You have finally arrived in France, hopefully unpacked your stuff and set up your comfy living quarters. You start to know your way around the different aisles of the supermarket, you might even know how to say a few words to the cashier, your French is hopefully improving and you’re starting to feel more confident about this whole experience and are ready (hopefully!) to meet some local French people!
But – where are they?
During my teaching year in France, I’ve had quite a few students tell me in frustration that they’d love to meet up with and get to know some French people, but that they found it so hard to enter into contact with them.
If that’s you, let me reassure you and tell you that it is totally possible to meet the French – they are not hiding and the only thing you have to do is look for them in the right places.
Now, for some, the bar or night club might still be an option. Personally, I don’t like them and I don’t think that people you meet and connect there have potential for becoming friends with on the deeper level that you – the expat – need.
So, let’s get started with my top 5 places to connect with the French and hopefully start building solid, long-term friendships.
1. Les Associations
This is probably my favourite because, in other words, les Associations is a list of clubs that exist in your town. You can either check them out here (but the website is only in French I’m afraid) or you could probably also ask in your local Mairie (Town Hall) for a list of them.
Whether you love horse riding or hunting, sewing or cooking, playing football or chess, you name it, there’s a high chance there is an association for it close to where you live (depending on how big the closest city you live near to is).
Religious affiliations are also listed there so, if you are part of any religious group or other, you’re likely to find like-minded people there and that is a great help and comfort when you move some place new. In my case, the best friends I made wherever I moved to where found by attending a local church.
In most places, there is a “Forum” or “Jour des Associations”, where all the associations of a city will gather in one place and you can check them out and talk with them directly (if your French allows you!). Ask your local Mairie when and where the next one will take place.
2. La Fête des Voisins
Literally, this means “The Neighbours’ party”. It started in 1999 by a Maire in Paris who was shocked to find out an elderly woman in his district had been dead for 4 months in her apartment before anyone found out about her. So he decided it was time to encourage people to leave their apartments and meet their neighbours! (Can anyone see this happening in a Third World Country??! Ha!)
So anyway, what happens is that, either the town hands out flyers announcing it, so you can prepare, or you can take the initiative to celebrate it and inform your neighbours by putting a flyer in their letterbox, saying you organize it, where it will take place and if they can bring with them something to eat that can be shared by all. Most of the time, if you live in a block house, it will take place on the lawn just in front of the building. If you prefer smaller meetings, you could also invite a few selected neighbours to your own place.
The national “Fête des Voisins” usually takes place on the last Friday of May or the first Friday of June.
For more information (in French…) click here.
However, if you arrive later than this date, you could also invite your closest neighbours to a housewarming party instead of waiting until the next “Fête des Voisins”. It’s fairly simple: put a notice sheet in your neighbours’ letterbox and/or in the elevator, plan an apéritif before lunch on a weekend and you’re all set!
3. On va sortir!
I discovered this a few months back when reading a magazine about France and I LOVE this concept. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to try it, but I think I definitely will some day.
Basically, this is a website where, after registering, you can list an activity you want to do on a certain day, time and place and invite anyone (you can put a limited number of people if you like) to join you. This is another great initiative for people to leave their TV, computers etc. at home and meet “real” people outside and together engage in “real” activities.
Again, you can find almost anything there. Just register and then click or look for the town you live in and you will have a board with upcoming activities. Worth a try, I’m sure!
Click here to see what you’re doing next weekend. 🙂
Registering and participating is free of charge, by the way.
4. La Fête de la Musique
Okay, so this event (that usually takes place in June) is not directly aimed at meeting new people, but there are a lot of cool concerts being performed all over town, often open air concerts, the vibe is usually awesome and it’s free! It’s a great environment to start chatting with someone who’s sitting or standing next to you, either listening along or waiting in the line for a drink or something to eat.
If you’re a musician or part of a band, this would be a great opportunity for you!
For more information, click here (information also available in English).
5. La Fête de la Gastronomie
France’s festivals would not be complete without at least one entirely dedicated to food and eating!
It lasts for three days and each year, all activities, workshops and creations are centered around a new specific theme.
It’s a time to discover French food, to learn how to cook, to discover new eateries and it’s aimed at professionals as well as at amateurs. You can do lots of food tasting, visit great hubs of the French Cuisine, take part in cooking workshops and even offer your own workshop (if you comply with the rules, bien sûr!).
Click here to find out more! (Information also available in English).
If you know of or have attended another great local festival and where able to meet new locals through it, please share in the comments below!
Have a great one,