There is an interesting camaraderie amongst the British in France that we’ve discovered. General rule of thumb is that if you’re British and you hear another Brit close by you either smile or more often than not start chatting to them. So we have found that complete strangers who we bump into in supermarkets and DIY stores suddenly will stand and chat for up to half an hour.
The conversation usually follows a theme:
1. How long have you lived here?
2. Is it a holiday home or do you live here permanently?
3. Where are you living?
4. The weather.
Within a short space of time you find these people know your life story and you theirs. The most recent encounter resulted in an invite round for drinks whenever we are passing.
It certainly made me think how different it is to living in the UK where I’ve often never known very much about neighbours let alone stepped over their threshold. There seems to be a need to be able to speak to others in your native language; not having to worry about grammar, tenses or inadvertently offending someone by saying the wrong thing.
We certainly have, and had, no intention of not integrating with the french and we certainly do not actively seek other british people it’s just what happens without any planning.
We had an interesting discussion with our french bank manager about using local workmen. He was both surprised and delighted that we were going to do that, even offering to make recommendations if we contacted him. His reaction was similar to other french people we have chatted to when they find out we have moved here permanently. They are clearly delighted that we are embracing their country.
But that won’t mean there will be times when a chat with a fellow countryman/woman won’t be just what the doctor ordered.