When I moved to France 7 years ago I didn’t really think about the fact that living in a different country would, over time, drastically alter my way of thinking. I also didn’t realise that, even though I adapted to my new home, not all expats would do the same. Let me explain…
There are a huge amount of expatriates in France who haven’t adapted to the French way of life. I have British friends for example who don’t speak French (nor try to learn) and who have only made friends with other English-speaking expats. The problem with this is that it limits how much you open your mind to France and its culture. If you don’t make an effort to speak French or make French friends, you might as well still be living in your home country, because you’re not truly “living” in France. As soon as the French see that you’re making the effort to speak their language, the walls will quickly come down.
Making friends with French people opens up doors to a world of opportunities. You have the occasion to learn about the French way of life and their traditions. You get to do things like:
– learning their funny expressions such as “parler anglais comme une vache espagnole” (to speak broken English) which translates as speak English like a Spanish cow and “chercher midi à quatorze heure” (to overcomplicate something) which translates as to look for 12pm at 2pm
– learning about how you have to look each other in the eye when you cheers, how you cannot put bread upside down on the table and how you shouldn’t cut lettuce with a knife!
– cooking, eating, drinking, talking (often about food and drink) with them and learning about the importance of food and conversation in their lives
And of course, so much more!
It’s also very important that you don’t compare France to your home country. I spent YEARS doing this. Complaining about French bureaucracy, French customer service, French banks and so on. I recently told a friend of mine who has just arrived in Paris and who is battling red tape that “The sooner you accept that this is the way it is in France, the less stressed you’ll be.” Stressing gets you nowhere in life. If a document you need will be ready in one month you’ll have to wait one month, there’s no point trying to fight it! France has its laws and regulations and yes, admittedly, it has a crazy amount of red tape but it’s a fantastic country to live in and you just have to accept its quirks. And anyway, that’s why you have companies like Bilingual Minds who can help you to get settled in, but you don’t wan’t to rely on them forever!
The most important thing is that you open your mind. I’ve seen a lot of expats come and go during my time in Paris and the majority of the people who left never adapted to life in France. They stayed in a small expat bubble and sadly never experienced life in France to the fullest. Living in a new country is scary, I understand that, but to fall in love with France you have to be open-minded and remember that it’s not the country you grew up in so there will be surprises along the way!