The answer is slowly.
Go to the Quartier picnics, have a potager, don’t try to ‘buy’ friendship with excessive hospitality.
Support local fund raising initiatives.
Use the local restaurant and shops.
After we had been here for five years I made a little speech at our Quartier picnic thanking them for their very warm and friendly welcome.
It went down very well and was reported in the local paper.
This year we will have been here for ten years and we are having a huge ‘do’ in the garden.
The local restaurant will be cooking huge shoulders of pork for me.
I will show them how to score the rind and rub it with a mixture of salt and fennel seed. Yum.
The answer is slowly.
God save the King/Queen was originally written for Louis XIV’s operation with music by Lully, plagiarised by Handel, according to the Marquise de Créquy (possibly apocryphal).
I never gave “integration” a second thought…except that nothing is beyond me…I’d only ever driven through France once before on my way to Germany…
A series of life events led to me booking a one way ticket to Brittany and 3 years later I’m still here and it’s perfect in my eyes…x
I was friends with a couple older than me who had lived in France for many years who were now back in UK and she gave me a list of handy hints and tips on how to “integrate”…
I’ve never made use of any of them as I was never a “social butterfly” in uk and much as I love them both I just couldn’t imagine myself suddenly performing as per the list…
I love the peace and quiet of my little hamlet…18 houses but I’m in a culdesac of 4…semi detached to my elderly next door neighbours and we’re surrounded by fields…
I’m totally happy with how things are…practicing my French in friendly chats over the fence…seeing the warmth they have extended to my family when they visit…realising that when I’m having difficulty that my 87 year old male neighbour shouts his good lady and she comes out and slows the conversation right down until it’s at a speed that I can comprehend and meaningfully respond to…I walked into my back garden and then onto my “field” tonight and my neighbours had left me a bag of homegrown spuds tied to the fence…
I’ll probably never know for certain what the residents of my hamlet thought when they found out one of their French neighbours had sold up to a woman from England…but I sincerely hope that apart from the problem with my mauvais herbes in the first year that I’m quietly and unobtrusively “integrating” into the hamlet…x
I don’t get the compulsion to ‘integrate’ (whatever that really means), we live our lives how we want to without the need to be best buddies with neighbours or partake in commune/local events, if you were shy and retiring in the UK you’re unlikely to be any different here.
Over the years we have been members of various clubs so have met dozens of people of all nationalities and having children and a business means constant immersion with the language but we are nowhere near being fluent and never will be. We keep the local Brit cliques at arms length despite regular invites to join as we have seen what happens to those that fall foul of the clique rules.
To be honest it’s not something I’ve ever tried to do - except maybe when I was a kid in the playground and less sure of myself . I think I’ve tried to assimilate and adapt (but not adopt!) to my surroundings and personal interactions.
The fact is, I like and really enjoy being ‘different’ and a ‘foreigner’ - it can be enormous fun * - but I fully appreciate that may make me seem a bit odd! Essentially I think the concept of integration is highly overrated and never quite attainable by those who seek it out…
So my advice would be just to relax into your surroundings, be your unique and gorgeous self and keep it real! I think Mahatma Gandhi said it best:
" I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any "
(* just one example: in these parts down in the deep South, folk still turn to stare when they hear a foreign voice / accent - I tend to give them a wink )
I am astonished that there are such things as British cliques.
There is nothing like that here.
OMG - they are alive and annoyingly well down here! I could write a book!
I guess it depends on how many British immigrants are in a certain area. There are literally hundreds near us, our commune of 1100 is 10% British mostly retired but some younger families. Sadly we’ve seen couples/families ostracised because they’ve said or done something that the clique hierarchy don’t like which has killed their social life instantly.
Tim, send me their names and addresses and I’ll go sort them out . Can’t stand that sort of thing… out and out bullying… often by those who think they are way above everyone else… huh…
Where’s my guillotine…
I am glad that we live here in the Clunysois.
There are only four Brits in our commune out of about 280.
The next village, which is very vibrant, has a diverse population.
Cluny has an international attitude.
I suppose the only thing you can do about it is to keep well away from them.
We tend to try and help each other.
We didn’t go out of our way to integrate but we’ve been accepted in our commune and in the shops at the local town.
Everywhere we go around here we are welcomed (at least, not shunned) and our dreadful accents tolerated.
We go to events in our village as we wish - certainly not all - and choose 14 July celebrations, vide greniers, etc. from any of the many around here. Often we are seen as tourists, especially when the 24 hour racing is on, but we distance ourselves from that label!
We have several British friends in adjacent communes (and, as far as we know, are the only British in this one) but we are certainly not in each others’ pockets.
All in all, we haven’t gone out of our way to integrate here any more than we did when we moved from a city in England to a small town. If it happens, it happens.
Please don’t feel sad on my account, Simon! Very kind, but entirely unnecessary… France is enthusiastic with regard to community, and those who don’t take part, may feel unwelcome to stay, and that’s a very wonderful and blessed social construct, for all who need it. Some folks do, and are more than grateful for community support.
I think if I have any kind of community use, at all, its as a demonstration of ferocious independence, as long as physically/mentally capable…then …off to the knackers yard, without a whimper.
I simply cannot allow myself to be dependent on anyone, at any time, (my thoughts are most often, with my grandkids and my son and his family x thousand miles away, I would leave at any moment to be with them if they needed me,)…except, maybe in exchanged resources/information/etc. usually best found on the net. As here! Solitude, silence, my own company, my cat, my contemplation of death…all much better than bearable, often blissful! Solitude, with a few virtual companions, and my cat, makes my work (art stuff) come out OK, and improve.
Haha! Stella!! Wonderful! Can I come! Not keen on chopping heads off…maybe stickers …for sticking on backs of offending cliquies… “I am a nasty brit bully”…
Or ummmmm… …must be lots of ways…?
confrontation doesn’t work well…unless you are on the spot, and can interrupt, break up the action as it happens…
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…