• France's news in English
 
Opinion: French friends
'It can take a decade to make French friends'
Photo: Jakob Montrasio.

'It can take a decade to make French friends'

Published: 01 Aug 2013 15:22 GMT+02:00

The advice seasoned expats often give to newcomers is that if you really want to settle in France you need to make friends with the locals - that doesn't mean other ex-pats living locally but French people - real Gallic French people.

But is it really as important as they say? Surely there's no harm in passing away the days, weeks and months among fellow Anglo boozers in an "Irish" pub. And aren't the French too reserved and uninterested in making new friends with us foreigners?

The Local France has put together a team of wise experts who have shed some light on the conundrum and we have also come up with a list of TOP TIPS for how to make friends with the French.

Janine di Giovanni- Paris-based journalist, war correspondent  

"Making friends in France is like making friends everywhere...you have to find people you have common ground with, and that you click with. On the other hand, I have some wonderful French friends who are very classical and I am anything but they are loyal and warm and great mates. So I think it's all about where you are in your life, your interests, and how open you are to people and new places.  My ex-husband is French, but he was not a very social guy, so he did not introduce me to many of my friends. My closest French mates are friends from my son's school - he is at a French school."

Colin Randall, former France correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, now freelance, editor of  http://francesalut.com

“I've been amazed at how many Brits, even some living here, stick to the "great country, shame about the people" mantra when it comes to France.
   
“It is true, as an Australian author Sarah Turnbull wrote in 'Almost French', that the French broadly make their friends for life before leaving school. The greater camaraderie of the British workplace makes it easier to develop new ones. And family life is more important here. But even in France, work, education and hobbies provide opportunities for friendship on a superficial level at least.

“Working in Paris brought me contacts that stretched in some cases beyond work contexts. Freelancing in a Med resort is more lonely, partly a function of how the job of a journalist has changed. But I am on at least stop-and-chat acquaintance with three dozen or more people around town just through daily routines. We're here for only half the year but for families relocating full time, integration at its best often derives from permanent schooling. The children's absolute need to speak French rubs off on parents."

Helena Frith-Powell (author of three books about or set in France)

“The French will really appreciate the effort you make if you learn French. What they don’t like is people swanning in, having their houses and not getting involved in any way whatsoever in local life. For us we were here full time for ten years so the children were born and went to school here so slightly easier for us to maintain contacts here.

"The French aren’t particularly open people. They are not like the Italians who are more keen to make friends. At the same time people tend to gravitate towards other English ex-pats because it’s just easier. One has more in common with them but it is important especially if you’re living here to get involved with the local community.

"I certainly feel I’ve learnt from my French friends how to eat well very simply and easily. How to drink and how not to drink like an English person. How to take things more easy and appreciate the landscape around me. These are all things you miss out on if you don’t get involved with local French people.”

Author and columnist Samantha Brick, who lives in The Lot:

“The biggest mistake ex-pats make is that they get into friendships with other ex-pats, who they normally would not go near with a barge pole. They end up lumped with people just because they speak the same language. You then hear about them falling out and it can cause problems if they live in small rural villages.

“After I had been here for two years, I would have said that you can’t really replace the friendships you have had in the UK, with French ones. You don’t have the shared history that you did with friends from school, university or work.

“It’s very different here. You don’t socialize with French people the way you do in the UK. The whole going for a drink after work thing doesn’t really work. A lot of my ex-pat friends have children and they offer you real passport into French life.

“In general I think it’s absolutely necessary to make French friends if you really want to settle here. You don’t want to be stuck in ex-pat ghettos. You will get much more out of life here by making French friends.

“There are a lot of cultural differences, you just have to be open minded. French people can be very suspicious of you so it’s not a good idea to really throw yourself in. Don’t be too friendly too quickly. The French need to warm up to you. You are really talking about being here for a decade before you get a real friendship with them. People might say that is bollocks, but it does take a lot of time. And if you don’t speak French then it’s even more difficult.”

Stephen Clarke, author of the “Merde” series of novels, who lives in Paris:

“What I noticed from living in Paris is that most Parisians are still friends with the people they went to school with and are not really looking to meet new people. But if you find French people who have moved to Paris from elsewhere they are much more open to meeting new people.

“My best friends here are ex-pats from other countries, who have moved to France. You have something in common with them, we are all fish out of water.

“If you want a comfortable life in France, you don’t necessarily need French friends if you don’t want them. Paris is the kind of place, people come and do their own thing.

“I do have French friends as well and if you want to understand the country it is really important to mix with French people or work with them.

“They are not really into going to the pub and getting pissed, but there are plenty of French people who like talking to English people. They have all these illusions about us being reserved and polite, which is not exactly true.”

“There are some subjects the French don’t like talking about, like money." 

CLICK HERE for top tips on how to make French friends.

Do you agree with our ex-pats experts? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

 

 

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Do the French really not care about Christmas?
Do the French really not care about Christmas? Photo: AFP

Do the French really not care about Christmas?

An opinion poll published this week concluded the French were the least bothered about Christmas of all northern European countries. But do the French really not give a s**t about Santa? Or are these polls best ignored? READ  

Chocolate-fed monkey terrorizes Marseille
An aggressive monkey fed on a diet of Kinder chocolate has been terrorizing Marseille. Photo: Shutterstock

Chocolate-fed monkey terrorizes Marseille

An aggressive monkey, fed on a diet on Kinder chocolate, had been terrorizing a neighbourhood in the French city of Marseille in recent weeks until it was finally tamed by police, with the help of a Taser gun. READ  

High testosterone linked to love of spicy food
The 'manlier' you are the more spice you'll add to your food. Photo: Shutterstock

High testosterone linked to love of spicy food

After carrying out experiments with 114 men and some red hot chili sauce French scientists have concluded there is a clear link between testosterone levels and an appetite for all things hot and spicy. READ  

Paris show on women's periods 'breaks taboo'
Twenty-four photographs that showcase a woman and her period, from her teens through to her menopause. Photo: Marianne Rosenstielh

Paris show on women's periods 'breaks taboo'

A renowned French photographer is inviting a Paris audience with an open mind to venture into the world of women's menstrual cycles at an exhibition she's perhaps appropriately called 'The Curse'. READ  

JobTalk France
Working in Paris: Making a career out of odd jobs
Odd jobs, the key to surviving in Paris. Photo: Moyan Brenn/Flickr

Working in Paris: Making a career out of odd jobs

When many expats come over to Paris their major concern is getting a job, and hopefully a good one. But writer William Prendiville’s argues, that even in the midst of an economic crisis it’s possible to survive in Paris for many years thanks to odd jobs. And plenty of them. READ  

France to pump millions into hard-up ‘hoods’
France wants to reduce inequalities by pumping billion into rough neighbourhoods and disadvantaged schools. Photo: AFP

France to pump millions into hard-up ‘hoods’

French President Francois Hollande has set his sights on tackling inequality in France by confirming his government will stump up €5 billion to revamp the country’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It's alongside a new bill to prioritize funds for struggling schools. READ  

Violent theft on France's public transport rises
Financially motivated crimes with violence on the metro, train and bus went up by 16 percent in the first semester of 2014. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

Violent theft on France's public transport rises

Thieves on France's public transport are increasingly using violent methods rather than pick pocketing when targeting their victims, the country's Interior Ministry warned on Wednesday. READ  

France's Alstom 'to pay $700m' in US for bribery
France's Alstom is to pay $700 million in the US over a series of bribery cases.Photo: AFP

France's Alstom 'to pay $700m' in US for bribery

French industrial giant Alstom has agreed to pay $700 million to settle US corruption charges related to the paying of bribes, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday. READ  

'Essential beauty' tips, by France's SNCF rail chiefs
Photo: Wencor Toe/Flickr

'Essential beauty' tips, by France's SNCF rail chiefs

France's state-owned rail company SNCF has been slammed for being sexist over a document they published giving female employees "essential beauty" tips. READ  

Bordeaux vineyards set to produce 'rare' vintage
Bordeaux's 2014 wines are set to be a rare vintage. Photo: AFP

Bordeaux vineyards set to produce 'rare' vintage

It was another poor harvest this year for that most famous of French wines, but Bordeaux enthusiasts can celebrate a "rare" vintage blessed by an abundance of autumn sun, local producers say. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
So what does the web tell us about the French in the year 2014
National
Immigration in France: Hollande hits back at the scaremongers
Culture
What's on: 10 things to do in France before Christmas
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
Muslims rule France in 2022: The bad boy of French literature is back
Gallery
There's so many things that claim to be French but aren't. Here's 12.
National
Crazy cat stories: Moggie returns after 1,200km trek across France
National
Tea sets for boys? French feminists protest 'gendered' Christmas presents
National
Jacques Chirac's 'head' - The perfect place to hide 1.5 kilos of weed
Gallery
Myths debunked: 11 things you (wrongly) presumed about France
National
Prices are tumbling but the property ladder is increasingly out of reach for the French
Education
IN IMAGES: French universities 'in ruin'. The students have the evidence
National
Life's about to get a lot cheaper for Paris commuters. Or is it?
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for partying with the French this Christmas
National
Some famous French fine wines are under threat from high speed trains
National
VIDEO: Homeless bodybuilder turns the streets of Paris into his gym
Business & Money
Noble Prize for Economics: Six things to know about Jean Tirole
Culture
Nobel Literature Prize: Ten things to know about Patrick Modiano
Gallery
Looking for a good Christmas market in France? Here's our top 10
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The top 15 new inventions to come out of France
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Gallery
Miss France Farmer: The contest to find a 'real French beauty'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Lyon's spectacular festival of lights dazzles once again
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Ten French Bond girls through the ages
National
Outrage forces French city to scrap yellow triangle ID cards for homeless
Gallery
Who does Christmas better - The French or Anglos? We decide.
National
All you need to know about the new French Bond girl Léa Seydoux
International
'My iPod's broken' - French jihadists moan about lack of home comforts
National
Race you to the top of the Eiffel Tower. No seriously, I'll race you.
National
And what if Mona Lisa was really a slave from China?
Opinion
Why company bosses in France have just about had enough
National
What impact did a 'giant butt plug' in Paris have on sales of sex toys?
Travel
National Geographic's top world destination for 2015 is in France.
Society
French babies switched at birth: Families seek €12 million damages
National
Why are so many French police officers taking their own lives?
Society
Immigration in France: Ten numbers that matter
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
Sarko is back in the ring: Did he ever really leave it?
National
IN IMAGES: Yet more fatal floods hit the south of France
Gallery
Forget tourism and wine, here are 10 OTHER ways France leads the world
Education
Is Paris really the best place in the world to be a student?
Society
The things gynecologists say that drive French women mad
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
National
A pill to make flatulence smell like roses? A Frenchman has cracked it
Culture
Rare 400-year-old Shakespeare work found in northern France
National
Paris air pollution: 'It's like being in a room with eight smokers'
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se