How do you integrate?

I know this topic comes up time and time again (!) but I’m keen to get some thoughts and input on how people can settle into their French life saw easily as possible. I’m thinking along the lines of how to prevent yourself from becoming social isolated / integrate into the community/ settle in / make friends and generally hit the ground running.

All thoughts / opinions / experience very gratefully received!

Thank you x

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If you don’t have a job or kids I think it is harder. But essentially learn french, join things and go to things… you aren’t going to integrate sat at home watching UK TV.

Failing kids of a suitable age, we have a dog, who’s been a good help as we go to a dog club and also have met other dog people we now walk with.

Our renovation project was also a good way in to local community as we used local people and local suppliers for everything. So as well as having met artisans who now come quickly when we need them, there was lots of gossiping and curiosity as people would see X or Y’s van outside and stop in to have a look. (Paid off too, as we’ve had quite a few out of season bookings in the gîte from local people having family parties and needing a few extra bedrooms)


…still total failure, after 20+ years…must be doing something wrong…although, my few pals are all French…just. not local…I can’t like anyone on the grounds of them being in my area… Still…one nice gal has invited me to see her holiday photos…Ill see if that can be managed without me having the vapours…

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…yes…dogs…my dog was friendly to all…blind and deaf…and 20 yrs old, she died a few months ago…just after making one more pal, in her favourite park…:cry:


+1 for dogs!

Happily we have a very active local village so volunteering for “journées citoyennes” and fêtes has been a great way to meet people. Of course the better your french the easier it is but its not been essential.

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Integrating and making friends aren’t entirely the same to me. We have what I would call real French friends, ie people we go on holiday with, stay with, have new years eve with etc etc, but none of them are local.

However I feel we have integrated into the local area and have lots of acquaintances and are happily included in local events, asked to water plants, all those neighbourly sorts of things. But only a couple of nearly friends locally -another few years and they might become proper friends.


Now then…are we assuming that integration is even a goal, achievable or a positive thing? Just throwing it out there…:wink::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::wink:


Depends on your personality…

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Yep - I think that definitely plays a part - that’s the reason I felt a bit sad when I read @anon78757855 post #3. It set me wondering if there is perhaps too much pressure on people to blend-in, conform, be accepted etc. It can sometimes lead to a sense of failure - especially if you’re alone, shy, unconfident, unsure or just plain scared sometimes!

Then @Guy 's post #5 may me wonder if we put the same effort (barring language of course) or importance into integration when we move about within our native environment - wherever that may be…

Funny old word ‘integration’…

I know I’m not answering Catharines original question but I will get round to that :slight_smile:

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I agree with Simon and Jane. Sometimes when I read posts like these I think-maybe I wasn’t integrated in the UK!! I was on passing terms with neighbours but not " friends ". I never belonged to any clubs-I’m not a natural ‘joiner-inner’. My best friend was/is someone I met on my first day at secondary school 50 years ago. Over here …well my French is reasonable but I live in a tiny hamlet were 3 of the inhabitants are over 75 and the other 3 under 50. My husband and I are 65 and 64. We have nothing in common apart from being neighbours. I chat to them of course, help when asked, use local shops and services, pay my taxes in France. Does that make me integrated or not-and does it matter?


Laugh-out-loud moment there @Sue_Young ! :rofl: (I know it’s out of context - it just reads funny!)

It might - but in the great scheme of things…not sure…


Yes just re-read it :joy::joy:I meant of course my OH and I have nothing in common with our neighbours!!


Thinking about it, only a couple of times in the UK did I have close friends among my neighbours - and one of those was a case of old friends happening to move into the next street - but surely it’s pretty unlikely that people you get on really well with will happen to live nearby?
Having said that I certainly do regard one of our next-door neighbours here in France as a good friend - he is though a completely extraordinary Frenchman - a vegan that speaks perfect English!
Our other neighbours are great - always ready to have a chat or help out - and not hesitant at all about asking me to help them move the odd freezer! - but I think of them as good neighbours, not really as good friends.


Is being integrated a good thing?

Yes - you save money by being included in communal purchases eg oil, you’ll get a lift if you miss the bus and have to walk home, and you get offered useful things.

No - you get harassed at halloween for sweets, people try to involve you in feuds, and you are encouraged to sing the Marseillaise which is a truly dreadful dirge.


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.


Do you think so? I think it’s a stonking good rabble rouser, I love bellowing “Aux armes citoyens!”
I do unfortunately think that “Gaaaad saaaave aaaah graaaa-cious queeeen” is a dreadful dirge though.


God save the queen is dreadful

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God save the queen is even worse I grant you…

Rouget de Lisle is the most famous son of our nearest big town, so everything is branded RdL or otherwise linked, so it is a bit all pervading. And “qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons” is not exactly PC is it?

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Well no, but it’s a National Anthem. National anthems are about why your country is the best, and fighting off johnny foreigner comes with the territory. Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Flower of Scotland etc.
Actually the English seem to be the only ones who expect God to do all their fighting for them so that they don’t have to lift a finger. Would you call that a sense of entitlement or what.


or the usual ambivalence to commit to an action.

But lots of national anthems are about peace and beauty of their county - south africa or australia for example - so doesn’t have to be all about blood and gore and death.