Oh do shut up! I hear you say. Are you really doing album fillers now? No. And yes, on the face of it, you would think this was bloody easy to do given that you live in France. How hard is it to find a French friend? Well, strap in and I shall tell you.
You’re in France right? You speak a bit of French or have the illusion you can speak right? Well, it would follow that you will make French ‘friends’ at a drop of a hat. Erm not quite. This is my take on it, as ever, and I’m sure there are lots of twenty-somethings/students in major French cities making French friends left, right and centre. But, alas, unfortunately I am not in that bracket. Mental note to previous self in a different life – move to a foreign country when you’re young, free and single!
If like me, you have passed your prime, have a shed load of baggage which includes children and a partner/husband then finding a bonafide French friend can be somewhat tricky.
This is because they’ve already made friends before you decided to rock on up and show your face. They don’t need to have anymore. They aren’t collecting new friends or have a need to utilise an English speaker in the same way that you need a French speaker. With the risk of sounding like a Brexiteer – you need them more than they need you. You may be a novelty feature to speak to every now and again but do they want to be listening to you for more than an hour? I’m exhausted trying to articulate myself can you image what the person on the receiving end feels like?! I reckon they would be saying “she’s okay in small doses but I can’t take that haemorrhaging of the grammar for too long.”
Someone once said to me it can be hard for Brits or English speakers to be friends because so many do return to the UK. The French are aware of this fact, especially people within the retirement bracket. So how much investment do they want to put into a ‘friendship’ knowing that there is a likelihood that they will leave and never to be seen again?
Even if you work amongst French people – you need to be chatting a lot (gets sacked for talking too much) and are they wanting to be your ‘friend’? What does that mean even? These days being ‘friends’ with someone is not what it used to be. In old school terms, it meant meeting up on a regular basis, chatting on the phone and doing stuff together. These days being ‘friends’ can mean never chatting on the phone, never meeting up and not doing anything together.
But if you do want to improve your language capabilities you need to start collecting a few Frenchies. It is not optional. I have a small collection but like any collection, I’m always looking to add to it and some are more prized than others. This makes me sound like I’m just collecting them for collecting sake but that’s not the case at all. I’m not that desperate that I’m going to be ‘friends’ with someone I don’t even like. So yes, I have a small collection of French friends which is great for writing, reading what’s pinged back and a whole load of vocabulary in the ‘chit chat’ bracket. Plus I bloody well like them! I cannot recommend this enough. To have written conversations via your phone/facebook. Simply change your keyboard settings to French. If you really want to go full on out – change your facebook settings to French also.
By doing this it also makes you think in French or, at the very least, makes you construct a sentence in a French way. In addition, your French keyboard will predict the verb endings etc and your friend can also correct you. Great. You can also leave them little voice recordings on facebook and whatsapp just to entertain them if they’re having a dull day.
This week I tried to say, to one of my Frenchie friends, “mauvais herbes” (weeds). I must have said it about 5 times and he was like nope, between pissing himself laughing. I then had to do the whole it’s not a grass but a bad grass (ironically the actual French name for a weed) and you don’t want them in your garden. “Oohhhhhh” he cried then pronounces it correctly (cue more laughing) and then he says “I just heard movie herb”. See, it can be really good fun even if you are getting the words wrong.
The best way of learning is face to face conversations or speaking over the telephone which is probably the hardest way to speak French. So how do you find them? As I said before, they are quite tricky to find and pin down. This is because 1) they have already got their friends/social circle going on 2) they are busy like the rest of planet and 3) family is a big deal and if they’re socialising it’s going to be with their family and established friends.
A girls night out or middle aged woman/mums nights out are not a thing here. Nor is a whole group of ladies saying “coffee at mine after the school run?” and like I say this may be the case in other parts of France but it most certainly isn’t here. Mums drop and run or maybe there is a secret society of French mums all going back for gin after drop off but I don’t think so. Or I certainly haven’t been invited #wails. If truth be told must people have a proper job (not like me!) and work full-time. The French work long hours despite what the Daily Mail will have you believe. Wrap around child care starts at 7.45 am to 6.45 pm at school. This enables both parents to work.
So, I do have some real life French ‘friends’ – okay we’re not telling each other our life stories but it’s a work in progress and the seeds have been planted and hopefully they will grow over time. Personally, I would like for them, to one day say “do you remember when your French was so bad and I couldn’t understand a lot of what you were saying?”.
I like all my Frenchies. I have a lot of time for them. Some pop in and out my life but I’m forever grateful to them for giving up their time to chat to me and to have the patience to talk, especially during the confinement. My French could have taken a massive nose dive but thanks to a few lovely folk it didn’t.
And don’t forget you also have something to give. A different approach, a different view point of France. An outsiders view and, of course, you can teach them English. Plus it’s great fun. Making mistakes with someone that you like and feel comfortable with is great for your confidence and it really does improve your language abilities. And they have your back. When I told my friend about my consultant appointment he was very cross for me. They don’t want anyone to be unkind to you and that’s really sweet. I would feel the same way if a Brit was horrible to one of my Frenchies.
So how do you catch them? Naturally, you may find them in your daily dealings. You just need to be a bit forward. They’ll just think its a cultural thing (it’s not we are quite reserved!) and add them asap on facebook. Suggest a coffee or lunch – whatever it takes. Or simply just check in every now and then via a facebook message. You have to start somewhere.
The internet, as ever, is a great way at hunting down some Frenchies. There are many language groups on facebook – simply post and say you would like to find someone to talk to. I found two Frenchies during the confinement who I loved to chat to and whilst it was hard work and tiring at times, it was well worth every bit of effort. They will always have a special place in my heart. You know who you are.
Then, of course, you have a very pleasurable way of finding a Frenchie – your local bar. Sink a few drinks and you’ll think you’re fluent in any event. Your inhibitions go and you start throwing out words hoping they all land together to make a coherent sentence. Obviously you may become a slight alcoholic but at least you’ll be a fluent one.
I’d love to hear how you met your Frenchies and any advice and tips you have of hunting them down!
You have been reading Our Normandy Life!
Another article I came across on finding some Frenchies http://rachael-helps.com/making-french-friends/