Greetings dear readers and friends. I hope everyone had a lovely Easter holiday. We stayed close to home and hosted my in-laws (les beaux-parents) and my sister-in-law (la belle-soeur) at our house for the weekend. Nothing like a bit of French home cooking to set you right… plus my belle-mere brought some artisanal chocolates from her local chocolatier in the Lorraine. It was a very Joyeuse Pâques indeed…
Today I’d like to kick-off a new “theme” on the blog which I hope to continue into a small series of posts: Expat tales. I tend to write a lot about places to see / things to do in Provence and not a whole lot about my day-to-day life here. And I imagine there are a few questions about what it’s like to live in France. It certainly has its ups and downs… thankfully more ups… and with rosé season just around the corner, the ski’s the limit…
So why not just dive into one of these “la vie en France” topics today? – Making friends in France.
Well, if I’m a 100% honest, it wasn’t easy at all… to the point that I almost gave up on the whole idea. Sure, I had a few acquaintances when I first arrived, but I missed out for a long time on having real, tried-and-true girlfriends. Friends that you could meet at your local coffee shop, or wine bar – or even just in the comfort of your living room – and share the ups and downs of daily life. Sure I love my husband, God bless him, but he can’t do it all… nor would I want him to. I mean, I just recently got into using make-up, real make-up, at the tender age of 45… What is “primer” anyway? And just how much eyeliner is too much? Black or brown? To bronze or not to bronze? These are only things that a good girlfriend will give you the 411 on… that, and much much more.
So what gives with making friends in France?
Well, we can knock the notion that the French are “cold” or “rude” right off the list, because it’s not this at all… The French, in all honesty, are just reserved… some more reserved than others. I remember in the US that I would go to a party, perhaps meet a “friend of a friend” and there would be a pretty good chance that she might become my friend as well. After a few glasses of White Zin (for my California pals), we’d find things in common, laugh a whole lot, and maybe even exchange numbers. That, and a few Mommy & Me meet-ups, was how I counted on making new friends as an adult.
In France… not so much. People think you’re a bit “loco in the coco” if you divulge too much about yourself in a first meeting, or even a second or third meeting. You pretty much need regular, constant contact with folks to make any kind of friendship unfold. For other French folks as well… this isn’t a foreigner-biased thing at all.
I remember, way back in 2010 when I’d first moved to France, that one of my husband’s colleagues was quitting her job and buying a farm in the countryside. Pretty cool, right? Well, I’d been to her house a few times, and being the “crazy” extravert that I am, I offered to throw her a going away party. I mean, we could have it at our house, right? Who would she like to invite? What kind of food would we serve? Of course this all came across in my broken French, albeit with oodles of American enthusiasm and good intentions. “Uh-huhhhh”… she kinda shrugged and well, needless to say that I never heard from her again. Too much, too soon chers amis…. way too much.
That same year, our apartment complex was having an “aperitif party” for the annual “meet the neighbors” day in France (La fête des voisins). Pretty cool again, right? Well, I didn’t quite get the memo that you actually don’t kiss (on both cheeks) everyone if France… like your neighbors… I grabbed the first neighbor I saw, which happened to be a very petite lady in her mid-60s and I planted 2 very enthusiastic kisses on either cheek. Well, you’d think that the LAPD swat team had just knocked down her door and raided her apartment. Her look of shock could only be matched be the various shades of red that I turned.
Takeaway: You don’t kiss everyone in France… until you know them a little better (or the wine is flowing, wink wink).
So, what to do if you move to la belle France? Be patient, very patient. And try to meet the same people over and over again. Two of my closest French girlfriends are our former neighbors – one is from that very first apartment complex. Another great friend is the wife of a colleague. After several work events, we chummed up and the rest is history. Another good way to make friends is through a language exchange – after a few months together you’re bound to hit it off, and improve your French while you’re at it!
I really feel that once a French person invites you home for lunch or dinner, you’ll have a friend for life. With all the passion, and love, that the French pour into their cooking, if you’ve been invited to share that, then you’ve probably become someone special.
And speaking of friendships… I received a lovely e-card from one of my girlfriends back in California for my birthday this past January. The company is called Paperless Post (perhaps you’ve heard of them already?) and I was very pleased to receive an invitation from them to speak more about their products on the blog.
If you’ve seen their work, you probably have a good idea of the creative designs they offer, and they work with designers like Kate Spade New York, Oscar de la Renta, Jonathan Adler, and Rifle Paper Co.
I’m excited to be able to offer a giveaway to try some of their cards, invitations, and flyers in a few weeks time.
Until then, you can learn more about the company and their products at: www.paperlesspost.com
Wishing you a very bon week-end from belle Provence!