Never fear Jeanette… I am very discreet… I’ve been dealing with bullies nearly all my life… one way or another…
That’s nice…is it really Gandhi!? Same thought I have for my picturesque coin, here. But I’ll need to preserve the shed, with a bolt on the door, to stop me being blown away…its all planned and in progress…
Not sure what integration is suppoed to be. I’m suspicious that it could be artificial - social contact for it’s own sake. But my wife has been helping a neighbours kids (nd the neighbour) with their English and my daughter has managed to get through two French boyfriends since we arrived 9 years ago (which helped her French no end). I helped my other neighbour move in his (very) heavy furniture and since discovered a bag of eggs left on top of the letterbox in thanks. So I suppose we’ve sort of integrated; i.e., become part of the scenery. We have English friends who we see about once a year but when we were in the UK, we didn’t mix with the neighbours - just a nod and a few words now and then in passing. And that, I think, is what integration means - really just a casual acceptance that you are part of the local scenery and if you don’t want to be the life and soul of the village, that’s fine - everyone is different.
I do have some clues about how its done, and tricky situations to avoid… !!
Handling disputes in villages, IMO, takes big diplomacy …and so that’s sure to be a problem sooner or later, some people have natural aptitude for peacekeeping, so they will be OK. A tragic event in my hamlet two friendly neighbours of mine one serious event… when large dog of one destroyed pet goat of the other. I loved the giant dog, too,he was as big as a small cow, and I think had no thought in his fat head …to kill anything. I didn’t have any clues at all, how to avoid taking sides in the acrimony that followed. Taking sides in any dispute, unless you are sure of the rights and wrongs…of it? I’d rather stay home and look at clouds. Next, you have to be good at saying no. There are always more things you might do, than you have time for, taking on too much, my guess…a common error. The obvious thing for incoming Brits to be asked to do…is help with English. Which means, English lessons…(for me…like being asked to do a triple cherry, on ice)…it means happy chatter, with youngsters, usually, and again …some can…some can’t. If you enjoy friendly group talk, it might work out well to create a social event, at your house, or someone else’s…where adults can come too …and keep the conversation going,…taking the weight off the “teachers” shoulders,_so he/she can chip in, with translation, and a bit of grammar, encouraging everyone to try some English. I’m fine with youngsters asking me themselves, because you know they have goals/enthusiasm… of their own…but those who show up, as instructed…well…teaching is not easy if you have no teaching ability. There are, I think, in every commune, regular meetings at the Mairie, often with a glass of something, for the Maire to tell …up to the minute, commune news etc. I will go one day.
Another good event…the annual village fayre? Have a stall, and sell something. Food seems to to be the popular stuff/… I’m thinking of ways for some easy, pain free social mixing in…that doesn’t feel like diving in the deep end, just mateyness… on the periphery…??
My favourite thing so far, although rare…is discussions in the village bar des sports,etc…hear what everyone thinks, or if you don’t understand, just be there and listen, and you’ll soon begin to feel like you belong. Some people have a lot to say, some like me, say nuthin at all, but listening is good. I love one nearby local caff…a French cafe as anyone might imagine it, with a real vet. legionnaire, shaking hands with everyone, as if we are all truly equals. …and another where I heard all about the vestes Jaunes…I love the cafes best! The bar lady keeps my box of ‘nescafe au lait’ …under the counter for me., with my own cakes…she wouldn’t let me pay this time. …yeah…must do better!
Apparently there are lots of Brits in our commune, we just never seem to come across them.
We have been accepted well by our French neighbours and have aperos together now and again. At least twice a month we go to the photo shop to get stuff printed and now the owners have asked us to use their first names. The tabac owner always shakes hands. Does this mean we’re integrated? Perhaps.
Integration…John Morrison…merging, blending meshing? The joined activities that help to keep different groups of people from different cultures, from feeling as if they are alienated? Everything might drift along, untroubled, even in a quite seriously divided community, but its best …when any problems show up, if different groups are friendly and supportive to each other. Already feel they are among friends…
I’ve been ticked off a few times for being a loner, in France, …its more unacceptable here than in UK…, because good neighbourliness counts, people help each other, and ordinary polite behaviour, like saying bonjour to everybody, if you go into a shop, is noticed… if forgotten.
I do what I can to be matey, and show I feel no unfriendly feelings…but I’m just ropey at socialising and like solitude best. Ex central London, no one knows anyone…
Don’t force it. Be yourselves, It’ll happen naturally! Just like anywhere in the World. Speaking or trying to speak the language or languages of the country will help. Why try be someone else in various circumstances? Unless you have a Jekyll and Hyde psychopathic way of dealing with the community in which you live.
Taking care,_paying attention to cultural differences,…just matters. Some places, not caring, doing what comes naturally…which is…following your own cultural habits, no matter where you are…will get you killed, others gaoled…I recommend, caring…
So thank you all for the interesting and thought provoking replies - I posted in such a hurry that I never thought to mention that this is for an article and I was in need of inspiration…certainly got plenty to think about.
If anyone would like to share tips that have worked for them and is happy to be featured in Living France magazine , please feel free to post here or PM me and I will get back to you.
And looking at things slightly differently, what do you think stops people from settling in or slows the process?
Thanks! And have a great weekend . It is chucking it down in soggy Dax but I need to work all weekend anyway so the rain is helping to keep me at my keyboard!
Nobody seems to have mentioned joining the local S&M club - you can get to know members of you community in a very intimate way! (but only if you have been very bad)
On a slightly less forward basis - next weekend is our Fetes des Voisins which is normally great fun - I am looking forward to it this year particularly as first time since being here permenantly.
Ha ha ha!!
A couple of years back I was teaching a seemingly utterly respectable couple in their house as they were planning to emigrate and wanted to improve their English. When I turned up one Monday morning I asked my usual “Did you have a nice weekend? So that I can then ask “and what did you do?” (Past tense practice!).
He replied “Oh yes, it was my birthday and we went to a ‘libertine’ club. It was really good.”
The wife nodded enthusiastically.
I have never moved so fast onto “oh so what are you going to do this week. At work…”
Well we’ve cut down the three patches of pampas grass we inherited with our house. . It was at the back though to be fair.
Integration… Interesting concept!
I can imagine (not yet being resident in France myself yet) that it would be far easier in a small village or commune than in a sizeable town. Our house is in Carmaux which is a small to medium sized town and I have no idea how many Brits live there or nearby - although I do know of, and have met, Andrew and his Tabac!
As the house was originally my inlaws place, we do already know the neighbours well but that is as far as it goes really. I follow the town Facebook page to keep up with what is happening - it is very good for announcing all sorts of activities, festivals etc. - and I am sure that, when the time finally comes that we move permanently to France, we will look to partake in those activities that interest us.
Unfortunately, I dont think that living in Carmaux will introduce us to a more intimate “integration” that we might have been able to achieve if we had bought a house in a small village or commune.
When I arrived in France I joined the International Womans group. 6 years later I have different groups of friends all nationalities. We enjoy lunches with partners, culture trips, wine tasting, so many different activities that I cannot attend all but it keeps us busy. I dont think I would have become a resident here without my group. France is now home for us.
Hello Pauline and welcome to the forum
My word… 6 years… and you’ve only just found us…
You’ve obviously taken everything in your stride… well done.
I think you have hit the nail on the head with the question “Does that make me integrated or not-and does it matter?” The term ‘integration’ often, it seems to me, to be used as a kind of ‘oneupmanship’ device, rather like the term ‘unprofessional’ is used to castigate people (despite the user often not being able to define either ‘integration’ or ‘professionalism’).
Integration, a process whereby previously dissociated elements come together to form a coherent whole. I did not consult a dictionary or Google, promise
Well, that’s me done for then!!!
I haven’t formed a coherent whole for many years…