To me, integrating simply means fitting in, feeling able to be yourself and being accepted for who you are.
I’m not big on socialising, never was in the UK and never have been here. If I felt obliged to try and make lots of friends in order to prove how integrated I was, that to me would be the opposite of integrating. Yes I could have made the effort but that wouldn’t be being myself, I wouldn’t have been accepted for the anti social creature that I really am, I would have felt like an imposter. I never put on any pretence, I explained upfront that I’m a bit weird, I’m very wrapped up in my work and my own interests and I’m perfectly happy with my own company. The neighbours seem to respect that, they know that I’m not unfriendly but I am a loner. They tease me about it a bit but we get along nicely on the basis of apéros two or three times a year and brief chats in the street when we meet, whilst at the same time I know and they know (I hope) that if ever help is needed, it will be willingly given.
But, I think that fitting in does mean being au fait with what’s going on locally and nationally and sharing common ground. I think it must be a lot easier if you work here because then you experience what the average French person experiences, you share the same gripes about tax and social burdens, dealing with URSSAF, CIPAV, etc etc etc. I don’t know how that works for folk who come here as retirees because I think the French mindset is conditioned by all this, so the French take on things must seem a bit odd and inexplicable sometimes if you don’t have any first hand experience of how these things work in France. But I guess you can find common ground elsewhere and keep off politics and serious stuff.