Getting To Know The Real France: Tips For New Expats

By • Jun 13th, 2013 • Category: Living in France

tips for new expats in ProvenceImage: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by alainlm

Moving to another country is a huge leap. It’s exciting, of course, but it can also be terrifying; there’s a new language to learn, a new culture to become a part of, and a new social network of friendships that must be built. If you’re new to France, there are a tips for new expats, you should look into doing that can help you to make the country feel like it’s your home.

Tips For New Expats

1. Improve Your Language Skills

However good your French was before you moved to France, there’s a good chance you’ll find that there’s still a learning curve before you sound like a native. Not only will everyone be speaking what seems to you to be very quickly, there are also a huge amount of colloquialisms to learn that weren’t necessarily a part of your formal French lessons – not to mention, the dialect is different depending on where you’re living.

There are two forms of the French language spoken in France: Metropolitan French, which is the French taught to those learning the language and spoken in Paris and the north of the country, and Meridional French, which is a dialect spoken mainly in the south of France and which you are less likely to have been taught.

No matter which dialect is now local to you, learning and studying is no substitute for real lived and spoken experience. Spend as much time as possible conversing with people for whom the local dialect of French is their first language, and you’ll find that your skills improve considerably. This will help you out in more ways than one; the French are very protective of their language, and they think poorly of anyone who doesn’t make the effort to learn it.

The internet plays host to any number of resources that will help you to do this well – try out Le cybercarnet du FLE for starters.

2. Go Exploring off the Beaten Track

By the time you actually move to France, there’s a good chance you’ll have been to a lot of the more obvious tourist destinations – you’ve probably already toured Paris, visited Disneyland and taken a dip in the Med off the south coast. Now that you’re a local, it’s time to explore some of the lesser-known beauty spots.

Organise a car hire from a reputable company like Alamo or Hertz, and spend some of your free time taking trips to destinations most holidaymakers miss. Experience the intertwining of French and German culture in Strasbourg, drink wine fresh from the vineyard in Bordeaux, learn about the ancient Romans in Lyon and explore the rich tapestry of history available in Orléans.

Don’t limit your explorations to cities, either. The French countryside is rarely talked about, but is in fact some of the best in the world – with rambling vineyards, huge fields of sunflowers and gorgeous country cottages like something from a storybook, you’ll want to explore it properly now that you have the chance.

To help you find some places that are a little off the beaten track, try looking up some of the more obscure travel blogs available – Tongue in Cheek is a great example of an exploration of real French life written by an American expat.

3. Learn About French Cuisine

The French are very attached to their culture, and there’s something of a national worry about the encroachment of the English language and Americanised cultural influences. They have a collection of stereotypes about people from the UK and USA, most of which revolve around food and drink – they’re largely of the opinion that we can’t cook, live off junk food and know nothing at all about wine. The thing is, in the vast majority of cases, they’re right – a fact that won’t do you any favours when trying to fit in in France!

Take the time to try and learn a little about French cooking. Take a few wine-tasting classes, eat in restaurants loved by locals but avoided by tourists, and buy a few French cookbooks and start trying to eat French at home. Visit local farmer’s markets, drink French wine, and if you eat something delicious at a French friend’s house don’t be afraid to ask for the recipe and try it yourself. There are plenty of French cooking tutorials available online, too – try some of these from Rouxbe.

John is a freelance travel writer working with Alamo in the UK

Tips for New Expats Moving to France – Video

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