it's because I stopped at bac +4 because they hadn't yet created a master 2 français langue étrangère...?! ;-)

Thanks for posting the wikipedia site. I really enjoyed that and it adds to my store of information.

I had it translated online and it was amusing with all the references to 'bins and trays'.

I do live in a very underprivileged area, which is having a large resurgence of IT companies and is becoming very much a new Silicone Valley, and super chi/chi, which is quite why there are such disparaging differences. The local people are very guarded.

What do you do with 6 bathrooms - that's a large 'footprint'.

I did not say my neighbors had no bathroom. I said it was substandard and the French govt obviously agreed, hence the sousvention. People with pride care about seeming less than because of their bathrooms. Just saying.

Say "Bonjour" to absolutely everybody every morning & "rebonjour" when you see them again in the afternoon. Remember that as the school day is longer here & many people may have older children in collège to pick up they might rush off sharpish. They will want to get devoirs done & goûter sorted before it is late enough to have an impact on supper at 7.30/8.

Get involved as much as possible with the Association de parents d'élèves, find out who the president is & chat them up. If you aren't working you may be asked to help with accompanying children to the pool when they go (the smaller ones will need help getting changed/showered/dried/dressed).

I'm French, Elizabeth, as I've told you before. I don't have a 'powder room' in my house - I do, however, have six bathrooms. Most of us have at least one, nowadays. Maybe you just live in a very underprivileged area.

My goal was to explain behaviour.

I do not really care how the Brits educate their children. To each his own. I like the apprentice system, but snobbery apparently keeps people distant as they expected to find it among expats.

I think statistics say that BAC+5 is not very common, in percentage terms. As Bac+3 is also not even 25% of British graduates. France recently came 25th in education within the European Union list of 27 nations, or is it now 28, with Montenegro.

In reference to the bathroom, it is an indicator only of the why of secretive behaviour. I don't care where people go to toilet, but they do. I have always understood it is bad manners to even ask to go to the 'powder room' when visiting and as I once did not know that I went to many and always found them to be substandard. This also applies to many New Eastern European's. The etiquette is based on shame and inconvenience.

In this region recently the French govt has been giving grants to older people, in older properties to upgrade, rather than to move them into other accommodation. I think it is a wonderful idea, but it has revealed a great many substandard houses, that were otherwise concealed.

It is only a fact that for the most part expats are more educated than local farmers/villagers, suburbanites too, though personally I prefer the local farmers for companionship. But, concealing ones, 'fortune' is also another reason for maintaining distance with foreigners, who do not quite have the hang of how to deal with les Impots.

And last, and most frankly, I find it tiring to try to have long conversations with foreigners myself, so I think I can assume that other nationalities find me equally tiring.

"Not quite sure where you get what seems to be a rather narrow-minded stereotypical view of the French?" quote from Andrew Hearne.

I can explain if you would like, but it may take more than BAC+5 to understand.

Here are the true figures: I'd say you need to be thinking of people over 50 to get your figures, bearing in mind France had until recentlyish an unashamedly elitist school system, and the Bac is for people who will go into Higher (rather than further) education. My mother who is 73 this year got her Bac in 1960. By the way, when I went up to university in GB, only 8% of my generation went to university, in spite of generous grants etc if you got in.

Proportion de bacheliers dans une génération selon le type de baccalauréat26,25
(France métropolitaine, Public + Privé)
1970 1980 1985 1990 1995stat 1 2000stat 2 2005 2006 2007 2008stat 3 2009 2010 2011 2012
Baccalauréat général 16,7 18,6 19,8 27,9 37,2 32,9 33,7 34,8 34,7 34,6 35,9 34,3 35,8 37,1
Baccalauréat technologique 3,4 7,3 9,6 12,8 17,6 18,5 17,3 17,2 16,8 16,6 16,2 16,3 16,1 15,7
Baccalauréat professionnel 2,8 7,9 11,4 11,5 12,3 12,8 12,6 14,7 14,4 19,1 23,9
Ensemble 20,1 25,9 29,4 43,5 62,7 62,8 62,5 64,3 64,2 63,8 66,8 65,0 71,0 76,7

Why do we stay at school? good question, Andrew! Probably because of running water and real toilets on campus:-)

espinté, Elizabeth, espinté ! So why is it that many French, including those in their 30s, stayed and still do stay on after their licence to get a dess or other bac+5 when nearly all brits stop at bac+3... Yes some parts of rural France can be very backward, but so can many parts of the UK too. My father in law is a simple farmer miles froml anywhere in the aveyron (seen as remote by many french) but I can assure you the farm has had a "proper loo" for decades. Not quite sure where you get what seems to be a rather narrow-minded stereotypical view of the French?

Flabbergasting! Especially the bit about the mop and bucket, I have to say in all my years in France, I never met anyone with that kind of arrangement.

The French may not be as educated as the expats, and not as rich, of course, as them, but they've done their best to catch up with other superior nationalities. Very soon, we'll be almost acceptable to foreigners. I'm looking forward to it, as, no doubt, others on this forum!

My experience has taught me that the differences are mainly financial.

The French keep their true life very hidden as it is seldom as 'rich' as the expats who move here.

The society is very varied with all socio-economic levels living side by side.

E. G. my closest neighbor just had a modern toilet and shower installed for the first time. Previously the space housed a mop and bucket and the garden served as a pissoir.

We were not supposed to know this as outdoors they looked very spiffy.

Also, despite all the angst about Baccalaureate etc, many people over thirty have very little education beyond what Brits call Secondary modern level. i.e. 15/16 which is only 8 years of formal education. Apprenticeships, which I admire, do not involve much academics.

Coupled with cultural pride these facets create a 'secret society'. In Switzerland it is referred to as a 'life behind closed doors'.

Keep your expectations on the surface, enjoy what you receive, and perhaps one day you will have intimate close friends, but do not count on it.

Hi Gill

the reality is surely that The french and brits are different so it will never be straightforward to become accepted even with good language skills , my experience after almost 10 years here with kids in schools is varied - ie a few french parents always chat to us and the kids , others never ever do and some will say a quick hello but not stop to chat .

if the situation was reversed i would expect the majority of brits in the uk would quite like to have a french expat as as friend or to chat to over coffee etc , but it seems that the french dont see the brits as being particularly interesting and culturally they are just so different.

For example i know in my old town village in the uk lots of mums would go to the coffee shop together or all meet up somewhere like the park for the afternoon so the kids could mix / play etc or even spend time at each others houses and so on .

would the french do this ????? i am not so sure .

My advice would be to invite other kids to play and see how the parents are away from the school gate and see if you have anything in common and then if it seems enjoyable try to develop the friendship further.

good luck

Well maybe someone will yet send you a PM with their top tip "I always carry a bottle of vodka in my handbag and offer everyone a quick snifter..."!!


Sorry Catharine - you're right of course - no-one has Pm'd so far :) x