If one of your new year’s resolutions is to integrate more into French life, read on for some good advice on how to do so, beginning with learning the language and adapting to the culture.
France seduces your senses: the warmth of the sun on your back; smells of fresh bread and coffee from the local “boulangerie”; the scent of flowers. The countryside is peaceful, and the French certainly know how to eat well…
However, living in France means much more than indulging your olfactory senses. It’s not an extended sum mer holiday – it will take some time to adapt to your new life and there will be ups and downs. So how should we adapt to life in France? We think the two basics are language and culture.
First, you must try to learn French. Communication really is key. In the UK we wouldn’t expect to switch languages to converse with a new neighbour. The French are extremely courteous and polite. You need to be able to converse so that you can be courteous in return.
Language classes, French radio and television will help in your quest to settle here. Listen to French radio in the car and watch the “actualités” (news) on French TV. Even if it’s hard to understand at first, it will get easier and easier. Your ‘O’ level French might need brushing up: language does change over the years, and what you learned at school is not necessarily the French you need today – so why not take some French lessons?
Many of the French will speak a little English. Shops and the local tax office might have someone who speaks English to help you, and the EDF electricity board have an English-speaking helpline. However, this isn’t enough to make you truly happy in your new environment. You must mix with French people whenever you can. Perhaps you can join the ‘Comité des Fêtes’ in your village. Help out in your community as often as possible; it will be noted and appreciated – and your French will improve enormously.
The culture in France is subtly different to UK culture. The French have a different way of doing things: they think differently and have different values; they prioritise differently and live quite differently. For example, you have to get used to the long lunch hours, when banks and shops close.
You may wonder how much everyday life is going to cost. This depends, so we advise that you talk to people who live in your area to get an idea of their monthly outgoings. At Leggett Immobilier, we can tell you the cost of the rates, but don’t forget to account for electricity, heating, telephone and food costs.
Then there is the paperwork: be prepared. You will amass a dossier of essential papers like birth and marriage certificates and, although EU law says this is not required, you may have to get them officially translated.
Our advice is to keep all your paperwork to hand and go with the flow. While administrative red tape might seem infuriating at times, remember the French find it infuriating too. As an outsider, you must adapt to local ways; do not expect local ways to adapt to you.
Living in France is a pleasure, there is so much richness to enjoy; but it is different to other European countries, and being flexible and open-minded will increase your enjoyment of living here no end.