How many managed France alone?


Just wondering how many people have managed to move to France alone, how tough was it, how much help did you find ?


You have absolutely identified the problems regarding the difficulty of acquiring French friends and the language which is why it is so important to learn it as quickly as possible. For the first 5 years, I had only English friends but some of them had French spouses and I was very gradually included in some French-only social activities. I thought it was just me until I met two French women who had moved from other cities and could not break into any of the established social circles, either!

What appears to be their lack of curiosity is actually the traditional respect for privacy. I worked with a number of people for 10 years about whom I knew nothing at all - were they married? did they have children? hobbies? - because it just isn't the done thing to ask personal questions. Fortunately, even in the US I had always made it my policy not to socialize with co-workers so I joined outside groups (a choir, a book club, a local political group...) that helped open some doors.

Hi Anette, hahah, I think you've 'nailed it' too...I had been told that "France is a nation of egoists", probably not true but I have seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. 'Fair Play' doesn't seem to be a French word (sic)... but on the plus side, I love it here in Montpellier, the people are much more friendly and polite than in the big cities. I even get the three kisses from my neighbour who I hardly know (it must be my age!)

My advice in France: Get on top of the language as fast as possible, have all papers in order, choose your friends (and battle ground) well, and make your no concessions.

Hi Christine - when I came to France, age 30, single, I settled in Paris - the most difficult point to start but for me, looking for a job and seeking the excitement of the City of Lights, the only possible choice. I had some French and once I found a job, and my language skills started improving, things went very smoothly.

I think you need to belong to a group - a job, even volonteer job, sports club, church activities... that's the way to create a French environment for you and eventually make friends. I always found that having children or a dog helps - ever watch how dog-walkers just can't avoid talking to each other ? It's important you work on your French asap, it'll help tremendously - especially here in the Paris area.

Hope that things are better for you, I just noticed you posted this a long time ago.. :-)

Hang in there - I was born and brought up in Germany, lived in 7 different countries on 3 continents for a number of years and visited lots more : France is as best as it can get, in my opinion.

Shakuntala - I can't help asking myself how many children you have and how many languages they speak for you to have so much experience ? As a German with an Italian husband (we spoke English together) and 3 children having been brought up in 3 different countries before we finally settled in France. I noticed that their Mother tongue - German - faded quickly after going to a French school. I looked around at other international couples and came up with statistics : the first language a child will speak is the language used by its firends. So if you want them to speak English, look - and pay for !! - and English school because that's where they'll make their friends. The second language is the one spoken at home IF and only IF that language is a single language, spoken between parents and children. The third language is the language of the country they grow up in if it's for a length of time. My 3 were on only French until their teens, then got interested in Italian and English. Their Mother tongue is still, sadly, forgotten. No German speaking family either in France nor Germany, no interest on their behalf - sad, but true. I'm sure you're doing better with your children.

I have basic & supermarche French, but am rusty when I've not been there for a while & its been 15 months now.

Lots of barriers to cross yet before I can consider it & I am a practical person !

Thanks Elaine you sound like you might be living somewhere near I like maybe !

Thank you for your more indepth reply to my topic !

All the best to you !

Yes I have.
Outside a village, and a hamlet. The locals are very reserved And the preferred language is definitely not school learned French. They mix French with Occitan and Spanish here.
But I always say it’s important for me to learn the language and my neighbours really appreciate that, they help me a lot with my language because I encourage them (and feed them wth aperos) it’s my way, I’m Irish :slight_smile:
Truly, once they realise you are there to stay, and wish to be a part of the community, there are plenty who will help you along. Yes, you will always have the ones that stand back but that’s ok, that’s their prerogative. My prerogative is to be where I chose to be in the world.
Language is not a barrier. Believe me, I have travelled half the world in 5 years, once you try, it’s appreciated. Perception can be dangerous, and we can over think things.
My humble opinion about my own experience. Best wishes to you, it’s worse before you make the change, it then gets better, easier, more fun, and so important to have fun. And build a network. hermits live alone for their own reasons…
Never be afraid of people. They want you to succeed as much as you do.

I guess, not thought of that.

Hello Chris

Well as many of you know I came here alone with nothing. As a non-EU this is not to be recommended. It was as hard as it is possible to be and still is hence my blog telling how it is and can be, the ups and the frequent downs. It's not a fairy tale or Shirley Valentine. It's still very hard, especially financially. Making friends has proved very elusive. I rely on myself and my one French friend. I can say that my life is much richer than it would have been in NZ. The horrible sameness there got to me. Something insisted i get out, change things big time. So I did. Life isn't any easier but it's unpredictable which gives me more hope, the possibility of something great happening which my situation in NZ never did. I was just going down there. Here there's maybe I will find the chance where I can go up. No idea how or when - that's the adventure. What else can one really do except try one's best to encourage positive things and survive all that isn't positive. Luck is definitely involved and when that doesn't happen we need persistence.

I moved here on my own 2 years ago with very basic French. I started an awful lot of my conversations with "I'm sorry my French is not very good but ....." and people all seemed happy to help a I was trying my best to speak French. I came here for some quiet as I wanted to write, and therefore shut myself away quite a bit. Some of the forms did cause confusion but I went along and did face to face conversations and asked for help. Research on the computer helped too. I also like my own company and one son who is at uni spends part of his holidays here. There are quite a few things I could join in if I wanted, and people are all very friendly.


Is there any way you can exchange services to offset some expenses? for example house sitting for someone in exchange for something that you would benefit from?

Thanks Elaine you give me some hope !

Have you moved to a country area, village, because I could never live in a town !


Hi Christine,
I didn’t move here alone June this year, but my husband has less French then me, and I have very little.
The form thing worried us a lot, but there are ways around everything, and when needs must you find a way. We can often let stuff like that hold us back. When we arrived it turned out my neighbour is similar age to me and an English teacher. She helped us a lot with re registering the car etc.
But she has moved away, and we are still in contact. So sometimes you just have to trust in the process (of life) If you keep finding things to hold you back, then they will. It’s fine for me to talk, as I wasn’t alone, but I’ve done other things alone.
Be kind to yourself, and imagine just how great it really can be living where you want :slight_smile:

I am concerned with the paying tax, knowing about whatever forms come my way, will I survive on a pension & generally managing to live !


Hi, I have read with interest your posts , and thought I would add that -I realised recently that all my years of bedtime stories in English, with my kids have really paid off now they are at college. Although I spoke English to them at home, even that is not enough for them to be truly bilingual. They need to be reading a bit in english too from as early as possible, & yes it sure is an effort to squeeze it all in! But it is sooo worth it! And I don't think any ex-pat family are necessarily alike - they come in all shapes and sizes. Good Luck!

Seems your question has been hyjacked Christine. I moved here alone almost 6 years ago. I had a girlfriend here but she had only been here 1 year. I have found it easy to live here, people are generally very kind. I had schoolgirl French on arrival but it was 50 years ago, therefore not much use on a daily basis. I have made a few very good French friends, but I have to confess most of my friends are English, Dutch, Irish and American. I can do normal daily things, but for more technical stuff I need my good French friend. I am afraid to say that my learning ability for languages is not great and I don’t see enough French people on a daily basis, my age doesn’t help. My French friend prefers to speak English as she spent 20 years in the UK.


That is impressive!

Glad to hear you have the heat now!

Adrw, I sympathize with you.My son lives in Brussels; his wife is Danish. They speak English at home but French is the dominant language and both sons are having difficulty with English. Adrian

Hi Chris, my company in the US moved me to Paris, alone, back in 2000. I had spent an exchange year in the South of France while in university, but my French had gone rusty and I knew nobody in Paris. The first six months were very lonely - even though I did bring my two cats ;-) - and I went home four times during that period. Like one of the earlier posters mentioned, it seemed like everybody had their own lives/friends/work and couldn't care less about meeting someone new. As I've since learned, this is also the experience of many French people who move to Paris for work.

I also noticed a certain hostility that gradually went away as my French improved, and I realized that many of my colleagues and acquaintances felt threatened by my ability to speak English! Almost every French person learned some English in school, so they feel insecure if they can't speak it well today. After 13 years in France, I can say that language plays a HUGE part in being able to integrate. Not only because it's rare to find French people who are comfortable speaking English, but also because you will not be interesting to them until you can participate in the conversations and laugh at the jokes. Even today, with fluent French, I can count on two hands the number of close French friends I have...and most of them have either lived abroad or have had some kind of international experience.

While I put off buying a TV for those first six months, determined to get out and integrate, and avoided any kind of expat clubs, I have to say that my life in France did not improve until I finally got in touch with English-speaking friends of friends. Not only was it so nice to have some social contact !!, but these people had been living in Paris and were able to share loads of information. They also introduced me to their local friends, and my social circle began to blossom. I didn't join my first official "expat community" until my first child was born - there is a wonderful organization for English-speaking mothers around Paris - and that added substantially to the richness of my life. Some of my best friends today are women I met through that org, even though we left Paris three years ago.

So, in summary, I would say: do try to learn enough French so that you can comfortably communicate, but don't avoid expats and other English-speakers altogether.

Best of luck!