Times when I most feel like a foreigner in France

These days there are so many English people either living in France or owning a second home here that the French have grown used to the Brit invasion!


Our country writer, Alexis Goldberg, writes:

Certainly down here in the South of France, we have been made so welcome by everyone we meet and there is little chance of feeling like a foreigner. Many villages have Anglo/French clubs and societies and no-one even minds if your French is not up to scratch – in fact the French love to hear their language spoken with an English accent!

In fact, the more I think about encountering feelings of being made to feel foreign, the more I think it simply has not happened. Any relationship of course, whether it’s between husband and wife, business partners, colleagues or even countries, needs nurturing on both sides so the real key to fitting in well in a foreign country and not standing out as an expat is to integrate and always to remember you are not in your home country any more. The few folk we have met who say they feel foreign living down here are usually those who resent the differences between our countries: the shops closing at lunch-time for example, having to perhaps wait to be served whilst people chit chat (life is at a slower pace here!) and the French bureaucracy which, to be honest, can get to you at times – it even gets to the French.

I was talking to an English friend who lives here the other day, and she has a few English friends who simply refuse to speak ANY French when they are here – that’s right, not even a cheery “bonjour” or “merci”. I do find it incredible that some people deem it ok to carry on doggedly speaking their own language in a foreign country. Speaking more loudly but still in English does not help either. Out of respect and normal courtesy, however bad one’s French may be, living in France means having to speak French.

I suppose if pushed I could say that Bastille Day – whilst great fun with fireworks, light shows and street entertainers in most towns and villages – does not hold the same passion for us Brits.  Christmas is done slightly differently too, with presents being opened on Christmas Eve and your main meal being taken then. Times of national celebration are always going to make one feel a little nostalgic and if there are any moments at all of feeling like a foreigner, those would be the only ones.

With so much movement in the world now, gone are the days when one really stood out as a foreigner. Cultural difference there may be but living in France means a life which is very peaceful and integration is easy if you have the right mind and spirit for it. Like many things in life, it is what you put into it which often dictates what you get back. Certainly we don’t feel like the ugly duckling here at all!

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