how to meet people in France

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how to meet people in France


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Old 28th January 2011, 12:04 AM
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Do most of you here prefer to meet fellow expats or French people? Before I moved here I had these grand ideas that I'd come and I'd meet a bunch of French people and find a nice group of French friends, and I could improve my French, learn more about their culture and lifestyle, etc. etc. Now I've been in France for several months. I live in a medium sized university town (ok it's one of the largest towns in the region but that doesn't say much). I have met a fair amount of French people but almost all of them seem busy with studies or work or other things to carry on continuing relationships. And then there's the language barrier because my French is mediocre. Any other ideas on basically finding French friends? Or would you recommend I start meeting with other English speakers? I do sports twice a week in the evenings so I meet people there, but we only socialize right after practice and often I don't understand what they're saying, so I just stand there smiling, not saying anything and acting like I'm understanding until I catch something I understand :-p

There are a couple of notable erasmus bars here, but I'm really uncomfortable just going to bars myself, and I feel like everyone there is gonna be really young - I'm not that old but I finished college several years ago, so the prospect of hanging out with a bunch of 18 and 19 year-olds isn't so appealing. I have a few erasmus and other expat friends, but they generally go out on the evenings when I'm practicing my sports, and by the time I'm done it's too late to feasibly meet them. Once in a while I'll skip a session to go out but then it's a question of fitness vs beer :-p

I live on the other side of town from where most of the bars are anyway. So unlike one of my friends who can walk out her door and into the Irish pub, it takes me between 15 and 40 mins (depending on if I walk or take the bus) to get there. Part of my problem is when I first arrived here, I spent a lot of time hanging out with my flatmate, also American. So instead of going out places to meet people together, we just stayed in more than I would have normally. This person and I are not really friendly any more, and we're basically just tolerating each other until we leave. So now I regret not going out during that time.

Don't get me wrong - I do go out and do stuff frequently but over half of my stay here is done and I don't have a good group of friends here. Of course, I'm generally having a good time here, I am improving my French little by little, and I'm getting to experience life in France. But I'm used to being able to go somewhere new (in the US) and find a group of friends I get on well with in the first month or so, so this has been a real change for me. I'm sure the language barrier has a lot to do with it because like I said sometimes I just don't understand what people are saying, because they're speaking too fast or have a thick accent, or both. The last time I lived in France, I was in Paris during my university studies and I just had all my friends from my school there, so I didn't really make any French friends either.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Better ways to meet French friends? Stop trying and start socializing w/ English speaking expats/ersasmus students? Something else?

Thankfully I've got a good number of guests coming to visit me between mid-February and when I leave - both family and friends. But I really want to be able to have at least a few French friends, so that when I leave here (whether back to the US, another part of France - I do like it here, or who knows), and I'll want to come back just to see them.

Sorry for the really long post. I'm hoping some of you have maybe been in similar situations and can give me advice.

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Old 28th January 2011, 02:43 AM
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hi
i will give you my perspective from the other side, which seems to be similar. I think a few factors come to play.
French people are definitely a closed bunch,it is a different way to socialize, takes forever to get to a level where you get out with coworker on a personal level but then when that happens it is more of a solid relationship.
Socializing is tough, i would say.
However, I do also feel that past the fun times of school/high school/ college where people are building their social network, socializing past a certain age and before having kids get difficult. By that time most people have a group of friends. And it feels true no matter where you are.
I have experienced the exact same thing in the US as a french person.
Took me a solid 3 years to feel like i had a few groups of friends to socialize with.
The thing is when you dont master the language is also that in group situation like bars, where there i background music it gets really hard.
You could be perfectly fine having a conversation with someone and then when music gets added and you have 3 not 1 person, it is not as easy.

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Old 28th January 2011, 06:22 AM
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Don't feel like the Lone Ranger! Yours is a problem encountered by most expats in France.

The French tend to socialize primarily within their families. If you're in France with no family handy, it can be hard to have much of a social life. And as kirikara has noted, the French also form their friendships while young and consider only those people they have known for a LONG time as friends. They don't socialize much with their colleagues at work - unless perhaps they happen to work for a big US company that enforces a "family" ambiance in the workplace.

About the best thing you can try is to join an association of some sort. AVF is a French association dedicated to welcoming newcomers to an area. If you've got an AVF in your area, it would be a good place to start. Many AVF groups are heavily populated with retirees, but they're the ones with the time to organize the trips and get-togethers. For the basics on AVF, start here: AVF -- Accueil
Cheers,
Bev

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Old 28th January 2011, 07:58 AM
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B'jour

I agree with the other replies, French social circles operate in a different manner to those of the UK and US. There are good reasons for this, but that is a long debate.

Here are some ideas for you:

Invite you neighbours for an "apéro". I did this many times when I arrived before the invitation was returned, but you have to start somewhere.

Ask French neighbours/ friends for some help on somethings. People like to be asked:

Do some charitable work; I worked for "resto du coeur' an afternoon a week for 2 years. It improved my French, helped my understand the French social security system and I contributed to my new country. Also, later, other French people were impressed that I had done something they had not done (but perhaps should have done!)

Watch Fr TV news and learn about Fr politics and the issues of the day. You can then participate in discusssions at any level you like! Before Sarkozy became president I read his book 'temoinage' - I have not met anyone else who has read it. However, I seem to be more integrated when I say that I have read it and debate whether he has done what he said he would do in the book.

Offer to help local children with their English homework (this may be difficult for you, you are American -joke). Setting up as an English teacher is one thing, spening 15 mins with a child with homework problems is easier.

DejW

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Old 28th January 2011, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by soleilombre View Post
Do most of you here prefer to meet fellow expats or French people? Before I moved here I had these grand ideas that I'd come and I'd meet a bunch of French people and find a nice group of French friends, and I could improve my French, learn more about their culture and lifestyle, etc. etc. Now I've been in France for several months. I live in a medium sized university town (ok it's one of the largest towns in the region but that doesn't say much). I have met a fair amount of French people but almost all of them seem busy with studies or work or other things to carry on continuing relationships. And then there's the language barrier because my French is mediocre. Any other ideas on basically finding French friends? Or would you recommend I start meeting with other English speakers? I do sports twice a week in the evenings so I meet people there, but we only socialize right after practice and often I don't understand what they're saying, so I just stand there smiling, not saying anything and acting like I'm understanding until I catch something I understand :-p

There are a couple of notable erasmus bars here, but I'm really uncomfortable just going to bars myself, and I feel like everyone there is gonna be really young - I'm not that old but I finished college several years ago, so the prospect of hanging out with a bunch of 18 and 19 year-olds isn't so appealing. I have a few erasmus and other expat friends, but they generally go out on the evenings when I'm practicing my sports, and by the time I'm done it's too late to feasibly meet them. Once in a while I'll skip a session to go out but then it's a question of fitness vs beer :-p

I live on the other side of town from where most of the bars are anyway. So unlike one of my friends who can walk out her door and into the Irish pub, it takes me between 15 and 40 mins (depending on if I walk or take the bus) to get there. Part of my problem is when I first arrived here, I spent a lot of time hanging out with my flatmate, also American. So instead of going out places to meet people together, we just stayed in more than I would have normally. This person and I are not really friendly any more, and we're basically just tolerating each other until we leave. So now I regret not going out during that time.

Don't get me wrong - I do go out and do stuff frequently but over half of my stay here is done and I don't have a good group of friends here. Of course, I'm generally having a good time here, I am improving my French little by little, and I'm getting to experience life in France. But I'm used to being able to go somewhere new (in the US) and find a group of friends I get on well with in the first month or so, so this has been a real change for me. I'm sure the language barrier has a lot to do with it because like I said sometimes I just don't understand what people are saying, because they're speaking too fast or have a thick accent, or both. The last time I lived in France, I was in Paris during my university studies and I just had all my friends from my school there, so I didn't really make any French friends either.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Better ways to meet French friends? Stop trying and start socializing w/ English speaking expats/ersasmus students? Something else?

Thankfully I've got a good number of guests coming to visit me between mid-February and when I leave - both family and friends. But I really want to be able to have at least a few French friends, so that when I leave here (whether back to the US, another part of France - I do like it here, or who knows), and I'll want to come back just to see them.

Sorry for the really long post. I'm hoping some of you have maybe been in similar situations and can give me advice.
Bonjour Soleil,

Take a look at this site:OnVaSortir! Paris - Website - Home - Langue=EN

I wouldn't call it a "dating" site per se although there are some looking for romance. It's for young and old people that want to go out and do things but don't like going alone. I used it to meet some musicians and was successful.

One of the categories is called "I speak English" and you can start there or start a forum thread and I'm pretty certain you'll find some friends.

Check it out.

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Old 28th January 2011, 01:31 PM
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Bonjour Soleil,

Take a look at this site:OnVaSortir! Paris - Website - Home - Langue=EN

I wouldn't call it a "dating" site per se although there are some looking for romance. It's for young and old people that want to go out and do things but don't like going alone. I used it to meet some musicians and was successful.

One of the categories is called "I speak English" and you can start there or start a forum thread and I'm pretty certain you'll find some friends.
So
Check it out.
CORRECTION. Sorry, that was actually the Paris site. Here's a better link:On Va Sortir! Le site gratuit des sorties entre amis et des rencontres amicales dans votre ville

Click on your city and if the site doesn't come up in English, click on the British Flag.

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Old 28th January 2011, 04:22 PM
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I would absolutely not give up on trying to develop friendships with local French people, and by all means don't let your language limitations stop you. If you have the time, taking a language class may serve the double purpose of improving your French and your social life. I moved to Paris in 2001 by myself and took classes at the Alliance Francaise. The teachers were, in general, very approachable and welcoming. It helped, of course, that I was closer to their age than to the age of most of my fellow students, but it was through the teachers I met back then that I developed a wide circle of French friends.

One of the activities they invited me to join in on was hiking - like you, I initially found it difficult to follow everything that was going on in fast-paced conversations, but over time (we hiked all day every Sunday), I discovered that more and more of what was going on made sense. And since we were generally walking no more than 2 abreast, I got to have one-on-one conversations with people whose speaking styles and accents were different - fresh air, beautiful scenery...and good for my French.

You mention being interested in sports: if hiking is something you might enjoy, you can find groups in your area by checking various websites (the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre has a detailed list of clubs throughout France). The groups are generally open to all, but they vary widely in their membership and the length and strenuousness of their hikes. Lunch is generally a bring-your-own picnic, although I've heard of some groups whose members also carry along enough wine to share around (be careful, though - if you're doing a 20-25 km hike, you may not want to get a buzz on with half the distance yet to cover).

That the French are universally reserved is no more true than that all small-town Americans are unwelcoming to anyone whose family hasn't been around for 5 generations: in each case, all you need is to find one breach in the wall and you're likely to discover just how friendly and open people can be.

Good luck and enjoy the rest of your stay in France.

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Old 28th January 2011, 07:01 PM
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Thank you everyone for your replies. Your suggestions are very helpful.

The one place I have checked is "on va sortir", and it seems to be mainly people 15 years older than me, but I could always try to create an event and see what happens. And I will look into an AVF in my area.

When I first moved here one of my coworkers invited me on a Sunday hike. But as she has kids she's had to cancel several of the hikes to attend to them, and now it's gotten to cold. Hopefully in a month the weather will be warmer, and I'll ask her about the hikes again.

The local university does not have French classes in my town - I checked. Ideally I would have liked to be taking some evening French classes. I don't know if there's an AF here. I can look into it. That's where I was taking brush up courses in the US before I came, which helped my confidence in speaking a lot, even if my vocabulary still sucks.

Maybe my coworkers can also suggest some volunteer work. They all have young kids so they don't really go out or socialize outside of work, but they're friendly and welcoming knowing that I'm a foreigner.

In the US I've mainly lived in larger cities so that's helped me make friends quite quickly. There's always someone doing something you're interested in.

And kirikara - yes, to the bars thing. I have a hard enough time trying to filter out noise in bars speaking in English. French - forget about it. At that point I just start smiling and nodding :-p

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Old 3rd February 2011, 03:49 PM
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However, I do also feel that past the fun times of school/high school/ college where people are building their social network, socializing past a certain age and before having kids get difficult. By that time most people have a group of friends. And it feels true no matter where you are.
Hi soleilombre,

First of all sorry to hear that you're feeling that way. I can understand the feeling - I haven't been here very long and have only a few friends - but that's okay with me because I'm a bit of a loner anyway! But it's certainly a bummer when, say, I want to go to the bar and no one's around.

Just wanted to say that I agree with kirikara; this is something I've experienced back in the US and Canada. About mid- to late 20s, people start having their families, routines, clan of friends etc., and it's harder to break through. So I'm not sure that it's just a French thing.

I would just continue getting involved, doing activities, etc. Also, I have no idea how old you are or if this is your thing but SkyRock is apparently the MySpace/Facebook of France
Skyrock.com

Could be a way to meet (younger) people?

Good luck and hang in there!

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Old 3rd February 2011, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by soleilombre View Post
Thank you everyone for your replies. Your suggestions are very helpful.

The one place I have checked is "on va sortir", and it seems to be mainly people 15 years older than me, but I could always try to create an event and see what happens. And I will look into an AVF in my area.

When I first moved here one of my coworkers invited me on a Sunday hike. But as she has kids she's had to cancel several of the hikes to attend to them, and now it's gotten to cold. Hopefully in a month the weather will be warmer, and I'll ask her about the hikes again.

The local university does not have French classes in my town - I checked. Ideally I would have liked to be taking some evening French classes. I don't know if there's an AF here. I can look into it. That's where I was taking brush up courses in the US before I came, which helped my confidence in speaking a lot, even if my vocabulary still sucks.

Maybe my coworkers can also suggest some volunteer work. They all have young kids so they don't really go out or socialize outside of work, but they're friendly and welcoming knowing that I'm a foreigner.

In the US I've mainly lived in larger cities so that's helped me make friends quite quickly. There's always someone doing something you're interested in.

And kirikara - yes, to the bars thing. I have a hard enough time trying to filter out noise in bars speaking in English. French - forget about it. At that point I just start smiling and nodding :-p
I’ve had a lot of luck with OVS. I was actually looking for musicians after searching unsuccessfully for the longest time. I posted to their forum under the “I play an Instrument” category and got an immediate response. In fact, I even got to play some blues at the Irish Corner in Montpellier Monday (There’s pictures posted on their website but I won’t tell you which one is me).

Just out of curiosity, I posted on the OVS forum, asking if there were any Americans out there (Surely a large cosmopolitan city like Montpellier must have some). I didn’t hear from any Americans, but I heard from plenty of French people asking me “Could we practice our English with you on the forum?” Soft touch that I am, I agreed and this is something you might try. Some of them speak English so well, they don’t need any practice.

Yesterday, I attended an OVS English speaking event, which gradually turned into an all French speaking event. For the most part, I was able to follow along, except for one young man who spoke rapid fire French with a Parisian accent. I had a great time and found out more than I wanted to know about breeding horses (You don’t want to know).

I’m thinking of sponsoring a visit to the Chais, Noily Prat, located in our town.

Cheers

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