Give me 5 – top tips for your move to France
I have just helped a lovely family relocate from Ireland to Perpignan. This got me thinking about the best way to integrate into your local community and get settled into your new life in France fast. Here are my 5 top tips:
This is the absolute key to settling in, although you'd be amazed how many expats live here with little more than a very basic knowledge of the language. Nothing sets you apart quite as much as not being able to communicate in French. No-one is expecting you to come out with fluent, fault-free French but making an effort goes a long way into integrating you into your local community. If your French is under par, take lessons, join a conversation group or even find someone who wants to swap English lessons for French.
Banish your embarrassment. You will make mistakes but you need to get over the fear of doing that and just dive in. The sooner you can achieve that, the quicker you will start to learn. In fact, asking your new French friends and acquaintances the French word for something can be a great ice breaker and conversation starter.
Use your local shops and services
Nothing will endear you to the locals more than spending your hard earned euros with them. If you have a local boulangerie, shop there for your morning baguette, have a regular coffee or a beer at the café up the road, use your neighbourhood butcher and greengrocer rather than getting these items in the large supermarkets. You never know where your initial small talk may lead and you’ll also be supporting your community, which is much more satisfying than lining the pockets of big, faceless corporations.
Accept all invitations
After a long day of struggling through your daily life in French which can be extra tiring, probably the last thing you feel like doing is attending the neighbour’s apéro but if you are invited, go! When you first move here it can feel like a superhuman effort is required to socialise in French but it will get easier and easier. Why not invite the neighbours round for afternoon tea and cakes – in my experience, this goes down well with the French –many mums have requested my cake recipes!!!
Similarly, if you have children at school, volunteer to accompany the class on school trips. I have found it the best way to meet other mums. I haven’t found the school gates to be much of a social affair here although that could be a feature of city life as opposed to being in a smaller town or village.
Join local groups and clubs
Whatever your interests, you will probably find local groups and clubs in your area where you can meet like-minded individuals. A friend who speaks little French has been bowled over by the welcome that she has received at the local photography club and has quickly made lots of new friends that way.
Get professional relocation help
Well yes, this is an unashamed plug for my own business but I do truly believe that getting a little help early on with things like setting up utilities in your names, opening bank accounts and installing phone lines can really save you on stress and enable you to get quickly settled in and start enjoying your new life. These things can take a lot time and be incredibly frustrating if you don’t know how the system works and can’t communicate effectively with, let’s face it, sometimes less-than-patient customer service representatives! I can help find English-speaking doctors and dentists, enrol children in schools, find rental accommodation, advise on where to purchase furniture and other household items and much much more. If you need help in France – contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.