There will usually be a number of associations for you to join – and your local Town Hall is the best place to start. From here, you will be able to get your hands on a list of associations in your area. Most locations will hold an ‘Associations Fair’ annually in September – and this is an important event for expats and nationals alike.
There will be numerous international associations and groups, all great for newcomers to make friends - particularly in the larger cities and areas popular with expats, such as the Dordogne and coastal areas.
Another way to make friends with the locals is by offering to teach English to their children! The majority of French parents will want their children to learn English, and the earlier the better – informal preliminary learning at a young age may well be very popular, and could earn you a few euros too.
The best piece of advice we could give you for successful integration is general participation in village life! Say ‘bonjour’ and see where it takes you; it will of course take time to make friends, but don’t be shy - do some networking. Also remember your new neighbours will naturally be interested in you because you are not French! If you make an effort to learn French, they will welcome you with open arms – don’t worry about making mistakes! Don’t forget – each time you meet someone new, offer your hand; handshaking is big in France, even between friends.
Introduce yourself to your neighbours and local maire, talk to local shopkeepers and ask questions! Accept all invitations! Attitude is what counts, and if you are prepared to put yourself out there this will pay back huge dividends.
Don’t fall in to the pitfall of comparing your new life with your old one. Accept that life in France is going to be different to life in the UK, and who knows – it may even be better!