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Hello! I am new to this group, though my husband has already gleaned quite a bit of information here in the past few months. You've already been a huge help. We moved to Brest in July and are slowly settling in and finding our way. I speak French (B2) and our daughter is in university here so she is improving at a vastly faster rate than I am. I would love to hear some stories about how you found ways to integrate in the community and improve your French (other than conversing at the markets!) when you arrived. Thank you for sharing your advice and resources!
 

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At the risk of sounding cynical, it depends quite a bit on who you talk to as to what "integration" means. When you get to the point of applying for French nationality - or even "just" a 10 year carte de resident - the surest way to prove your integration is to have held a job for some period of time where you are paying into the French "cotisation" system (i.e. the social insurances - health care, family allocation, retirement, etc.). Failing that, having filed all the necessary declarations and having the avis de l'imposition to prove it plus having enrolled in the Secu (CPAM - health care system) works, too.

But for the more "popular" understanding of integration, look around you and see what associations there are in your town or general area. I usually recommend something like AVF (Accueil des Villes Françaises), which is a newcomers' group to welcome both French and foreign newcomers to an area. Unfortunately, with the turn the pandemic is taking lately, activities at various associations are likely to get disrupted again soon. But check with your local mairie to get their listing of associations and classes available in town and see which ones might be of interest. Meeting people with common interests is the easiest and quickest way to work on your French (and be open to those who would just LOVE to have you help them with their English - ideally to do a language exchange where you speak for half the time in French and the other half in English over lunch or a coffee or a glass or three of wine).
 

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Hello! I am new to this group, though my husband has already gleaned quite a bit of information here in the past few months. You've already been a huge help. We moved to Brest in July and are slowly settling in and finding our way. I speak French (B2) and our daughter is in university here so she is improving at a vastly faster rate than I am. I would love to hear some stories about how you found ways to integrate in the community and improve your French (other than conversing at the markets!) when you arrived. Thank you for sharing your advice and resources!
When I moved to Geneva in francophone Switzerland, I started with watching TV, reading young adult novels or if that was too hard, books for older children, newspapers with the very big letters (not for the content as such but for the rather simplistic language).

I was also working in a French-speaking environment, but especially in the very early days, all of the above helped a lot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
At the risk of sounding cynical, it depends quite a bit on who you talk to as to what "integration" means. When you get to the point of applying for French nationality - or even "just" a 10 year carte de resident - the surest way to prove your integration is to have held a job for some period of time where you are paying into the French "cotisation" system (i.e. the social insurances - health care, family allocation, retirement, etc.). Failing that, having filed all the necessary declarations and having the avis de l'imposition to prove it plus having enrolled in the Secu (CPAM - health care system) works, too.

But for the more "popular" understanding of integration, look around you and see what associations there are in your town or general area. I usually recommend something like AVF (Accueil des Villes Françaises), which is a newcomers' group to welcome both French and foreign newcomers to an area. Unfortunately, with the turn the pandemic is taking lately, activities at various associations are likely to get disrupted again soon. But check with your local mairie to get their listing of associations and classes available in town and see which ones might be of interest. Meeting people with common interests is the easiest and quickest way to work on your French (and be open to those who would just LOVE to have you help them with their English - ideally to do a language exchange where you speak for half the time in French and the other half in English over lunch or a coffee or a glass or three of wine).
Thanks so much - I will be sure to go check out the mairie.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
When I moved to Geneva in francophone Switzerland, I started with watching TV, reading young adult novels or if that was too hard, books for older children, newspapers with the very big letters (not for the content as such but for the rather simplistic language).

I was also working in a French-speaking environment, but especially in the very early days, all of the above helped a lot.
Great suggestions. I am doing some already but definitely need to be more disciplined and not get discouraged. Thank you!
 

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What I do, whenever I move somewhere new, is to knock on the doors of all my neighbours for about 100 metres and introduce myself.

It works wonders. Of course, there are some neighbours who are disinterested, but the majority like it and often invite you in for a chat. Going forward, these early contacts have proved invaluable to integrating locally and meeting more people and getting involved with local events.

Try joining some "associations". With me, I offered to help on the local village fete committee, who always seem to be on the lookout for volunteers.
 

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All that would gain you around here is possibly getting chased by other aggressive dogs that are allowed to roam free without their owners to control them. No, I tell a lie. You may well meet your local vet in due course and every one I have met over the years has been very efficient, and friendly. Including the one I pulled out of her overturned car one icy winter morning.
 

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Around Christmas time many local associations have 'LOTO' evenings to raise money (basically bingo sessions). Very good for learning numbers! At other times in the year there are VIDE GRENIERS (like car boot sales) or KERMESSES often organised by schools (FETES). Take part in all you can, don't worry about understanding everything because when people see that you are making an effort but maybe struggling they will be more than happy to help you out.
 
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