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Despite the fact that France is the most popular tourist destination in Europe, and indeed one of the most popular in the world, there were a disappointing number of votes when you take into account the stature of the country. Whether this is indicative of the number of people looking to move to France and [...]

Click to read the full news article: Loneliness, the big foe for expats in France...
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I think loneliness is a particular issue in France - in part because the culture here is very family oriented. Kids socialize with their siblings, cousins and other family members. Adults spend their vacations with parents "in the country." As an expat with no family in the area, you often feel left out of the social circles of neighbors and colleagues.

The language issue also adds to the sense of "loneliness" because even if you studied French for years at school, it takes quite a while to be able to keep up with social conversations, and to cotton on to the rules of starting up chats with strangers here.

It's part of the "joys" of expat life, I fear.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I think loneliness is a particular issue in France - in part because the culture here is very family oriented.
That's one aspect. The French anti-foreigner/anti-immigrant sentiment that ranges from mild to virulent in numerous French individuals only contributes to create obstacles for creating social ties between locals and expats.

Another related problem for expats is that they can often have, as a result of these many factors, a majority of local expat friends, who are also transient. Thus people often keep "disappearing" from an expat's local social circle.
 

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Seems to me there are several contributing factors to expat loneliness:
1. A lot of people retiring to France go for the "dream" house in the country. It's beautiful, but there's not a lot of life around to get involved in.
2. Mixing mainly with other expats. Of necessity, that means one's not part of French life, one's language skills don't improve, and since expats tend to move on, relationships tend to be temporary.
3. Wherever you are, it's harder to make friends as you get older.

We're lucky in that we live in the heart of an old, busy city, and have French friends here, some back from our days working in France in the '80s, and some more we've made since moving here. And we very much live a French life, not a British life in France. But nevertheless we're making the effort to get involved with AVF (good hint, Bev, thanks!), and have found some new (French) people to play bridge with.

Even more, though, I suspect that loneliness is an increasing phenomenon wherever you are, as a direct result of the diaspora, family breakdown, and (ironically) the huge freedom one has now to do pretty much as on likes. I really was lonely during my years working in America, where I never seemed to achieve a cultural meeting of the minds. Here in France, I feel at home, am always busy, and loneliness isn't an issue at all.

In terms of other items in the article, I find the question of cost of living to be most confusing. I keep hearing how expensive France is, but we live a lot more cheaply here than we did in the US. But our lifestyle here is so different, I don't really know how one makes the apples to apples comparison.
 

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And on reflection, I'm spending so much time in various offices chatting to (very nice and helpful) functionnaires in getting all the official parts of our relocating here squared away, that a spot of loneliness might even look attractive ;)
 

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Glad to hear you're getting involved with AVF. It was a real life saver for me. (Though one word of warning - like all clubs and associations the internal politics can be mind numbing. It's important that long-term members take their turn in helping organize and run the group - but French politics is a real "experience" for a newcomer the first time around.)

But to some extent, I think those of us who choose the expat life are already "outsiders" or "loners" to a certain extent. Haven't seen any statistics recently, but at one time I was shocked to see the proportion of the population (in the US) that lives within about 50 or 100 miles of where they were born. And small-town America is probably just as wary of "outsiders" as France is, be they from other regions or other countries. France is simply a country of 30,000+ small towns, like small towns everywhere in the world.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I can definitely see how loneliness can be a big issue. I have been anticipating it already, although I know we have an advantage over most people since we do know some people where we are going. I do think it's possible to be lonely anywhere though.

I have never been more lonely than I was in NYC. I lived there for 5.5 years and left with very few friends. In London, I found the opposite. I made loads of friends straight away and have managed to keep them. I actually found that being an expat helped me in that respect. Three of my best friends in the UK I met on the Queen Mary. I felt like just being expats we had so many similar characteristics. It's like someone had plucked all of the "me's" out of the population and rounded them up. I also found it easy to make friends with colleagues. Admittedly, most of my friends in London were not British (most were from other EU countries) but they all were long established in the UK.

I definitely expect the language barrier to hinder me in the beginning. I think the biggest hurdle will be getting over myself and if a little English needs to be spoken to get a friendship going I'm just going to have to do it!
 

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One of the reasons my wife and I are in France is that we have a far better social life in France, in spite of our modest French, than we did back in the States.

To be clear, we have friends in the States & Canada: close, long-standing friends... but only one lives within 10 miles of us. The balance are in Denver, Phoenix, LA, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Toronto. A good deal of our social life in the States is by email and telephone or when my sister & her husband visit from Los Angeles.

Here in France, we have aperatifs or dinner with our neighbors and friends at least a couple of times / week at at our home or theirs. We just realized that we are acquainted with enough people that we've started to run into them in stores in other villages (and they recognize us!). Our friends and acquantances are all French. We speak only French with them every day.

Everyone here (not just our friends) is exceptionally generous with us regarding our French. It is clear that they love their language and culture, they correct us when appropriate, and suffer us making the same mistakes multiple times without complaint. The only thing that our friends INSIST upon is that we MUST stop vous-ing and start tu-ing them.

The adventure has had its moments (daily). We wonder whether we have any idea of what really just happened in some conversations or if we really do understand the culture at all (sometimes, not so much, sometimes quite well). We still don't comprehend French well enough to watch the news on television. And we've given up trying to understand why some tradespeople arrive in a day or two to work and some don't start a project for months (and months and months). The work, however, has been exceptional in all cases.

We feel at home here. And that, I think, is why we're here.

Ray
 

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I'm just dying to get to France because of the strong family ties. My family here is little to none: just me, my siblings, my parents, one grandmother and one uncle. What's more, there's lots of family conflict with my parents divorced and my dad and uncle getting 'mail-order brides'......that's just to explain how much I love my hubby's French family.

My hubby has six siblings, three biological, three 'step', a bunch of aunts and uncles, numerous cousins, all of whom are friendly and make me feel so welcome in the family. His mother's house is always full of life and she often invites over friends and acquaintances, I can't wait to be there...
 

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I don't experience much "loneliness" maybe because of all these years that i've lived here. If you have a child or children at school you will meet many moms, dads etc, and your kids friends, There will always a birthday celebration etc. Sometimes we just need to find the time to meet new faces other than staying in our homes alone.
 

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I have problems with loneliness living in France.

I have a social life, but most of those friends are my husband's mathematician friends (my husband is a mathematician). While I enjoy being in their company, I am aware that they are not friends that I have made. I often spend my evenings going on what I call "mathematician dinner dates" where I spent hours listening about maths, universities and politics.

One of the big problems I am dealing with now is the fact that I am childfree. In France this is not something you could even consider choosing - it is considered abnormal. I used to tell other people that I am childfree when asked when I would be having children, but I stopped because it was too shocking. My husband told me to just tell other people that we weren't ready for that yet, but I feel like it is all a sham when I do that. I spent a lot of time with scientists' wives and unfortunately for me, I am almost 30, the average age a French woman has her first child. So the men talk about maths and the wives talk about babies. The fact that I am foreign is already alienating enough as it, and this just makes everything worse. Even the children have picked up on my alienation - I end of playing with them while the mothers talk about motherhood amongst themselves! People tell me that it is possible to be friends with French women who are mothers, but it takes time to develop real friendships. I wish I had met them 5 years ago when we had more in common and the friendship could have developed naturally with time. Now there is nothing for me to build a friendship on. Expats often talk about meeting loads of French women when picking up their children at school. I just can't go to the school gates like other expats and meet French women.

I hesitate to get to close to people now. I start to get close to people only to have them "disappear" when they have children. I understand, of course family comes first. I knew that I would have to deal with some difficult situations because I am childfree, but I had no idea it would be this hard.

I am part of an association, but I am the youngest member. I enjoy the company of the other members, but there are only 4 members who are less than 40. Most are over 50. I wonder where everyone my age is..

My neighbour downstairs is president of the association. I am actually closer to her (she is 62) than the neighbour who lives below her, a young American newlywed. I thought I would become really close to the American neighbour, after all we have a lot in common. I was wrong. The longer I live outside of North America, the more alien I feel to that culture. I have spent my entire adult life living in Europe, and I only visit Canada once every 2 or 3 years. I am not in touch with friends and family in Canada that often and I don't keep up with changes in my country. Sometimes I talk with an anglo-saxon and I have no idea what they are talking about.

I am really lucky that my husband is so understanding. However, this is not his problem to deal with. He is French, he is a man and has a successful career. French women want to talk about their careers as well, but I have neither a career nor a child, and I don't want either.

My French family is wonderful, but they live on the other side of the country. I have managed to make one close French friend, but she also lives on the other side of the country. I have 2 childfree French women friends, so all is not lost, but again, I feel a bit alienated because I am not French and they are careerwomen.

I wonder how many hits I will get by typing "childfree" into the search engine?

I think I'll invite my 62-year-old neighbour over to dinner next week...
 

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French women want to talk about their careers as well, but I have neither a career nor a child, and I don't want either.
Snoezig, I'm sorry to hear about your troubles, nobody should make you feel 'guilty' for not having children. Why don't you want a career/a job? Having a job that you enjoy could not only keep your mind occupied but lead to you having lots of friends in the workplace.
 

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Snoezig, what can I say but "been there, done that." At first the only people I used to see were my husband's ham radio friends (I did pick up lots of interesting vocabulary from them that it turns out I really shouldn't use in other circles!). And, I was in the same boat as you with the "childfree" lifestyle and all.

France doesn't really understand the "childfree" lifestyle. Easier just to say that you aren't the maternal type or aren't interested in having kids. (They don't understand that either, but it does kind of lead to changing the subject.) To a certain extent, being "childfree" in the US or Canada doesn't exactly lead to a sparkling social life, either.

And what's so wrong with having friends who are older than you? I got hijacked into an "English Club" as the token native speaker where I'm the second youngest. The rest of the members are in their 70's and 80's and they are definitely some of the most delightful ladies I know. If you enjoy their company they're friends.

You also need to look around to find more than just one association, especially one where you can interact now and then with non-French people living in the area. I've found that you need someone you can grouse with a bit about the strange and curious habits of the French - because you can't really talk about that one with your French spouse (at least not without being either insulting or seriously misunderstood).

Working is another option, but in France people don't generally socialize with their colleagues from work. The social system usually revolves around family, and as foreigners, you and me don't have family anywhere in the area. So we have to make the effort (and it's a big, time-consuming effort) to make our own "family" to hang out with. It's also possible (though again, a major effort on your part) to maintain contact with friends and family back home.

I figured out a long time ago that I'll probably never be "best friends" with a French woman here - simply because there are different expectations for "friendship" here than what I was raised with. But keeping busy and interacting with lots of different people sometimes turns up some very interesting "acquaintances" that, with the proper effort on your part, can turn into close relationships you'll cherish.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Sorry i didn't red all that you'd written that was why i suggest that if you had a child at school, you'd meet other parents, but that not the only way you could meet up with friends. Known it's easy to meet people but it takes time to meet genuine friends.

Sorry to heard about your loneliness, but you must keep in mind that many expat experience this kind of 'longing'. What i suggest you to do is, go to the town hall in your city to find out if there are other expat like yourself living closely or if there is any association for people your age group. Just take all informations, maybe it could be of use to you. Then of course, find something to occupied your mind like why not start writing down your feelings. Create a online blog where you'd write whatever comes to your mind. Sometimes by sharing your experience, you'll find that you are not alone after all. Have a great day.
 

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Snoezig,

You don't want children (neither did I), and you don't what a career. But what do you want to do with your life? What are your dreams? What do you really care about? And I don't mean "you and your husband", I mean you, for yourself. You don't have to have a career, but you do have to engage with life. Apart from anything else, it's not good for a marriage to have one successful partner and one housekeeper/follower.

If I were you, I'd (off the top of my head and just as an example) get a backpack and sleeping bag, and spend a month this summer walking the pilgrim route to Compostella - without your husband. Do a spot of soul searching, meet lots of people, have a lovely time. And when you get back you'd have stories for the mathematicians' wives, who maybe would be green with envy; but ideally you'd be past worrying about them, and have a sense of your own route in life.

Or remember what Merlin said in The Once and Future King - that education is the cure for sadness. Go and get a qualification of some type, or become an expert in something.

It's very hard to make friends in the abstract. But if you're engaged in something you're passionate about, friends will come along automatically.

I know it's easy for me to make suggestions, which are much harder to carry out in reality - so I wish you the greatest of good luck, and much courage. You have such a lot going for you - you're young, presumably bilingual and in a happy marriage. Go for broke, and see how high you can fly.
 
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I don't feel lonely in Paris USUALLY except in the winter months when everyone stays home and hardly wants to meet, otherwise I've managed to make a few decent friends in Paris who are always ready to meet up most of the time apart from the cold season. I felt more lonely when I lived in New York and London because in those cities people were obsessed with working....and had little interest in building life long secure friendships. Whereas Paris is a more laid back settle down kind of city...ive been to lots of parties in Paris now and most people are open to talk to a foreigner even if you dont speak French...however I do think there is a pretentious element here and not to sound like an idiot but given my looks and personality the French are naturally attracted towards me....LOL.

I prefer not to make friends with a lot of expats unless they came to France to settle down like me....if they are just there temporarily working and waiting to move on then I prefer to avoid those.
 

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We've found that on the whole our French neighbours are really friendly but not very sociable in terms of get togethers most of which seem to occur at the town hall on festive occasions. We decided to try to change this with one of our favourite neighbours and the blessing of the Mayor, by creating a small bowls area on the village green. It was only done at the end of last year but we managed to get a game in before the bad weather. We were joined by other neighbours who came and joined in and the Mayor's deputy was passing in his car, stopped and had a game too so I am hopeful that this year it will benefit everyone in the village and get us all talking a bit more.
 

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I like French culture and the particularly French people and part of the "package" is that (I find them to be) a bit too self focused, not materially but socially. However, I like them as it is and this does not make a problem for me. Also, once they believe they make a nice impression on me, they relax and things get better.

I guess loneliness can be an issue in big cities probably because of the large city factor but in other places this may not be true. Even though I am not a very social person and being a Turk has a very serious negative stigma in Europe when you say it (I do not match the image of a Turkish person in their minds so people who talk very friendly to me can immediately turn cold upon learning my nationality) I should say I am socially happy.

I can communicate (emotionally) with French people, things were just the opposite in New York. I was so lonely :-(

In Cannes people are not busy or rushing so they are more open to social relationships. I guess the sun and the sea and the nice energy of tourists wandering around helps too :)

Note: There is more to France than Paris :cheer2:
 

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I never expected such replies when I posted my reply. Thank you everyone for your support. Bev, thank you, it's comforting to know that I am not alone.

I'm not really looking for sympathy here. The first responses in this thread were quite positive, and I am happy that these posters are having a great time in France, but I know that there is not a lot out there (including on this site) about being childfree and a foreigner in France. I typed in "childless" into the search engine as well and I came up with a post from a women who packed up and left France because of this issue. I think more should be said about this so other childfree or childless women thinking of moving to France will be aware of the way things are here. When I saw ello's post about meeting French women it prompted my post. Ello: I saw your post before I wrote mine and while I am happy that you have found friends this way, your post was the springboard for me wanting to raise awareness about being childfree in France for future childfree expats in France. You don't have to feel sorry about me and I am sorry if I made you uncomfortable by using your post to start off a discussion about being childfree. I do want to create a blog, but I am worried about any future repercussions that may have for my reputation on the internet. I couldn't really go into too much detail if I wanted to protect my privacy. I could make it private but then how would I meet people through it...?

Maybe I didn't give off the vibe that I like my life here, but the truth is that I love my life here. I am lonely, but I am also a very lucky person. I am healthy and my husband is such a good person. I speak French fluently and am able to talk with just about anybody. I enjoy everything France has to offer, including beautiful cities and countryside, interesting people, and wonderful food.

I am actually very happy with being a housewife. I love cooking, cleaning and taking care of errands so my husband can come home at night and relax. My husband has no problem with this - he knows that I made a sacrifice to live here (in this city) with him and he just wants me to be happy (and he hates washing dishes, haha!). I do actually work from home, I do some part-time freelance work. My husband travels quite a bit for work and I accompany him on most of his trips. I do enjoy the company of most of his friends, it's just that I would love to have my own close French friends. As Bev said, however, this can prove to be a difficult task to accomplish.

You are right, Bev, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being friends that are older than me. I guess I have complex - I am afraid that they won't be able to relate to me, preferring to share similar experiences with people their own age. I should have my neighbour over more often, and invite other older people (as in significantly older than me, I am not saying that my neighbour is old!) that live in my building.

You are also right when you say that it would not be easy being childfree in North America either. I do think, however, that because of family values in France, that having children here is more important. This, coupled with the fact that I am a foreigner, makes things more difficult here for me.

I never really saw myself as a careerwomen. I think if I had the chance, I would have a full-time job, but here out in province there are practically no jobs in the field I trained to work in. I would have to move to Paris or Geneva for that. A lot of French couples live apart, one finds a job in one city and the other one lives somewhere else. I kick myself because I just can't seem to muster up the courage to leave and live the lifestyle that so many people here live - working somewhere far away during the week and spending the weekends together.

I did work for a French company as a stagaire once, and I found it difficult to handle the whole idea of heirarchy. I feared my boss and found it difficult to share my ideas - this is the opposite of Canada, where employees are expected to share innovative ideas. I am a very sensitive person and the entire time I was there I was just shaking like a leaf. If I could find a job here I think I could handle it with my husband's support, but that probably isn't going to happen here. And Bev is right, the other employees are nice, but when work is over, they usually go home to their families and their own lives.

NewMexicanMove asked me what I want from life. What do I want? Peace and travel. And I have both. That's what I really love. But I would also really love to meet other childfree women who are quiet people and love to travel a lot. Not an easy feat to accomplish. I couldn't believe it when NewMexicanMove suggested I go on the pilgrimage to Santiago. I actually have been thinking of doing this for last couple of years! I also do dream of developing home business more. You are right, I do need to become an expert.

I think I am a difficult person. I am not sporty at all (although I have joined my building's cardio class), I don't really like make-up, fashion, shopping, music and dancing. I like to eat and drink wine, haha. I guess I'm not that bad...

In conclusion, I am really happy here, but I long for the company of other women, friends that I make myself. I am quite introverted, so I know I need to make more effort. I am just afraid of forcing myself upon people. I feel that true friendships should develop naturally and you need time for that.

Thanks again everyone for your responses.
 
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