With all the angst of how people voted in the referendum and the resulting ‘Brexit’ I would like to pose some general questions to all those who live in France.
How many of you have actually been to your local Town Hall and introduced yourelves to the Mayor, and his secretary ?
How many of you take part in local events ?
How many of you volounteer to help with local events?
How many of you have registered to be eligible to vote in local elections?
How many of you have used local artisans?
What are you doing, if anything, to integrate with the French people in your community ?
Thank you for taking the time to read this, it would be interesting to see some replies…
Our Mayor is a friend.
We vote in local elections.
I started a group of French and English ladies who meet every Monday to talk and read bi-lingual books.
I shared my 70th birthday with a French friend and we invited all our local friends, both French and English.
All the renovations were done by French companies.
Our architect was French.
I moved a couple of weeks before Christmas and I desperately wanted a fridge in time for Christmas day, and the manager at local électroménager shop promised to pull all the stops to get it there. On Christmas eve this chap arrived with a fridge in the back of his estate car. We chatted a quite a long time while he installed it, he told me about the town and I told him why I’d moved there, but I had no idea it was the mayor, who also happens to own that store and several others and had decided to bring the fridge out himself rather than let a customer down. In fact I remember ticking him off because he hadn’t got the right screwdriver to assemble the fridge and I had to find mine, and I think I asked him how long he’d been working there and whether he liked it. A couple of months later when the penny dropped I was so embarrassed, I apologised to him for mistaking him for a delivery man and he laughed and said it had been very funny. So that’s how I met my mayor.
I go to local events when I’m here, I don’t volunteer because of work cmmitments, I vote in local elections, I have always used local artisans. I don’t do anything special to integrate. I live here, the neighbours see me around and they either like me or don’t like me but either way they’re civil, what else am I supposed to do?
I live here as I would live anywhere else. I shop locally, I get on with my neighbours and I’ve made friends with the people I’ve met and liked. Isn’t that normal. The few artisans that I have used have been local but that was because I sought recommendations from my neighbours. I really don’t understand what your post is hoping to achieve. I live here and live my life, isn’t that what people do?
The Clunysois is not the Costa del Sol, we do not have British ghettos.
Thank you for the reply, you are really well integrated there. I personally believe that this sort of effort enriches the life we enjoy here
Thank you for your reply. Your tale about the fridge and the mayor has brightened this dull and dismal day. It’s great that you take the time to vote in the local elections too. You seem to be very well settled there.
My post is just asking the questions that my French neighbours and friends have posed. The mayor wonders why I am the only English person to have introduced myself and to ask to go on the voting register. My neighbours wonder why the other English in our community don’t seem to want to integrate and participate in events. I do realise that the language ‘barrier’ can be daunting but unless we make the effort to get to know the people around us then we can appear very stand-offish to others. I live my life too and it’s a full one…
Apart from being an amusing little incident in itself it’s been such a boon because having a shared joke between us broke the ice very thoroughly, and I’ve always felt able to ring him for advice on everything from where to buy firewood and which local artisans to use, to business-related questions that are nothing to do with the commune like how to chase late payers and why have I been sent this form to fill in. If I do get on his nerves with all my ‘bonjour c’est encore moi’ he manages not to show it, and from his side he knows he has my vote every time!
I think that your story highlight another important point; in most rural communities the mayor will be one of the inhabitants, a real person with his feet on the ground and a real understanding of the community, not just an elected official surrounded and hindered by pomp and circumstance.
Absolutely, and I’ve always suspected that one of the reasons he decided to deliver in person was that he wanted to see who this new person with a foreign name come to live in his commune was.
Yes to everything on the list plus I employ French people in my French business, my kids and OH are French, I sponsor my local cycling club, advertise with most other local clubs,but I do try to speak to my kids in English from time to time
Every new year, our Mayor holds a drinks party for the whole commune. All the newbies have to introduce themselves (in French) to the150 or so people there so you get to meet lots of people. Our Mayor always says hello to us as do many other locals now. I am also on the local village association which runs art classes, exercise classes and outings as well as French Conversation classes for the English so have got to meet lots of local people through this. We always make a point of attending many of the local events. Also, my carpenter husband has both French and English clients. So although we cant vote yet in the local elections, I feel we are pretty well integrated.
OMG I would run a mile, and just the same if I was expected to do that in English. I can deliver impersonal presentations to groups no problem but I hate talking about myself and being the focus of attention personally, as if I had a label round my neck. (I don’t even like wearing name badges at conferences!) I prefer to “integrate” slowly and naturally.
If I look through your list of questions then I would have to say that we are a lot more integrated here than we were in the UK, but then in the UK there wasn’t really a sense of community where we lived. Neither did we feel the need or desire to integrate. As for using local artisans in the UK, I guess that they would have lived reasonably locally, but whether they were British or not was never a consideration. Here there is much more of a sense of community, and as outsiders we do feel the need to integrate and almost wish we could earn an integration badge There are several French people in the community who were not born here. They have come from other parts of France, and many of them don’t seem to feel any need to integrate with the local community, they almost seem drawn to us as fellow outsiders. I would judge that we are more integrated than they are. If I was 100% fluent in French then I don’t think that I would feel such a need to integrate. I would just be friends with people that I liked and do the things that I liked doing. So to be honest at least part of my desire to integrate is just to get more opportunities to use the language.
I am the only “Brit” for miles so I do everything I can, I vote, I have danced with the mayor! I join in the holidays organised, I go to al the events…if I didn’t I would be totally isolated…it was my choice to live in France, so it is my choice to integrate fully.
We know our mayor well as he is a neighbour and the architect of our house (in 1970’s). We live in a small hamlet about 5km from the village, which does have socials events however we have to drive to the bourg to find out what’s going on, The Mairie staff are scared of using email, and occasionally a hand written sign on the roadside can be seen if we happen to pass that way. The other neighbours are not what you would call “friends”, everyone on a formal basis and mostly of a different generation and back ground. We are accepted are accepted as part of the community but not integrated (although one couple refuse to even acknowledge us after 10 years). I do however have many friends, ex-pats and french due to common interests.
I’m not on bise-ing terms with that many, but I must admit it gives me a kind of warm feeling every time the transition from handshakes to bises happens, likewise the transition from vous to tu (though of course the difficulty then is remembering). At heart we all want people to like us don’t we, it’s just human nature.
We have lived in Brittany for 17 years .The answer to ALL your questions is YES.
We are on three village committees, and have lots more French friends than English.
That must make him a good customer though Andrew - one not to lose?